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Thursday
Jul282011

What Do READERS Want From an Author Blog?

Photo by Terence S. Jones (creative commons) - Click pic for link
 Writers know they are supposed to have a social media presence. Writers know that ideally they should blog so they can connect with people (and eventually their readers). But there seems to be a big mysterious question floating out there in the writer blogiverse: what exactly do readers WANT when they go to an author's blog?

Yes, connection. I get that. That's what we're all looking for. But how exactly do they want to connect? Most of us have figured out how to blog for other writers. This isn't something that should be underestimated because the enriching experience of meeting other writers and finding people who become great friends is priceless. However, connecting with other writers and connecting with readers are not the same thing.

Yes, I know, writers are also readers. That's obviously true. But here's the thing--one we have a book out there, we don't want to be excluding non-writing readers by constantly jabbering about writing and publishing. Sure, some of that may be interested to a reader in doses, but not all the time.

So okay--channeling Kristen Lamb a bit here--we know blogging about writing indefinitely isn't really a practical long-term career goal (unless of course you're writing books about writing.) So once you've got your blog footing, have built your writer support group, how to you expand upon that to put up the "welcome" sign for readers?

Jody Hedlund has covered this topic before on her blog as well because, like me, she also has a blog about writing. Her conclusion was that most (non-writing) fiction readers aren't reading author blogs. From her observation, most readers go to author websites just to get info about the author's books. And frankly, that applies to me as well. I don't read my fave authors blogs regularly because most of the time it's just book updates and such. Not something worth reading daily/weekly.

But does this mean readers wouldn't be interested in an author's blog if it were um, interesting and engaging? Obviously people like Neil Gaiman, Meg Cabot, and Jennifer Cruisie have figured it out (of course, they've also written wildly successful books that attracted a lot of readers FIRST). But really, there aren't a lot of stand outs that I can think of off the top of my head.

So what's an author to do?

Kristen Lamb would suggest not doing a writing-only blog, to find other interests that you like to write about. In her workshop I went to she gave examples like an author who focuses on wine and books on her blog, so she's tapped into the wine people (and who may become people who want to buy her fiction.) And the lovely Tiffany A. White has a fabulous blog called the Ooo Factor where she reviews TV shows and keeps us up to date on what's new in TV world. 

But here's the thing--those examples are still niche-oriented. Just like a writing blog is. Niches are what work if you want to build a blog audience. People know what to expect from you and go there because they are interested in whatever that niche is. That's why I was able to build Fiction Groupie (my writing blog) to almost 1k followers before I even had an agent or book deal.

Niches WORK. But they also alienate those not in the niche. For instance, I'm not going to go to a wine blog because I'm not that interested in wine. I go to Tiffany's because I love TV and she does the work for me so I know which shows I should check out or not. But if someone else isn't a big TV person, they'll probably not stop by and visit her.

So where does this leave an author strategy wise? Build a niche blog so you can get a big following relatively quickly, but then be restricted by that niche when you do get a book published? Or be too random trying to appeal to everyone and have your blog will float off into the unread ether?

I have given this A LOT of thought, probably way too much. But here's the conclusion I've come to: Blogging for the unpublished author and blogging for the published author are DIFFERENT things.

Before you have a book out there, your main goal is to build a network and presence online and to meet other people like you. This is where a good solid niche blog comes in. You don't have to be so restrictive that you only talk about writing or whatever, but make sure people know what kind of content they are going to get when they go to your blog. 

However, once you are published, you have to realize that people who read your books or hear about your books from someone are going to get online and look you up.

And readers are looking for certain things from an author blog (as May talks about here at Smexy Books and Author Tech Tips talks about here.)

1. Easy to find book info including buttons to buy, the blurb, its placement in the series, if applicable.

2. Excerpts and teasers. 

3. News - Where you're going to be, what books are coming soon, etc.

4. Book recommendations from the author

5. To get to know the author and "see behind the curtain" but that does not mean boring posts about what you ate for lunch yesterday.

So here's what smacked me over the head when reasearching for this post--readers are a niche. Their niche is BOOKS. They come to you to learn more about the books they love and to get to know you a little bit.

Therefore, I think the published author's challenge is to write engaging post that show off you and your voice and entice the reader to come back. You don't necessarily need a big blog theme like you did pre-publication. The theme is YOU and your books. (As my friend Steena Holmes suggested on Twitter the other night, it's a shift from blogger/author to author/blogger.)

So all of us need to write posts that:

1. Are fun and entertaining.

2. Show off your voice.

3. Offer readers some insight into your personality.

4. Engage the reader in conversation.

5. Relate to your "brand." --KNOW what would appeal to your readers.--You write funny? Probably should have humor in your posts. I write romance so things like Boyfriend of the Week relate back to who I am as a writer.

And don't forget about why readers came to you in the first place--books! Don't be afraid to talk about what you're reading or what books you love or what books you can't wait for. My author friend Suzanne Johnson does a fabulous job on her blog Preternatura connecting with readers over books in her genre.

So all of this still makes my head hurt because I maintain two blogs and don't plan on getting rid of my writing blog anytime soon because I heart my writing community peeps (and I can't merge the two without losing all my blogger followers so that's not an option either). But I also don't want to have my book come out in January and not have a reader-friendly blog for people to come to if they want to stop by. It's a lot to figure out.

 

Alright, I know this was a LONG post. But I'm curious to hear what you think of this whole reader/writer blogging thing? Take off your writer hat for a moment and tell me, as a reader, what do you want on an author's blog? How do you feel about niche blogs?

 

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