Blogging has become one of the most venerated ways to create and share content online. As an independent author, creator, and entrepreneur, you know you’ll need a variety of ways to promote and share the content you create. An author blog is the most important tool in your content-sharing arsenal!
Really, I’m not being hyperbolic. If you’re selling books and building an audience, you need to produce and share content regularly. Blogs serve double duty—they’re perfect as a ‘content repository’ and you can employ search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to help new readers find you.
What Is An Author Blog?
The term blog is a shortened form of ‘web log,’ which is basically just an online journal. Of course, that’s not really what blogs are today. Modern blogs are essentially a space on your website reserved for longform content. That content will almost always focus on text, but plenty of images, video, and audio content can be used too.
In fact, you can think of things like podcasts as a new form of blogging—it’s basically audio blogging. For a minute, we called video blogs vlogs (which Neil Patel says are still a thing).
I propose a two-fold definition of a blog:
- Long-form content on your site, that’s
- Designed to inform, educate, and connect with your audience
Blogging is a lot of work. Day in and day out, a lot of work. And it may not be work that offers significant financial rewards. But creating regular content is a must—content that highlights your skills, gives you something to share with your fans, and has the potential to draw in new readers.
Primarily, your blog is a platform for the informational and educational content you want to share with your audience. And since you’ve got them on your website, your blog is also a good chance to earn an email subscriber or even a sale. You can look to a lot of popular business blogs (like Shopify or SEMRush) to see how they mix useful content with hints and suggestions that their product might help solve your problems.
This is the heart of content marketing, and something you’ll want to keep in mind while writing a blog post. What problems do your followers have and can you solve them? And more, can your book (or another product you sell) help solve their problem even better than your blog content already does?
If your content is useful and informative, readers will see your skills on display, and may be impressed enough to buy your book. Longform content is the best way to establish yourself as an authority in your field. Dig into the topics that matter most to you and resonate with your audience.
But before you can do any of that, you’ll need to build the blog where all this longform content will live.
If you’ve already got an author website up and running, you should use it to host your blog. I don’t know of any website hosting services that don’t include a blogging interface. If your author website is a WordPress site, you’re ahead of the game—WordPress was designed with bloggers in mind!
Yes, you can use other platforms (like Substack or Medium) to publish your content. But if your goal is to get more people on your author website (where they can buy your books from your online store), you need to be pointing them to that site to find your content!
You’ll also want to think about the kinds of content you’ll create. If you’re a visual creator and want to do a lot of content focused on images, you’ll need to be sure your platform will host those images in efficient ways. The last thing you want is for your blog to slow down your site!
Since you probably won’t be changing platforms to introduce a blog to your website, look to work within your existing site structure. Almost all blogging platforms make this relatively easy; just lean on your chosen platform’s help materials and guides to create your blog.
After getting your platform squared away, you need to define your purpose. And no, it can’t be ‘get more people to come to my website.’ That’s the goal; your purpose is something a little different but no less important.
For example, the Lulu Blog’s goal is to convince you we’re the best option for printing and selling your books. But the purpose is to provide free insights about writing, editing, designing, and selling books. They’re related, but not synonymous.
The purpose you establish now will drive the kinds of content you create for your readers. Which leads us nicely to the most important part of your blogging strategy: the content.
Content Content Content
Your blog’s content should reflect the point at which your expertise meets the interests of your readers. Think about what makes the content you’re selling (your book) unique or how to teach your followers something useful that ties into your content.
Here are a few topic examples based on a few common types of self-published books:
|Literary Fiction||Nonfiction Biographies||Cookbooks|
|Character development||Personification of people||Measuring ingredients|
|Setting/World-building||Accuracy vs. Creativity||Timing & Multitasking|
|Compelling Plot||Making real events exciting||Best tools/tech|
Each idea could easily be a topic for a blog post. Most are prime for multiple posts.
Not all content needs to be perfectly within your scope, though. General writing, publishing, and promotion topics are all great too. Best of all, looking at a range of topics gives you a variety of subjects.
I keep a spreadsheet with ideas for new blog posts. It’s more than two hundred rows deep and I add ideas to it almost every day. I recommend you keep an ideas list of your own. Anything that might be related to your purpose or fits into the interests of your readers should go on that list.
Having a deep repository of ideas is critical to keeping on schedule. You can’t write productively if you’re struggling to decide what to write. With your ideas at the ready, the next step will be deciding what form each post will take.
Most blogs will use one of these formats to create a post; lists, how-tos, resources, and opinions. There are likely variations and hybrids out there, but these four help structure your content and make it much easier to get posts written and ready to publish.
Blogs that have that “Buzzfeed-style” list structure. These kinds of posts serve a few purposes; capturing attention, providing a quick read, and often amusing readers. There is heaps of research suggesting that article titles with a number in them provide more value. For example, I titled this post “Using Your Author Blog To Grow Your Audience” but if the content were a list, I could title it “10 Ways Your Author Blog Can Grow Your Audience.”
Why didn’t I? Well, first off the list format can be overused. If you look at the Lulu Blog home page, you’ll see a healthy mix of content titles with numerical enticement versus more traditional titles. Use lists and list titles sparingly and try to rely on this only when the list has real value. Don’t use a site like Buzzfeed as an example. They have built a model on this style. So they can get away with list blogs like “21 Truths About Cats Only Cat Owners Really Understand.”
Even a giant like Buzzfeed uses this style with caution. Their serious articles use the traditionally informative title structure.
A list blog for a self-published author will probably emphasize the writing or publishing process. This is great content, and with the list style, you can create a post with less in-depth detail than the other kinds of posts while still offering value. I love list-style blog posts and I encourage using them when the content lends itself to that style.
A how-to blog is terrific to use as both a promotion for your work and a contribution to the rest of the authors out there. Think about it like this: you’ve published and are working on marketing your book. So you tried an email service and liked it. Open rates are up, sales are up, and the email provider looks like a great investment. Write a how-to about that email marketing platform and how you used it.
Blogging about your writing process also falls under the how-to category. Do you use character design templates? An editing checklist? What about routines that keep you on track and progressing toward completing your manuscript? All of this content is interesting and valuable to your readers.
How-to content will often be the most interesting and valuable kind of content. If you craft your how-to content thoughtfully (which you will, because you’re a writer!) you’ll see increased interest in the form of comments and new followers.
Similar to a how-to, a blog about resources will allow you to share resources you find useful with other readers. You can also share reader resources like book review sites.
This kind of blog has a lot of value, as you can share your experiences with different software and writing tools, marketing efforts, and really anything about your writing and publishing process. Just be careful to differentiate a post about resources from an opinion piece. It’s fine to offer an opinion about resources, but more important that you speak to the pros and cons of the resource with an emphasis on how they work as a writing and publishing tool.
Resources posts will differ from how-to’s because you’re not obligated to explain your own process here. When you’re talking about resources, you’re acting as an expert broadly about the topic or tool rather than giving detailed or guided instructions about how to navigate a task, platform, or other product.
An opinion piece is the most open kind of blog. Other blog writers might break this category out into a few different segments, but I don’t really see the need. Anything you post that isn’t based on hard information is an opinion. This can include reviews of other books you’ve read, thoughts on the publishing industry, or even a personal story about an adventure you’ve had.
For example, Lulu’s blog focuses on the first three forms of blog content because it is a company blog. Your blog will be a tool for your author brand, and part of that is YOU. Use opinion blogs to reveal a little about yourself so readers can get to know you. It’ll make a difference as they need to see you not as a business that sells books, but as a person who creates books. The difference might seem subtle, but it’s important nonetheless.
Don’t feel constrained by this breakdown of content forms—your blog is for you to connect with readers, so if you know your audience likes something unique, pursue that angle! The initial goal is to get followers to convert to readers, to get an Internet surfer to buy a book. Once you’ve converted a reader to a buyer, you want to keep their interest so they’ll share you and your book with their friends and stick around long enough to learn about your next book. Think of all your marketing efforts as community building, with the end goal of a strong, excited group of readers ready to champion you and your book(s).
How To Blog For Your Audience
Good content will inspire and excite your readers—it’ll draw them into your work and ideally lead to sales of your book. Getting that content in front of readers is a singular challenge among many hurdles. If you’ve managed to get a reader to click over to your blog, ensure that they stay through the entire post by employing some simple best practices.
There’s some debate about using images in your blog. I shy away from an image unless it is helpful to make a point. Like a screen capture. Others may have a more visual flair and see value in plugging in an image only loosely related to the content to get a reader’s attention. This can work and is reliant on your audience. If you’re a Young Adult author and your main audience is 13-25-year-olds, memes and images might play well with your readers. A well-placed image can break the monotony of text and provide a mental “breather” for your readers.
Just be conscious of the images you use. If the image is copyright protected, get the permissions and source it accurately. If you’re creating your own images, think about the size and resolution of most readers’ screens. Mobile viewing of blogs isn’t as popular outside sites like Tumblr, but RSS feed tools like Feedly are making mobile blog reading more attractive.
You should always assume your readers are reading on mobile. That ensures anyone who finds your content can read it easily and it helps you stay optimized for online searches. Luckily, most blogging platforms are naturally responsive—meaning the page automatically adapts to the screen size.
The size of your images can disrupt that adaptability, so be certain you’re using graphics sized to match the requirements of your platform.
Consider paragraph length and structure. No matter what kind of writing you do, a blog will almost always perform best with short paragraphs. If a reader scrolls down the page and sees long, blocked paragraphs dense with information, nine times out of ten, you’ll lose them. We’ve trained our eyes to skim—we have too much media to absorb in a day. So we skim, we hop through the content looking for some nugget that prompts us to pay closer attention.
Each paragraph you craft should contain all the broad information in the first sentence. This is easy to test by looking through any blog across the web. A strong leading sentence will frame the paragraph, and the two or three sentences that follow will expand or elaborate on that main sentence. You want your reader to read at least that first sentence before moving on. If it catches their attention, they’ll stop and finish the paragraph.
Alongside the structure of your paragraphs, think about how you use Heading Styles to draw attention. Above, I’ve set “How To Blog For Your Audience” in Heading 2. The text is large, bold, and framed with negative space. It naturally draws a reader to this line, and from that phrase, will surmise what I’ll talk about with the content that follows.
Blogging Like It’s Your Job
If you want to build and grow an audience, you have to be consistent. I recommend at least two posts a month, maybe even once a week if you have the content/time. Set a schedule, write posts in advance, proof them thoroughly, and keep posting them.
Blogging software like WordPress and Blogger all have scheduling tools, making it easy to prepare a post ahead of time and set the tool to post for you. I cannot say enough how useful this is for busy writers.
Your blog is one element of your author brand that will outlive the normal marketing push you make around a book’s release or the holidays. A blog is a multipurpose tool, a window into your writing process, your interests, and your author brand.
Yes, use your blog to promote your brand and your books regularly. But that’s just part of the role your blog will play. The blog is a persistent way into a reader’s Inbox. Email subscriptions to your blog translate into emails for your mailing list. And if you provide useful, interesting, and exciting content regularly, your readers will look forward to your blog posts and will recommend them to their friends.
Don’t forget that your blog is a long-term investment. You shouldn’t expect to start selling books after your first or even your hundredth post. What a blog provides is a hub for content (which you can link to from other platforms and emails) that’s part of your website (where you sell books) and that offers something of your expertise or insight to readers.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.