What The H*ll Do You Want???

What do you, as a reader, want on author blogs? I see all kinds of things, and some pretty nonsensical advice from gurus claiming to know what readers want from author blogs and websites. So, as usual when I want to know something, I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth. BTW, if you’re a reader, that’s you. So, here goes.

Not All Readers Are Created Equal.

A large percentage of the visitors to writers/authors blogs and sites are other writers. What they want may be vastly different from what the non-writer reader wants. As a result, we each have to decide which reader we want to target. Do we go for other writers, and have a pretty much guaranteed audience? Or seek out people who might actually buy our books and enjoy them?

Or, do we perhaps try for a mix, other writers andΒ regular readers? If we do that, how do we achieve some sort of balance, or even separation, so that everyone gets what they want, without the parts they don’t want? Separate blogs/sites, one for writers, one for readers, aren’t an uncommon solution. The writer has to split her time and efforts, often inefficiently, and often leading to one blog being of far inferior quality than the other. If we take that course, which side gets sacrificed?

Other Writers As Readers

See, while writers tend to be voracious readers, we also tend to be 1.) very selective in reading material, and 2.) often, many of us are on a pretty tight budget. We often read extensively in our own genre, sometimes with a very narrow focus within it, but not much else. Or we read lots of writing craft books. Or only authors we wish to emulate. Or… Anyway, often, we don’t look at all the carefully placed marketing materials on author blogs.

With frequently limited reading time, as we push to write our own material, we look for blogs and sites that have materials that will help us improve our writing, find an agent, get published, and sell our books. Word quickly gets around about blogs that provide such useful materials, and they develop large followings.

So, if we’re aiming our blog or site at other writers, we need to focus on materials that will help other writers be more successful.

Readers As Readers

Here’s where things get tricky. What if we want people who are looking for books to make our blog their favorite online hang-out? Of course, we’d love to have the avid reader, the one who consumes multiple books per week, reading our blog. What does she look for in an author’s blog?

Our avid reader might be up for an occasional day-in-the-life sort of post, if she’s a little curious about how and what writers actually do. Writing craft posts aren’t too likely to catch her attention, though. She might like reviews, to help her choose other books to buy, but do we want to send her to buy from the competition?

How can we keep her focus on our work? Cover art, blurbs, and buy links should probably go without saying. How else will the reader know what books we have, and how to get them? I also see excerpts on quite a few author sites, of all levels, so the conventional wisdom would seem to favor excerpts. Give the reader a little taste of the product, as it were. But where do we go from there?

Leave It To The Imagination

One author (I’m sure there are many more doing this, too.) has a page on her website dedicated to artwork related to her books. That sounds good, on the surface. The problem is, she uses these computer drawn images of her characters, which can be gorgeous, when well done. Hers aren’t. They’re very took-one-class-and-now-I’m-a-professional-artist looking, with uneven proportions and colors that resemble dog-puke together. Such things, done purposely, can work, but not in this case. It ends up making her look like an amateur, almost childish, instead of a professional author.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but even before I came back to writing fiction seriously, that sort of thing really turned me off as a reader. If the representations of characters aren’t extremely well done, I greatly prefer my imagination.

Involving Readers?

I know of one mid-list author whose fans sometimes sent her original, professionally done graphics, just to share their enthusiasm for her books. She, with the artists’ permission, used the graphics on her website, and when the collection grew, on merchandise. She has gorgeous hoodies and tees with the graphics, and short quotes and slogans, for sale on her site. I have no idea how well that’s going, but with fabulous artwork, reasonable prices, and good quality, I’d be surprised if it weren’t successful.

How that can translate to other authors, I have no idea, but it seems worth exploring.

Other authors involve readers in various ways – giveaways and contests, responding to reader questions publicly, social media interactions, interviews, blog tours, reviews, newsletters, and etc. The problem with these things is that everyone is doing them, making it tough to stand out from the crowd. We’re told by all the experts that these things will translate to book sales, and they probably do for some. But isn’t there more we can do, without wasting effort and money?

The Question, Then, Becomes:

What can writers/authors do to draw actual readers to our blogs/sites, and keep them involved and returning? Even those of us just starting out, perhaps not even published yet? What can we do to build a loyal following of readers, eagerly anticipating the release of our (next) book?

Do any of the methods listed above catch your attention as a reader, bring you to our blog/site, and keep you coming back for more? Or do they all just get lost in the shuffle? What kinds of things writers do to promote their work annoy you? Would you buy their books even if you’re a little put off by their marketing?

What can authors do to make you feel special, and valued, as an individual? What can we do to convince you to be ourΒ reader?

 

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17 responses to “What The H*ll Do You Want???

  1. Ah, I see you reflect upon the last great mystery, grasshopper. To face the truth is for life to lose all luster. Journey to a local coffee shop and sip from the well. Forget this nonsense and write in peace… *choking down laughter*

    • LMAO, Skhye! Don’t worry, I’m not particularly concerned, LOL. Just “thinking out loud” like most of what I put up here.

      I’ve actually answered most of these questions for myself, in order to give my blog a direction. Now that’s decided, coming up with topics and deciding on content is far easier. And that frees up time to write, LOL.

      Now, if I could just find a cure for procrastination, I’d be set!

  2. Hmmm….you’ve got me thinking! I don’t actually know anyone in my everyday social circle who reads blogs. Sad, but true. I have one friend who was writing a blog, but that was mainly while she was in college. Now, due to family obligations, she’s rarely even online. We’ve maintained our friendship the old fashioned way, meeting for lunch or the occasional movie out in the “real world.” πŸ˜‰

    When I started writing my own blog, I was sure that my friends and family would read it, more than half of my friends are avid book readers, but that seems to be a rare occurrence. I was a little disappointed at first, but I’m a big girl and I put on my big girl pants everyday! LOL Blogging and blog reading isn’t for everyone. I have met some AMAZING people while blogging, people I would NEVER have met otherwise. I have met people with similar interests as myself who live all over the world. Blogging is a lot more personal than other forms of social networking. It’s become my favorite social network. πŸ™‚

    As far as drawing people to your site…when I first started blogging, I was hoping for LOTS of followers. I chock that up to my newbie inexperience. *blushes* Not that I wouldn’t mind more follows, but I’ve got a small following of fellow writers that comment regularly. I’ve become friends with these wonderful people. I don’t know what the answer is for getting a larger audience, but now I think that I’m happier just having a few loyal fellow bloggers visiting my site. My original plan of using blogging as a way of promoting isn’t exactly out the window, but it’s not what it once was. In my limited experience, readers don’t read blogs as much as fellow writers do. Now that I’ve come to accept this, I see my blog as a support system. I see it as a place to meet others within my writing genre. Maybe my views will change again in the future. Who knows? That’s the beauty of blogging, its fluidity. πŸ™‚

    • Juli, I think you’ve hit it on the head, LOL. Most non-writers that I know have never visited an author’s blog, and never will. The exception comes when they fall in love with the next Twilight, etc.

      Despite the impression I’ve given with this post, I’ve finally figured out what I’m doing my blog, and who I’m aiming it at. Like with everything else, I’m most comfortable with a Plan in place. I have it now, and the questions in this post are what I used to help figure it out.

      As for traffic, in true OCD fashion, I have a plan for that, too, LOL. It’s very simple. I’m focusing on quality traffic rather than quantity – meaning I want visitors who stick around and read, rather than clicking in, then out. The way to drive quality traffic is to provide good content that interests my target readers. So, if I have a dozen visitors who hang around and read, and get something out of my posts, in my mind, that’s far better than a thousand visitors just clicking in and leaving seconds later.

      And, as you said, the beauty of blogging is it’s fluidity. If my Plans don’t move along as I’d like, or if I decided to shift focus, it’s a non-issue.

  3. I think the question is for you, not your blog readers. And I mean that in a nice way. Who do YOU want to read your blog? What is your target audience for your book? If you want to latch on to the world of young adult readers for your books, your blog needs to be directed toward them. Think of someone, anyone, in your target audience, and every single post you write for your blog, write it for them. It’s hard because if you are reaching a particular audience, it might take a while, but that’s what branding is.

    • Thanks, Krystal, and you’re exactly right. All those questions are ones I needed to answer for myself as I decided exactly what i want to do with my blog. And if the answers I gave myself don’t work out as I’d like, then I can always change them, until I find what works for my goals.

  4. Excellent question. Although I hope to one day attract readers, there’s no safe way I can see to do that while I’m still working on my book.

    So the best thing I can do is occasionally give people glimpses of my characters and hope they get involved enough with me on my journey as a writer to buy the book when it comes out.

    Otherwise, my blog is more of a way to build relationships with people that share my passion than for marketing. That aspect will really grow when I start selling my book.

    πŸ™‚

    • So true, Misha! Before publication, we have to be careful what we share of our work. Nothing worse than putting stuff up before it’s ready for public consumption. Not to mention the first rights issues, and other things.

      And IMO, a blog is all about relationships – whether with potential readers or other writers. Focusing on building those relationships will lead to more organic approaches to blog growth, and for that matter, marketing.

      Personally, I can’t stand blogs or sites covered with BUY MY BOOK! buy my book. BUY MY BOOK! I’ll click out immediately every time. But if the author gives me something to think about, or something I can use, I’m more inclined to actually buy their book. πŸ˜€

  5. Like Juli, no one I know in real life who reads a lot in my genre or any I enjoy spends time at blogs. I was surprised to find this out since in my world as an author they seem very important. My friends claim that bloggers read other bloggers’ pages, no one else. I’m not sure I agree, but I’m just as unsure what my blog should contain as you are. For me, there are some no-no’s. I don’t review books on my blog (or at all, in fact). I don’t post any artwork, but then again, I can barely draw stick figures. πŸ™‚ I read a post the other day that said readers won’t relate to you if all you talk about are your books and writing. That to me sounds odd since they don’t know me in any other respect. Do you they really want to know about my day job hassles? My home schooling with my son? Something tells me that would be TMI and counterproductive to me as an author.

    I write what I feel I want readers to know, just as I look for from authors I love. I don’t need to know what they made for dinner last night. I want to know when the next _____________ book is coming out and how the progress is coming. I want to know about the story and characters.

    However, I don’t get thousands of visitors a day at my blog, so perhaps I should be talking about yesterday’s meatloaf. LOL

    • Hi Gabrielle! Heh, I often wonder about whether the book buying/reading public actually reads author blogs. With few exceptions, I don’t really believe they do, at least not on a regular basis.

      If they hear about a new release that sounds interesting, they might check out the blog to see if the author is someone they might want to read. But overall, I think it’s mostly the big names that get that traffic.

      Oh, I’m sure there’s a percentage of readers who follow author blogs – those entering giveaways and contests, those looking for excerpts as they shop for new books, those who follow their favorite authors. But all in all, I don’t think that percentage is very high.

      I’m very willing to be convinced otherwise, though. πŸ˜€ Maybe yesterday’s meatloaf has potential, LOL. There’s definitely someone out there running up those thousands of hits per day!

  6. Well that is certainly a hard question. I’m not a writer, just a reader and a blogger. When I choose a blog to read (regardless of blog author), I go for a couple reasons. A title caught my eye, I followed (yes, stalked) from another site, I read an article or interview with them, they have great giveaways, beautiful artwork, something funny to say…

    There was an author, I got her book, and it was on my kindle. At first she seemed like she had some good things to say, so I signed up for an email subscription. Every other day or so an email would come through. And every.single.one. was complaining about one thing or another. Very negative. I actually found myself in a worse mood after reading her posts. End result? I deleted the books (I think I had 2 total) from her – without reading them, and canceled my subscription. I mean, she wasn’t just negative, she’d go off on these bipolar rants and it just really squashed my mood.

    Overall, in the end, the blogs that hold my attention the longest have a variety of content. Great reviews, good editorials (something I have yet to incorporate, myself), and other fun stuff. The whole package. πŸ™‚ The white whale of blogging!

    • Hi, Liz. You make an excellent point about negative content effecting your mood.

      I can deal with an occasional rant – even regularly scheduled ones. But if someone posts nothing really positive, for whatever reason, that toxicity just seeps through the screen. I’m really susceptible to that kind of thing- for a couple of reasons – and I have to constantly be on guard against it. So if someone posts 2 or 3 rants/negative stuff in a row, I never go back.

  7. Pingback: Poll results and new blog schedule « creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

  8. Hi Kenra – it’s hard for me to answer any of these questions. I started my blog to market my book, but I’m really into blogging now and would blog whether I had a book or not. I have not been a great strategist with my blog. I’m just writing what I like to write about. Gradually I have attracted followers and love meeting them and others who comment on my posts. I’m sure I could improve my blog, but ideas haven’t come to me yet. Plus, I hate to do hype-centered marketing. I’d just rather write what I love and let nature take its course. Any thoughts, anyone?

    • Hi, You’ve made a really important point here. Writing what you love, and interacting with followers will help establish that “core” community that we all need. Those are the people who tell others about our books/work, and begin that organic, word-of-mouth following that has the potential to spread.

      I really can’t imagine doing hype-centered marketing, LOL. There’s *almost* nothing that will make me click out of an author’s blog/site faster.

      Sounds like you’ve got it figured out. πŸ˜€

      Kenra

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