A blog is a great way to promote your book, network, engage with readers and stay in touch with topical issues that relate to your book’s subject matter. There are some amazing bloggers and blogs alike out there, without which many authors would not have had the success they have acheived. They are a fundemental element of promoting yourself and your books but more than that, they are an excellent way to connect with readers who will become fans and fans who will ultimately become friends.
Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of blogging?
Worry not - it’s fairly straightforward to be a blogger. Some blogs look really professional and have an extensive following, but don’t be put off. All bloggers all started from scratch. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be posting in no time.
Five Things to Think About Before Starting a Blog
· What will you blog about?
o Think through what you want to blog about. Blogs first started out as online diaries - the word ‘blog’ comes from ‘web log’ – which was a record of the blogger’s life. Plenty of people still use their blogs as online diaries, but they can be more focused on a topic or broad area of interest too, anything from politics to parenthood – obviously its best that your blog relates to your book as the point of it is to reach out to potential readers. But it’s not all work, work, work. If fact, it’s better if you stay away from relentless self-promotion and engage your audience on a more natural, informal level. Before you get started, decide if your blog will be a place for you to share your life, or a place for exploring a particular topic.
· Who are your readers?
o Consider what kind of readers you want to attract. You can use your blog as a personal diary or to swap stories with people you know but you should also be aiming to attract new readers, who will hopefully like your writing and want to buy your book. Whatever you’re blogging about, it’s a good idea to define your audience and write for a particular group of readers. This will help you set the tone of your blog – which should be similar to the tone of your book.
· How often will you post?
o Some writers get hooked on blogging and it takes over their lives. Others set up a blog and forget all about it. So, it’s a good idea to decide on exactly how often you’re going to post. It might be helpful to set yourself a deadline for each post. Ideally, you should aim to update your blog at least once a week – more during your Britain’s Next Bestseller campaign and in the run up to publication – with posts that are interesting and engaging to your potential readers. Don’t worry – these posts shouldn’t all be about you – but more about that later.
· What are you blogging about?
o The main purpose of your blog is to generate interest in your book. With that in mind, you can promote yourself and your book by talking about it, up-dating readers on progress and even featuring extracts to wet their appetite. But the blog shouldn’t just be about self-promotion. Readers are likely to be turned off if your blog reads like one long sales pitch.
o With that in mind, think about how you can engage with your readers and make your blog a must-read for them. What do readers get out of it? You can generate interest and keep your blog ‘current’ by responding with your take on topical events or sharing relevant information that your readers might find interesting. You can also link and respond to other writers and bloggers who are writing about similar subjects, which might attract their readers to your blog. Don’t look at other writers as ‘competition’, look at them as potential reviewers who can endorse your writing and share their readership.
o And remember, a blog is your public, online imprint, so whilst it’s ok to be informal, it’s wise to keep the content accurate and up-to-date.
· Are you blogging as yourself?
o Think about how much information about yourself you want to share with the world – because anything you put online can be Googled. It’s a good idea to write down a list of anything you want to keep private to help you along the way. It might be a good idea to decide in advance anything in particular (where you work, for instance) you’d like to keep private. If your posts are particularly personal, embarrassing or controversial then you might prefer to hide behind an alter-ego – perhaps you could write the blog from the point of view of the main character in your book. Or have an alter-ego occasionally ‘guest post’ on subjects you don’t want to put your real name too.
The Next Steps
Here are a few simple things that you can do right away to get you started…
· Read some blogs which are in a similar genre to yours and think about what you like and don’t like about them. Need help in finding similar bloggers? Take a look at: https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs
· Start commenting on other bloggers’ posts and following blogs you like. Try to make intelligent comments that demonstrate your interest and expertise on the subject. Or empathise with the blogger if that’s more appropriate. It’s OK not to agree with everything the blogger says, but don’t be argumentative or confrontational for the sake of it. Your hope is that these bloggers and their readers will start following you too!
· Create a title for your blog which is short and memorable (three words-ish). Remember, a title should be catchy - it shouldn’t just be a sentence describing your blog.
· Pick a platform; decide which blog tool you are going to use - Blogger and WordPress are the two we recommend, but you could try Tumblr or TypePad... You can get lots of help from each of the blogging sites to help you get started. If you would like to set your blog up using WordPress or Blogger then you we have a quick ‘how-to’ guide below…
Setting Up a Blog on WordPress
So you’ve read our tips on how to start a blog and you’re ready to take the plunge…
· The first thing you need to decide on is your Blog Address or URL. Where possible, this should be the same as your blog’s title and related to your book title.
· After this you will receive an email confirming your registration and asking you to activate your blog.
· The next thing to do is choose a starter theme. You can change this at any point so just choose something you want to try out, or you can stick to the default theme. And you’ve created a new blog!
· You will then be logged into the Dashboard. From here you can write new posts and control your blog’s settings.
· Choose what information will be displayed publicly on your profile such as your name, picture and About Me.
· Manage the appearance of your blog with Themes, Widgets, Menus and more.
· And, of course, write a post: write a title and add some text. Your first post should be a bit of an introduction about yourself and the blog and should give an indication as to what you’re going to write about.
· Once you’ve settled in, you can get creative with the layout, add images and links and include labels. You can preview the post to see what it will look like on the page. Once you are happy with it – hit publish! Happy blogging!
Setting up a Blog on Blogger
· If you have a Google account, log in. If you don’t, you’ll need to create a Google account to use Blogger, or create a limited Blogger profile.
· Choose your blog’s title and the web address. Try to make your blog title relate to your book and make the web address as similar as possible - this will make it easier for people to find your blog.
· Now it’s time to choose what your blog will look like. You can change this at any point, so just choose something you want to try out. Select a layout template. And you’ve created a new blog!
· You will then come to a webpage called your Dashboard. This is where you can edit your settings and the layout of your blog, change the template, view page stats and comments, and, of course, write a post!
· To write a post, select the pencil icon at the top of the page or the New Post button on the left hand side and a textbox will come up. This is your new post, and it’s time to start writing. Write a title and type some text in. Your first post should be a little bit of an introduction to yourself and the blog and give an indication as to what you’re going to write about. If you like, you can get creative with the layout, add images and links and include labels. You can preview the post and see what it will look like on the page.
· When you are ready, hit ‘Publish’ and you’ll return to the Dashboard. Congratulations! You’ve just set up your new blog! Happy blogging!
Don’t forget to add your Facebook and Twitter details to your blog so readers can click ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ you. You can add ‘gadgets’ to your blog which enable readers to do this there and then.
Blogging for Improvers
Once you are up and blogging, speak to us about promoting your posts by joining linky, bloghops, blog carnivals and using Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Keywords, Google Keyword, metatags, hyperlinks and pictures. Once you’ve got most of the content for your blog written, it’s time to start thinking about adding those little extras to help to make your entry dynamic and engaging for your reader, including video clips, polls or quizzes, podcast interviews, relevant articles or musical playlists.
And that's pretty much it. So, off you go... spread the word of your awesomeness and make some fantastic friends in the meantime. (I'm talking about you, Muffin, Sarah, Emma and Gordon!)
*sections contributed to by Murielle Maupoint*