Marketing fiction books and especially blogging are quite a challenge. Nonfiction authors have an advantage: They can attract the target audience with free content, seminars, etc. Very often, a nonfiction book has information that people need or will find helpful. A novel, on the other hand, may primarily serve to entertain. There are very many hot selling fiction books, but it takes a book that is highly marketable from cover to cover and, with rare exceptions, required effective marketing.
Fiction authors who take up marketing start a blog as one part of their marketing strategy, but often struggle with how to attract the target audience.
- Much thought, time, and effort can be put into a short story that scarcely gets read. Blogs grow very slowly, and most posts don’t receive much attention until a blog has really blossomed. Most blog readers aren’t particularly looking for short stories, especially from unknown authors. And even if they are, there are many different kinds of short stories, most of which won’t appeal to a given reader. In some cases, it might be harder to get readers for free short stories on blogs than it is to sell a short story on Amazon (and that’s a challenge, too).
- It’s hard to attract an audience when you mostly blog about yourself, unless you happen to be a celebrity (but if you are, attracting a following should be easy). Sure, once you get fans, they might want to learn more about you. Occasionally blogging about yourself reveals your personality and shows that your human. But this won’t attract an audience.
- Posting about things that don’t relate to your book might get attention if they’re fascinating topics. However, most of the people who check these things out won’t be in your target audience. Plus, if they’re popular topics, there are many other popular resources writing about them online.
So what should you blog about?
You should have some variety. People have varied interests, so this helps you catch different people from your target audience. Variety also helps you reach new readers while also engaging fans; you want some posts for both parts of your blogging audience. (Include the url for your blog in your book; that will help attract some fans.)
Here are some things that have attracted me to the blogs of fiction authors:
- I like to see snippets of things you’ve done as part of your writing process. Show me a scratch sheet with a word cloud, a photo of sticky notes with ideas for your book, sketches of characters, a preliminary map for your fantasy novel, etc. These kinds of things show the effort that you’ve put into your work. It’s kind of cool; something more than just a book. I like to see this whether I’m just discovering your blog or if I’m already a fan. It gets me interested in your writing.
- Short poems don’t require me to invest too much time in an unknown (to me) writer. If I like the way you combine words together and express ideas in short poems, this gets me interested in your writing. I’ve discovered a few different authors this way. There is a lot of poetry out there, though. Your poem won’t appeal to everyone, won’t be discovered by everyone, and has to be pretty good to stand out with so many good poets here. No matter what, though, it helps you achieve variety with your blogging and provides a short writing sample to prospective readers.
- Occasional posts to show what’s going on with your book catch my attention. Cover reveals, blurb posts, debut announcements, rare promotions, rank achievements, and so on give you an opportunity to mention your book without solely saying, “Buy my book.” I enjoy seeing highly marketable covers; they grab my interest. You’re not likely to attract and hold an audience by constantly blogging about your book. But mixing such updates about your book in with many other kinds of posts rounds you out as a complete author.
- Support for other authors shows me that you’re not focused solely on yourself. I don’t mean that if you reblog Author X’s post, then Author X will be interested in your book. I mean authors in the community recognize other authors who are interactive, supportive bloggers in the community, and we all tend to support one another in various helpful ways.
- Your experience as a writer and writing ideas attract my interest. I like to discover concepts that I’d never thought about. For example, I’ve read many fantasy novels, but never realized how many challenges fantasy writers face until I discovered a variety of blog posts describing them. Such posts also show me that you’re an experienced author who has spent much time contemplating complex writing problems in your genre.
- A weekly goal post shows me that you’re organized. It looks professional. It should be a minor thing among other kinds of posts, but it’s nice to see your objectives and progress.
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Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers