Are you looking for a way to get the word out about your writing without paying for advertisement? Read on to find out how to start an author blog and why you need one.
I love to write. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable things I do. Whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, I can find my groove and write as if nothing else matters. I’m going to guess that since you’re reading this, you like to write too.
Writing for a living isn’t as easy as belting out the best novel of your life (like that’s so easy). Well, you do need a good novel, but regardless of how good it is, you need people to read your book in order to make money from it. And, that requires getting the word out. Unfortunately, word of mouth doesn’t spread like it once did. It’s probably because there are so many people in the world and so many authors producing new novels. So, if you want people to know about your book, you will have to tell them.
How do you tell thousands if not millions of people about your books? The internet, of course. Not only will having an online presence help get your name out there to the blogosphere, but it will give you an opportunity to connect with other authors in the writing community.
When I first started slgavyn.com, I only used it as a place to tell readers about any upcoming books and as a place to vent about the writing process. Needless to say, I didn’t have a very big following. Because of that, my books sales never reached their potential. So, I decided to do something about it.
What did I do? I turned my author blog into an information station for other writers. I have learned so much about the writing process and marketing my books since first becoming an author almost five years ago, and I want to share that knowledge. If I had found a blog that gave detailed pointers for writing novels and growing my platform back when I started, I would have read everything they wrote. Since I didn’t find such a blog, I had to learn through trial and error.
Don’t do what I did. Start a blog and begin building your platform from the beginning. Heck, some people start writing on their blog before they even finish their first book. Which raises the question that I asked myself when I decided to get serious about my blog. “What does an author write about on a blog?” It’s unlikely that new readers would be interested in learning how you used the hoagie you ate for lunch yesterday as inspiration for a scene in your book if they’ve never even read your work before.
Most writers choose other topics to write about than their own writing. Of course, you can still include posts about your novels, but providing valuable information to your reader is what will keep them coming back for more.
That information can include, writing tips, book deals, reviews, or even travel destinations. If you write nonfiction and your novels are on a specific subject, make your blog about various topics surrounding that subject. If, like me, you write fantasy or other fiction, you can write about other fantasy books you love. Chances are if readers of your books happen upon your site and find that you regularly post book deals or review on the same genre of book, they’re likely to follow you to see what you recommend.
So, how do you start an author blog?
First things first, pick a domain name.
You might think that this is the easiest part of blogging, but it is also the most important. If your call your blog “edgeofdarkness.com” and you write fantasy, unless you only write one series called The Edge of Darkness, chances are no one is going to find your blog.
Most authors use their author name as their domain name. It makes remembering the website address easier for readers, and it helps to establish your brand. Because as an author, you are your brand. You can try to push a series as much as possible. But, if you’re planning to be a writer for the long haul, you will eventually write more than one series. If you put all your eggs in that one series’ basket, then you might find yourself starting over when you’re ready to expand your writing.
Once you have your domain picked out, check to see if it’s available for use. Here is a handy link that will take you to a site to check domain availability. You can also try googling the name to see if there is a similar website already established. This will prevent you from having any trademark issues later on.
For example, if there’s already an author named Martha L. Bean and you want to write under the author name Martha Bean. There’s a chance you could be infringing on the other Martha’s trademark.
Of course, if there’s a Martha L. Bean who sells, oh, let’s say…beans, then there’s a chance that there won’t be any trademark issues because you’re in such diverse industries. (Unless you intend to write about the bean trade.)
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What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
Okay, enough about beans. The next step in creating your author blog is getting hosting. Let me explain a little something before I go any deeper into why you need hosting. I’m gonna explain the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org.
WordPress.com is a completely free site that will allow you to create a blog for free. When you create a blog through them, your domain name will be something like this: yourdomain.wordpress.com. Through the .com version of WordPress, you can’t use plugins or any of the fancy stuff that will get your blog noticed by search engines. You also can’t place ads on your site, which can give you a little extra money on the side.
WordPress.org is for a self-hosted website, meaning that you have to pay for a hosting service, but you can set your site up to be found by search engines and add ads to your site for extra money.
If you are serious about building your platform and you want people to find your site, you need the .org version of WordPress. There are other website builders like Weebly, but I’d say roughly 75-80% of websites that are serious bloggers or companies use WordPress sites. You can customize them until your heart’s content, and there are literally thousands of pre-made designs available to people like me who wouldn’t know how to design a website if their life depended on it.
Related Post: The One Tool I Use That Makes Me a Better Writer
Get Some Hosting
So, I’m going to assume that you’re taking my advice and you’re going with a self-hosted site. Bluehost is who I use and recommend. I will add here that I’m also an affiliate with Bluehost. I became an affiliate not long after I started blogging because I like Bluehost and they are affordable. If you’re looking for hosting for your site, look around at all the hosting companies and read the customer reviews. But, you’re not going to find a better deal than Bluehost. It’s only $3.95 a month for the first three years, so as far as business investments go, it’s pretty cheap.
If you do decide to go with them, using my link will earn me a small commission without costing you anything extra. It’s just one of the ways I keep this blog afloat. Incidentally, you can also become an affiliate with them once you have your website established and it will provide you with a way to make a little extra somethin’ somethin’ on the side.
Pick a Theme
Yay! You’re now well on your way to getting your author name out there to the world and somehow, someway convince everyone to buy your books that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into. The next thing to do is pick a theme for your site. A theme is the layout for your website. It will have everything laid out, where all you have to do is add some images and text.
Once you pick a theme you like, you can be up and running within minutes. I use Thrive Themes for the layout of my site. They have several themes to choose from. Also, if you sign up for their membership, you will not only have access to their themes but to their opt-ins and landing pages and tons of other tools that will help your blog grow. If you don’t have the money to invest in a theme, there are quite a few free ones. I will add that if you’re not familiar with website design and don’t have the time to learn it, you might have a hard time with getting your site professional looking with a free theme.
Make Your Brand Noticable
Take the time to create a logo for your site, or you can pay someone to do it for you through somewhere like Fivver. You can get one made for pretty cheap. But, if you’re trying to do this whole author thing without going into major debt, you can just create it yourself with the help of a free software like GIMP. Just make sure you create something that can work for a long time in the future because you’ll have your hands full with other things. You can use your logo not only on your site but all your social media channels as well.
Create Something Worth Reading
Once you have your site created, start putting those writing skills to work creating some great content that everyone is going to want to read. The one bit of advice I’ll offer here is to be consistent. Pick a schedule that works for you and stick with it.
Related Post: 7 Tips to Proofread Your Work Like a Pro
Bribe Your Audience
The next thing you’re going to want to do is to create a freebie. Whether it’s a sneak peek at the first few chapters of your book or the first book in a series (that’s what I’m doing in case you missed the hunk at the top of this post), or you create content that is specific to the subject of your blog post, create something that people are going to want and then set up an automatic email service to send out welcome emails to your new subscribers.
Mailerlite is a really good one. They’re free for the first 1,000 subscribers. I chose them because I would hope that by the time I have more than 1,000 subscribers (still not there yet), I’ll be making enough money to afford to pay for the service. Until then, it’s completely free and pretty easy to use. For my opt-ins and landing pages, I use Thrive Themes. But, most email providers (Mailerlite included) have opt-ins and landing pages you can design for your site.
If you’re wondering what a landing page is it’s basically a sales page for your freebie. On it, you can tell your readers exactly why they need what you’re giving away so that they’ll sign up for your list. Here is a link to the landing page for my free book if you’d like to take a look.
Your Email List is Your Best Commodity
Don’t neglect your email list! Just like with your blog posts, email your list regularly. They are the people who actually care about what you write. And, they are the ones who are going to buy your products so make sure you put effort into creating a relationship with them.
I’ll have more tips soon on other ways to build traffic to your site once you have it established, but in the meantime, if you don’t have a blog already, start one. Even if you’re still in the beginning stages of writing, start your online presence. The sooner you start, the sooner you will have a following who will go gaga for your work once it’s finished. After all, no one likes hitting the publish button only to hear crickets chirping.