You can also listen to Helen read three of her Mermaid Tales on the Story Circle Network podcast site.
Blogging With Purpose
Blogging can be addictive. If your reason for blogging is to get the word out about your books or to brand yourself, then the addictive nature of blogging is important. It can get tiring and, if you don’t have purpose, need and results, you may give up.
I started blogging on August 17, 2006. I got one comment. I kept blogging. On August 30th, I got two comments. Three comments over half a month -- rather depressing. On the other hand, who knew about my little blog on writing and publishing? Pretty much no one. I told friends about my blog, but they weren’t blogging or doing much on the Internet back in 2006, so they didn’t stop by.
I now have over 230 Followers. Not huge numbers, but not bad. More and more people are beginning to leave comments. I’ve met hundreds of people online and have developed friendships.
I grew my readership by stumbling along and dragging myself up the learning curve. My free weekly newsletter has been going out to writers around the globe for over 10 years. So you can see I don’t give up easily.
Here are some things I’ve discovered:
Choose a Theme for Your Blog
Mine is Writing and Publishing. Yours can be whatever you want. Stick to your theme so visitors know what to expect, but you can make exceptions. Sometimes I blog about something else. For example, about once a month, I’ve started blogging Mermaid Tales. Ninety-nine percent of the time, though, I stick to my subject. Your theme can even be a scheduled mix. On Mondays, you blog about X, on Tuesdays, you blog about Y, and so on.
I blog every day, 7 days a week. My followers know they can visit my blog any day and find something new. You might choose not to blog on weekends, but if you inconsistently miss blogging, say you disappear for two weeks, people will stop checking your blog.
Keep Your Posts Relatively Short
Readers tend to skip long posts. Shorter is better, but guest posts are expected to run long.
Pay Attention to Your Commenters
People who take the time to leave a comment are important. You don’t have to respond to every comment (although I know some bloggers who do), but you should check your comments several times over the course of the day and make a comment of your own, so your visitors won’t feel like they’re talking into a vacuum.
Pay it Back, Pay it Forward
Visit the blogs of those who comment on your blog. Read their post and leave a comment. You’re paying them back for visiting your blog - and you’re learning something in the process. Every day, try to pay it forward to one or two people. While you’re visiting other blogs, if you note someone you’ve not met before but they made an interesting or informative comment on that blog, zip over, read their blog post and leave a comment. This is how you maintain your followers and develop new ones.
Get the Word Out
Let people know you’re blogging. Put the URL on your business card. Put it on your Facebook and MySpace page. Add it to your sig line. Tweet it. I’m on Twitter and I try to tweet each day’s post at least twice a day. When I have time and someone else has a post that really interests me, I’ll tweet their blog.
Don’t Let Blogging Take Over Your Life
I’ve found that blogging is less of a chore if I write several posts at one sitting. I don’t write a post then immediately publish it. I’ll take a day and write maybe three or 5 posts, then schedule them to automatically post on the days and times I want.
While I don’t claim to be a blogging expert, these are some of the things I’ve found that work for me. If it’s too much to take on all at once, add them into your routine slowly. Develop your addiction over time.
Blog Tours are becoming very popular with authors. They save money on hotels and gas and can potentially reach a large audience. Authors still have a lot of work to do on a virtual tour -- but, the time and money spent doing a virtual tour is less than a bookstore tour.
The key to having a successful Virtual Book Tour is … the hosts.
If you have a website or blog and you have authors stop by, then you’re a Host. If the author is stopping by other blogs or websites to promote their book, then you’re a Virtual Book Tour Host.
Whether you’re hoping to host your first author on your site or whether you’ve done so many times, you’re probably looking for ways to become the best host possible. So…here are some tips on being A Great Virtual Book Tour Host.
Look for authors who write the kind of books that your blog readers like or who can speak to your readers about the niche that you blog about, be it knitting, gardening, science, environmental issues, religion or whatever.
Don’t be afraid to ask authors to visit your site. You don’t have to wait for them to contact you. Just as you don’t know every author or when they have a book coming out, they may not know about you.
If the author doesn’t offer to send you a copy of their book, ask for one so you can read it ahead of time.
Ask if they would prefer to do a post or a Q&A -- or possibly a book excerpt, if it's unique and not available on the author's site or other places.
If they want to do a post, suggest topics and remind them to focus their post on what your readers want to hear (be it knitting, gardening, science, etc.) If you have a word limit, let them know upfront.
If it’s a Q&A, include questions that will encourage them to talk about their book (after all, they’re working hard to promote the book) and also ask questions that will draw out answers that will inform your readers in the area that you usually blog about (be it knitting, gardening … you get the idea). Ask the author what questions they wish they'd been asked on other interviews -- you might be surprised by their response.
Set a date for their visit far enough in advance so you have time to do all you need to do to make it a great visit. (Keep reading for some of those “things” you’ll want to do.)
Ask the author to be available that day to answer questions or respond to comments on your blog.
For a Q&A get the questions to the author early. Give them enough lead time to write their answers and send them to you, so you have time to edit and write your intro and wrap-up.
Ask the author for jpgs of their head shot and their book cover(s). If need be, cut these down to whatever size you use for your blog/site.
Ask the author for relevant links they’d like embedded into the post, such as links to the author's website and/or blog, or links to a book excerpt or an excerpt page. If they have a page that lists (with links) all the stops on their tour, then get that link as well and post it on your blog. On the day of their visit to your blog, as a courtesy, give the link to the next stop on the tour. After that next stop, get the permalink (you can do that when you stop by and comment), then change your post from the day before so it now has a permalink. Send the permalink from the day of your author's visit to the author so she can change it on her blog tour list of hosts. Whew! That's a lot of linking, but what you're doing is making it easy for late visitors to find your site and the post from the day of the visit. Plus, you're reciprocating with other hosts, so you're both getting cross-visits.
Ask the author for a bio you can use to cull information for the intro and wrap-up.
Visit the author’s site, blog, and any other “presence” they have on the Internet so you can learn about them. This will help you in coming up with questions and an intro and wrap-up.
If the author is doing a full blog tour, with many stops, ask if s/he will be putting up a Tour Page listing all their stops, the topics they’ll be discussing along the way, etc. Ask if they're also doing a physical tour with stops at bookstores, libraries, and other places. If they are, get the link to this page and their blog tour page – add it to your wrap-up on the day of their visit.
If you are an Amazon, BN.com, or other associate, create a buy link. If not, ask the author to provide a buy link for the book. Selling books is, after all, the author's main purpose for the tour.
Ask the author if they will be giving away a “prize” to your readers. Find out exactly what it will be and how your readers are supposed to sign up to get their name in on the drawing. Then add that to the wrap-up on the day of their visit. Here are some suggestions for prizes (I'm sure creative hosts and authors can come up with even more brilliant ideas):
a. signed copy of the author's book
c. signed excerpt booklet
d. things that work with the author's book, such as a free download of the book cover, the book's background, a pattern, a piece of art, a "how-to" piece, etc.
e. free conference call with the author (check out free services such as Free Conference).
Once you have the post ready to be put up, which should be several days or more before the actual visit date, let your author see what you have done, especially the intro and wrap-up. This allows them time to make changes and edits.
Let the author know that you keep stats on your blog and ask if they would like you to send the stats to them for the day of their visit. Some authors like to have the stats for a couple of days after their visit, as well. Don’t be afraid that if you have low stats, they’ll never come back. Big stats are nice, but they’re not everything. Your associations with reading groups or organizations are also important. Your inroad into niches can be an enticement. Where your readers come from can be a plus.
A week or a few days before the author’s visit, blog about the upcoming event. You should have gathered enough information about the author and book that you can prepare a post that’s different from what you’ll say in your intro and wrap-up on the day of the visit. Include the author's photo and/or book cover in your post (it'll catch the eye of visitors to your site/blog).
Add the author to your blog roll -- and ask them to include you on theirs.
Ask your author to blog about her/his visit and include the link to your blog.
Put the post or Q&A up early, preferably before 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Be sure to include embedded links and pictures. Try to make the answers (for a Q&A) distinctive and easy to read, either through font, color, block quotes, etc.
Check in often during the day and respond to comments and questions. Check to make sure your author is doing that as well.
Advertise the post. Let others know about the visit on ListServs and discussion groups you belong to. Send notice to your friends, family and people you think would be interested. Leave a comment on your author’s blog. Be sure to include a direct link and if the author is doing a giveaway, mention that. If your blog is not already syndicated and sent out via a Feed, set that up before you start hosting.
Afterwards, find out who won the drawing and post that on your site.
If you have a website in addition to your blog, ask the author for permission to add their post (minus the information about the giveaway) on your Resources for Writers page – with live links to their site. This not only provides you with content, it gives the author a “permanent” link – more visible than a single post that will eventually get lost in the hundreds of posts that will inevitably follow. This works best with posts on your niche subject rather than Q&As.
Keep learning. Learn ways to advertise your blog – Ping, Twitter, MySpace, YouTubeand on and on. There are always new things. Scary things. Time consuming things. Frustrating things. But in order to stay relevant, you either have to be in your twenties forever (when the Internet is as natural as eating) or you have to be brave. Be Brave.
And be organized. You need to be organized to handle one author’s visit. You HAVE to be to juggle multiple visits where pre-preparation can overlap. Keep a calendar. Keep all correspondence. Keep your cool. And when you get email from the author, tour coordinator, or publicist, answer back. That's not only polite, it's imperative to keep things running smoothly.
As you learn new ways to do a better job hosting, advertise your blog and the authors’ posts, or promote yourself, keep notes on how you did those things. You’ll be surprised how often you forget. You add a slideshow to your blog then three months later someone asks you how you did it and you can’t remember. And share with other hosts. I came up with these 30 tips, not on my own, but with the help of other hosts, authors, and publicists. So, when you come up with a great tip, send them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll add them to the list and a link to your site or blog. You'll notice the list is already growing - we're up to 31 Tips now!