This blog is relatively new: I’ve been blogging actively here only for a little over a year.
Things started out very slowly. In the beginning, the numbers could easily have discouraged me, but I didn’t let them. We see many new bloggers show up, write a few posts, and vanish, which shows that many do get discouraged. But there is hope.
In my case, I just passed 20,000 views and 2,000 followers recently. Over the course of the first month or even the first few months, there was no reason to expect that I’d reach these numbers in a little over a year. Things can improve. There are reasons to expect improvement, which I will describe later in this post.
I don’t blog to market. I blog because I love writing, I’m thrilled to be part of a revolutionary time in the publishing industry that offers much more freedom, and I see thousands of authors taking the indie approach.
At first I strongly loathed the concept of marketing. But I became increasingly curious about it as I realized that it’s not really about advertising or salesmanship. I discovered that this crazy concept we call marketing can be a means of sharing your passion with others.
I’ve become passionate about this perspective of marketing. I enjoy studying ways that marketing can help you share ideas that you have a passion for without seeming like advertising or sales. Traditional textbooks approach marketing like a business. Many people in the marketing world who are most qualified to discuss the underlying principles also view marketing with regard to business.
But I’m a writer who, like thousands of indie authors, doesn’t view writing as a business, but as an art. Sometimes it’s handy to think about the business side, but when I write, I want to feel like an artist. I can motivate myself to write when I feel this way. Similarly, I can’t motivate myself to market thinking of it in a business sense. But I can put time, effort, and thought into marketing when I view it as an art.
Marketing can be viewed as an art. You can be creative with it. You can market to share ideas that you’re passionate about, rather than market to stimulate sales. The end goal might be the same, but how you feel about what you’re doing is different in each case, and the distinction matters. It affects your motivation, your confidence, the passion you show in interactions, how easily you give up, and more.
Again, I don’t blog to market my books. I blog because I love to write and blogging lets me do that. I blog to connect with other writers, and have made some good blogging friends and connections this way. I blog because I see thousands of other indie authors who I feel might benefit from my perspective on marketing. It’s easy to get discouraged in the publishing world. I hope a few of my posts provide a little encouragement.
In the Beginning
My first trip to WordPress was somewhat embarrassing. I actually joined WordPress in May of 2011. I signed up, did one quick post called “A New Kind of Word Puzzle,” and vanished into thin air. The post consists of one paragraph describing puzzle books that I coauthored. It’s nothing more than self-promotion and doesn’t read well.
It had 3 views the entire month of May, zero likes, and zero comments.
I could delete this post, but I leave it there as a reminder. That’s my experience with trying this the wrong way.
From May, 2011 thru November, 2012 (that’s 1.5 years), I didn’t make a single new post.
In December, 2012, I tried a second time. I posted “Customer Book Reviews – Can’t Live With ’em, Can’t Live Without ’em.” As of this morning, this post still has only 5 likes and zero comments. If you’re one of the 5 and reading this post over a year later… wow, you deserve an award. 🙂 There were 6 views of this post in December, 2012, and it’s now been viewed a whopping 7 times.
This post was, I felt, a huge improvement over my Hello, World post on word puzzles. It relates to writing and publishing, the same theme as I adopt today.
My next two posts didn’t fair much better, but I finally received a couple of comments. I started to get a few followers. It was very slow: a few views, a few likes, a few follows. By few, I mean like 3 to 5. Few. It can be really tough starting out. I felt like my posts were helpful.
I felt, as many writers can relate, that it was easier to sell a book on Amazon than it was to get discovered on WordPress. In fact, it took several months of active blogging before my average daily views finally exceeded my average daily sales. The author who starts blogging with the intention of marketing a book could get really discouraged by this observation. Fortunately, I wasn’t blogging to market my books, so this never concerned me.
On January 5, 2013, I had the inspiration for one of my favorite posts of mine, “Reading & Writing with Passion.” Some other bloggers apparently liked this post, too, as it received some comments, a reblog, and a couple of pingbacks. This post had 39 views that month. That was huge for one of my first handful of posts.
Meanwhile, you check out your Reader or Freshly Pressed and discover blogs with hundreds of thousands of views and posts with hundreds of likes and dozens of comments. The grass isn’t just greener on the other side—it’s made out of 24-karat gold.
It Should Start Slowly
Wouldn’t it be great to achieve instant success? (Nope. It would be easy, but not great. You wouldn’t appreciate it at all. You wouldn’t feel like you earned it.)
Whether you would like it to take off instantly or not, a blog is a seed that you plant, nurture, and grow. It starts out buried in the mud. After several weeks, you might see a tendril poke through the surface. If you watch closely for several days, it might seem to get a fraction of an inch taller. Months later, when you see the first sign of a leaf, you jump for joy. Many blogs get planted, watered for a short while, and abandoned.
And that’s the way it should be, to an extent.
Your blog is new. You don’t have a preexisting fan base to find your blog in the Reader or get your post by email. You’re struggling to get discovered.
You’re discovering other blogs. You’re interacting with other bloggers. You’re hoping to get discovered. But many of those bloggers have hundreds of followers. Some are waiting to see if you’ll be a regular, or just one of the many passing followers hoping for nothing more than a reciprocal follow. Those who do visit your blog see that you’re brand spanking new: They’re waiting to see more content, to see if you’ll be here for the long-haul, and to see if you have enough posts that will interest them. They already have a very full Reader, so they’re selective about adding new followers.
The numbers game doesn’t help. You start thinking things like… I’m posting 3 times per week… Blogging 1 hour per day… Typing 3000 words per week in addition to my book… Getting 2 new followers per week… Getting 6 views per day… Getting 4 likes per post. At 2 followers per week, it will take a year to reach a mere 100 followers. At 6 views per day, active blogging for a whole year will give you a mere 2000 views.
But while blogging starts out slowly, there is much potential for improvement. I started out with very slow numbers. Yet I just passed 20,000 views and 2,000 followers after about 14 months of active blogging.
Everyone is different, but for most bloggers stats do improve significantly over long periods of time.
Your numbers probably won’t be identical to mine, but if you’re starting out, the growth of my numbers and those of many other bloggers may offer hope.
In January, 2013, I was getting just a handful of views and likes per post and follows per week. Slowly, over the course of months, this turned into dozens and then dozens more. Now, I have more than 100 views on my blog almost every day, even if I don’t post anything new. I usually get a couple dozen or more likes of my posts within the first couple of days. I get several new followers each week. Let me take a moment to shout THANK YOU to everyone who has been even a small part of this.
That’s a huge improvement, but I’ve only been actively blogging for a year and I’m still a small fish in a big pool. There are many bloggers getting hundreds of views per day, hundreds of likes per post, and who have over a hundred thousand followers. No matter how well you do, you can always find someone else who seems to be doing much better.
But I don’t blog for the numbers. If I did, I probably would have been one of the many bloggers who give up quickly and never return. I’m just sharing my numbers to possibly give some newbies a little hope.
One of the coolest things that happened to me was receiving an email from WordPress that one of my posts, “Once Upon a Time,” a poem made exclusively out of clichés, was being Freshly Pressed. Wow, they picked little ol’ me. They said I would be getting a lot more traffic at my blog, and they weren’t kidding. As of now, this single post has been viewed 1659 times. It has 167 comments (mostly clichés; these are among my favorite comments to read), 342 likes, and dozens of reblogs. I had my record number of views for a single day, 432, and received hundreds of followers during this period.
A blog can grow significantly over a long period of time, even if it might seem to do so very slowly. Several factors may help your blog grow:
- A gradual increase in your following means a few more people reading your blog in the Reader or by email. Some followers are just hoping for a follow-back, and some followers are outside of your target audience. But as your following grows, your real following grows with it.
- Discovery takes time. As you regularly interact with fellow bloggers and establish new connections, your blog will get discovered more. Not everyone will like your blog. Some will offer support, but won’t be in your target audience. But as your blog gets discovered more, your blog will grow. If you post a link to your blog from your books and other parts of your online platform, this will aid in discoverability.
- It takes time to build relevant content and for the content to get discovered. If you post content that interests your target audience, it may eventually start to attract your target audience. Some posts get discovered through keyword searches through search engines. If you succeed in writing a few posts that get discovered a few times externally every day, this brings new people from your target audience outside of your blog-world to your blog. This is the idea behind a content-rich website. What starts out as a simple blog can grow into a content-rich website with material that will interest your target audience. This helps you share your passion with others. Your “target audience” is a wonderful group of people who share your passion.
- The more you read other blogs and interact with other bloggers, the more you learn. You get ideas for how you might make your effective use of your blog. Your posts tend to improve over time. The appearance of your blog changes. You start to explore new features on WordPress. You have more content (i.e. all those posts you’ve written) to attract interest when your blog is discovered. Your most recent posts may be better than your old posts, helping you attract more interest.
- You may expand, feeding your WordPress posts into Facebook and Twitter (but don’t cross-feed between Facebook and Twitter or you’ll get double or triple posts). Even if you don’t plan to make much use of Twitter or Facebook, this offers potential followers another way of following you. Some people prefer other forms of social media to WordPress. Let them follow you via their favorite platforms. If you do make use of other forms of social media, some of the people you reach over there will discover your blog that way.
- The more posts you write, the better your chances of writing a magical post that goes viral. It can happen to you.
More than Just a Blog
Blogging isn’t about marketing.
There is so much here at WordPress:
- There are many wonderful bloggers to interact with. Many of us feel that the interactions are the best part of the blogging experience.
- There is so much wonderful material to read. Browsing through your Reader or Freshly Pressed is better than any magazine, in my opinion, and it’s free.
- The WordPress community can be very supportive. This can be part of your support network.
- WordPress abounds in creativity. It’s fun and inspiring.
In addition, your blog can be more than just a blog. It can also function as a content-rich website. This is the latest trend in marketing. The hope is to attract people from your target audience beyond your blog by posting relevant content. But I don’t think of this in a business sense. I see it as a means to share your passion with others. I see designing and growing your website as an art form. I don’t think of it as marketing in the usual sense of the word.
Visualize what your blog can be and work toward that. Enjoy it. Don’t focus on the stats, which can deceive and discourage you. Think positively.
I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers