The Art and Science of Blogging for Authors
10 Insider Tips for Success
By Michael Robert Dyet
Author of Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet
and Successful Blogger
Blogs can be a powerful tool for authors to build awareness of themselves and their work. But it is not as simple as setting up a site and starting to post. You will need to do some upfront thinking and planning before you jump in.
Fortunately, there are best practices to follow, including pitfalls to avoid, that translate to success. The following are 10 insider tips I have learned in my decade of blogging as The Metaphor Guy.
· Be Original: Find an Innovative Hook
I have seen many authors launch blogs in which they talk about the experience of writing, the challenges of getting published and the difficulty of selling books. Some of these posts are quite insightful. However, these topics are mainly of interest to other writers. What you really want to do is to engage prospective readers.
Take the time to find an innovative hook for your blog that will readers will find engaging. You want a venue in which you can showcase your writing, show a bit of your personality and keep readers coming back for more.
A decade ago, when I launched my blog, I consciously developed it to enhance the brand image I wanted to build. I call myself The Metaphor Guy in all my author profiles and communications to communicate that I write literary fiction.
In keeping with that branding, I called my blog Metaphors of Life Journal aka Things That Make Me Go Hmmm. All my posts explore topics through the lens of metaphor. This custom approach has served me well and brought me many regular readers.
· Post Categories Pay Dividends
At the outset, establish posting categories and flag each post accordingly. Why is this important? When a new reader comes across your blog, they will want to quickly determine if it warrants their ongoing attention. It is difficult for them to do so if they must scan through hundreds of posts.
Post categories enable new visitors to get a sense in a few minutes of what you write about. For example, here are the post categories in my blog which reflect and are consistent with its theme.
· Deep Dive: Metaphors of the Deep (Philosophical contemplations)
· Random Acts of Metaphor (Short slice-of-life posts with a metaphor spin)
· Shifting Winds: Metaphors of Change (Reflections on life in modern society)
· Songs of Nature: Metaphors of the Wild (Singing the praises of nature)
· Sudden Light: Metaphors of Light (Moments of insight and inspiration)
Make sure the blogging platform you select facilitates post categories and take the time to create engaging names for them.
· Anchor Pages Attract New Visitors
Once you have identified your post categories, the next step is to create anchor pages for each category. An anchor page is an article that explains and puts in context what you will be writing about in that category. It serves as a sample of what readers can expect from those posts.
Now the new visitor who wants to evaluate your blog has a few articles to read which they can use to assure themselves that you are offering something that will interest them. Again, ensure that the blogging platform you choose facilitates anchor pages.
· Subject Lines: The 5 Second Rule
Every good marketer (I count myself one of them) knows the 5 second rule: Your advertisement has 5 seconds to catch the prospect’s attention or they will move on to the next ad. That is why the headline in an ad is critical.
The same applies to the subject line in a post. In my experience, it is the single most important element in determining whether a post is read or not. It needs to engage the reader’s interest and/or pique their curiosity. Here are examples of subject lines from my most viewed posts – posts that continue to get views months and even years after they first appeared.
· Malware, Black Holes and Karma
· When I Grow Old and Wear the Bottom of My Trousers Rolled
· Passport Photos: No Smiles, No Frowns, No Upside Down Crowns
· A Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words
The old adage is absolutely true. Photographs capture attention before words do. Our eyes are automatically drawn to an image and our brain makes a connection. I now make it a practice to include an image at the top of most of my posts.
You can find a photo or image for just about any topic on Google Images. Caveat: Google grabs photographs posted online without requesting permission. (They even have a few of my photographs!) It is generally safe to use these photos in posts unless there is a watermark on the photo that indicates ownership. But do not use these photographs for commercial purposes.
· Routine is Good: Post Frequently and Regularly
Acquiring regular readers requires that you post often and preferably on a regular schedule. Aim for weekly posts around the same time each week. Admittedly, it can be a grind sticking to a weekly schedule. There will be weeks you are wracking your brain for a post subject.
If you can maintain a weekly schedule, your readers will become conditioned to watch for your posts. Your blog will become a regular part of their routine. And trust me, people like routines!
Occasionally, of course, life gets in the way and prevents you from keeping to the schedule. One strategy is to have a few articles written and in reserve to use in those weeks. Confession: I keep planning to do this but have not yet gotten around to it!
· Be Topical: Follow the News
Keep an eye on news sources for things you can blog about. I have found that posting on items in the news translates to higher readership. It is human nature to be curious about someone else’s opinion on the news of the day. Bonus: It spares you the stress of coming up with a blog topic on your own every week.
Caveat: Exercise discretion in this area. It would be easy to blog every week about something Donald Trump says or does. But going to the well too often will discourage readers.
· Be Provocative: Get Your Readers Engaged
From time to time, take a deliberately provocative viewpoint. Getting your readers fired up is a good thing. The more emotionally invested they are the more likely they will be to post a comment. Taking the time to post a comment means they are engaged and that is exactly what you want to achieve.
A word of caution: Think twice before wading into highly polarized issues. For example, the sudden spate of sexual harassment claims against male celebrities and public figures. People are very emotional about such issues and may react vehemently to your point of view. Engagement is one thing. Making enemies is quite another.
· Replicate Your Blog on Social Media
Ideally, you want readers subscribing to your RSS feed and going direct to your blog. But you must be prepared to meet readers where they hang out which often means social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Blog platforms usually allow you to link your blog to major social media sites so your posts automatically appear. Alternatively, you can post a link directly on your chosen sites. Use tinyrul.com or bitly.com to generate short URLs from the lengthy ones that your blog software creates.
· Prepare Yourself for Spammers
I learned through painful experience that spam is not just an e-mail problem. Unscrupulous people will post spam comments on your posts trying to piggyback on your readership to pitch their wares. (Viagra, for example!).
Some of these spammers appear to have developed automated programs to post their spam comments. At one point, I was getting 100+ spam comments a day. It drove me mad deleting all of them. I resorted on a few occasions to deleting posts which the spammers had singled out.
Eventually, I discovered a setting in my Admin Page that allowed me to close posts for comments after a set number of days. It was a regrettable step to have to take, but necessary for my sanity! Ensure the blog platform you choose offers this functionality.
A Little Planning Goes a Long Way
Integrating these 10 insider tips for success into your blog will accelerate your readership and save you some headaches along the way. It took me decade to learn them all. You can fast-track your learning curve by applying them from the beginning.
About the Author
Michael Robert Dyet is the Metaphor Guy. Novelist, short story writer, closet philosopher, chronicler of life’s mysteries – all through the lens of metaphor. He is the author of Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet, Blue Denim Press, October 2017.
Michael is also the author of Until The Deep Water Stills: An Internet-Enhanced Novel – traditional print novel (self-published) with a unique and ground-breaking online companion featuring text, imagery and audio recordings. This novel was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Michael posts weekly in his blog: Metaphors of Life Journal aka Things That Make Me Go Hmmm
Metaphors of Life Journal Blog: www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog2
Novel Online Companion: www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog