Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Branding: Why do I have to have a Blog? by Patty Smith Hall

Patty here. I’d hoped to introduce my newly designed webpage and show how I’d incorporated my brand into it, but technical problems are causing a delay. So today, we’re going to press ahead and talk about social media, in particular, your blog.

Now, if you don’t have a blog, that’s okay. There are a lot of writers who, for various reasons, hate to blog, me included. It’s one of those things that you either fully commit to or don’t even want to start. For years, I’ve tried (and failed) at starting my own blog.

But recently, my husband gave me a compelling reason to try again. A little background information—Danny has always been interested in the business side of my work which is great seeing as I’d rather be writing. So a few weeks ago, I gave him Edie Melson’s book on social media, hopeful that he could help me get a grip on my own. He read it in a week between downtime at his job and actually made a list of talking points he wanted to go over with me. On the three-hour ride to my mother-in-law’s house, we talked about the list. One of his questions jumped out at me.

“Why don’t you blog?”

Because I’m too lazy. Because I’d rather be making up stories than blogging. Because I don’t have anything to say. “Because I don’t like it,” I answered, thinking the matter was settled.
“Besides, I write once a month for a writer’s blog.”

He shook his head. “The book says you need to blog at least two to three times a week. And what about your readers? They don’t read writer’s blogs.”

I was beginning to dislike Edie and her stupid book. “What would I say? It’s not like I’m that interesting.”

He reached over and squeezed my hand. “You’re a lot more interesting than you think. How many people do you know who actually took a gold-mining class so she’d know how her characters felt in a book? Or what about the time you talked that WWII bomber pilot at Love Field into showing you how to take off and land a Spitfire so you could describe it correctly.” He nodded. “Stuff like that would be popular with your readers.”

Danny was right. I never considered that my readers would like the story behind the story. Danny’s idea had a lot of merit and stayed in line with my brand as a history nerd. Just because you’ve bombed out of a blog in the past doesn’t mean you can’t have success with it now, especially if it will help build your brand.

How to get started

Before you start, you need to be ready to commit to writing for your blog at least two days a week, three if you can. This builds up a trust in your readership that you will be there for the long haul. Trust is important. Remember, we’re building relationships.

If you have an author website, most have an option to add pages. Use one of these to start your blog. If you don’t have a website yet, it might be a good time to consider starting one. Most publishers want their authors to have a presence on the internet. Building a following before your first contract shows them you’re serious about your work. I use Wix because it’s easy and even someone with my limited tech skills can build a great looking webpage. Wix (as well as GoDaddy and Wordpress) have templates to help you design your page. Once your webpage goes live, you’re ready to post your first blog.

A little side note—when you start to set up your webpage and other social media, go with one name across all medias. It makes it easier for people to find you. When you’re ready to post your first blog, remember to connect it to your Goodreads and Facebook pages (as well as your Amazon page if you’re published.) It’s a good way to generate traffic to your webpage.

I’ve got a blog. Now what?

Consider your brand. Do you write books that feature bakers or chefs? Then share recipes. Medical romances? Talk about the research you have to do to make it realistic or share why you write what you write. Or if you’re a nurse, tell a funny doctor story. Talk about your favorite writing place—one of my most commented posts on Facebook were of pictures I took while writing at a local lake. It was basically the same view every day, but people love it—and my readers knew I was working on something new.

More suggestions:

1)  The first chapter from an upcoming book of another author.

2) A weekly chapter from a novella you’ve written.

3) Pictures/Videos of things you’re doing.

4) Devotionals.
 
The important thing to is be yourself. Your brand is you.

Homework: Check out the blogs of writers in your genre. Come up with two or three ideas that will promote your brand.


Just because you’ve bombed out of a blog in the past doesn’t mean you can’t have success with it now. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite #Blogging #AuthorBrand

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A multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 35 years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden.

19 comments:

  1. Patty, this is awesome advice. Thanks! Edie, she's so talented! I was thinking about some of the backstories to my stories. My son and my best friend are my first readers. Who is the first person to read something new you've written?

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    1. Thanks! I love Edie too. And if you haven't checked out her book of Soul Care for Writers, you should--it's awesome! The first person to read my stuff is usually my critique partners, though Danny has been making some noise about reading my blog posts. He was with me on most of my adventures so sometimes, he remembers things I didn't quite catch.

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  2. I agree-- in parts. I think it's hard for any of us to think we have something interesting to say once a month, much less 8-10 times a month. I know I give up one day of writing for each blog post I create. The old meaning of blog was Web log and was sort of a stream-of-consciousness public diary. And the hey day of blogs has passed. The 10% that are big popular blogs still get the comments. Most blogs suffer from being small fish in a big pond. I imagine working on a blog schedule like this could increase readership and reader relationships over the long haul. What about newsletters? If the recommendation is to write one a month about ourselves and our author friends and add photos and recipes and sales and such, then are we duplicating what is in our blog? I agree it's good to have a 'brand' or at least be an author that readers know what to expect from and this is a good way to do that. Great thoughts to ponder and I look forward to seeing what other authors think! Thanks Sandra and Patty!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Debra.

      I know my personal blog probably doesn't represent my brand as well as it should. This has given me something to think about too. How can I work my brand in better?

      I'm not sure we're necessarily duplicating info between newsletters and blogs, since many people who read our blogs won't be on our newsletters lists and vice-versa. You said "Most blogs suffer from being small fish in a big pond." I definitely agree with you there. :)

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    2. Debra, I get what you're saying. I've fought the idea of writing a blog for years, and yes, in some ways, it is old school. But(and it's big but!) Goodreads and Amazon post your blog on your author page! It's a great way to catch readers who may have heard about you and wants to know a little bit more. And it drives them to your website where they can sign up for your newsletter. One plays into the other.

      I do get what you're saying--I'd rather work on my novels than waste words on my blog.

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  3. Such an interesting topic! Thanks so much for sharing what you learned. These are good tips for setting up/starting a blog and social media presence--and making sure all are connected. I blog, so I agree that it can be useful. I'll share my experiences, in case they help someone else.

    I've had a blog for 9 years now, and have gone through different phases with it. I think I was blogging 3 times a week for a while there, then moved down to two, then one. I put a lot into each post, so I give up at least one full writing day per post. I write devotionals and that seems to be how long it takes me to write a good one, so to do less per post wouldn't serve the same purpose for my brand. However, I think the time commitment varies depending on the type of post. I just whipped out a post with a review of series in my genre and a giveaway. That went really fast. So, for different writers/different purposes, I could see writing more often.

    For what it's worth, I didn't see a decrease in overall page views when I cut down from two days to one. I did, however, see my views per post drop dramatically the month I did a challenge to blog every day.

    Starting in November 2015, I saw a nice increase in page views that's slowly (very slowly, I suppose) built from there. My blog is by no means large. But what changed that month was I went to a writer's conference and was inspired to start putting more effort into the posts and growing my social media platform.

    So, all that to say, with my (small) blog, I've found social media/marketing efforts to have a bigger impact on page views than the number of times I post per week. Obviously, I'm not as experienced or successful as others, so this isn't the final word on the subject or anything. Just my experience.

    I do sometimes debate with myself on the benefit of having a blog, because even posting only one day per week, it's a time commitment. As you pointed out, I'd rather be writing stories. But through it, I'm brought back to the Word (because that's what I'm writing about), I've built some relationships with people I wouldn't have otherwise, and it is a nice way to offer readers fresh glimpses into my life/work between books. So, there are pros and cons.

    Like anything else, I think it's important to bring these things to God and really consider what He's calling us to.

    I'm so glad you brought up this topic! There's a lot to think about here!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Emily. I do think once per week is enough. I actually do two posts, but one is an ad of sorts for these Wednesday Seriously Write posts. I hope my blog followers will click the link and come over here.

      I do agree that it's helped build relationships with people I wouldn't have come to know otherwise.

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    2. I admire your commitment! And I appreciate you sharing your experience. I've been blessed to have been involved with two great writing blogs over the years--Novel Rocket and here at Seriously Write--as well as a Love Inspired blog, but I don't have near the experience you do. Thank you again for sharing.

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  4. I've also stepped away after blogging for years on a personal blog because of the time it took away from writing and other things. At one point, I did refocus and wrote articles that fit my brand - encouraging women in all seasons of life to use their gifts and pursue their dreams. The other reason I've taken a lengthy break is because it felt like the world had become saturated with blogs. I only had time to read a couple myself, so I questioned the value of putting a ton of time into content that would be read by few.

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    1. We all feel we need to blog, Dawn, so I understand your point about the saturation. And you are part of this blog, so that counts. :)

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    2. There are a TON of blogs, and it can seem hopeless at times. But readers want to be connected to us. They want to feel like they know us, like we're their next door neighbor or the class mother at school. I know it seems creepy--it felt creepy just writing it--but think of Facebook. We have thousands of friends, most we've never met. But when we roll through our feed, we don't think twice about clicking the like button or even saying something. Blogging is just one way to do this.

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  5. Patty and Sandra, thank you for this series on branding. You've giving me many ideas to consider. I've had a blog for ten years, but have trouble with consistency, even with aiming for two times a month.

    I like to post devotionals and book reviews. As others have mentioned, my blogging takes time away from my romance manuscript. I know that is not right, but I do enjoy both types of writing. With making a plan in advance for a blogging schedule, I might be able to do better job of balancing.

    Thank you for your advice and encouragement to continue blogging and to work on my brand.

    I like posting devotionals and book reviews. As others have mentioned, my blog writing takes away from my romance writing time. I know that is not right, but I do enjoy both. I'll be continuing to bring this to the Lord. Thank you for your thoughts...and direction toward branding. Great info!

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    1. Glad you're being inspired, Sherida! But, yes, blogging takes so much time away from our WIPs.

      One of things I think is important when it comes to a blog is to encourage discussion by adding a question to a post. It doesn't always work for me, but I think it's important.

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    2. Sherida, thanks so much for your encouraging words! And I'm glad you're inspired! One thing I've done to help me with blogging is set aside a day to write several blog posts. I've been writing devotionals for years so I drag them out and post them. I offer a chapter each week of a novella that I've written. One of my biggest draws was when I offered the first chapter of newly released books in my genre--of course, I got permission from the publisher or writer. There are several ways to blog without having to do a lot of work.

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  6. I truly enjoy writing my personal blog and writing guest blog posts. I have made great contacts. :-)

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    1. Melissa, you can make great contacts through your blog. I met one of my oldest writing friends on a blog where we wrote fan fiction about one of Gilbert Morris's series! Thanks for coming by!

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    2. Patty, I'll admit that I have met some great people through writing a personal blog. For instance, Mary Albers Felkins. She began following my blog years ago and commented on posts - and now she's a member of the Seriously Write team!

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  7. Due to a glitch in the system, I'm adding this comment for Jill Weatherholt.

    This is terrific advice, Patty. Blogging is my favorite form of social media. I've met so many wonderful people who've become good friends. Some of my best book reviews have come from my blogging buddies. I never asked them to read my book or review it...they just did. With my day job, I could never blog several times a week, but I do my best to stay in touch with my blogging community. Thanks for your help, Sandra!

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    1. Thank you, Sandra! I'm using Microsoft Edge and it's allowing me to comment. It's those gremlins! :)

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