Notes from the Blogosphere
Name: Joanna Penn
Years blogging: 7
Genre: Book publishing expert
Can a blog help with a book deal or with book sales?
If you can bring a large, ready-made audience to publishers, then of course they will want to publish a book with you. This is most common in the nonfiction niches. In terms of help with book sales, you can essentially build up an email list and an audience that want to hear from you through your blog and content marketing. When your book is ready, all you have to do is announce it to your list. This is how I launch my own books straight into the best-seller lists, because I have built up an audience over many years.
Your blog posts tend to be long. Is there an advantage to that?
We are all drowning in content online, so my intention is to provide top quality articles that solve a problem for authors and round up lots of information in one place. I write long posts that take many hours to write. Top quality information that stands the test of time will always be shared, bookmarked and read because it’s useful.
A short post can be effective if it is inspiration, information or entertainment created for your audience. But I’m not offering two-minute entertaining videos on my site. I’m offering a path for writers to follow, and there’s a lot to learn. Bloggers will need to decide what suits them and what they want to offer their audience over time. Consistency is so important.
Readability and layout can be an issue for blogs. Any tips?
“Great artists steal,” as Picasso said, and this is what I’ve done with my site and what I recommend others do, too. I’ve been following a number of top bloggers for years, and when they make a design change, I incorporate that into my site as well.
People increasingly scan content online and then slow down to re-read anything that catches their eye, so you need to design the page so it is scannable and also full of eye-catching images. Use sub-heads to break up the page and draw attention to particular aspects of the article.
Again, this is very different from writing a book, which is why so many authors struggle with blogging. They haven’t considered that it is a form of writing that includes design as well as copywriting skills. But by modeling and learning from others, a few tweaks will make your site much more readable and shareable.
You feature both craft blog posts and marketing posts. What kind of a balance do you aim for between the two?
As my own process cycles between writing, self-publishing and book marketing, I aim to provide information on all those topics without repeating the same thing too often, alternating craft pieces with the business side. I don’t consciously measure the number of posts on a topic, it’s just based on what I’m interested in at that point in time and what my audience might need. For example, after NaNoWriMo, I post about editing a first draft, and in the new year, I focus on writing productivity.
Your blog posts always get a lot of shares. I saw one with 2,000. Is there a science behind writing a post that will have good legs?
The most important thing to consider is what your audience actually wants and then provide that, rather than just focusing on what you want to write. You should also learn how to write headlines, as copywriting is quite a different skill to writing a book. Adding images to your post is critical as well as an interesting visual will stand out much more on social media.
Of course, it also takes time to build up an audience and the credibility where people will share your work immediately. I’ve been blogging for seven years and have over 1000 articles, 240 podcast episodes and 250 videos, plus years of social media sharing. But of course, I started with nothing just like everyone else. Blogging, like being an author, takes time to build, so you have to decide what you want for the long term and why you’re blogging in the first place.
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