Speak Up, Stand Out, Build Your Audience

Original Pub Date: January 2, 2012: Webupon.com

speak out commentMany of the expert book marketing folks have touted the benefits to authors of running a blog.  On a blog you can offer excerpts from your book, talk about your characters, offer insights into your life and personality, even plug your books, all with the intent of piquing the curiosity of your target audience so they will want to buy your books.  But to do that, people must actually come to your blog and read it.

A blog, or a web site, is like a box of brochures in that they can be effective advertising tools if disbursed but if left sitting in the back of a closet, they are useless to you.  Handing out your digital brochures can be done in a number of ways.

  • Put the URL on every print piece of advertising you produce; from business cards to your books.
  • Add the URL to your e-mail tagline.
  • Add it to all your social media accounts.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs and fill in the URL field.

It is this last one that I want to talk about today.  Commenting on other blogs that are related to yours or attract the same readers that you want to reach is a good way to introduce yourself to a new group of people.  But to do it effectively requires some research and some thought.   

Where to Comment

Finding blogs on which to comment requires a little poking around, and you need to know what your readers are into.  If you’re a crime thriller author, commenting on a gardening blog probably won’t grab the attention of that blog’s readers – unless you’re researching gardening because the victim in your next novel will be an avid gardener and his passion somehow centers in the motivation for the murder.

Why do your comments have to be relevant?  Because most bloggers will delete comments that are obviously off-topic or blatantly self-promotional.  If you add something to the discussion, they are happy to let you join in and to link back to your blog.

You may choose to visit the blogs of other authors in your genre, hoping to interest their readers in your work.  You may choose to locate blogs dealing with matters related to the setting or characters in your latest book. Or you may choose to frequent the haunts that cater to these topics when related to your next book to ask questions and this stir up interest even before it is written.

What to Say

If you enjoyed reading the blog post, say so – all authors of any written work enjoy knowing that their work is appreciated.  If one part in particular struck a chord with you, mention that and explain why.  It is a good thing if you can include the author’s name, or mention some aspect of the topic so the author knows you actually read at least part of the post.  More on that in a second.

Most bloggers are not pundits, simply espousing their opinions and unconcerned with yours.  Most bloggers desperately seek “conversation” with their readers through the comments. In fact a few bloggers go the route of introducing a subject briefly, then expect their readers to provide most of the content as they banter the topic amongst themselves.  Feel free to add your voice to the discussion, even if it’s only to ask a pertinent question.  Questions often get a better response than simply stating your opinion.

What Not to Say

Avoid at all costs tossing in a “Nice post, thanks” sort of comment.  This is almost guaranteed to be deleted by all but the most desperate bloggers.  This is the sort of thing that spammers scatter about as they attempt to plant a bazillion links around the internet leading back to whatever site they’re promoting that day.  Spam may be acceptable in a casserole, not on a blog.

It is generally accepted that if you wish to disagree with the author or another commenter, you do so politely.  Censuring them will generally result in censoring you.  Not always; sometimes bloggers post on a volatile subject hoping to stir up a “spirited discussion”, but most bloggers don’t go the route of shock jocks.

Also avoid dropping overly self-promotional comments, “I agree about the blood dispersal, and be sure to come by and check out my latest book, Blood Guts and More Gore at [LINK] in it our hero…”  This too will be perceived as abusing the hospitality of the blog host unless an invitation to self-promote was given.

Finding Blogs for Commenting

One of the easiest ways to find related blogs on which to comment is to go to a blog you like on the subject and read the comments.  If the blog is set up to allow back-links (and most are) look for interesting comments and follow the commenter back to their blog.  Begin a list of blogs that cater to the topic you’re promoting, have a good readership (lots of comments) and allow back-links.  Visit those blogs regularly and participate in the discussions.  Keep an eye out for new blogs to add to your list.  Or you can use your favorite search engine to search for blogs on a particular topic.

Inevitable Caveats

A few things to be aware of before you set out upon this quest:

1)      Blog hopping can become a HUGE time-sink.  At one point I found myself spending 4 or more hours every evening blog hopping, trying to boost my readership.  It worked but…

2)      Many blog-hoppers do not read, nor care about, your work; they are just looking for back-links.  Spending huge chunks of time luring these people is time wasted. Target sites that are frequented by people who will READ your blog and may actually be interested in buying your book.

3)      Sweets draw flies.  Programs like CommentLuv and KeywordLuv are very popular among professional bloggers because of the networking potential they offer.  Using these will induce more bloggers to comment on your blog, but see #2.  Consider carefully what your objectives are.

4)      Frequency of postings is a focal point for some.  Many blogger experts claim that you should post every day, every other day at the minimum, in order to keep your audience coming back and building traffic to your blog.  From an SEO standpoint, this is valid; Googlebot and other spiders may notice the track being worn to your door and decide your blog is important enough to award a higher position in the search results page.  But unless you’re providing fascinating content every time, too frequent postings can shoot you in the foot.  There are several blogs I subscribe to where new articles aren’t posted more than once every other week, but when one goes up, I’m there because I know the post will be an entertaining read.  I’ll scan titles for those who post every day and pop in when I see one that interests me.  Few are worth reading daily unless they are known for brief, insightful work.

5)      Time spent writing and polishing blog posts is time not spent writing your next book.  Your blog posts need to be every bit as engaging and professional as your books are if you are to attract new readers… at least readers who care about well written books.  Some don’t. But be careful that you don’t allow your blogging to become an excuse not to write your books.  For authors, a blog is just one of your promotional tools; it is not likely to produce much if any income in and of its self except by pointing buyers to your books.

Conclusion

Having a well-trafficked blog can expose your work to new readers.  Building that traffic can be time consuming, and for it to do you any good that traffic needs to be made of people who are more interested in you than in building their back-links.  Commenting on other blogs can do this, if you put some thought into it.

 

Those are my thoughts, what say you?

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