Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Building a Blog: The Real Nuts and Bolts

This information is the story of one author, but being brand new, my experience might be very applicable for other new authors. :)

This morning on the Writer's Guide to Epublishing we're talking about platforms, and author blogs. The mantra of "have one" is pretty well disseminated from just about every marketing guide for authors, traditional or self-published. But a comment from Sarah Ross asked this question:

Well this is the perfect opportunity to “Ask the Experts”, so here goes: How do you market your blog? I am creating one now so that when my book is published I have a readership, but how do you get your blog out there for people to see (besides my friends/family from FB)?

I didn't want to hijack the comment section because I already gave a lengthy comment, and while I'm a regular visitor to The Writer's Guide to E-publishing, it's not MY blog, or grog (group blog). But, I think this question is very important, and while I've read many marketing guides, very few give practical, anecdotal evidence of what to do to build a blog. So I'm going to try to do that.

A little about me: I decided in January of this year to write a novel. On September 13, 2011, I released my debut novel and sold 17 copies in 6 days. That is not intended to brag, I honestly don't know if it's brag worthy but I'm proud. It's just to give realistic data on what I accomplished. In addition to that, my blog presence and network here garnered me three interviews, two guest posts, and many referring links.

But how did I get there? Well one thing I can tell you is it doesn't happen over night! I began this blog way back on March 29, 2011. And I posted the link on my Facebook for friends and got maybe 5 page views. Yep, 5. And that's how most of my posts went, 5-10 page views. And they weren't other authors or readers, just people who love me that wanted to see how my "she's writing a novel" project was going. I don't blame them for being curious and somewhat suspecting I wasn't going to finish. I didn't even know for sure I was going to win.

Early on, I got lucky with a little more traffic with my Day 2 post, March 30. To date, this post is my third most viewed post with 146 page views. Why? When I uploaded the image of my storyboard, and I don't have a clear idea how I did this exactly, it got picked up by Google images as an example of a storyboard. I get traffic from people who have searched storyboarding or storyboard, even if they don't necessarily mean a self-published author.

But in April, I began to comment on other big author blogs and my page views per post started hanging out in the 10-15 range. I also redesigned the blog so that it featured the blogs I follow, and made the most out of my comments in a polite way (that's a separate post). Unless it was VERY pertinent to the blog topic, I didn't include a link to my blog. For example, one of my highest referring link comes from a post on Dean Wesley Smith's blog about Math and Royalties. If you do a Ctrl-F of my name, Elizabeth, you'll see how I formed my comment in July. I didn't just flog my blog, I explained why I was sharing the link, how it added to the conversation, and most importantly, showed that I was a regular reader (which I was) by talking about other topics DWS regularly talks about and how it helped me. And I thanked him.

I did NOT go around every day and find a "big blog" to share my link. Here's the thing, we ALL read the top blogs around. If you share your link on a few day in and day out, you'll get labeled as a spammer. You do not want that. By being courteous, adding to the conversation, and being PATIENT, traffic will slowly increase. How slowly?

Here's my stats:
March, 4 posts, 79 views.
April, 14 posts, 385 views.
May, 12 posts, 448 views.
June, 12 posts, 585 views.
July, 17 posts, 1252 views.
August, 11 posts, 581 views.
September (to date) 10 posts, 948 views.

What happened in July?

In July, I joined A Round of Words in 80 Days. This is a great group if you have a genuine interest in participating. I say genuine because there are thousands of writing groups, federations, co-ops, you need to find the one for you. I am a regular reader on The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing. But A Round of Words in 80 Days is a blog hop. Each 80 day round, the participating authors (and it's free to participate) make individual goals for those 80 days. These are any goals you want. Some people have weekly word goals, weekly posting goals, I had the goal of editing and publishing my novel. Round 3 is ending this week, and Round 4 starts Oct. 3. Each Sunday and Wednesday we check in by writing a blog post about our progress, and we include a Linky Tools at the bottom that shows everyone's blog links. This bumped my traffic a great deal on a consistent basis and my followers grew from like 10 to 35, and I get about 30 page views per post.

I also had a post featured on a big blog called The Passive Voice Guy. This month I had another post featured there, and it has skyrocketed. How did I do that? Again, through genuine interaction. I started reading The Passive Voice Guy's blog and commenting appropriately. I tipped him off when I saw content that would interest his regular readers. I started following him on Twitter. In July, an expose on Amazon's self publishing "junk" was spreading like wild fire and there was a lot of nastiness towards self-published authors. Apparently, we were destroying the world. :) I had just finished my first draft and became very angry. Not usually a good thing. I wrote a rant and shared the link through a DM on Twitter to him. Holy crap, he featured it on his blog! I didn't ask him to do that, he just did. I have since, roughly once a month as you don't want to abuse an online acquaintance, clued him in when I saw important information going out about the self-publishing world. For example, this was the post in September. Notice he introduces me as a regular commenter and visitor? That post on my blog has 302 views, or 7% of my total page views of all time.

Now, I am NOT advising that everyone run out and send The Passive Voice Guy DMs on Twitter. Remember, it's not WHO, it's HOW. The HOW is start a relationship, through regular visits, thoughtful and respectful comments on a handful of other blogs. Then, and only then, can you approach them about swapping links, and always, always make sure there is something in it for them. I knew from reading The Passive Voice Guy's blog regularly the ebook formatting was a topic that came up and was mostly a mystery. It was really neat to see suddenly people coming out of the woodwork, who hadn't felt like they needed to comment before, talk about their ebook formatting solutions! My blog post over there started a conversation, and that's always good.

But a word of caution. Writing blog posts to start a conversation are important, but being controversial for the sake of being controversial isn't good. My rant for example was a big gamble. Those words will forever be associated with me. I used some pretty strong language in it, but I didn't write anything I wouldn't defend. You can defend a blog post, but you don't defend writing you sell. That's a line between amateur and professional.

So I know this is long, but this is the recap:

  • Post consistently and try to make your content exciting. Use whatever networking abilities you can, Facebook or Twitter and share the link. Do this for a number of months.
  • Be present in other online communities. If you want people to come to your house (blog) for a dinner party, you have to go to some other dinner parties (blogs) and make friends.
  • Use back door communication (Twitter DM, email) as appropriate to HELP another blogger find scoops and content. Trust me, it will be returned in kind eventually.
  • Kill everyone with kindness when you can. And remember, when you leave a comment, put a link to your blog in that form you must fill out. This will make your name a link and if a reader likes your comment, chances are they will click your name to see more about you.

Time+good manners+interesting things to say = growing blog audience.

A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby. CANCELLED is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords


  1. I have to agree with all your points. Joining ROW80 also helped my blog stats. I know that I can do more in terms of commenting on blog posts though. I tend to read the blog, even read all the comments, but by the time I do that I have nothing interesting to say/add. Plus if there's like a bazillion comments, I feel like commenting would only be adding my 2 cents to the conversation that already happened.

  2. Hi Nicole! Welcome! First, even authors with over a hundred comments on their blog post read them. We're all vain like that! Sometimes, just a simple "Thanks for the read, I learned x" is enough to consistently get your name out there. And other commenters will see your name, too. That's how I even learned people like Robin Sullivan existed! Or Dean Wesley Smith! Plus, compliments, simple sincere ones, never hurt anyone.

    I will be writing a post about comment etiquette later this week. :) Good luck to you and see for Round 4! This holiday season, it's ON!

  3. Definitely agree with all of your points! WTG on the hits!!

  4. I'm still working on getting to 100 followers. Joining Rachael Harrie's campaign and Twitter have made the difference from 6 to 60 during Sept for me. Others with more time to visit and comment got even more, so commenting does make a big difference. My blog's chocolate follower contest had 2 entries from a women's writer organization before that. Now I made it permanent, but people have been joining without actually entering the contest. Weird. On twitter, I try to retweet or mention one for every one I post. Is that about right?

  5. Great and to the point. I have only been blogging since January but my numbers have also improved by doing all of the things you have listed. It reall.y works. Now, can you write a post breaking down the actual costs involved in self publishing? We all recieve the offers that say $99.00 but then there are all the extras, editing, formating, covers, etc. I'd be really curious to here from someone who has done it. Congrats on having obtained your goal of writing and publishing.

  6. Sher A Heart

    The following in kind and RT is an important part of it, but you have to be interesting yourself, too. I will be honest and say looking at the last couple of postings, it's a blog (the blogspot) about building it. You need actual posts and content in between that isn't about building the blog, so that people have a reason to read. Does that make sense?

    Bridgetstraub.com Ask and you shall receive (as i learned from asking for help promoting my book). I will gladly break down my costs so far....