Time, writers say, is the biggest challenge when it comes to blogging. We are writing books. We are marketing books. We are thinking about writing and marketing books. We are parents, spouses or significant others, single parents, workers bees, pet puke cleaner-uppers, grocery-shoppers, housekeepers, laundry-do-ers, mental illness sufferers/survivors, advocates, and the beat goes on.
Time is a real issue, right?
Where the hell is blogging supposed to fit into all that, right? Not so fast. Blogging is part of your writing and marketing platform, so if you are serious about marketing your books, if you are want to connect with readers, if you want Google to find you, then you need to blog. Blogging is not an option.
And I’ll give you a big ole truth bomb right here and now: it’s not only time that’s preventing you from blogging. It’s focus.
Blogging is part of your branding; if you are confused about your branding, you will be confused about what to blog about. Think about it: if you knew exactly what you were going to write about each week, how much easier would that be?
So let’s unpack that suitcase a bit and clarify how you can find your focus and make time to blog.
1) How to Find Your Blog Focus
What are the main topics that fascinate you? What do you wish people knew more about? Are you an expert on a certain subject? Are you not an expert but want to be? Why?
Make lists. Keep it handy. Then write about that stuff!
One of the biggest mistakes I see writers make is writing about writing. Zzzzzzz. Unless your demographic is writers, you’re barking up the wrong tree, pals.
You are a three-dimensional person. Write about what interests you. If writing interests you, fine (I mean, it should, right? We’re writers.). Yet, surely there is more to you than one thing that makes up your life.
Remember, we brand the author, not the book.
*Side note: One fella tried to argue with me that no, his entire life revolved around writing. I said, “Okay, walk me through your day.”
He said, “Fine. I ride the bus to my favorite coffee shop and I write for about four hours. Then I walk home because I enjoy the exercise. I stop at the store for whatever I’m going to make for dinner, feed my cat, and then write more after dinner until I fall asleep.”
I asked him about the people on the bus, his favorite barista, the decor of the shop, the walk and why he likes it, the grocery store, what he likes about writing at certain times of day, what his cat is like, how it moves, how he feels after his day, if he remembers his dreams, etc.
You see, even he had to admit his life is more than just writing.
Here’s your assignment: Create a list of five-ish keywords or key phrases.
What immediately comes to mind is what interests you, what you’re passionate about or know a lot about.
Here are my Rachel Thompson, Author keywords: sexual abuse, mental health, relationships, women, women’s issues, memoir/poetry. As you can see, these are topics that are important to me, that I write about, that I’ve experienced, that I’m an advocate for, that I’m passionate about. In a nutshell, this is called content marketing which contributes to my author branding.
I’m not selling my books constantly when I write my blog posts. I usually share a link at the end of my posts in my bio and have them listed on my homepage or sidebar. Writing posts is a way to connect with people, share experiences, share your expertise, and provide value-added and/or interesting content.
Many writers new to blogging see it as a lazy way to sell: ‘Hey, I can hammer people to buy my book! I’ll just share excerpts and they’ll LOVE me and that’s that!’ Robotic, no effort copy/paste, cold and ineffective. Inauthentic.
Sorry, no. Humans aren’t fooled. Readers are smart. Selling is awkward even in the best situations (is there a best selling situation? I don’t know. I worked in sales for a long time and it always felt awkward — everyone knows the elephant is in the room, ya know?).
Use your blog to be your authentically authentic human self.
Keep this list handy. These keywords will become the foundation for your entire author platform.
2) Create a Blog Editorial Schedule
This sounds really complicated but it’s not. Know how you jot things down in a planner or on a calendar? Same thing. Take those keywords from Step 1 above and write down which topic you’re going to write about each week. That’s it.
It really is that simple. You can write down a word, a phrase, a headline, a paragraph — whatever works for you.
I use Google Calendar which is easy and free (in Google Drive), but you can simply write it out in whatever planner you use, scribble it in Notes on your iPhone, or write something down on a post-it note you stick on your cat.
Whatever. Just write it down.
Here’s a blog calendar that’s $10 from Mike Allton of the Social Media Hat (I am not affiliated with him in any way — it simply looks organized and has good ideas).
Blogging partners or groups are also helpful to keep you on task — you’ll find them on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Set deadlines as to when posts are due, and then share each others’ posts for #MondayBlogs (a blog sharing meme I created back in 2012 — now over 10,000 people participate each week on Twitter every week!) for increased exposure (more below).
I find it helpful to know what my headlines are as I write, so once I have my keyword or key phrase, I head over to the free CoSchedule Headline Analyzer and figure out ALL my headlines for the month. Takes maybe ten minutes, tops.
I guarantee you have ten minutes (because I see you on Facebook whining about how you don’t have time to blog). Sooooo busted.
3) Stick to a Blog Writing Schedule No Matter What
Even if it’s once a week, even if it’s a few minutes here and there, dedicate time to blogging. If you have time to be on Facebook, you have time to blog. How? Turn off social media. Turn off your phone. Write for thirty minutes or an hour. Write more than one post if you have more time.
If you don’t have the time, do some research. Work on your headlines (as mentioned above). I wrote this post in 15 to 30-minute snippets of time here and there throughout this week. You can also ‘pre-write’ in your head while you’re doing chores or commuting.
Are you spending time on Facebook or other social media discussing politics? That’s great if your book or expertise is about politics. That is helpful to reinforce your branding. Otherwise, what are you doing? You’re wasting time you could be spending writing books and blog posts.
Listen, I love social media — it’s a wonderful way to connect with readers. However, it’s necessary to shut it off when I write. I turn off all notifications when I’m writing. I deserve my writing time. Don’t you?
Look at your keywords. Look at your editorial schedule. Stay focused, people.
Tip: Use Grammarly (a great time-saver). If you’ve planned out your month and it’s Week Three, you should know exactly what topic you’ll be writing about. Note: This is only a suggested plan. Keep your plan open for changes, e.g., current events, illness, etc. Also, your keywords and key phrases are subject to change as you grow and change. Nothing is set in stone.
Here are a few writing schedule tips to help you find your focus:
- Are you more productive writing in the morning or late at night?
- Are you more effective writing all your blog posts at once, if you’re on a roll?
- Give yourself a deadline! If you want to share your post on Mondays, have your post done by Saturday to give you plenty of time to schedule in on Sundays.
- Give yourself a reward when you’ve finished a certain word count (big fan of naps here).
Goals are dreams with deadlines ~ Diana Scharf Hunt
4) Learn How to SEO and Share Your Blog Posts
Writing the post is only half the battle. If you haven’t learned how to SEO (search engine optimize) your blog posts, Google won’t bother finding them. You also need to proactively share them on social media. Just like 1,000 new books are released daily on Amazon, millions of blog posts are published daily on the net.
How can yours stand out?
This sounds labor-intensive and scary. I know it freaked me out at first. Now that I understand it, it takes me all of five minutes to optimize my posts (okay, maybe fifteen). And the good news is you can go back and optimize your old posts so you’ll get more traffic on those, too!
You can read my SEO post for specifics, so I won’t go into detail here. To learn more how to spread your posts far and wide, participate in the free Twitter meme #MondayBlogs (thousands do every week), and read this post for lots of blogging tips (all free).
How often should you blog? According to blogging and SEO expert Barb Drozdowich of Bakerview Consulting, at least once weekly. If you can’t do that, that’s okay. Twice a month will keep the Google crawly spider-thingies happy (that’s Rachel-speak, not Barb-speak).
Do your best, and don’t neglect your blog. Sometimes I don’t personally post more than once a month, so I actively search out guest bloggers.
Remember, blogging is an integral part of your author platform, a way to show off your writing skills and expertise, and an important way to authentically connect with readers.
And isn’t that what this is all about?
Connect with Rachel on her business site at BadRedheadMedia.com, Twitter @BadRedheadMedia, Instagram, Facebook, and join her free weekly #BookMarketingChat on Twitter every Wednesday 6 pm pst/9 pm est (just use the hashtag to join).
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