In the first of a new series of guest posts, Bookswarm client and author Shannon Selin shares her tips for how authors can make the most of blogging.
Thanks to Bookswarm, you’ve got a blog integrated into your beautifully designed website. You are now ready to use the best author marketing tool within your control. Here’s how to make the most of it.
- Write posts that are relevant to your books.
Blogging is a form of old-fashioned content marketing. The purpose of your blog is to attract the attention of people who might want to read your books, and to retain the attention of your current readers. Write posts that will interest your target audience. If you haven’t defined that audience, do so before you start to blog. If you have more than one target audience, write a rotating mix of posts, aimed at each audience in turn.
- Take the time to write high-quality, original posts.
To stand out in the crowded field of author-bloggers, you have to create valuable content. This means not repeating what is already easily available online. If you think it has all been said before, find a new angle, or a new way of presenting the information. I often blog about Napoleon Bonaparte, about whom more has been written than just about anyone else who ever lived. I have still found lots to say about him, including what would seem to be the unnecessary subject of what Napoleon looked like.
- Plan your keywords.
If you’re having trouble deciding what to write about, use Google’s keyword planner for suggestions. My most visited post is “10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte,” which I wrote because “Napoleon facts” is one of the most searched-for terms about Napoleon.
- Don’t be afraid to deviate from standard blogging practice, if it’s appropriate for your target audience.
My posts are longer than the typical blog, and I include footnotes, which is not common. My readers, who tend to be history buffs, say they like this.
- Post consistently, to a schedule.
This will make it easier for you to write your posts, as writing them will become part of your routine. It will also help your readers know when to expect new posts.
- Where possible, tie your posts to recurring events in the calendar.
This could be seasonal, or specific dates. For example, when blogging about historical figures, I include each character’s birth and death dates. This makes it easy for me to revive each post on social media every time one of those anniversaries rolls around. (You must, of course, promote your posts on social media.)
- Include a link to your book in the content of each post.
I initially thought that having a link to my novel, Napoleon in America, appear in the sidebar of my blog would be sufficient. But busy eyes can tune that out and, on mobile devices, the sidebar doesn’t show up until the bottom of the page. When I started deliberately including a reference to the book in each post, visits to the book page increased.
- Also include links to your other relevant blog posts.
The longer people remain on your website, the more likely they are to be drawn into your writing, to want to know more about you, and to want to read your books. Build a sticky website by including links to relevant previous posts in each new post. For some audiences, it may be sufficient to include hyperlinks within the post text. I find I get more visits to other posts if I also add links explicitly at the end of each post, in a “you might also enjoy” section.
- Screen your comments.
Edit or delete any that might be considered inflammatory. Keep your blog a polite space where all readers will feel comfortable commenting. You will learn things from your readers – corrections of fact, suggestions for new posts, and ideas that can be applied to your next book.
- Hang in there.
Be patient and don’t give up. It takes time to build an audience. Quality and consistency are the key. A post that might initially seem a sleeper can turn into a big one. One that I wrote about a minor character jumped in traffic over a year after the fact when it was quoted in a Washington Post article. In the meantime, as your blog grows, you will receive encouragement from your regular readers and other author-bloggers.
Historical fiction writer Shannon Selin is the author of Napoleon in America, which imagines what might have happened if Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped from exile on St. Helena and wound up in the United States in 1821. Shannon blogs about Napoleonic and 19th century history at shannonselin.com. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she is working on the next novel in her Napoleon series.