Guess what? Just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz you have always had the ability to go home to your publishing dream at any moment. Okay, it may not be what you thought. It may not be a book in Barnes & Noble, or you may not be on the NYT bestseller list, you may not be touted by Oprah or any talk show host, but your publishing ruby slippers may be as successful or even more successful. It is called blogging.
If you are new to blogging, don’t be afraid, don’t retreat into fear of technology before you learn what you are ignoring. Why is blogging worth looking at and often even better that print? Because most of the world turns to the internet first to find information and entertainment. It is where authors, all authors, now find the majority of their readership in one form or another.
Blogging costs nothing but time. The same time you would spend writing and promoting yourself as an author anyway, but with a blog you can get instant feedback, instant readers, instant writing practice, a place to sell books, and writing street cred that even publishers and literary agents love. You risk nothing! Gain everything.
Most blogs can tie into the big social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc. so you don’t even have to post or tweet if you hate maintaining social media. You just have to have accounts and some followers and tie them into your blog so your blog post instantly goes out on your social media.
When I mentioned writing practice, you should acknowledge that blogs to books are a very common practice. Authors don’t repeat themselves word for word in this endeavor. It’s not just a cut and paste from their blog posts to to their book manuscripts, but they do use much of their most popular posts and move them right into their first books. AND, they of course advertise those books on their blogs.
Granted, you will have to learn about blogging and blogging platforms, so here are ten tips to get you started.
Basic Tips for Successful Publishing via Blogging
1) Choose a blogging platform
Choose a blogging platform that has good SEO potential (Google likes it), is user friendly, mobile phone friendly and free. Almost all of the blog platforms you can upgrade for a cost so why not start free. We are going to recommend WordPress.com, Tumblr, and Medium to keep it simple. Other people will recommend a few others but these ones check most of the boxes and you can get the free versions which are great. What does it mean to have a free version? It means you are not self-hosting, so you don’t have to pay for hosting and that means if your blog gets really popular they may put advertising on it. But, if your blog gets really popular, you can also upgrade to a paid version where they can’t advertise and you can do better advertising for your own products or partners. Some bloggers switched back to a free blog because they liked the fact that the free blogs provide the security to protect from cyber attacks. Who wants that responsibility and hassle? Also we like it because we are cheap.
2) Get a domain name reserved for your blog
Getting a free blog is not separate from having a domain name. You can forward your domain to your blog or often pay to meld them as one. But DO BUY A DOMAIN NAME(s) because they are cheap and exclusive. The two cardinal rules: 1) buy your authorname.com if it is available, even if you also have a cool blog name. Both can go to your blog. So johnsmith.com and travelsmith.com can both go to travelsmith.wordpress.com and be one and the same if so desired. 2) Make it a .com not anything else because even if you tell someone it is .ca .biz or .net they will inevitably misread or assume .com.
If your own name is taken try johnsmithauthor or something that suggests your expertise or genre, johnsmithtraveller. Recommendations: sites to reserve your author or blog name are name.com or Namecheap.com. Avoid GoDaddy. If you get WordPress, you can buy it there and use their upgrade to meld it into one.
3) Content and style over grammar
Blogs are meant to have good content and show your style but not to be hyper about grammar. Yes, we want you to have pride in your writing, but don’t nitpick. Frequent posts are better that perfect posts. Blogs have always had a pass on perfection. PLUS it is so easy to make corrections later. You are doing a blog for immediacy and gaining a following to get your writing out there, not to keep procrastinating until it is perfect.
4) Write a mission statement and focus it for your blog
Whether it is your genre or your subject matter (fiction or nonfiction), you need to be clear what your blog is presenting to the world. Is it a memoir, historical fiction, travel related writing? Whatever it is, it also helps to define your niche in the world. What makes you different from the others writing in that subject or genre? Do you have a special life story that gives you insight? Are you writing about a specific health issue? If you are writing about history, what location and time periods? This mission or focus is commonly put on your about page, or summed up in a tagline under the blog name on the home page.
5) Always add pictures and videos
Not only is it great for the look of your blog post to add pictures and videos but Google will love it even more. This means it is more likely to be found when people are searching under your subjects. Add your own photos or find royalty-free, public domain images. Credit the images as required. Remember one day one of those images will be the cover of your book that you can self promote. If you have videos to add, even more brownie points from Google.
6) Connect your social media to your blog posts
If you are not social media savvy, get someone to help you if you are struggling. And to keep it simple and maximize your blog posts (which you’re going to put some effort into) have them automatically go out onto social media too. Kill several writing goals with one stone, so to speak. Once it’s set up, it’s easy and anything that is that easy with impact is good and often means you are hitting multiple audiences.
7) Always add tags to every post
We had a friend who started a blog some time ago but told us she only had 30 subscribers. We asked her if she was adding tags to every post. She was not. She did not even know what tags were. Tags are 10 to 20 search terms that you come up with that people are likely to put into Google and would fit the subject matter of your blog post. This way, the readers find you and not the other way around. You have to create them for every post but it’s not that difficult. Find where tags go in your blogging platform and make sure you include them.
8) Subscribers and Email lists
Usually, your blog platforms should have a widget or tool that allows people to subscribe to your blog. They may not include that automatically so you have to find it and turn it on. I also like to recommend the widget that tells all, and you, how many subscribers you have. It keeps you motivated.
If you’re going a step further you will want to add the widget that connects to any email list you might have if you are using email marketing list providers such as MailChimp. If you don’t have an email provider then just copy and paste your blog post into an email and send it out and start accumulating an email list (or learn how to share it to emails after you post it). Many strangers will find your blog anonymously, but why not send it to people you already know who may be interested. Hint, this may NOT be your family and friends, but start there if they agree to getting your blog posts.
9) Let in Comments
Blogs are supposed to be somewhat of a dialogue, or a place to stimulate dialogue. So even if you moderate or approve comments on your post, which is recommended, ask questions and stimulate a dialogue. You can learn a great deal from your readers and they appreciate the interaction.
10) Keep a Manageable Schedule
Blogs are more successful if done consistently. Minimum would be once a month. And, many blog daily. If you are using a blog as a way to kick your butt to write, maybe that’s what you want, but try to be realistic and determine a balance between butt-kicked and manageable for your lifestyle. It is important to determine a regular schedule, however, because you will get into a rhythm with it and then it becomes a good habit that is hard to break.
The final word on publishing a blog: have fun with it. You don’t have to monetize it in a hurry, or ever, but instead use it to find your tribe. Fly your own flag and show the world what you have to offer and see who shows up. Get those stories and thoughts down hot off the WordPress. Voila! You are published.
Any questions or info you’d like to add about blogging, please do in the comments! THANKS.