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
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