You’re a writer who wants to keep a blog. You know it’s great for your readership; it expands your reach and keeps readers and fans engaged in between books. You also kind of enjoy it, when you know what to write about. But that’s the problem, ain’t it? What the heck do we write about?
I’m asked this question all.the.time.
This comment from a reader last week prompted me to finally sit down and write this post (oh the irony!):
“I am a yet-unpublished fiction writer and what I struggle with most is finding content for blog posts. I am nowhere close to publication yet, but I’d like for my posts to be of interest to readers and not just writers, as a lot of writers’ blogs often are (regardless of the genre/audience of the book).”
Holey moley did this commenter hit on an important point. Answer me this:
– Should doctors write blog posts for their medical peers using medical terminology and jargon? Nope! If their goal is to connect with their audience, they should be writing useful advice and tips for their patients.
– Should florists write blog posts using the latin words for foliage and discuss pruning methods? Nope! They should be posting pictures of their Valentines day creations to persuade potential customers to come into their store.
So why do writers continue to write about writing?
If the goal of your blog is to attract new readers, you need to be writing for your readers. Sure writers read books too, but they are NOT going to be where your evangelical fans come from. Readers do have some interest in your writing process so feel free to write about your latest writings on occasion – it can be fun to invite them into your world. But really we need to go above and beyond that with non-writing related posts too.
Your biggest job as a fiction writer is to entertain. That’s it! That’s all your readers ask of you.
You need to showcase your entertainment factor in ALL your writing, including that on your blog. If you can do this while creating a connection with your audience, then you have the magic formula for a popular blog that will encourage long-term subscribers and returning readers.
Let’s break those two magic ingredients down:
Your blog is your opportunity to:
a) Show that you can write, whether it’s humorous, poignant, or informative;
b) Tell a good story – keep your audience engaged and entertained.
2. CREATE A CONNECTION WITH YOU
A good blog will…
a) Give people insights into your life, your feelings, your world. So, be vulnerable sometimes. Put yourself out there, show that you’re human, give readers a way and a reason to relate to you.
b) Encourage a sense of community. Solicit comments by asking questions at the end of your post, make it a two way dialogue. And always, ALWAYS! Try to respond to your comments.
c) Talk to your reader as if you’re talking to a friend. The conversational tone of a blog is VERY different to that of print media. People want to read something personal and informal not stiff and unapproachable. Work on shortening the distance between you and your reader so they are drawn right into their computer and you have their full attention.
Ok, time for your actionable tips, and some specifics on – as I promised – what the heck to blog about:
Your Action Steps:
– Work out who your Ideal Reader is first
Is your target reader a 30-something mom with kids or a 25 year old guy who’s into cars? Knowing who your reader is is just as important as writing to what they’ll be interested in and keep them coming back.
– List out 6-7 non-fiction hooks from your books
Blogging about themes and topics from your book are what I like to call your “non-fiction hooks”. This is a great way of introducing the reader to your writing style and topic choices, and hopefully resonating with them in one way or another.
Include some topics that relate to you personally, others not. This will broaden your reach online and has a better chance of grabbing new readers.
The idea here is to blog about your book – but not give away the farm!
– Keep an eye on what’s trending
Set up Google alerts on the topics you listed out above, and see what’s in the news, who and what’s hot, and you will be sure to grab new readers interested in the latest and greatest. I also like Trendwatch.com to stay on top of the latest fads.
You can also try seeing what’s trending on Twitter and write a post on these (look at the hashtags on the left side column). For example, ‘President’s Day’ and ‘Burberry’ (it’s their annual fashion show) is trending today while I’m writing this – or look to future events and write posts on those.
– Use recent research to bring fresh content
PewResearch + eMarketer.com can introduce your readers to stats and figures that they might be interested in.
These sites are always coming out with new research findings in different fields – some interesting, some not. Cull through the latest and greatest and see if anything resonates with your target readers. Then write about it!
For example, if research states a growing number of people are living in multi-generational homes, write a post that shares your experience with it or tips on “surviving” this sort of living sitch and perhaps give some humorous anecdotes of your own experiences with this :)
– Insert your opinions and thoughts on issues you care about
Sometimes it’s hard to express your true opinion on the issues and values you care about, because you think it might offend or be disagreed with. That’s ok! And actually, if you do get some negative reactions, it might be a sign that you’re truly finding your voice and standing out from the crowd. Those who do agree with your POV will love you for it, and will be the readers who come back for more and support your work. And the point is not to speak to everyone here – speak to everyone and you speak to no-one!
– Try some weekly features or themes.
Having a quality weekly feature or theme can make life SO much easier as it gives your blog more of a rhythm and routine. Some examples:
- Tip Tuesday
- Flash Fiction Friday
- Shirtless Saturday (popular on romance blogs!)
- 7 Quick Fire Questions & 3 Expert Tips (I do this on Ladies Who Critique: http://www.ladieswhocritique.com/category/7-questions-3-tips/)
- Q&A Thursday etc…
Remember, whatever you chose to blog about, make sure it’s about you and shows YOUR story and YOUR awesome personality.
Other blogging tips to keep in mind:
– Blog hops are a great way to both bring traffic to your website (and grow your audience), but also to give you a theme to write about.
– Guest posts are another way to grow your audience (invite someone who has a big audience and they’ll introduce you to theirs), but also to give you a break from blogging J
– Be aware though, (and I read this in a survey of which I cannot for the life of me find right now), that most readers of a regular blog actually don’t enjoy guest posts as much as your content, so don’t get into the habit of doing it too often. It makes sense – they’re there to read YOUR stuff.
– Always use at least one image per post – visuals are important! (Be sure to use copyright free images though, always check the license).
– Create great headlines! This is all most people see on social media, so it doesn’t matter how great your post’s content is, if your headline isn’t working people won’t click through to your post to find out. Spend ample time on crafting a great headline that works.
Finally (because I’ve broken my own rule and way overstepped the 1000 word maximum rule with this one), I’ll leave you with some examples of great author blogs that do a wonderful job of entertaining AND connecting with their audience. Check them out, and go see what the heck they right about. I’m all about learning by example, and these are cream of the milk bottle:
– Talli Roland: http://talliroland.blogspot.com
– Neil Gaiman: http://journal.neilgaiman.com
– Colleen Hoover: http://colleenhoover.com
Over to you! Do you have a favorite fiction author’s blog to recommend? What do they write about that keeps you coming back? Leave a quick comment below.