As a professional with an artistic product, I need to spread the word about the novels I write. But I’ve always felt self-conscious about promotional messages, either on social media or this website. I don’t want to annoy you, my reader, and I don’t want to create more commercialism noise. I get enough of that myself. So what can I do to connect with folks who may actually want to read my book? Some marketing experts claim authors should show the privates side of their life. I’ve always doubted that. Then recently I discovered something that shifted my perspective.
Should Authors Offer More of Their Private Side?
Not long ago, I was visiting the website of one of my favorite authors. Every now and then I google her to hear an interview or read an article about her latest books and such. But I have to confess, I was disappointed by her website. It includes a short biography of her with a list of books for buying but lacks anything personal. I clicked around, searching for bits of news and info. I wanted to know what she’s writing now, what she’s reading, what her workspace looks like, whether she has pets or is married, who her latest interviews were with, etc. I wanted some insight into her life and process.
Afterward, I wondered if my readers actually wanted that of me.
Do People Even Care About the Private Side?
Probably not, I thought. No one cared about an obscure writer like me. I’m not famous. Still, I looked over my website’s analytics just to make sure. To my surprise, people do care about my private side. The data confirmed this. My most popular posts are the ones that talk about behind-the-scenes aspects of my books. The second most popular are ones where I talk about my life and family. I sat back, a little shocked.
Why had I been avoiding those kinds of posts? Why not put myself out there? Well, I guess I thought the act of writing was rather boring. What I didn’t realize was that ideas aren’t boring. The artistic process as it relates to real life isn’t boring. After all, I did want that from my favorite author.
Still, I feel shy and strange about sharing online. I also feel like I have to formalize every post I publish. But maybe I’m overthinking things.
A New Birthday, a New Beginning
As my birthday approaches, I’ve vowed to make a fresh start. I’ll write fewer listicles and how-to posts, which take a lot of legwork in gathering pictures and such. Instead, I’ll focus on you, my reader. What you want. I’ll talk about the behind-the-scene aspects of my books and writing. My inspiration. What I struggle with and the discoveries I made so that perhaps my words can help you.
Once, I wrote a piece about having the name Karen in these modern times. The essay was intensely personal and a risk since Karen is now a villainized name. Well, I heard from hundreds of women named Karen. They said they felt heard through my words. They could relate, I spoke for them. And so, I’ll try my best to do that again.
Also, I’m hoping this more casual approach will allow me to show up more frequently. Use my website as a way to connect with readers more intimately, kind of like my newsletter. I may even start an audio journal. It’s all scary but exciting.
Photo by Carolyn V
Showing up is so important. Do you know that quote by a famous film director (whose name I won’t mention) about how 80% of success in life is just showing up? It’s so true. I’ve seen it over and over again. Someone got an opportunity not because they were the best but because they were there. Someone proved their worth by enduring an event they really didn’t want to be at. And the examples go on.
My husband I have taught that lesson to our kids their entire lives. When you show up, even if you don’t want to take that test or go to camp with that annoying kid or babysit your sister, you send a message that you care, that you’re willing to try, that you’re able to suffer through the painful parts of life.
In some ways, I can’t think of a more important lesson in life. Kindness, persistence, honesty. Those are all important too. But showing up bonds you to others in good times and bad. It shows serious character.
Showing up as an Introvert Artist
So as artists, how do we show up? The first way of course is to show up to our desk, our easel, our counter, whatever, and create art. But afterward, when we’ve made the art, what do we do?
Well, we can show up to performances or gatherings or meetings. And showing up socially often goes against our introverted instincts. Artists tend to be shy. Not always, but often. A lot of artists are artists because we enjoy solitude, right? Because interacting with people makes us nervous or self-conscious or plain exhausted. We like to live inside the imagination, not necessarily in harsh or dull reality.
But in today’s internet-connected world, we have an advantage. We can show up online. Join groups, discuss ideas via social media or post about what excites us via a blog or website. We don’t have to shower and dress well and put on our more patient, happy public face. We can share ideas and inspiration from the comfort of a couch. Not a bad compromise.
What Venue Is Right For You?
In terms of social media, I’ve always been partial to Twitter. I like it for two reasons: a) I learn stuff and b) I laugh. There’s information on there that educates me and witty or sarcastic commentary. Also, I have attracted real-life friends on Twitter. Those friendships have blossomed based on shared interests, not some sense of us being friends because we once worked or went to school together (though that has a worthy bond too), but because we share a passion or interest.
This is why Facebook and Instagram don’t charge my battery like Twitter. Those platforms are more about social causes, random memes, and personal photos. My husband calls it a glorified address book — which is fine, that can be useful too. Instagram, of course, is the glam version of Facebook, with an expected polished presentation of users’ kids, vacations, sunsets, and milestones. Shrug. I don’t have the energy to constantly present my most glossy perfect self.
Also, the company that owns those two platforms has refused to curb false political propaganda. Twitter is at least making an attempt. So while I still use those last two platforms, they don’t spark joy for me at all.
What If You’re Not Into Social Media?
What if, like many authors I know, you aren’t interested in posting about your life or sharing content? Well, this brings me to what I think is the most important way to show up as an artist: on your website.
When you create an online home base, you’re opening yourself professionally to the world. People know where to find you. You’re offering up your art and perhaps the inspiration behind that art. If visitors like it, great, if not, they can click away. But I think a website, and more potently, blogging, brings about connection. It brings the artist and those who like the art closer. It’s virtually showing up for whoever would like to engage.
The Seth Godin Philosophy
Marketing guru Seth Godin talk a lot about this. He thinks the most important thing an artist can do to promote their work is to “show up with generosity and intent.” In other words, he says, if you’re an artist, don’t just show up online shouting about your book or movie, show up as a real person and give us a glimpse of who you are.
Even more importantly, be prepared to be generous, intentional. How can you help others? Why are you there? Know what your mission online is about. If you do, I believe you’ll find at least some like-minds who will be interested in your work.
If You Have Ideas About This Blog, Let Me Know!
And so, for me, I’ll be blogging more often. I’ll be showing up. If you don’t want to show up, you can always unsubscribe from my blog, I won’t be hurt. But for those who are interested, or even want to have a conversation, I’ll be showing up at this website almost every day, on my couch, ready to help those in whatever way I can.
With that in mind, if you have ideas about what I should write about, please let me know in the comments!! My areas of expertise and passion are writing, books, gardening, plants, inspiration, France and Europe, music, motherhood, and the environment. I’ll be writing about those unless I hear otherwise from you! Cheers.
Photo by Arnal Hasanovic.
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A month before The Forgetting Flower came out, I took on a 30-Day blogging challenge: publish posts on my blog for 30 days straight. It was a difficult exercise. I had to come up with decent content every day and even though I planned out my topics ahead of time, I had to squeeze in a post at the last minute several times. But overall, it was a fruitful experience. I learned a lot! Here’s what I can share about it.
Blogging Daily Attracts New Readers
As I blogged regularly every day, I noticed the number of return visitors increased. This means readers were excited to see what I wrote from day to day. What was up in my life, what my thoughts were. What I could share with them. Like a newspaper, I had timely content, even if it was about my own life and interests, and people who landed on my site to read about one topic ended up reading multiple posts and either became regular readers or subscribers to my newsletter.
Blogging on a Limited Amount of Topics Makes for Longer Visits
Because I decided to write again and again about five or six topics (books, my garden, my pets, writing and The Forgetting Flower, plants, and inspiration), my site became more of its own internal web of links. This encouraged visitors to stay on the site a bit longer. Hence, my bounce rate went way down and length of visits went up.
General Traffic Increased Substantially
I was shocked to see that with each passing week, the traffic to the website increased. If I remember right, the first week was 15%, then 23%, then 31%, then 52%. It was amazing. People were discovering my content and sticking around to read not only it but also about me. My About page traffic shot up as well.
The Most Popular Articles Were About The Forgetting Flower, Books, Writing, and France
This one was key for me. I’ve read that website visitors are curious about an author’s life (so write about it!) and I’ve read that no one cares about an author’s life (so don’t bother writing about it!). I was torn, had no idea which way to go. I didn’t want to bore people with stories about my creative process if they didn’t want to read about it and yet I wanted to please my readers. So I took a chance and wrote about the mix of topics I mentioned above.
Wow! I learned people are interested in how The Forgetting Flower came to be. They are interested in my creative process and where I get my ideas. They are even interested in writing advice I have in general. The posts related to The Forgetting Flower and my writing life were the most popular.
These were followed by my reviews of books I love, author interviews, and Europe (most often, France) posts. What wasn’t popular were the articles about my garden, plants, or my pets. There were a few rare posts that had some traffic but mostly people were interested in books, writing, and my thoughts and experiences with France.
Blogging Daily Helps You Get to Know What Your Readers Want
Now I know to focus on these topics. And I feel better about shelving the gardening blog I used to write but haven’t in about a year. An author coach once told me that the folks who visited my gardening website were probably not my readers. I think she was right. They are a wonderful lot but perhaps not as book focused as I once thought. And that’s okay too. I know they’re behind my work as an author inspired by plants and that’s good enough. It’s a tribe I’ll still participate in. But in the future, I’ll be focusing on my creative process, books, other authors, and my favorite city in the world, Paris.
Blogging Daily Sucks the Life out of You
Lastly, I learned that writing decent, usable content every day drains you. I could have written a kind of daily journal with random musings but I wanted to make my content lasting and something readers could get something out of. That part worked. But figuring out what that content would be was difficult. I not only had to write at least 500 words every day but I had to find a decent photo to accompany it, then process the photo with its own edits, SEO, quality control, etc. And, my posts all needed their own SEO processing. It took at least a couple hours every day.
My fastest post came on Father’s Day. I had of course focused on spending time with my husband and family all day and found myself at ten o’clock at night without a post. So I dug out a quote about being resilient, which dialed into the angst I’d been feeling, and quickly posted it. I did all of what I mentioned above in about a half-hour.
So do I recommend blogging every day? If blogging for a limited time, I do. I know Austin Kleon blogged every day for a year and I still bow down to him for this. It’s amazing. And it may explain why he now has 60,000 subscribers to his newsletter, which he also does often (on a weekly basis). But I also think he has all of those subscribers because people want and need what he has, which is advice and inspiration. I don’t think people want that same advice or style from a fiction author. But that’s okay, because now I’ve learned more about what my readers want. And in the future, I can tailor my website so it is completely and regularly for them.
Photo by Paul Hanaoka
Hey everyone! We’re about a month away from The Forgetting Flower‘s release so I thought it would be fun to do a 30-day blogging challenge. I’ll blog every day until the book’s release on Tuesday, June 18th, at which time I’ll fall flat on my face on the floor!
The Topics of the Day
Spring is here so I thought I could tackle a few gardening-related topics as well some book inspiration, travel memories, and writing. So in no particular order, here’s what I’ll be tackling:
- My Garden. It’s starting to fill in so I’ll share what I’m doing in it and some advice for newish gardeners. I’m also trialing some new plants from Proven Winners and I’ll let you know how those do.
- Paris Memories. In the year 2000, I worked and lived in Paris with a corporate job. It was an interesting, wonderful, and lonely experience. I’ll share some snippets of my time there and other travel memories.
- Book Ideas & Writing Advice. I glanced at my book shelf today and realized I have a bunch of craft (and other) books I love that I need to share with my fellow readers and writers.
- Weekly Inspiration. I used to post inspiration weekly on Mondays to inspire readers to take on their workweek as best they can. I set it aside as I grew busy with my novel but it’s time to bring it back.
- Fun With Kids & Pets. I have three kids and four animals. Yes, that’s a lot but those little souls mean the world to me. I’d like to post some thoughts on my kids/mothering and pics of my two dogs (Zeke, Olive) and two cats (Maddie, Aleksy). The idea of it already makes me smile!
- The Latest. This will be a post where I talk about what’s happening in the world and how it’s affected me and/or my writing.
- The Forgetting Flower Tour. I have a few friends around the world who have photographed themselves in a TFF T-shirt. I’ll run short interviews with them and the books they love. We’ll start in Seattle and end in Paris!
I hope you’ll join me. This should be a fun challenge. Not sure if I can do it, but I’ll try!