For more examples of blogs that creatively mix interesting content, great design and advertising, check out the following:
Courage 2 Create – This blog follows Ollin Morales, a fiction writer, through the various experiences he has writing his first novel. The blog keeps the content interesting by mixing writing advice with daily anecdotes and anything else Ollin comes across in his writing process.
The Art of Manliness – Started in January 2008 by Brett McKay, this blog analyzes the art of being a man, helping men navigate life experiences they will encounter as husbands, fathers, and friends. The blog has taken off with readers through its often humorous, often poignant, always helpful advise on everything from holiday gift buying guides for men to handling the stock market to handling children.
From Blog to Book
What can your blog do for you?
In eBiz's ranking of the Internet's most popular blogs for the month of March, you can find everything from respected news sources to FAILblog, a collection of images documenting anything that the blog's huge following considers a humorous “fail.” Blogs have become a massive part of our online culture as more and more people take advantage of the forum's vast potential for expression.
For writers, blogs represent a significant part of that tricky, uncharted territory that digital publishing has opened up. In some ways, blogs pose a challenge to the value of printed literature, yet they also offer a variety of opportunities to promote books and other forms of written work. The blogging community can be used to reach wide numbers of people to market books through blog book tours, guest posts, and affiliate advertising, while developing your own blog can help build a loyal fan base or even land you a book deal.
Many writers have turned to blogs to explore these opportunities, inspired by stories of other writers who successfully developed blogs that led to book deals. One such success story is that of Jenny Lawson, author of The Bloggess, whose book Let's Pretend This Never Happened reached the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list in May 2012—all thanks to Lawson's incredibly successful blog. However, Lawson's book deal only came after years of blogging. On the other hand, Chris Guillebeau's book deal for The Art of Non-Conformity followed closely on the heels of his blog's success, a feat he details in a free manifesto 279 Days to Overnight Success. Unfortunately, for most writers turned bloggers, the potential book deal will remain the Holy Grail of blogging and nothing more. While the success stories prove that blogs can result in books, the number of blogs around today makes this particular outcome unlikely.
When I first began regularly reading blogs, the blogging world seemed relatively manageable to me. In about twenty minutes I could leisurely check ten to fifteen of my favorite blogs for new posts. Today, the blogging world has increased exponentially. WordPress reports its number of monthly posts by bloggers has gone from 14.5 million in February of 2011 to almost 40 million this past February. Although this flood of blogging activity seems to confirm the growing importance of blogs as a social forum, it also brings drawbacks by making it harder for the individual blogger to stand out against the rest. The sheer amount of available blogs can overwhelm readers and diminish the sense of navigable communities within blogging – and this can make attracting readers to your blog tricky.
With so many blogs competing for readership, it's easy to feel disheartened about the relevance of one more blog adding to the mass of content on the web. Fortunately, examples abound of bloggers using the size of the blogging community to their advantage. For authors looking to capitalize on the popularity of blogs to promote their writing, the mass networks of blogs can be turned into an effective weapon. I spoke with Katie Kimball, author of Kitchen Stewardship, about her experiences in the blogging world since the creation of her blog four years ago.
“Personally my goal was to write a book. I started my blog to create an audience base after someone said to me 'Why don't you try a blog and see what happens?'” The result was Kitchen Stewardship, a collection of advice, stories, and recipes about discovering a healthy balance of family, food and faith. After the popularity of Kitchen Stewardship among her readers, Katie wrote several ebooks — the last of which sold 6,000 copies in three days. She attributes much of this success to the good standing and networking in the online community that came from years of blogging. “Although it is a ton of work, blogging can definitely be a lucrative career; a loyal fan base built with a blog helps you sell a book,” she says. However, Katie cautions against rushing headlong into blogging for the sole purpose of increasing book sales quickly. “It is usually at least a six month investment before you are going to see the results of your work and create that audience base. For authors who don't want to make that entire time commitment, even blogging once a week can give you a presence that will bring in readers.”
Developing that presence will attract readers who enjoy the content and style you have to offer. To showcase writing, blogs provide a variety of options that can be cost and time effective ways to promote a book. One simple way to generate interest in an upcoming book is by providing a sample chapter on your blog. For the rest of your posts, the tone and subjects will be crucial to enhance the presence you wish to create. Although ultimately the purpose of your blog may be to increase your book sales, it usually serves bloggers better to avoid blatant self-promotion and only posting about your book. Instead, find alternative ways to touch on the subject of your book just enough to spark the reader's interest. For an example of a blog that creatively integrates marketing without being too obvious and off-putting, check out Jeff Goins' blog, Goins Writer.
Having your own blog is not the only way to capitalize on the marketing opportunities blogs offer; if managing a blog doesn't seem like the right path for you, you can still utilize the networks of readers that already established bloggers have created. Blog posts can implement both affiliate and referral marketing to recommend a product to readers. According to the Technorati's 2013 Digitial Influence Report, more people are turning to blogs because of the sense that bloggers are more trustworthy sources of information than traditional advertisers.
Katie Kimball also believes that blogs are an increasingly relevant method of affiliate advertising. She says, “I think blog advertising is the way of the future. Because blogs build loyal fan bases, if I say I love a product in a blog post and tell my readers that they need to run out and buy it, that post will hold more clout than an ad on the side of a website.” Many writers are agreeing with Katie that blogs are the right way to go, turning toward newer forms of marketing like blog book tours to make use of the trust relationships built up between bloggers and readers.
If you are interested in starting a blog to help promote your writing, WordPress shows how to get started here.
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Lauren White recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in History and English. She is serving as assistant editor at Independent Publisher for summer 2013 and hopes to continue her career in publishing in New York City. Please email her at larenee [at] umich.edu with any questions and comments.