You’ve read the articles, heard the incredible success stories and seen other authors burst on the scene attracting interest, gaining authority, and making waves.
You know that a lot of these authors have used a blog as a means to get these great results, and everyone says you should start blogging as soon as possible. Marketing gurus like Seth Godin say you should start blogging three years before you publish, and traditional publishers are encouraging their authors to blog, too.
So off you go to start your blog. Maybe you have a good idea of what you’ll write about, or maybe you think you’ll figure it out as you go along. Hey, there are lots of roads that lead to success when it comes to blogging.
But there are even more roads that lead to failure. And that’s too bad, because many of the mistakes authors make when they dive into blogging are easy to avoid if they know how.
There’s nothing I find more depressing than running across blogs that their authors have been abandoned. You see the archives: lots of posts for a couple of months fading to a trickle, until there’s one post left that starts with something plaintive like, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while…” and then silence. I don’t want that to happen to you.
Let’s take a look at the three biggest mistakes I see authors make when they start blogging. If you can get these things right, you’re much more likely to stick it out, find readers, and build a community you’ll enjoy—and profit from—for years to come.
Three Ways to Fail at Author Blogging
1. Not knowing who you are writing for
The most important question to ask yourself when you start blogging is “who am I writing for?” Exactly whom do you have in mind that will read your articles? I don’t mean to say that you won’t discover more about your audience as it grows and learn exactly who is attracted to what you’re writing. But if you don’t know for whom you’re writing, how will you know what to write and how to write it?
2. Not marketing your blog
Even if the author has studied blogging and has written excellent content, the biggest problem with many author blogs is that the author never markets them. Half of blogging is writing, and the other half is marketing. Contrary to what seems to be many people’s expectation, even good content does not magnetically attract hordes of readers. After all, if they don’t know about it, how can they discover, read, enjoy, and share it?
3. Not making a clear offer to your readers
Early bloggers started out writing what amounted to personal journals, so lots of authors think that writing a blog is about telling the world about their own day-to-day activities. This casual approach to blogging extends to the frequency of their posts, and some of the authors who write these “personal” blogs seem to post whenever the inspiration hits them. One day they write about how their work is going, the next day about what happened to their daughter in pre-school, and the next about how to find a good editor.
Sometimes weeks go by without an article and sometimes they’ll post every day for a while before going dormant. To be successful at blogging you need to make a clear offer to readers, and that includes both the content focus and the posting schedule. You wouldn’t subscribe to a magazine if you never knew when—or if—it would arrive, and what kind of content you were going to receive, would you?
Luckily, it’s not that hard to get a grip on these problems when you first get going with your blog. Here are some suggestions that will help you avoid these newbie mistakes and encourage your blog to grow.
How to Avoid Those Three Big Mistakes
1. Your audience. This is easier for nonfiction authors, because you can research your audience, find out where they like to hang out when they are involved with your topic, and then “listen in” on their conversations. For instance, searching for online forums, discussion groups, Twitter chats, Google+ communities, and other places people gather will lead you to ongoing discussions in your field. You can also research successful blogs in your field and take a look at the guest authors and the readers who leave comments to get a good idea of the audience. After all, these blogs have already succeeded in the same field, so they are a great place to learn more about your audience.
2. Blog marketing. The research you do on your audience is going to lead directly to the beginning of your own blog marketing. Why? All those forums, discussion groups, blogs, and other places you found your audience are the same places you’re going to start marketing your own insight, expertise, knowledge, and blog articles. They will also supply you with great opportunities to contribute to your community and to meet and network with other bloggers and thought leaders in your community. You’ll turn up guest blogging opportunities, and lots of communities where you can start to become known, leaving links that will build into a steady stream of traffic to your own blog.
3. Your offer. Setting a schedule and a clear topic focus that offers something to readers is foundational decision you make about your blog. Having a regular schedule is one of the best ways to de-stress blogging. Set a schedule that you absolutely know you can stick to no matter what. If that’s once a week, start with that.
As you get more proficient as a blogger, you can always increase the frequency of your posts, and that’s usually a good way to increase your traffic and readership. An easy way to do this is to have specific features you publish at specific times. For instance, you can add a shorter post every Tuesday with tips for your readers. People will start to look forward to your “Tuesday Tips” posts, and you’ll have pretty effortlessly increased your schedule. You also can create several of these posts and use your blog’s scheduling function to schedule them all at once—another great way to maintain a publication schedule.
And when it comes to your offer, travel some of the more popular blogs in your category, niche, or genre. Lots of bloggers try to communicate their offer right at the top of the blog where they know you’ll see it. The offer on this blog is included in the header: “practical advice to help build better books.” A glance at the blog also communicates my interest in interacting with readers in many ways. What offer does your blog make? Your clarity on this subject will be rewarded with appreciative readers.
Sometimes looking at your blog in a new way really helps. Blogging is one of the greatest marketing and engagement devices ever invented. Authors are perfectly positioned to make the most of blogging technology, so building on a solid foundation makes sense.
Joel Friedlander is a self-published author, an award-winning book designer, and an accomplished blogger. He's the founder of the Self-Publishing Roadmap online training course, and a frequent speaker at industry events where he talks to writers about how the new tools of publishing can help them reach and inspire their readers.