There’s a lot of kerfuffle on the net about whether authors need to blog, and people coming down on both sides of the debate.
Just this week, I was thinking about the one big reason why it’s good to blog if we possibly can.
Yes, it’s good to get some writing practice, it’s good to build community, it’s good to have a “marketing hub” for our efforts, but the clincher for me — the thing that’s very hard to get any other way — is this one…
A blog post is very, very SHAREABLE. Long term.
Social media is central to “organic” book promotion these days, but it needs material to feed the machine. Material that’s shareable.
Let me explain by telling a little story.
A tale of two authors
Author 1 is someone I love to chat with on Twitter and I wish I could give her career a little bit of a help-along but… she doesn’t blog. She only has a static website promoting her books.
Twitter is the social platform I’m most active on (for you it might be another one, and that’s fine).
I tweet links from lots of different authors, and I mention them from time to time on this blog. But always in the context of providing useful/interesting information on a particular topic.
I’m not a book reviewer, so I don’t tweet or blog people’s books, as such. Every now and then I tweet about an indie book I’ve just read, if it was really good. It’s always spontaneous, and I doubt it has much effect anyway. As I said, I’m not positioning myself as a book reviewer, so people don’t look to me for that type of information.
So I can’t tweet this author’s website promoting her book, because that’s not what my readers are looking for from me. They’d either ignore it or, worse, get annoyed. But I could tweet a relevant blog post… if she had one.
But does that matter? Would it really make such a big difference????
Let’s look at how the “shareable” thing works, in practice.
This week I decided to do some research on NetGalley, which is a service distributing electronic advance copies of books to readers, who then post reviews on various websites. This is how it happened…
- I check out the NetGalley website, which doesn’t tell me how much it costs for a self-publisher to list one book. They are being all mysterious, and want me to send them an email request. Dang. Who wants to do that??
- Like everyone else, I turn to the Source of Obscure Information. 😉 I google “how much does it cost to list a book on netgalley”, and get this result.
- In position 3 on the first page of the Google search, my eye is drawn to a result with a photo, indicating to me a likely blogger, or at the very least a human rather than a faceless corporation! (You get the picture to appear beside your search results by having a Google+ profile, and linking it to your blog.)
- Google has suctioned out for me the fourth paragraph of the article, because its algorithms have discerned what I want to know: “The cost of listing a title: $399.” So I could get on with something else now. However…
- I like the title of the article: The NetGalley low down for authors and readers. It looks like I might learn something about the NetGalley experience from both sides of the fence. So I click through. And yes, it delivers!
- In fact, I like it so much that I tweet it, because my followers might find it useful too. This is what they see:
— Belinda Pollard (@Belinda_Pollard) May 29, 2014
- And now, today, I’m even mentioning the whole experience on my blog, which brings this author’s blog post before another set of readers. Maybe you’re not interested in NetGalley, so you just gloss over it as an example. But… maybe you want to know more about NetGalley, and you click through.
- Maybe you like the article and share it with your circles on whichever social media platform you favour.
- Maybe someone in your circles sees it, reads it, likes it, and shares it with THEIR circles.
- A percentage of people seeing it in those shares also reads it, likes it, and shares it.
- And on and on it goes, like ripples in a pond.
I hadn’t heard of Keary Taylor or her books before this NetGalley expedition. A percentage of those people listed in the “ripples” above hadn’t heard of her either. But now we all have.
And among us, there will be people interested in the genres Keary Taylor writes. And she has placed herself before us as a sensible person who provides useful information, and has given us a feel for her writing “voice” and a little of her personality. Visitors who go to her site because of this blog post might click around to her other pages, read other posts, check out her About page, get curious about what books she’s writing.
It doesn’t often happen instantly, but some of these “ripples” WILL translate into book sales. And all because an author wrote a blog post about a topic that she thought might help someone else.
This was a writing/publishing topic, but that’s just an example. You don’t have to blog writing or publishing to be shareable!!
- If you write travel books, maybe that shareable blog post about a particular destination will cause “ripples” that lead to book sales.
- If you write historical fiction, maybe that shareable blog post about one aspect of life in the 18th century will generate “ripples” for you.
- Lots of topics, the sky’s the limit! It’s about being useful or interesting and becoming SHAREABLE.
But but but…
I’m active on Facebook/Pinterest/G+ etc. Will that do the trick instead?
Hmmm. Maybe, maybe not.
Think about, for example, a Facebook post. Unless they go viral straight away, they tend to slip down the timeline and be forgotten, don’t they? They’re not really as easy to share again and again year after year. This blog post above was more than a year old when I stumbled upon it, but still useful! Where are our year-old Facebook posts now?? (No really, where are they? I’m such a silly duffer on FB that I can’t find the one I wrote last week, but I’m not assuming you are that useless. 😉 😀 )
A blog post has its own URL, its own little anchor in the vast and stormy sea of the interwebs, and is searchable and SHAREABLE, long term.
Also… what happens when FB falls over next month or next year? What happens when you get put in FB jail because of some random complaint from a troublemaker? (It does happen.)
We don’t own our social media profiles or pages. FB/Pinterest/G+ etc does. And they have “the power of life or death” over us on that platform.
Yes, it’s great to have that social media presence, but the most effective long-term plan is to have it as the support act to our blogs. Our blog is our little piece of internet real estate that we own and control. (Another good reason not to have a free blog, by the way. You’ve got less control with a free blog.)
But I need to write my books, not waste time blogging!
You betcha. I always think of this quote from highly successful indie sci-fi author Hugh Howey on Publishing Perspectives: “There is no promotion as strong as writing the next book. None. That always comes first.”
Very good advice, and a constant challenge to me personally, when wearing my author hat.
But having said that, Hugh Howey blogs. 😉
But I’m so tired!
I hear ya. Oh yes indeed I do. Jobs, families, exercise. A billion things screaming for our attention. And the dishes won’t do themselves, no matter how long you leave them in the sink. (I’ve tried.)
Everyone needs to make their own decision about this, of course.
However, if you find the thought of blogging overwhelming, why not “lower the bar” instead of giving up on the idea altogether?
Maybe you could blog just once a month, to get started? A toe in the water?
In a previous article, I outlined how I built up 10 times as many blog readers over the course of a year, even though I only blogged sporadically — and the 5 factors that I think made the difference. Yes, it’s best to be consistent and moderately frequent (weekly is good), but it does seem that anything really and truly IS better than nothing.
What do you think? To blog or not to blog? What things do you find shareable? How do they work long term?
Featured image via Bigstock/mkabakov