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Thursday, October 4

The Indie Publisher’s Toolbox – Part 2: Blogs & Newsletters

By Ray Flynt

Part of the Indie Author Series


Last month, in Part 1 of the Indie Publisher’s Toolbox, we examined an author’s website, including domain name and registration, options for hosting, and a brief look at content.

Now we want to look at two vehicles for direct communication between authors and readers. Specifically, more “long form” communication as opposed to what might be found in brief social media posts (Stay tuned: Social Media will be the subject of a future “Indie Publisher’s Toolbox).

Two months ago, in my first post here about writers as entrepreneurs, a reader posted the following comment, which I consider a cautionary tale as we consider today’s tools.

“On marketing: a good warning from something one of my favorite authors is doing currently. In previous years, when he was building his base, he wrote frequent (once or twice a month, let's say) blog entries about writing, about his craft, about how he does his research, etc. It made him an absolutely fascinating person to follow, on top of being an excellent author. He regularly responded to comments. I got on his newsletter list and was always excited to see the emails show up in my inbox.
“However, these days his blog posts are about nothing but book sales, upcoming releases, etc. No more interesting information or tidbits from his world. He built his brand and then lost track of what worked.

“If you are going to put yourself out there like that- don't stop once you become successful!”
Before digging into the toolbox a little further, I don’t want readers to feel daunted by all of this information. My father-in-law had a garage full of tools ranging from a hammer to a ShopSmith power saw, while my tools were all contained in a rectangular metal box about 10” X 10” X 24.” The number of tools you have are less important than how you use them. As previously noted, weighing the cost in “time and money” is equally important.

A BLOG


Blog is a shortened form of “weblog,” a way of providing content on a regular basis. A Vlog, or “video log,” is a visual form of the same concept.

When we discussed websites, we mentioned several host platforms (WordPress, Wix, Weebly). Each of these has the capability of displaying blog content. Blogger.com is another site that will host your blog. As noted with websites, FREE blog hosting sites will also display advertising.

Adding a blog to your web content takes your information from static to dynamic. It gives your fans an opportunity to visit regularly and get to know you better.

FICTION UNIVERSITY
is a blog, an impressive one devoted to helping writers. I’m sure Janice could testify as to the joys and challenges of maintaining a site with new content nearly every day, and juggling a myriad number of contributors (including some who may need deadline reminders). For purposes of this post, the focus is an author’s blog.

Questions to consider before launching a blog:


1. What information do you want to share with your readers?

Will your focus only be about your writing life (where you get ideas, editing challenges, nice letters you’re received from readers, how closely your characters mirror you or people you know, or a Q&A about the novel you’ve just published?

On the other hand, do you want to expand what you share with readers to include reflections about your personal life, the booties you just knit for your granddaughter, that vacation of a lifetime you took with your spouse, the tale of the burst pipe in your bathroom, or sharing the scary things that go bump in your night?

Just as your faithful readers know what to expect from your books, your blog will need to set a theme and remain consistent. You may want to avoid certain topics (politics and religion come to mind) so as not to offend your readers.

2. How frequently do you intend to do a blog post?


How many words will you write? (Remember, a blog is more “long form” communication. If you just want to tell the world what a fabulous lunch you had at a new restaurant in town, a Twitter account might be right for you.) The frequency and word count questions boil down to what level of communication you will be able to sustain.

Remember, blog posts are in addition to your regular novel and short story writing. The blog hosting platforms usually allow you to schedule when your post becomes available, for example, every other Tuesday at 9 a.m. So you can write ahead and still plan that month long cruise through the Panama Canal. (NOTE: When you’ve run out of ideas – or time – you can always post a previous entry from your blog.)

3. What level of interaction would you like to have with your blog readers? 

Blog posts usually allow for comments. But you can also decide whether you want to moderate comments before they go live on your blog site. If you choose to moderate, you’ll be alerted to a comment and have to “approve” it before others will be able to see it.

4. Is there an advantage for you to band together with other writers in a joint blog? 

For example, a group of cozy writers might decide to write “The Cozy Five” blog, with postings once a week. That means each of them would only have to write a post once every five weeks (see question #2 above). The advantage from a marketing perspective is that readers of those other authors also become familiar with you and your story telling. As with any blog, you can always ask additional persons to contribute a “guest blog” for your site.

With a blog, you have the option of adding an RSS feed, so that readers will receive automatic alerts to new content.

AUTHOR’S NEWSLETTER


A newsletter is another way of communicating with your readers, and there are a variety of email marketing services you can use to disseminate your newsletter to subscribers. Among the most popular ones are ConstantContact.com and MailChimp.com. Several of the web hosting services previously mentioned contain templates for creating newsletters. Costs can vary, especially if you have a large list of subscribers. Things to consider here:

1. What should you include in your author newsletter? 

Upcoming book release dates, information on free or discounted book specials, dates and locations where you’ll be doing book signings, preview what you are working on, links to short stories (if you have them), and perhaps Q&A on your writing process. That’s just for starters. Bottom line: Include what you are comfortable writing about and what you think your readers would like to know.

2. How will your blog and newsletter complement each other?

Blogging and an author newsletter can work together. Your blog posts can serve as content for your newsletter. With the RSS feed noted above, readers can, in effect, subscribe to your blog. With a newsletter, you send it to your readers who have subscribed on a time schedule of your choosing.

3. What do you want your newsletter to look like?

Newsletters often have colorful borders/designs that can convey your message in a more memorable way (think pumpkins as the border for your October newsletter).

4. How frequently do you want to send out a newsletter? 

Because it goes to people who subscribe, you know that they want to hear from you. But even the most ardent fan can get turned off if they hear about your upcoming book launch too often. Remember, they retain the option to “unsubscribe.”

FINALLY, it’s impossible for one person to have extensive experience with all of the possible sites used to produce blogs or newsletters. I’m familiar with blogger.com and Wix’s “Shout Out” newsletters. If you have questions about those, ask away. Please feel free to share your own tips and best practices regarding blogs or newsletters Let us know what you see as the most challenging aspects about either. We look forward to a lively discussion.

Ray Flynt authors two series: Brad Frame mysteries, and one featuring journalist Ryan Caldwell. He’s also written a political suspense, KISSES OF AN ENEMY. A native of Pennsylvania, Ray wrote and performs a one-man play based on the life of Ben Franklin. Ray is a member of Mystery Writers of America and active with their Florida Chapter. He is a life member of the Florida Writers Association. Ray retired from a diverse career in criminal justice, education, the arts, and human services.

Website | Goodreads |



About Unforgiving Shadows

Brad Frame lived a serene but aimless existence on Philadelphia’s Main Line until his mother and sister were kidnapped and murdered.

The tragedy transformed his life.

After helping the police catch their killers, and with the aid of his mentor, Philadelphia Detective Nick Argostino, Brad opened his own private detective agency vowing to help bring justice to others whose lives had been turned upside down.

Eleven years later, Brad is invited to the execution by lethal injection of Frank Wilkie, one of two men responsible for the death of his mother and sister.

Thinking that Wilkie might have something to say, Brad reluctantly attends. Wilkie remains silent, but as Brad exits the prison the chaplain races after him, thrusting the condemned man’s Bible into his hands.

Within hours another man is anxious to get his hands on Wilkie’s Bible, and Brad suspects the motivation could involve the still-missing ransom money.

But as the reason becomes clear, Brad’s world is once again turned upside down. Aided by his associate, Sharon Porter, Brad unravels an eleven-year-old mystery that casts new suspicion on family, neighbors and business associates alike.


UNFORGIVING SHADOWS is the first book in the successful Brad Frame Mystery Series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Indie Bound |  

1 comment:

  1. For those who are just starting out and are having to make decisions about blogs and websites, take the time to peel beneath the surface of what you are looking at. With WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and other hosting services, you can get free templates for both blogs AND sites. The difference? With a website, you can have evergreen pages that serve various purposes (your bio, contact information, books you've written, etc.) AND also have a section for your blog posts. If you opt for a blog template, you generally DO NOT get the option to have those evergreen pages.

    Another easy-to-setup option for a blog is Tumblr (tumblr.com). It is virtually turnkey.

    As Ray wrote, you have to answer the question for yourself: What goal do you want your site/blog to achieve?

    ReplyDelete