Like the other events we talked about last time, Blog Hops can be a lot of fun and very successful, but they take a lot of work. In fact, much of the work is not something you realize ahead of time. For one, they are notoriously hard to set up before the morning of. Why? Because you have to have the working links to everyone’s posts, and most people don’t have working links until the morning of the event.
This can be a headache if your hop is very large. If you are scrambling for four links that will break the chain in the middle, that’s not pleasant.
Further, setting these up can be a challenge as well.
First you have to have a central page that each blog links to as well as an image that promotes the blog hop. Then you need a consistent jump tag with the image so that people who land on a particular site can easily follow the hop. All of these have to be set up and working ahead of time.
If you have bloggers who are not familiar with posting images or are just starting and learning how to link, this could take even more time.
To see a blog hop that we did in November, go here. Ours was kind of eclectic “Food, Faith, and Fun” as each blog post was about something slightly different having to do with the upcoming holidays.
If you want to set up a blog hop and need the technical assistance to do it, go to Linky Tools You can also set up a simple one on your own.
If you want to see what blog hops are out there to join, you can visit The Mommy Chronicles Blog Hop Directory
Have fun blog hopping!
Events are different than normal blogging in that they have a definite start and a definite end date. However, just like normal blogging, they are limited only by your imagination and your technical ability.
I have participated in several blog events that have been successful in getting the word out. Some of them have been:
#1 A Special Month dedicated to a topic. One blogger I know had a month dedicated to men who write Christian novels. (That wasn’t the one I did. Others have featured a Hero’s Month where all month-long, they had blogs about heroes from different books they had either read or that authors posted about to the blog. You could do all kinds of these “months”–Pet Month where you feature pets from books, Heroine Month, Christian Authors month, etc.
#2 An event centered around a holiday or time of year. My friend Penny Zeller hosted “Favorite Christmas Memories” on her blog last year for the first 12 days of December. She had 2 authors per day sharing their favorite memories. Then each author gave away one copy of their book to someone who had commented. Because there were a lot of authors in the project, Penny got a lot of exposure for her blog with others tweeting about their posts on the blog. These events are great fun, but they are work to set up, run, and follow up on. So plan carefully.
#3 The third type of event is actually how G&F started. Karen Baney was a part of a group of 36 authors through the World Literacy Cafe who all got together to celebrate the launch of WLC-founder Melissa Foster’s book. For 3 weeks before, all the authors tweeted about the event, posted blogs about their stuff that linked to the page of the event, blogged about the event, etc. Then for three days, all of the books including the launch book were 99-Cents and they gave away a book if you bought 3 or more. It was a huge event that launched Melissa into the stratosphere of the ebook world. However, do not think it was an easy promotion. We did one with 10 authors for Karen’s book in December, and it was very successful. It was also A LOT of work to keep up with who’s blogging where, what links should you send people to, getting the page set up, tracking sales, tracking ranks…. It was a challenge.
I did a smaller one of these earlier in December, and it was quite successful as well. In that one, the lead author hosted all of us on her blog and we all pointed our links toward her blog which had tons of info about the book sale. These do take a lot of forward planning, and I can imagine that it’s possible to do all that work and not sell a lot of books. For me, they were great jumping off places.
#4… For next time… Blog Hops!
Some bloggers find that doing reviews is a good way of driving traffic to their blog, and this is true. As an author, I love directing my audience to a site that has favorably reviewed my book. Why? Because it’s not on Amazon where the reviews tend to get bunched together. It’s more fun to read a single great review on a site than a whole bunch that make your eyes glaze over.
If the blogger includes a link to my book as well, this can be a terrific landing page for on-going promos even after the post is not on the blogger’s top page.
However, if you are going to do reviews for your blog, here are some points to consider.
#1 Reading takes time. Even if you are an extreme speed reader, there are more books than you can ever read. With the advent of ebooks, that is more true than ever. Once your site is found by readers, you can be sure the authors will pounce. That’s great as you might get a bunch of free books, but you can lose credibility very quickly if you promise to do 10 books a month and find that is not feasible. So go slow at first. Only commit to a couple of books and see how it goes before committing to 50 and realizing you can’t keep up.
#2 Set your review policies. Are there certain types books you don’t want to read or review? Put that in a Policies Page that is visible on the site. You don’t want to be wading through tons of submissions that turn your stomach.
#3 In fact, on your policies statement, also include information about what happens if you hate the book. Do you politely but not publicly let the author know the book was below what you could give a good review for? Or are you comfortable giving bad reviews to crummy books you’ve been given? If you are an author, this gets to be a particularly thorny question as publishing a review that is less-than-favorable can come back to haunt you when you are asking for reviews for your own book. As much as possible, think through these issues because if you review, you will face them sooner or later.
#4 What will you include with the review? I’ve seen bloggers get really creative with reviews, asking the author for “casting calls” of who they see as their hero and heroine. I’ve seen bloggers do character interviews coupled with or after a review. Challenge yourself to find a way to make your reviews MUST READS! THE review everyone clamors to get and every reader wants to read. Don’t be boring!
#5 Think through how to stem the tide when you start getting too many submissions. Do you close submissions? Put news ones on a to-be-read list? What?
#6 I know there are sites that request payment for reviews. I would discourage you from doing so unless your site offers the chance of more than one reviewer and there is an issue of download space on your server or something. Otherwise, if it’s just you reviewing, consider the reviews the price of attracting traffic to your site.
#7 Promote your reviews! Maybe that sounds obvious, but don’t just review and let them gather dust. Tweet about them. Facebook them. Let others know you have a new review out, so they will come, read it, love it, and want to read more reviews by you!
In short, think through your policies and know that this route of blogging takes much more time than simple blog posts. However, if you absolutely love to read and want to point people to great books, this is a fabulous way to do it! (And authors will love you to boot!
If you’ve done the work on a blog post to make it truly wonderful and timeless, the last thing you want to do is run it once and let it sit there doing nothing for the rest of eternity. That’s where repurposing comes in.
There are several ways to repurpose blog articles. Here are a few:
1) Use old articles as guest blogs elsewhere. Don’t spend all your time on guest blogs trying to come up with something new. It is perfectly acceptable to use old blog posts as new guest blogs. Keep in mind that the article should be timeless, so it doesn’t appear dated on the new site AND it should be older than about 6 months old.
2) Retweet and promo old articles from your blog. This is especially helpful if you’ve done your jump tag at the bottom correctly as your blog post will act as an extended advertisement–pulling first and then pushing your books. Also, articles are great ways to legitimately use a diverse range of hashtags. If you normally write romance, but you have an article about what divorce does to children, you can use the hashtag #divorce for the article, which you would obviously not use for any of your books. (We will discuss hashtags extensively later on.)
3) Use in short story collections. These can be either by you if you have enough articles (my books Reflections on Life I and II came from doing just this). Or you can submit these to larger collections that do not require originals. These types of books abound now with the success of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
4) Use them as landing pages for your guest blogs. Guest blog somewhere and then use your jump to land the person on a second article about the same topic.
5) You can also go backwards and write guest blogs that you then post as articles to your own blog. This works particularly well if you are not a prolific blogger. It will give you a deadline– for someone else and thus accountability, and it can take the pressure off of creating something new for each post on your blog. You can also link to other blog posts you’ve done such as reviews and/or interviews.
The bottom line is, don’t think “Post and Done” on your blog entries. They should be workers out there finding you new audience members all the time.
This topic was touched on before, but I wanted to spend a little time talking about it a bit more so you can design your blog scheduling for maximum success–for what you want it to do.
The basic idea is that in track, some runners are sprinters and some are marathoners. Very, VERY rarely is a track person both.
It’s the same with a blog.
Some blogs are sprint blogs, some are marathon blogs, and you need to know the difference as you’re designing.
A sprint blog acts more like a website. It is designed to be set up and then promo’ed, rather than updated frequently. Not that you can’t update a sprint blog, but if you do, it won’t be as often as you update a marathon blog.
An example of a sprint blog is my Ebook Romance Stories blog. http://ebookromancestories.com
I crafted this blog literally in about a week. Each post is cross-referenced on the pages rather than standing alone. So I have a page for First Chapters… each of the entries on the list link to a post that contains a first chapter of one of my books. Excerpts and reviews each have their own page. This blog was designed as a website so that I can send readers there to read about each book. I only update it if I either have some new information–new covers for example, or if I have a new novel come out.
The sprint blog is put together all at the same time and then left (except for promo’ing).
A marathon blog is quite different. It will require more of your time and will need to be updated as long as you want the blog to run. This is more of what people think of when they think “blog.” Marathon blogs contain posts written about topics as extemporaneous or editorials. I have several marathon blogs. The one that’s been in existence for the longest is: http://spiritlightbooks.wordpress.com I have been posting to that blog since 2008 or so.
This marketing blog is kind of a cross between a sprint and a marathon. My goal is to post like a marathon blog, but when I run out of relevant topics, I will stop posting and just direct traffic (G&F members) here to learn about marketing. So why would I have a blog that’s not a marathon blog on marketing? In short, I was spending great amounts of time walking people through these concepts. I decided it would be easier to think them through and get them all written down in one place than to rewrite them each time a new person asked.
So think about the purpose of your blog. Are you envisioning a sprint blog–something more akin to a website? Or marathon blog, which will require much more information and time commitment that will not have a finite ending?
Next time we’ll talk about Comments and getting people to participate on your blog.
We’ve spoken now about blog elements. I want to turn our attention to the actual effort of blogging.
Blogging sounds very easy especially if you’re a writer. You write something, post it, and thousands of people come and love what you wrote… right?
Yeah, not so fast.
First, you have to figure out WHAT you’re going to write about. You should have been doing some of this as you came up with the name of your blog and your keywords, etc. But let’s look a minute at:
CONTENT: What are you going to write about? Don’t take this lightly because if you scatter-shot your blog posts, posting about random things, you will attract a random audience if you attract anyone at all. Think about it. Let’s say you find a blog that talks about gardening, but you don’t garden. Are you going to stick around for their random blog posts about raising kids, or about how to shop with coupons? Now all of these could fit nicely in a blog about being a mom, but it needs to be set up that way.
To get people to return, you need at least semi-regular content that is pertinent to their lives. I once heard this referred to as “bleeding neck” posts. The more critical you make your posts to your readers’ lives, the more loyal they will be. I should mention here if you write a blog post about yourself, don’t make it you-centric. Talk about how what you learned can help THEM. If all you talk about is you, you’re probably wasting your time.
HOW OFTEN: A big question when starting a blog is, “How often do I post?” My answer: “As often as you have material for.” I know some people who post only once in a long while and then promo the post extensively. I know others who post every day and promo some, relying on a subscriber base to carry their blogs and make posting worthwhile. You have to decide what works for you. Because what works for you might not be what works for someone else. For example, when I started blogging, I co-blogged with a friend of mine. I took Mondays and Thursdays, he took Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It worked out very well as if one of us was gone, the other would pick up our days.
Then my co-blogger passed away, and I had to decide if I was going to try to blog every day, four days a week. I decided I could not keep up with that schedule, nor did I have that much to say. For awhile, I filled in his days with other things I had to post, but eventually, I had to be honest with my readers that it was getting to be too much. I dropped back to Mondays and Thursdays, and I’ve been doing that for nearly 5 years now.
Another consideration is how many other things you have to write and how long one post takes you. For me, I can write a post in 20-30 minutes if I don’t get interrupted. However, I know some people who agonize for days over a post. So look at your writing personality as well and don’t sign up for something you can’t deliver. If you can only do one post every other week, then do that. But remember, this is not a month-long and it’s done in most cases. So do what you can do for the long haul.
TYPES OF CONTENT: If you are content-challenged, consider offering a day of guest blogs or interviews or reviews. As an author, all of these could be gold mines of other authors sending their traffic your way. However, some authors are better at this than others, so don’t assume that they will make your blog a success. In fact, many authors are counting on YOUR audience to help THEM, not the other way around, so be prepared.
GIVEAWAYS: I have done many contests and giveaways for other blogs. Just be careful as these can become a much bigger headache than they are worth. Yes, they do allow you a way to get people to comment and participate, but realize that each giveaway will take after-post work from you as well. Choosing the winner, notifying them and them and the author, following up. It all takes valuable time you may or may not have to devote to the blog.
I advise you to have at least a couple months worth of material if you are doing an on-going blog before you ever start. You will be amazed at how quickly days, weeks, and even whole months go by. If you don’t have enough content, consider instead guest blogging on others’ sites and sending them to your Amazon page, book page, bookshelf, or website. Just know that an on-going blog will take a lot of on-going effort and be prepared or you will find yourself missing deadlines and letting the blog slide, which is not a professional thing to do.
Once you have the basics of naming your blog, designing the theme, and getting the page the way you want it, you will want to focus on the content of the blog. That means understanding how to make an effective post that takes a reader through the promo chain rather than giving them great content that leads them nowhere.
Now as I said before, some blogs are designed more as sites than as blogs, and that is fine if yours is that way. But I would encourage you to still update the top page with new content periodically. After all, if I’ve read your whole site, why should I come back? That, to me, is the magic of blogs.
I went for a lot of years with a website and updating it was no fun. Worse, I had no effective way of pointing people to my new content. Blogs change that with the ability to let people subscribe and the ability to easily update your content.
Before we get into setting up your posts, let’s review a few points:
1) Push-Pull Marketing (part of your blog posts will be pull, part will be push)
2) The Promo Chain (taking a reader from the hook through to the Jump)
3) Riding the Wave Marketing (setting up and going through a campaign)
4) Stacking Waves (creating lots of landing pages in various places to be able to promo, your blog is the primary place to do this)
With those in mind, let’s look at a typical post and how to pull-push through the promo chain…
A great post starts with great info. Have something valuable to say to your readers. For me on my Spirit Light Books blog, I focus on how Christianity is found in very everyday circumstances. I post about Sunday School lessons I’ve taught, lessons from my kids and friends as well as from things I’ve read and watched. My central focus is to add value and understanding to my reader’s spiritual journey. Once in awhile I’ll post about my writing, but even then I try to have some lesson attached that I’ve learned.
So the first thing you want to do is: Add value. Don’t make the post all about you. Give the reader something GREAT they can take away, learn from, and use in their own lives.
You will want to add three things to your post for optimal SEO (search engine optimization):
Pictures — and be sure to use your alternative text to put in keywords!
Categories — Don’t do these haphazardly. Think in terms of Google Adwords. You will notice that this G&F Marketing blog is not done that way. That’s because this blog is focused on YOU, the G&F member, not the general public or even book marketers in general. It’s not to promote me. It’s to help you. However, take a look at my Ebook Romance Stories blog: http://ebookromancestories.com Look at the list of categories along the right side in the side column. All of them are keywords from my Google Adwords searches and I add the ones that fit each post. The more you can use your keywords in your content, the greater the chance your blog will climb the charts in Google.
Tags — Again, USE YOUR KEYWORDS! Can you reuse category words? Absolutely! Use every keyword you can think of, starting with your main two or three every time. The more you do this, the higher your site will be placed in Google, and the more people will be able to find you. Don’t get stingy with tags either. Use as many as you can think of. Make a list of them when you’re doing your Google Adwords searches. The tags on my Ebook Romance Stories post are found at the bottom of each post.
Now that your content is in place, you’ve got your pictures set up and your categories and tags done, you’re done, right?
Not so fast.
Here is the place that for YEARS my marketing stopped. Big mistake!
You’ve done everything else on the Promo Chain, but finally, you MUST have a way for the reader to Jump to the next landing page!
For me now that I understand this, I have put a jump to something else of mine on every single new post I do. To see samples of this, you can go here, here, or here. Scroll to the bottom of each article to see major jumps (those with pictures of a cover that links to the Amazon page, and links to Amazon and B&N) and minor jumps (a simple text link to my other sites).
Make SURE you put a jump tag on every post. This one, simple thing can make a huge difference in your marketing. And if you’re like I used to be, don’t think of it as promoting yourself but rather promoting friends (your books) that you really believe in! That helps!
Have fun marketing!
We are now turning our attention to the topic of blogs, and we’ll spend considerable time on these as they are vital as landing pages, as fan builders, and as center points for the rest of your campaign.
Now you can do many of the things we will talk about in the coming weeks with other mediums such as websites. So if you learn something here that translates to something else you’re doing, FANTASTIC! Go for it!
The neatest thing about social marketing is how when you learn something one place, it transfers to other sites and makes understanding new things that much easier. So even if we’re talking blogs, always ask yourself, “How else is this relevant? Where else can I use this?”
Blogs first burst onto the scene as kind of personal journals. They were at first called weblogs… web logs. A log of what you were doing or whatever you wanted to write at the time. Most of them were much like Facebook pages–a place to let your friends and family know more about you.
However, like everything else, they morphed into something much bigger and broader than that early definition. Two of the big blog sites: Blogger and WordPress became dominant names on the ‘net. With their relative ease of setting up, low cost (how can you argue with “free,” and eventually dynamic and flexible layouts and concepts), blogs soon took over as websites for average people who didn’t want to spend $1,000′s on their site.
Many people now use blogs exclusively as their website. In fact, when I set up Ebook Romance Stories, I never even considered doing it as a stand alone site. WordPress was so much easier, and I could do it all myself. There are some drawbacks to using a blog as website. With a great designer, websites can be far more flexible for example. However, for ease blogs simply can’t be beat.
When you design your blog (and yes, I know some of you already have so read this as what to do in the future if you design another one), here are some elements to consider:
Name of the Blog: Will it be something incorporating your name, or something more generic? If you are trying to come up with a name, please go back and read the lesson on Adwords. This will help you find a name that might get you noticed on Google.
Tag for the Blog: I am far more familiar with WordPress than Blogger, and one of the things you should pay attention to. The “tag” is the few words that describe your blog at the top under the name. For this blog, the tag is: Helping you jump start your marketing efforts! If this blog was for more than the G&F gang, I would probably change it to include more Adwords like: Helping authors jump start their book marketing efforts! (adding authors and book to marketing). Think this one through as it’s a great place to add some easy keywords.
Pictures & Graphics: If you use pictures and graphics on your blog (which you should), please note the Alternative Text option when you are putting the picture up. This is another great way to get in some keywords!
Posts & Pages: One of the things I didn’t learn until about six months ago was the difference between posts and pages on a blog. This is important especially if you are planning to use the blog as your website. Put simply: Posts all go in order on the main page while Pages are separate stand-alones in addition to the top page.
So for example, on my Spirit Light Books Blog, I have the Home page where I write new posts about Christian Living. Then I have the Pages: Contact Staci, Spirit Light Blogs, Staci’s Biography, Staci’s Bookshelf Each of these is a stand alone page, not affected when I update the main page.
One interesting thing that WordPress allows you to do can be seen on the Ebook Romance Stories blog. I have made the top post on the main page “sticky” so that it is always the first thing you see on the Home page. Because that blog is set up so that that pages lead you to the posts (i.e. the first chapter of Cowboy is a post that’s linked from the First Chapter Page), I don’t have to showcase each post.
Widgets: There are a ton of widgets that you can use to make your blog informative and user-friendly. One of my favorites on WP is “Follow this Blog.” You drag that into a column on your blog, and instantly people can sign up to follow the blog–no other feeds necessary. There are many other widgets as well such as BlogRoll (for listing other blogs you love), a calendar to show posts by date, categories, even Twitter and Facebook. The options are incredible.
As you are setting up your blog, think through your options and set it up the best you can. With a blog, you can always update it as you learn more!
Today we are going to shift our discussion from real world marketing to online or virtual marketing. This is an area that has HUGE potential for many authors, but so many are thrown to the wolves when they hit the social media.
The problems here are varied:
1) Too many social media to effectively use consistently
2) Too hard to learn and relearn everything
3) Hard to know what you will like to do and what you won’t
4) Confusing and overwhelming.
5) Nothing seems to “work” like it does for everyone else.
We’re here to take care of the last two and hopefully #3 as well. #2 is just something you will have to get acclimated to as the change on the ‘net never stops or slows down (remember Skills are Queen and often what you learn will help you learn new things down the road). Just know that learning and change are coming and breathe when they show up!
As to #1, yes there are a lot of choices and more are showing up every day. My best suggestion is to choose no more than 4 social media sites and learn and use those. Do a couple at a time and then add. If you get super-good on those and want to branch out, great. But don’t get sucked into thinking you have to try and know everything. You don’t, and it won’t work.
In this course we are going to talk about two major topics that should work hand-in-hand. Divorce them from each other, and you will be in trouble and frustrated in no time.
Notice that it’s our CONTENT that we’re using both to pull more people into our audience and to push (sell) our books with.
When talking about virtual marketing and building your hill, it is critical to have a plan in place to address two main issues:
1) How do I package my content?
2) How do I promote my content?
Today, we’ll do a brief overview of how you can PACKAGE your content on the ‘net. Here are the main ways your content can be made available:
You Tube Videos & Trailers
Short description of each:
Website–this was the earliest way to promote yourself on the web. Many people now have blogs to do what websites used to. However, I like to think of the website as a hub for everything else you do on the ‘net. There, you can have links to different blogs you either write or write for, your Twitter feed, other guest blogs, etc. You can have a bookshelf of your books and a bio. Of course you can do all of this in other places as well. I just think it’s important to have one landing place for all of your out there promotions.
Blogs–Blogs hit the virtual world and took it by storm. The original term for this is “weblog.” A weblog, or blog, is anything you want it to be. The content can be about you, your hobby, your writing, your business. Blogs are usually short articles about a topic of interest to your reader.
The way many bloggers went off track early is that they focused on themselves, making their blog more like a journal. Then the idea began to morph into helping others in the industry. So many writers began writing blogs–giving advice on writing. Unfortunately, that proved stifling for many because they didn’t have a lot of new ideas and there were so many other writing blogs, it was hard to gain much of an audience. Even worse was the fact that you only attract other writers doing that. I have nothing against other writers, but they are also trying to market their books. They don’t necessarily want to buy yours.
We will talk about blogs and all of this more in depth in the coming months, so stay-tuned.
Interviews/Guest Blogs/Reviews — these are all the places you “appear” on the ‘net. These appearances are a double-bonus.
First, you get exposure to someone else’s audience, and that person has an incentive to promo you because you’re on their blog.
Second, you have something else you can promo that’s not straight from your blog or website. This lends credibility to your brand, making you someone others want to talk about and listen to.
YouTube, etc. — There are about a million ways to create and package content on the ‘net. You can put your book trailers on YouTube or put Book Samples on YourBookAuthors.com. You can post excerpts and even have your article read out loud with cool animation behind it. You can sign up with Yahoo to be a Contributor.
All of these and so many more are ways to package your content. We will talk about each more in-depth in the coming months.
Once you get some of your basic packaging ideas down, feel free to branch out and see what other cool things you can do!
Next time we’ll talk about promoting the content you have.
Until then, have a blessed week!