The Business Rusch: Blogs, Guest Blogs, and Blog Interviews (Discoverability Part 9)
Before I get too deep in this week’s blog post, I’m going to point out a few things of my own that will be part of future blog posts (and also touch upon past posts).
First, I’m participating in the first of three book bundles. This kind of bundle (there are several other kinds, which we’ll discuss) combines the fan bases of eight different writers. This particular bundle, which is a science fiction bundle, features an up-and-coming writer with six of us in the middle of our careers and one once-famous writer (now no longer with us). Readers can get six books for a minimum of $2.99 or eight books for a minimum of $10. The reader can pay the minimum(s) or pay whatever she thinks the bundle is worth to her. (It’s DRM-free)
I’ll be in a fantasy bundle with six writers (I think) in March, and a romance bundle in May. I’ve participated in various bundles before with different degrees of success, and there’s a trick to them, which I will discuss in a future essay. But I want you to see this one (even if you have no interest in buying), so that when I refer to it in the future, you’ll know what I’m discussing.
You’ll note here that my book in the bundle, Alien Influences, is normally $6.99 in ebook (and $18.99 in trade). If you buy the minimum bundle, you’ll pay about fifty cents for the book. Again, as we talked about in two previous posts (and to a large extent in the comment section), pricing is a strategy. If I were opposed to discounting books, I wouldn’t participate in something like this.
I’m doing it for the discoverability, believing that Kevin J. Anderson’s fans or Robert J. Sawyer’s fans might enjoy my book enough to pick up other books of mine. To be honest, Kevin is doing the bundle in the most savvy way not because of price (his is $4.99 e/$14.99 trade), but because of the kind of book he chose for the bundle. His book, Veiled Alliances, is part of his Seven Suns series, and if a reader likes that book, they will move to other parts of the series. I’ll talk more about this in a few weeks.
For today (Thursday) only, I’m participating in another strategic pricing maneuver. WMG Publishing is testing a new BookBub-like company, eBookSoda, which is brand new, and is (at the moment), allowing writers to advertise through their service for free. My novel, The Disappeared, the first in the Retrieval Artist series is $2.99 for one day only to see how effective this new company is. (WMG already put The Disappeared through BookBub using the same pricing structure, so there will be a basis for comparison.)
(For those of you who don’t know, these companies work like this: writers/publishers lower the price of books on various ecommerce sites, then advertise the lower price through these companies’ newsletters. The newsletters go out to a large number of people [in BookBub’s case, tens of thousands] advertising the daily deal.)
eBookSoda is a brand-new British company, operating primarily in UK market, and BookBub is a somewhat established U.S. based company, in the much older U.S. ebook market, so the comparisons aren’t going to be one-to-one. It’s more of a foot in the water to look at potential.
Again, a pricing strategy—The Disappeared is also normally $6.99 in ebook—but also an advertising experiment.
And I’ll be doing a discoverability post on experiments in a few weeks as well. Since this one is in progress, I figured you could look at it and see. (I’ve done several other one-day promotions in the past 12 months—some through traditional publishing companies—and learned quite a bit.)
So this little introduction is a reminder that pricing is not absolute, but strategic, and also, look at these things and think about various discoverability tactics that we’ll be discussing in the future.
I promised you that I would move from passive discoverability tools to more active ones. Previous posts covered a lot of the passive marketing techniques, so go back and take a look at those, starting here.
By active, I mean techniques that will take a lot of time from your writing by forcing you to write something other than your normal worlds or by repeatedly taking writing time to do something that is not writing. Other active techniques will cost you a lot of money, as well. I’ll be discussing all of these.
And yes, I know, the passive techniques mentioned in the previous posts also take time and sometimes take money, but usually they’re a one-and-done project. (Once you’ve designed your cover, you don’t need to redo it every week—unless you’re repeatedly screwing up.)
So everything I’m going to be discussing from here on out needs to be factored against Scott William Carter’s WIBBOW test. Ask yourself the question: Would I Be Better Off Writing? If your answer is yes, then stop whatever marketing you’re doing, and get back to the keyboard.
It doesn’t matter if your best friend’s answer is different from yours or if your editor wants you to do tons of promotion. If it doesn’t pass your personal WIBBOW test, then for heaven’s sake, don’t do it.
I’m going to start with the active marketing that traditional publishers have been requiring of their writers for the past five years now. A lot of indie writers are doing the same things that traditional writers are doing, and in similar ways.
A few years back, a dear friend of mine sold the first novel in her urban fantasy series. Her then-publisher (a big traditional publisher) paid to have her website revamped and linked with their website.
The publisher insisted that she blog. Her blogs needed to be about her books, the publisher said, or about something related to her books. Think about that: the blog had to be about her one book or nothing at all.
I’m not telling you who this is because not only did she leave the publisher, but she took back her website. The publisher-designed site was impossible to use from both the front and back end. And the publisher’s stricture on how to blog was ridiculous.
We discussed websites last week, but we didn’t discuss blogging. Blogging on your own site is up to you (not your publisher), as are the topics.
If you are only writing fiction, however, blogging about writing is a very bad idea. First of all, millions of people blog about writing and publishing. Secondly, except for writing about your own process or your own work, you won’t have a lot to add.
So, if you feel the need to blog, do it creatively. For example, writer Kelly McCullough blogs about his cats every Friday. But he doesn’t write cute stories about them. Instead, he posts nifty pictures with great captions.
I read Kelly’s fiction before I ever went to his website, but I discovered his cat blogs almost a year ago, and honestly, I try not to miss them. (I have cats too. I understand.) His website is clear, and it’s easy to find information about his work. He also has a book cover on the sidebar, so it’s easy to discover his writing from the cat blog. You can also see the upcoming titles, right below that cover.
Most readers are not writers. Most readers want to know what the next book is or, as folks pointed out last week, something interesting about the writer, not a how-to guide.
Because I write nonfiction as well as fiction, I stumbled into non-fiction blogging. It started as business blogging (The Freelancer’s Survival Guide) and eventually morphed into a business blog about publishing. But that’s not all I do on this site.
The free fiction started as a gift to my established fans because I figured that they’d be the ones who find my website. Turns out that a lot of the nonfiction readers clicked on the free fiction just because they wanted to see who was nattering at them and if she really could write. The nonfiction writing blog and the free fiction blog get about the same number of hits, but if you drill down into the numbers, you’ll see that the unique visitors are very different. Both features of my site attract a different group (with some crossover).
Initially—and I mean about 7 years ago—I designed the site to be like a magazine with a variety of different features. The only features that survived were the free fiction and the recommended reading list. The recommended reading list which is monthly gets yet another group of people to visit. I’m not sure about the crossover there.
Dean’s taken a different tack with his blogging. He’s blogging his daily word count and his life. Kind of a slow-motion reality show. I thought of it as writer-only, and then it became clear that his readers like reading about his day-to-day activities as well. Since he started the daily blog, his daily unique visitors have tripled. Those folks buy his books.
It works for him.
Other writers have a static website, and spend little (or no) time blogging. It’s a passive choice versus an active choice. If you’re a slow writer or someone with a day job and young kids, daily blogging (or even weekly blogging) might not be for you.
With blogging, you have to do two things:
1. Be consistent
2. Provide good content
Like anything else, it takes time to build an audience for your blog, but an audience will come, particularly if you follow those two rules.
You are balancing something though: you’re balancing discoverability for your blog with discoverability for your published works. And those things aren’t always one and the same. So do follow your website numbers (and your sales) over time to see if your blogging is worthwhile.
Of course, if you enjoy doing it, then continue no matter how it impacts your writing. But if you hate it, don’t do it.
That’s the rule of thumb for all of these active marketing techniques.
Remember, they are not one-size-fits all.
My rule of thumb with my traditional publishers has always been to give their marketing a try. When I started publishing romance, I was excited about doing what the publishers asked, because the romance genre is well known for its marketing savvy, and for being on the cutting edge of various marketing techniques.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the romance writers were always on the cutting edge; the romance publishers usually were behind the times.
Still, publishing romance gave me the chance to experiment with a variety of techniques, some of which I’ll discuss in future posts.
I have published romance under five different names. (One is a pen name I don’t disclose.) The reason I have five different names is that I started in traditional publishing, and I couldn’t use the name Rusch for most of my romance. I finally did publish a romance as Rusch (The Death of Davy Moss) but that was after I started indie publishing.
Two of my pen names have gone on publisher-mandated blog tours. Sourcebooks, who published Wickedly Charming (under my Kristine Grayson pen name) in 2011, asked me to do a blog tour. Sourcebooks’ publicist set it up, and boy, did she do a lot of work.
A blog tour, for those of you who’ve never done it, is a press tour in the blogging sphere. A writer writes a guest blog for a well-known book blogging site. Usually the guest blog also involves a book giveaway.
The Sourcebooks publicist contacted the bloggers, set up the giveaways, gave me deadlines and word counts, and then forwarded everything I wrote to the blogger. The blog would go up, and I was supposed to comment on the site or answer questions if I could.
Each blog tour lasted one month and usually involved a dozen different blogs. The publicist made certain the writers who were blog-touring did not write the same blog for each blogger. (That would be a disaster!)
The writers use the bloggers to promote the books, and the bloggers use the writers’ name (and giveaway) to promote the website.
Sometimes a blog tour includes interviews and sometimes it doesn’t. Often, a blogger will ask to interview a writer about the writer’s work. This happens after you’ve had a modicum of fame. It’s also something you can trade with your writing/blogging friends, if you so choose.
The interviews seem pretty straightforward. The blogger sends you a series of questions via e-mail, and then you respond via e-mail. Sometimes those questions run for pages. Sometimes there are only two or three.
Like the guest blog, the interview promotes the writer, but it also promotes the blogger and the blogger’s website.
Once again, if you choose to participate in something like this, then you cannot just cut and paste your answers from previous questionnaires. The internet lives forever, and nothing goes away. Fans who follow your work will see that you’ve answered the same question the same way before, and that will defeat the purpose of doing this kind of promotion.
What is the purpose?
Well, that’s the question, isn’t it. And I’ll get to it below. After one more thing.
Bloggers often ask for giveaways: free stuff that they’ll give to one lucky commenter or reader. Usually the giveaway is a copy of the book you’re promoting. Sometimes it’s an advance copy. Sometimes it’s something more elaborate.
If your publisher doesn’t provide material for the giveaway, then the giveaway comes out of your pocket, and it costs you money.
Is that worth the promotion on the website? Well, let’s examine this, shall we?
When I was doing blog tours for Sourcebooks, I initially did them as an experiment, to see if the tours were worth my time. After saying yes the first time, though, I really didn’t want to insult bloggers by saying no the next several times.
That was a Catch-22 set up by Sourcebooks, because they had already asked the bloggers if they wanted me to guest blog. Instead of saying no to my publicist, I would be canceling existing blog tour posts—which, in my personal opinion, would have been a bad thing.
Here’s what I learned on my blog tours. I wrote about 10,000 words of free blog posts each time I did a blog tour, not counting responding in the comments (if I remembered. Sometimes I was traveling, and simply couldn’t respond). The bloggers provided space, and did promotion to their readers. Sourcebooks provided the giveaways.
There is no way to know if the people who read my blog posts—with the topics often determined by the bloggers themselves (not me)—actually bought my books. I have no idea if the sales of the books went up because of the blog tours, because the blog tours, like so much in traditional publishing, occurred in the first month of publication.
So were my sales goosed by the tours? Or did the tours make no difference at all?
In talking with other romance authors who set up their own blog tours, I suspect the tours made very little day-to-day sales difference. There was never really a spike after visiting a single blogger’s site, even if that site had tens of thousands of readers.
But, remember, discoverability isn’t just about a single blog post or a single encounter with an author/book. Advertising—and that’s what a blog tour is—is more effective if your name/book title are everywhere at once. People see the name mentioned a lot and eventually, they’ll at least look at the book (if, indeed, it sounds interesting to them).
So, with that caveat in mind, a blog tour might be a way to raise your profile shortly after your book is published. If you can set it up yourself (or your publisher’s publicist does) and if you have the 10,000 words of writing to spare. And, if you’re doing it yourself, you want to foot the bill for the free giveaways, with no actual and obvious return.
There are other places for free giveaways that we’ll discuss later that might be more effective than doing so here.
Some book blogs get tens of thousands of unique visitors every month. Others only get four to five hundred unique visitors. Those visitors might be passionate, but you have to weigh the visibility you’d get among the blog’s regular readers against your time.
Again, a blog tour is your choice. It might get you favorable reviews from a blogger. But the book bloggers pride themselves on honest opinions. You might write a blog for a site only to find your post side-by-side with a negative review of your book.
That’s a risk you take when you do things like this.
Interviews seem easier at first because the questions are there for you. But I find that interviews take me a lot longer than a 400-500 word guest blog. I’ve gotten very picky about doing e-mail interviews, and will turn down those of more than 10 questions. (Even ten is dicey these days.) Much as I like supporting my fellow bloggers, I simply do not have the time to spend three hours answering questions for someone else’s blog.
I say no more than I say yes. Although I admit, I still do the occasional short interview. I did one on the afternoon I wrote this blog post. That was a four-question interview and it took me 15 minutes. Will I get any book sales from it? I have no idea and I have no way to measure it.
Generally speaking, I’m doing the interviews as a favor to my fellow bloggers.
Now that I’m no longer published with Sourcebooks, I will probably stop doing guest blogs. They aren’t worth my writing time. I have other uses for that time that will aid discoverability. I’ll get to that in a future post.
One last thing: Because I write this blog and the recommended reading list, my website shows up on a lot of writer/reviewer blog lists. Two or three times per week, some hapless writer asks me via e-mail if they can write a guest blog on my site to promote their work. I now have a standard guest blog rejection letter for these people. Clearly, they don’t come to my site and have no idea what I do here, because if they did, they would realize that I do not have guest blogs, and I don’t review new material. I just recommend what I happen upon within a month.
I’m not offended by the writers who do this, because I’ve edited off and on for decades. I know that writers rarely if ever look at the markets they’re submitting to.
But if you’re going to ask someone if you can guest blog on their site, you need to make sure that they accept guest blogs, that they actually have a large audience interested in your genre of writing, and if they will review the books by the writers who guest-blog. Be aware that you might get a negative review from that site. It’s part of the process.
Do I recommend guest blogging for fiction writers? If you’re doing it to goose your sales, no. If you’re doing it to get your name out there in the month of release on your books, maybe. If you’re doing it for the ego-boo, please, find another way to get your ego stroked.
I can only see guest blogging/interviews as a way to aid discoverability—and certainly not the best way. It’s work intensive with little return.
That said, I’m going to add a small caveat for the nonfiction writers. Guest blogging works for nonfiction writers, especially those with active websites. It is something to keep in mind.
And honestly, if I were Kelly McCullough and a cat website asked me to guest blog, I’d do it. Because it’s different and interesting and might bring a whole different audience to my website and writing. The same if a cat site asks me to guest blog because of all the cat short stories that I write. It’s an unexpected place to guest blog, and it’s the kind of advertising that you wouldn’t normally get. Would I ask a cat site to let me guest blog? No.
I often participate in SF Signal’s Mind Meld. Mind Meld’s interview is a single question which I can answer with a modicum of ease. It’s readable. Lots of authors participate and all of them have something interesting to say. It’s not the same-old, same-old. And because of that, it gets a lot of targeted readers.
That said, I don’t do it to increase my own readership. (I’m sure I piss off as many people as I intrigue.) I participate because it’s fun.
If the stuff you do around your writing isn’t fun, then don’t do it. No matter how many people tell you it’s a very good idea.
Take the WIBBOW test with all of this discoverability stuff. And answer it honestly. Because ultimately, it’s your writing—and your career.
I have always done a lot of experimentation on marketing and promotion in writing. I try to do my best to measure it. I have spoken to marketing and publicity departments in a lot of companies about what works and what doesn’t, and I’m always talking to writers about what they do as well. That “let me see if this works” attitude will inform the next several sections of this discoverability series.
You guys are helping by providing links to things I might or might not have seen. Thank you! I also appreciate the comments and the emails. I love hearing your experiences.
And of course, there’s the donate button which also keeps me going. If you learned something or you like the blog, please leave a tip on the way out.
“The Business Rusch: Blogs, Guest Blogs, And Blog Interviews” copyright 2014 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Please Read These Assumptions Before Commenting:
I’m going to make some assumptions in the next group of blog posts, and I’ll repeat those assumptions each week until I’m done.
Assumption #1: I’m going to assume you’ve read the previous posts, which you can find here.
Assumption #2: With only a few exceptions, we will be talking about fiction here. There are promotion techniques that work for nonfiction—even on the first book—that do not work for fiction. I don’t want to muddy the waters here. We’re discussing fiction in these posts.
Assumption #3: You have learned your craft well enough to intrigue readers. You know how to tell a good story, you have grammar, spelling, and punctuation under control, you create interesting characters, and you write what you love.
Assumption #4: If you have indie published your work, then your work has a good blurb, a great cover, and a well-designed interior. Your work is available in ebook and trade paper formats. (I also hope you have audio books, but for our purposes here, I’m not going to assume it.)
Assumption #5: If you have indie published your work, your ebooks are available in every ebook venue you can find. Your paper novels are in extended distribution on CreateSpace or Lightning Source. In other words, if a bookseller whom you don’t know and never will know wants to order your paper book, that bookseller can call up a catalogue from a major distributor (Baker & Taylor, Ingrams) and order your book at a bookseller’s discount.
Assumption #6: If you are traditionally published, your books are with a company that makes the books available in e-book and paper formats, and your books are still in print. (If they aren’t, ask for those rights back and then publish the books yourself.)
Assumption #7: You have at least a minimal web presence. You have a website that readers can easily find. You have a list of your published books somewhere, also findable. You have some passive marketing in place. (A mailing list, a social media presence, or a contact button on your website. Something.)
Assumption #8: You have published more than one book. Most of what I tell you won’t work on one novel. You’ll need several—or at least a novel and some short stories. If you’re haven’t published much, make sure you’ve done 2-7, and write the next book.
Assumption #9: You will finish this discoverability series before you decide which of the things I mention is for you. Because one of the last posts I’m going to write is how to measure success. That should have been one of the first posts I wrote, but of course, I write out of order, and so it’ll go at the end. [VBG]
Those are the assumptions.
Now, I have one big WARNING:
Everything I say here, everything, MUST take place after you’ve finished writing your story/book/novel. Do NOT take ANY of this advice into your writing office. None of it. Be an artist: write what you love. When you’re done, then worry about marketing it. This new world of publishing allows us to write whatever we want and publish it. Please take advantage of that. When you write, be an artist, be a great storyteller, not a marketer or a salesperson.
I know, I know. Lots of warnings and assumptions. But I had to be clear, because these points are extremely important. I won’t get to everything this week or even the next week. So…you need to be on the page that I’m on to understand what I’m talking about.
Hi Kris, I’ve been a blogger from the get-go, but didn’t do any blog tours, interviews or guest posts until very recently when one of my new novels came out. I have to say that, as far as I can tell, they haven’t led to increased sales, but I am becoming more “known” as a short story author. So I guess they’re helping to build up my name. Which is very worthwhile to me. My blog, OTOH, does send people to buy my books. After reading about Kelly McCullough’s cat Friday blog, I was inspired to do a simple “What I see out my window” post instead of the normal blather about my books. I’ve found that photo posts always get high counts. Which should teach me something. I do have five cats inside (and ferals outside), after all. LOL.
Thanks for the post! For me blogs now are very important tool in business. Its not only for customer services, product reviews but also a way of advertising your products and services offered.It’s about interaction to those people or merely your consumers, on how they want your products offered and quality to be improve.business to business
Just dropping in to say that these discoverability posts are super valuable for me as a reader, because it’s helping me find books I want to read and places to find information about other authors! I’d given up on reading books in recent years and started reading a lot of fanfiction, simply because fanfiction is often published with lots of tags and information that’s hard to find for regular books now that I can’t spend time in the library. Learning more about how genres and tags for regular books work is being very helpful. 🙂
Oh hey, just stumbled on this. Late to the party, but thanks for the hat tip, and the comments about the site. I strive for clean and easy.
The choice not to make my blogging primarily about writing was a result of discovering that the things I do that most engage fans and draw in new readers have nothing to do with me talking about my work, though I still do that from time to time.
What pulls people in is the cat blogging, and the dragon diaries when I have the energy. That and the art and science projects that I do for the joy of it, like the Narnia photo shoot at Neil Gaiman’s lamppost or the slow motion snowball impacts for science!
I find that if I’m doing things that entertain me and I share them, it entertains other people as well. It’s a lot more fun than consciously striving to do promotional work, because, hey, it’s all stuff that I would do anyway given the chance. That it also works as good advertising for my paying work is a happy bit of serendipity.
You’re welcome, Kelly. Love your Friday cat blog. And I agree 100% with your post here. Thanks!
Thanks for the heads-up about eBookSoda. I’m going to give them a try. I appreciate that they have an LGBT category.
I’d also suggest that if a blogger does a series of posts linked together with a theme, they make sure the reader can easily and intuitively move back *and* forth through the series.
For example, in this 9th post in the Discoverability series, you link to the first post in the series and the post from last week.
Going back to the first Discoverability post, however, leaves the reader stranded. There’s no intuitive way to move forward to the second post. Going back to older posts in a series and making sure there’s inter-linking with the other existing posts both makes it easier for readers and helps search engine spiders find those posts.
A series of posts is usually a non-fiction phenomenon, but fiction writers can make use of it as well; such as releasing the first three chapters of an upcoming book, one per week, prior to the release.
Thanks, Drew. I usually have the TOC on the home page updated, but I’ve been swamped. You’re the second person to complain, so I’ll fix that ASAP.
Fixed. Now you can find the Discoverability series on the header bar under the Business Rusch tab. It’s in two places. It’s in the Business Rusch TOC (which still isn’t fully updated, because I’m so busy that I really don’t have the 15 minutes) and it’s got its own page. I’ll do my best to keep that updated. Thanks for getting me off my butt, Drew.
Lots of authors, or would-be authors, just don’t have a lot of the traits blogging takes – discipline, determination, and the willingness to talk to a brick wall for a year or more.
Many authors want results now, and I’m sorry, but if you’re doing blogging right, that’s just not going to happen.
I think many authors also become frustrated with their inability to keep up with the rigors and demands of a daily publishing schedule. Lashing out at blogging only seems natural then, right?
Personally I like it when authors don’t have blogs; more traffic for me. I mean let’s face it, most people visiting author blogs are other authors trying to replicate that success, whether it’s 10 million sales or just 100.
There’s always people trying to get to the next level from whatever level they’re at, and that’s what author blogs help them do. I can’t understand why others don’t see this.
So true. I first started blogging in February 2012. For 8 months, the crickets chirped as I posted each week. That is, I averaged 100 page views per month.
Then, in October, I caught a lucky break and hit 1300 page views. That’s fluctuated between 500 and 1200 per month ever since.
A pretty modest showing, but enough to keep me blogging. As long as I’ve got a few people reading my posts, I’m happy.
My goal was never to be a breakout blogger! 😀
Now, my books…? That’s a whole ‘nother matter! 😉
I saw a lot of this, too, when I took a blogging course for writers a few years back. Everyone jumped on and started blogging three times a week. About six months later, most of the writers were dropping off, stating that the blogging was cutting into their writing time. They were revising 1,000 word posts extensively, spending hours on it (that’s six manuscript pages. Seriously?). I’d recognized right away to do the blogging at the times when I didn’t write fiction and also to write several at one time. I suggested that and was told by a very insulted writer that she couldn’t do that because it would be (her words) “churning out” the posts. Evidently, stressing herself with a last minute post was better than “churning out” posts. I still roll my eyes when I think of that. If you wait until the last minute all the time, it says that you don’t think it’s important, and if you don’t think it’s important, that’s going to come through in writing.
I’ve been debating whether to do a blog tour with my new dog-viewpoint thriller. Most of my books are nonfiction pet topics and my blog reflects that, so guest posts can sorta-kinda-in-a-way serve double duty. Still, I can write my own blog post or for-pay article for fill-in-the-blank client, or guest for free with maybe a return…hmmmn. Thanks for all your insight (and yes, I do share pretty regularly on my weekly roundup).
BUT–have all answers to the blog questions from the dog’s veiwpoint.
Example of a blog question: do you prefer milk or dark chocolate? Answer: Chocolate will kill me, so I avoid all kinds.
I keep intending to blog more often, but I’m not really sure what sort of topics might appeal to my potential readers.
I had that problem too until I realised there’s a difference between blogging for a living, and blogging as an adjunct to writing fiction. My blog is a place where I write about my stories, my writing, my characters. I’m not trying to sell affiliate links to make ends meet.
The most popular post on my blog has been http://leemcaulay.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/the-maps-i-used-in-1888/, an article which looks at historical maps of London’s East End, the setting for one of my gaslamp fantasy novels.
Right now I’m editing, so my posts are mainly progress (to let visitors know I’m still blogging) with a few articles of general interest inspired by news items.
But in late Spring I’m releasing another novel, and when that happens I’m planning a month-long splurge of daily blog posts related to the novel – historical research, locations, links, articles – that will act as an online archive. I’m gathering material for that even now. It’s like a blog tour without leaving home and it keeps my content together, not spread around the web.
Once the month is over, I’ll go back to more generic posts once a week until I’m ready to publish another novel.
P.S. I recommend picking a few blogs you like and going back to the very first posts, to see how a blog’s “voice” develops over time. It’s fascinating!
Yup, my thoughts, exactly, about blogs: they’ve got to be interesting to readers first, but you can also develop content–as you’ve done–to appeal to different folks on different days. Most often, when I visit a writer’s site, I want to know about the next book. A lot of the very high-power writers don’t bother with extra content at all, and don’t contribute one word to a blog. Their websites are all about the books and the appearances.
I know my blog isn’t interesting to anyone [as opposed to another site for which I blog qoweek, where we get a decent number of hits, and that’s geared to writers even though we’d first tried out the idea of appealing to teens. But teens don’t routinely visit blogs for the sake of blogs; it seems to me that teens use blogs to communicate with one another (and they love Tumblr)]. That’s okay; after three years, I’m still trying to figure it out. For my own blog, I’m thinking . . . the cats, the wild turkeys in my backyard, and cake recipes–and the books. My Sunday Cakes always get comments on Facebook and Twitter. 😉
On a different note: I do the blog tours because my publisher asks me to. To be frank, some blogs are worth it; others aren’t. (When you combine the guest post/interview with a giveaway that requires a retweet, sometimes it’s easier to tell if the blog has some reach because, all of a sudden, you’ve got a ton of Twitter mentions.) I also prefer bloggers to throw out a question/topic for a guest post or do an interview. Presumably, a blogger knows her audience better than I (like, it would never occur to me to describe my first kiss, an honest-to-God interview question, or post a playlist). You also don’t have to answer questions you don’t want to; you’re under no obligation to provide answers to ten questions (or twenty). I usually pick 5-7, and make sure that I’ve got some that require a bit more content than others. I also try to avoid the yes/no questions. It works.
I’m surprised that anyone is entering their email address into eBookSoda. When I went to it, I was getting the spammer/mal-ware/phishing vibe from it.
They only have one page which contains a stock photo and simple invite to give them my email. The email entry link shows an entirely different URL. Somehow this very limited page is still able to create page load errors.
They’re legit, John. And responsive. Apparently WMG had questions/issues, and eBookSoda solved them. And there’s more than one page now. Many more.
Kris, I really appreciate this series. It’s great to see a thoughtful and careful approach to promotion.
One question: have you ever considered evaluating any of these methods with statistical tools? An i-mR chart, for example, is pretty easy to use and can separate out routine-cause variation (noise) from special-cause variation (signal) to see if any of these techniques are truly working. I-mR’s are also very robust to non-normality. Just a thought . . .
Oh, Steve. I-mR? I don’t even know what that is. We will have someone who does know do the analysis, though. It’s already set up. 🙂
Sorry. i-mr = individual-moving range. It’s a kind of control chart.
Really excited to hear you guys are looking at data analysis. This is why your advice is always so good. You and Dean are always thinking about how to learn more!
I noticed that you didn’t (forgot to?) mention the Amazon ToS. The can (at *their* discretion) discount/drop any book you sell through them, selling *anywhere* at a lower price. Even if it’s for only one day, if they find out, you get hit; However, Amazon does offer “free days” for a limited time, on books.
You don’t get “hit,” Walter. This happens with traditional publishing as well. If your contract lists a different royalty for deep discounting (which Amazon rarely does), you might not make any money at all. This is one of those things indie writers get upset about when it’s just part of doing business–with any company. That’s why I don’t mention it.
I have to laugh, I stumbled on Kelly’s website last night while looking to see when his next book might be coming out and much appreciated his cat blog. 🙂
You a good point about websites. It is important to remember that the goal of the website is communication. No matter if it’s one way author to reader, or two way.
That point was driven home to me a few years ago when I tried to contact another school district for someone at work and after spending maybe 30 minutes looking over their website I determined that no matter how gorgeous with lovely popup and interactive things they no nowhere on their website had their … address, phone number, fax number, or any email addresses. There literally was not way on this lovely lovely website to communicate with the district or it’s schools let alone find out where any of them where. I’ve made certain that the websites I’m associated with have some way to contact a real person or at least achieve their primary goal which isn’t to look pretty.
I did the same during our storm a few nights ago, trying to find a phone number for the power company–in the dark, with only a little battery left on my iPad. [sigh] 🙂 Very important stuff. Thanks,Tom.
I’m glad to see this topic, and from a fiction writer. Most of the advice I see is from people who deal with non-fiction only and tell fiction writers how to blog, as if it were really the same thing as a corporate product. I remember one piece of advice was to write blogs on the subject or setting, and I’m going, “Yeah, but my next book isn’t going to be about that.” I also learned the hard way to be careful about what topics I picked. Early on, I did posts about how to do things in Microsoft Word. Big mistake. I had people emailing me really dumb questions, the kind that they could have figured out if they spent a little time working at it. I had to shut that down because I didn’t want to be a help desk. I was just looking for topics I could write on.
I think that’s the hardest thing, because most of the blogging advice focuses on either being an expert or being a curator. Over the last bit, I’ve evolved into doing posts about women in the military (I was in 12 years). I did posts of the uniform and the hair, and those are still my most popular ones. I didn’t think it was a particularly interesting topic, but other people do.
But I think writers have unrealistic expectations about what the blog should do. They’re being told advice by people making money blogging and not understanding that’s the context framing the advice. So when success doesn’t happen, it’s easy to get discouraged and stop blogging or let it slide.
(My apologies if this is a duplicate post. I am having a lot of connectivity issues because of the storm).
Sometimes I think the topics we find dull are the ones that everyone else isn’t familiar with, and they enjoy those the most. Thanks for this, Linda. 🙂
To my mind Blog Tours completely fail the WIBBOW test.
Or even a WIBBOWOW test — Would I Be Better Off World of Warcrafting. 🙂
Just bought The Disappeared! Thanks for all that you do, Kris! I love this. Now I get to support you AND I get something cool to read!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us all every week!
Thanks, Tim, on both counts!
I guest blog whenever asked–perhaps in part because I’m not good at time management. I tend to base my decisions on criteria such as, “If I can do this with little effort and stay in my jammies, then I like it.” And when asked, it usually doesn’t take me that long. I like answering questions. And if, instead, they ask me just to provide an essay, I’ve got a gazillion old columns, essays, articles, and blog posts that I don’t mind pulling out and spending 15 minutes cutting or revising. (I almost never write something NEW for a freebie, and I consider that fair, since there’s no payment. If someone dislikes that, it’s perfectly okay for them NOT to invite me to guest blog.)
But I have learned to avoid (AVOID! AVOID!) doing blogs that involve give-aways. I still say yes if the give-away is a copy of my book, but for anything else, I quickly learned to say no. Because it soon became obvious on give-away blogs that my guest posts weren’t attracting potential readers, they were just attracting people who wanted the give-away prize, so this was a waste of my time.
The Big Clue several times in a row was that, on sites where readers had to post a question to be entered for the give-away lottery, there were always multiple entries asking the same generic questions. Ex. Five people in one day asked something like, “What inspires your stories?” and three other people on the same day asked, “How did you get started writing?”–and BOTH of these were subjects addressed in the original text of the blog post, in fact–which confirmed to me, if I had any doubts, that no one was reading my posts, let alone checking out my books, everyone there was just logging on in hopes of winning the prize.
I don’t blame anyone for wanting a free-whatever-it-was. But I can’t (and also don’t want to) waste my own time like that again.
I noticed that too, Laura, on giveaways. Not the audience I’m going for.
I signed up for eBookSoda about a month ago or so, and have been getting their emails for a couple of days. Imagine my surprise when I saw The Disappeared in today’s list. 🙂 I would have bought it, except that I already have it.
I’ve “bought” 2 others from those emails – both freebies. I’m reading one right now, and it’s really good. I’ll probably purchase others from that author in the future.
I’ve been a cat person for a long time, even though I had dogs for many years. I’ve since circled back, and have a cat now – he’s sleeping next to me as I write this, instead of climbing all over me (and comes close to the laptop a little too much from time to time ;-)). Thanks for pointing me to that Friday Cat blog – bookmarked!
I’ve wondered about blog tours and may consider for the discoverability angle alone – and it must be fun or I won’t do it, like you said. It’s why I rarely tweet these days. 🙂
And I love Twitter. But mostly as a consumer–if that’s the right word. I love reading what everyone else posts. I’d be doing it even if I weren’t a writer, which is a measure of its effectiveness for me, I think. Or at least my WIBBOW on that one. 🙂
I’m going to answer this as a reader, IMHO with an Author Blog Tour this past year.
Michael P. Spradlin (no, I have never met him) wrote a book for Scholastic, which is an urban-fantasy type novel for 8-11 year old boy readers. His publisher sent him on a Blog Tour that included The Goddess Blogs (now defuct) that comprised 12 romance novelists and mostly appealed to the over-35 Female crowd.
Fortunately, I am part of that crowd. I read is posting and mentioned it to my husband. Hubby has never lost his inner 8 year old self. He and I got a huge kick from the inappropriateness of That Book going onto That Site, so I responded with some sort of snarky comment. Michael got right back to me and we had an hour-long dialog on the blog site. The next day, I went to the bookstore and bought that totally non-age-appropriate (for me) book. I loved it and reviewed it everywhere I could online.
Michael has informed me that this did indeed boost his sales and got him another contract for several sequels.
You never know.
Impress one bored 50-something Grandma and good things can happen.
Thanks, Susan. 🙂 (Now I have to look up the book.)
Great article about fiction writers should not do a blog about their writing. I have five author blogs I read weekly. You, Dean, Bob, JA, & the Passive Guy. That’s it.
I hear so many fiction authors being told they must have a blog, and then complaining how much planning and writing it takes, which takes away from their novel writing.
Hitting up the same 30-300 people weekly is a bad idea.
However, I have to disagree about your take on guest blogging. As an unknown, I get readers weekly who stumble across my guest posts, who go on to read my work and buy my books. It’s been the best far-reaching cheapest exposure next to Goodread’s giveaways (which cost me books and shipping), or mentions on the big book newsletter sites.
It’s much easier to write a guest blog than come up with fodder weekly for your own. You are continually exposed to new possible readers.
I recommend new authors put together a list of twenty q & a, a short bio, links, book blurbs, press release blurb, a picture of you, and your covers.
This is your EPK (electronic press kit.)Update once a year.
If someone puts a call out for a guest blogger, send it to them.
I’ve gotten last minute spots, when others didn’t deliver, because it’s available, and takes ten seconds for me to shoot them a copy.
I did a guest spot on JAKonrath’s blog back in July, that is still getting promoted via twitter by other authors because it deals with how to get a movie deal.
I do my supernatural guest blog posts twice a month, and they get hits, because of the huge paranormal audience that stumbles across the articles during keyword searches.
Another area blogging is gaining a huge audience is through video blogging. I’m in the process of converting my written blogs into video ones. Again, once you have your intro and exit done, taping and uploading takes minutes, but they will be on Youtube and Google+ for (almost) forever.
Thanks, Lisa. Nonfiction blogs get nonfiction responses. Your post on movie deals is a writing-centric nonfiction blog. The ones about the novels don’t seem to do well. I’m curious about supernatural guest blog–are you on the Supernatural TV site or something else? And yeah, I opened the door to video blogs, and then closed it when I decided it was too dicey to write about at the moment. 🙂 Love the electronic press kit. Exactly.
I haaaaaaaaaate video blogs/news/articles with a passion, as you can see by how many “a”s I put in there. It takes at least 10 times as long to watch a video as it does to read a post. Not even counting the time watching the loading circle going around while it’s buffering. It’s such an inefficient use of my time. But others may feel the opposite and like the bells and whistles. (Video/audio blogs are worse than useless for deaf people, of course, and so few videos are subtitled.)
I don’t like video blogs either. Give me the written stuff every time, thank you! 🙂
Thanks for another great and informative post (as always). I’ll be most interested in your results with eBookSoda, so please share them as soon as convenient. I’ve had consistently good experience with BookBub, but as you pointed out, they’re US-centric, and do almost nothing for UK sales. I really hope eBookSoda can get something going on that side of the pond. I would also absolutely love for BookBub (or some innovative company) to do a similar thing in the foreign language and ESPECIALLY the audiobook market.
That said, I feel that the BookBub wannabees are sometimes hurting themselves by focusing more on the authors than the readers. BB has angered a fair number of authors by limiting their offerings, setting the bar fairly high as far as admissions, and charging higher prices. What is sometimes lost in the complaints is that BB’s strategy obviously works with their readers, and those are the only folks that count. I’ve done 6 BB promotions and never gotten less that a 300% return on my advertising investment (immediately). The ‘residual’ impact is always significant as well, though I’ve made no attempt to measure it (I wouldn’t really know how).
So, while I very much hope eBookSoda (and other fledgling sites like The Fussy Librarian) can grow into successful operations, I suspect some of their initial marketing strategies may make that difficult (at least IMO). For example, setting the bar lower for entry, not insisting on a major (and very temporary) price promotion, not carefully selecting and limiting their daily offerings to readers, etc., all make it easier and more accessible for authors. However, I don’t think those strategies will necessarily win them loyalty from readers, and those are the folks who count.
I think both eBookSoda and The Fussy Librarian are extremely attractive and well designed efforts, and I wish them both well. Multiple resources are good for all of us. That said, I have my doubts about their viability, because they seem to be ignoring the features of BookBub that make it attractive to readers. (Again, my opinion)
At any rate, I’m sure we’ll all look forward to the a rundown on your results. Nagging doubts aside, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
BookBub did all those things in the beginning as well, RE. Lower bar, focusing on authors and indies, and that’s why people got mad when they tightened their restrictions. We’ll see how the new ones work. It’s an experiment–and it was free, so it was worth the try. I’ll report back when I have news.
Good to know. I guess I must have joined the show “in progress.” 🙂 I hope the other sites prosper as well.
I liked Kelly McCullough’s cat blog. He looks like he has as many as I do. I have six. Under my own name I’m thinking of doing cat fiction. I have a series planned. I’m going to start off with short stories that I will post on my blog. I don’t really blog, I just post things for readers to read. I do have a small audience and now that I have finally started to publish my romance under another name that has her own website. My own website will return to what it was before which was flash fiction and bad poetry. And now cat fiction.
I’m not a fan of blog tours. For some reason they turn me away. But I could see how that could be discoverability.
There’s lots to learn in this marketing and it does take time away from the writing so you have to figure out what is worth it and what is not.
I used to do blog tours, waste of time. lol
I’ll testify to that. Since I’ve had kids and having recently returned to full time employment blogging regularly in any form is impossible. I’ve made all kinds of plans and the only thing that works is cutting back drastically. I’m now onto a fortnightly cycle with posts I can pre-schedule.
great post – i’ve never put too much stock in blog tours, mostly due to the lack of measurability that you mention. That, and it’s almost impossible to get featured on high-traffic sites without some kind of professional connection.
ebooksoda looks interesting – I shot them off an email. Right now, they have 5,000 subscribers – 50% USA, 20% UK and 30% rest of world. Should be interesting to see how well those readers convert into sales.
They’ve only been around a month, so the comparison will be small site/large site. But they’ve been responsive so far. Thanks!
Well, Kris, it’s funny that you mentioned cat blogs because every time Dean puts in a little bit about the cats I think, ‘gee, I wish he’d say more… about the cats.’ If you guys did a joint cat blog, I would totally read it.
I am sure there are at least a thousand potential true fans of Walter White out there.
re: Walter White Cat
At first, I thought the cat was named after the protagonist of “Breaking Bad” and wondered why.
After seeing photos, it’s obvious that Walter’s color is white.
But I still wonder why Kris and Dean would name a cat Walter… 🙂
We never watched “Breaking Bad.” Walter was White Kitty when he was lost outside. When we brought him in, we needed to name him. The weekend Walter Cronkite died, we named Walter for him and gave Walter a new nickname: The Most Trusted Cat In America. But we also had to add the White Kitty for awhile so he knew we were talking about him. And that’s how he became Walter White Kitty, the Most Trusted Cat In America.
And that’s the way he is.
I think so too, Teri. I just have to convince Dean that Walter could become a star in his own right. 🙂
I agree. Kris needs to take a picture of Dean napping with a cat or three.
Honestly, you can’t have too many cat blog posts. IMHO.