It’s a basic truism these days that if you’re in any kind of business, you need to establish a blog. Great, you say! You run right out, sign up for a Blogger.com or WordPress.com account, or the more tech-savvy among us go into the Escher-esque maze that is the management software on our hosting services and manually install the WordPress software. Then, things get trickier. The blog is there, in theory, but once it’s up, what’s an indie writer to do?
Everyone talks about quality content and they’re right to do so. Any blog worth its readership offers something valuable to its readers. What makes for quality content, though? Non-fiction authors have a decided advantage here. There’s a good chance they write in a pretty narrow niche, be it molecular gastronomy or The Punic Wars, and the material becomes self-limiting by nature. As long as there is a clear connection between the content in the post and the writer’s general area of interest, they’re more or less golden. Fiction writers have a tougher row to hoe. A lot of us, me included, tend to default to writing about writing. Write what you know, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t much help in building up a readership. The people who are most interested in writing are other writers, not readers. Fortunately, even though most of us write about imaginary places, we tend to ground our work in the real world. If you’re a science fiction writer, you can talk about (and link to, by God) an article you read about some breakthrough that informed you’re writing. Romance writers can delve into anything related to relationships, from the latest in sex therapy to how relationship books tell them what kinds of things create tension in relationships. Basically, if you ever read something, saw something, or heard something that made you go, “I bet I could use that for X writing project,” you’ve got a blog post that you’re readers will probably be interested in reading.
Talk, Don’t Write
In the olden days, generating video content was solely the purview of high-powered, well-financed production companies and a handful of dedicated amateurs willing to forego food in order to buy good equipment. Today, smart phones, web cams, and off-the-shelve digital video cameras (not to mention a whole lot of SLR cameras) can record perfectly acceptable video content for a fraction of the cost. Most computers come with basic video editing software pre-loaded and the world of shareware can generally make up any lingering deficits. “Wait,” you declare. “You want me to just talk to camera and then load it onto the web for anyone to see?” No and yes. On the no side of my answer, you’re video content, just like your written blog content, should say something relevant to your reader. Maybe you just saw the Hugh Howey interview in Wired and want to crow to the world about an indie writer success. Maybe you just saw a massive uptick in your own sales and you want to send out a more personal kind of thank you to your loyal readers. Relevance is the key, regardless of medium. On the yes side, if you enjoy some success as an indie writer (or any other kind of writer) there will come a day when you must verbally interact with another person. Video blogging or vlogging lets you practice articulating your thoughts verbally, rather than textually. Also, human beings are visually cued creatures. A video will often hold attention where the written word does not.
Do Marketing, But Casually
A lot of indie writers fall for the temptation to use their blog (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube accounts) as an advertising platform to flog their books relentlessly. The reality is that people who are regularly reading your blog probably already know about your book and there is a good chance they’ve already bought your book. If you beat your readers over the head with a constant barrage of marketing messages it will likely result in little more than alienated readers and a loss of future sales. You should absolutely blog about it when you’ve got a new book, article, or short story coming out. You should probably write more than one in the month or two leading up to its release. The rest of the time, though, let the marketing happen naturally. Marketing casually on your blog means creating a dedicated space on the blog that lists what things you have available and where to get them. For most indie writers, this space can simply be titled “Books,” “My Books” or something in that vein. Any new reader than comes to your blog and sticks around long enough to get interested by your incredible, highly-relevant posts will click on that page to see what you have to offer.