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Monday, January 23, 2012

Who's Reading Your Blog?

While this blog was on hiatus, I didn't read many posts, but I started up again this past week and was struck by a couple of things.

The first was how much peddling there was for fiction. There were posts about the process, character interviews, author interviews, reviews, and endless sales pitches.

The second most obvious trend was that these writers were primarily peddling to other writers.

The first part isn't the problem. The second is. Not that writers don't read. Most of us are insatiable readers, but let's look at this in wide angle. We are a tiny drop in the readership ocean. It might seem like we're reaching a lot of people, but since the majority of posts I read were placed on author blogs, guess what demographic we're targeting?

And then there are blog hops that jump from blog to blog with less-than-stimulating content. If you have that sort of time, go for it, but remember it's strictly a social call. I don't participate in them and I rarely visit those who do. I just don't have the time.

Well-choreographed blog book tours can work, but it's a lot more labor-intensive than most people realize (and is a post in itself). You have to be very selective on where you appear and what you post.

Last year, I made a concerted effort to reach more than other writers. Much like starting a new blog, it takes time to attract new readers.

Word of mouth is good if your readers are mentioning you to non-writers.
Participating in non-writer forums helps to get your name out.
Using good keywords in blog posts are an easy way to gain visibility without a lot of extra work. I get a lot of drop-in traffic from people Googling for information. 

But here's what they didn't Google. They didn't Google publishers, writing journeys, or authors. Yes, my name and books get Googled, but the referring links seem to originate from Goodreads or the only reader-centric web site where I have an ad. This means the chances are good I'm reaching readers who aren't necessarily writers.

The people who ended up at my blog searched for how to do stuff, or the why of stuff, or where to find stuff. They found my blog through the pictures I posted. (Dog pictures and the flying saucer house are still the #1 image searches.) 

I get traffic for my remodeling posts, the chicken stories, and gardening updates. Admittedly, I do get a lot of hits for the writing and promotion how-to posts I've done. But this comes only from other writers and I want to reach more than my kissing cousins--much as I love you guys.

When you're distracted (in my case, grieving) your attention tends to filter out the chatter, but as I was deleting posts on my Reader recently, I scrolled back and noticed every deleted post was someone raving about their book. It's not that it didn't have value. It's that I was not the target audience. I'd already read their spiel in some form on a half-dozen other writer blogs.

As an experiment, I clicked on a few of the more popular blogs to read comments and Every Single One was from another writer congratulating them. Not pure readers. Not people off the street who wanted to know more about this author or book. But other writers showing their support.

I'm not advocating we not support each other. We need our friends around us. But unless you're selling a writing/publishing book, you're not reaching your target audience. If you're in the writing business, you have to stop insulating yourself from the outside world.

I understand why we do this. Associating only with friends is like a big, warm blankie. They protect us from a jaded and sometimes cruel world.

Unpublished writers have a different problem. Since they don't yet have a book to plug, what can they discuss to grow their audience? I think it's shortsighted to ignore future fans even when you don't have a book yet. We're all folks here. Let's not put up barriers unless you really want to exclude those not of ink-blood.

You can:
Talk about the books you've read, opening up the discussion with both writers and non-writers via our common denominator, reading.

Blog about your area of expertise, which I always find fascinating, even when it's linked back to writing.

Write an objective review.

There are lots of ways to be interesting to both writers and non-writers without alienating either.

I'm going to continue with the way I'm doing this blog and talk only occasionally about writing/publishing. After all, I owe a lot to my peers and I want to pay forward where I can. But the main thrust of this blog will share useful information and the occasional animal story.

I'm also going to spend more time on my Facebook page for The Frugal Way to reach my other target audience, people looking to save money.

No matter what you talk about, a blog should be a reflection of the author. Content is critical for me. But voice counts for a lot too. I often find myself reading blogs because I like the way that person talks. I want to be just as interesting. Who knows? It might even make me a sale.

Do you get a lot of traffic from people who are not writers? Is it something you'd be interested in developing or is your blog strictly for those of ink-blood? If it is for writers only, how do you reach out to fans?

PS  Thank you for allowing me my privacy while I was mourning poor Murray. I needed that time alone.


Angelina Rain said...

A little while ago, before I even got published, I stumbled across this one blog article in a blog magazine for romance authors. The article was written by a reader and it asked other readers to pitch in. The topic was about authors marketing and what works and what doesn't. One of the most repeated comments was that readers don't care about friending the author on facebook and following the authors blog. They don't want to know about how the author writers. They all stated that the best marketing is simply a link to the author's website where the reader could check out what other books you have out there.

Then the authors who read that responded stated that they do enjoy the blogs and learning more about what makes the author click.

I really wish I would have saved the article on my computer because it really had a lot of other marketing information.

I did notice that my blog (and facebook too) is mainly visited by other authors or aspiring authors, which is fine by me as I like to connect to my own kind. But I would also like to be able to reach out to readers as well. When Intimate Healing comes out (again) I will try a few different marketing ideas that I've been toying around with just to see if it will give me any readership.

K.T. Hanna said...

I don't really use my blog for any other reason than an outlet. There are things I think of that help me through times or that I write about because I think - hey this helps me, maybe it'll help someone else.

Because a lot of what I do is writing - a lot of these posts relate to writing. It's like a journal for me. If it can help someone - all the better.

I'm hoping it'll help me take more photographs to share my dogs and dolls with people ;) but time! Time is so rare.

You do bring up a few really good points. Food for thought.

Also: I'm glad you took the time you needed. Hope your heart heals soon.

Clarissa Draper said...

I agree completely. That's why I use my blog for (a) the friendships with other writers and their support and (b) to post my research for easy access later and (c) for doing research.

I have a book coming out in April and you know what I'm doing for promotion on my blog? Nothing. I think it's boring to read 30+ blogs about the same book. In fact, it sometimes turns me off the book.

However, I do participate in blogfests if (a) they seem fun (b) they challenge me and my writing skills and (c) they don't take time away from my writing.

Great post.

Mike Keyton said...

Welcome back, and I think you're spot on ref book promotion. Enough said on that.

Ref bloggers writing about the process of writing, there are some very gifted examples out there. I'm thinking of K.M. Weiland in particular. I truly envy those who can, week after week, offer something of value in that area. I couldn't do that. It takes me all my time to think of something to say on anything!

Ref voice and the great unpublished, I fall into the latter catagory, though burble maybe more accurate than voice, and my followers, though relatively few are a diverse and discerning group : )

Deborah Walker said...

That's a very interesting point. I blog about writing to connect to other writers.

I'm a short story writer. I think it's useful when you've got a new short story coming out, as my fellow writers are happy to give it a look, and maybe leave a comment.

A blog is also a handy place to keep your bibliography.

I get most hits for my blog about book club snacks. I feel a bit guilty about that.

LD Masterson said...

Interesting timming. I made the decision over the weekend to step away from my blog for a couple weeks. I'm just spending too much time blogging with writers instead of being one. My lack of time-management skills, I know, but I need to focus on getting something done.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I write fantasy so each week I blog about a different fantasy creature. That seems to be a big draw as a lot of people come to my blog because of it. They don't necessary comment but the views are there.

I blog about my writing progress but I try to balance it with things that readers can appreciate as well.

Tracy Jo said...

Interesting points. I am not published and am pretty new to all of this. I write my blog for practice with both my writing and photography. Also as an outlet and to learn from others. At the same time though...I do want to build an audience. I enjoy posts like this because they make me think about my own blog and the direction I want to go. Thank you, Maria and glad to see you back.

Myne Whitman said...

I'm sorry about your loss and glad you feel able to come back now.

My blog is mostly for readers and I hardly share stuff on writing, except for a few articles on blogging and self publishing.

The thing was, I started my blog by sharing excerpts from my first book and so my initial followers were readers. Somehow, I've continued on that track even after I discovered the blogger writing community.

Like you, I also check my stats and sometimes write to what people come to my site searching for, which is usually not about writing.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I **try** to have content for writers and non writers. Or at least pose questions for both. Sometimes it works. :) I should probably pay more attention to my stats.

Rula Sinara said...

Very good point! I'm not published yet, but I still try to mix my content (or questions as Jennifer says) a bit. It's always interesting for me to look at my stats. Some of my biggest google search traffic comes from recipies or tree pictures I've posted. It's definitely a good idea to share something readers may have in common with you...other than your reading/writing.

jackie b central texas said...

As the only non-writer thus far to comment I have to agree with Linda that this is timely, my blog has lost it's focus/momentum and in the next few months am going to remedy that. Not only by attacking the problem of who my target audience is but starting to actually post things besides book promoting, my thoughts on what I have enjoyed reading and get some more fun back into the personal posts that I stopped a long time ago for one reason or another.

To help me have something to share we now have outdoor projects started and once the garden is under way will have photos and updates on it's progress as well as the other things that are a little bit less about books and a little bit more about connecting with my online audience personally.

Maria it is nice to have you back, just wish that your year would have started on a much lighter and happier note than it did.

The Frugal Way is a good way to give you a more positive start to 2012, go forth and find all kinds of goodies to share with us!

Maria Zannini said...

I go away for a few hours to spend gobs of money (not my favorite activity) and come back to a lot of excellent comments.

I'll answer comments in a minute, but I'll have to pause visiting blogs until this afternoon. I have a date with a paintbrush.

[sigh] No rest for me.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: That makes sense. I don't blame readers for not wanting to friend me. I have quite a few FB friends who are not writers. They rarely comment on my book posts, but almost always pop in when I share something personal.

KT: There's nothing wrong with discussing writing, especially when you want to create or fortify a network of writing buddies. It's the peddling to other writers that made no sense to me.

Clarissa: You have me curious how you plan to promote your new book. Looking forward to it.

Mike: Nice to be back. :) I think you're an excellent example of voice. I read you for the sheer pleasure of how you phrase things.

Deborah: Guilty about snacks? Never! I get a few hits about food, but it's rarely about "my" food. LOL.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Figured that out, did ya? :) I'm always tickled when I read about this blog hop or that one and then they wonder why they have no time to write. Writing (for most of us) is a commitment. I love to visit and chat, but I also know I have an obligation to get my work done.

Nicole: I've been reading your mythological creature posts with glee. I love stuff like that. It's so much more interesting than an excerpt.

Tracy Jo: Photography is such a perfect way to entice readers to your blog. I am no photographer, but I'm always amazed how often pictures bring people in. There's just something that makes us want to click on the link. Part of the charm of photography is that you can tell a story without any words at all.

Myne: Can I tell you how lucky you are to start out with readers? That's wonderful. For the first few months when I started blogging, I thought I was talking to myself. LOL.

I don't write to stats, but I'm always curious about trends. It's a statement about my effectiveness (or lack of it).

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: I don't know if I should be talking to you. I'm mad at you. LOL. You're the reason I spent gobs of money today. I LOVED your post about your counter tops and finally decided to take the plunge myself. So yes, you definitely have content for non-writers. (expensive content)

Rula: Exactly! It's not that we should exclude writers, but rather find ways to include people who are not writers. We're more interesting when we talk about things we have in common.

Jackie: When a blog starts to feel like work, you have to wonder where the joy went. I blog for free. It shouldn't have to be a drudgery for me or the reader. I'll bet when you start posting about things you enjoy, attendance will be up.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Bingo. Thanks, Maria, for verbalizing some of the same thoughts I've been having with my new blog. The blogfests are fun, but take way too much time away from my writing. And I am so sorry about your dog. I took in an abused dog one and a half years ago and have medical issues with him but love him to death. They grow on you so fast!

Jenny Schwartz said...

Maria, so glad you're back!

Good points about blogging, reaching people, why we blog. I'm following the #dbwsum (digital book world conference) tweets at the moment and was fascinated by a comment on social media - publishers employing people to do social media for them - and they mentioned that they wanted to employ people who had/exercised "online charm". I know that's not really what you're talking about in today's post, but it is kind of related. The warmth of your posts, regardless of writing or other topics, reaches out and connects with people. I guess the key question is, does that connection increase sales?

James Garcia Jr. said...

Thanks, Maria. I'll keep that in mind the next time I go to fill out those keywords.


Angela Brown said...

You are one of my exception blogs. I actually do come here as both a reader and an aspiring author. But I came here first as a friend, a bud who loved your writing style. As long as you don't break out a video showing me the 'nitty gritty' of how you go about turning one of your cute little chickens into Tuesday night's dinner, then I'm here to stay. But again, I may be a bit of an exception.

I'm glad to see you getting back into things. I admit I missed seeing your name pop up in my e-mail :-)

Krista D. Ball said...

I wrote out this entire intelligent thing and it blew up. grumble

I have a fair balance between readers and writers who follow my blog, tweets, facebook. I know the writers want writing stuff, and the readers want other stuff. It isn't even that the readers don't enjoy the writing comments, but after a while they feel excluded.

I try to balance the writing stuff, with the random things like pictures of my cats, me ranting about something or another, and occasionally blogging about news.

I once joked that I feel like I'm constantly talking to the same 300 writers wherever I do guest posts, so I really try to move outside that group. (Also, every time I do a blog tour, someone dies or ends up losing a limb...but that's why I don't do tours anymore). I'm planning to visit this blog in a few days to talk about condoms, pig bladders, and canning (yes, that's all related). Why? Because I love history and Maria loves homesteading/DIY. A match made in heaven!

I think we could all enjoy ourselves more online if we just talk about the things that actually make us happy. For me, that's pig bladders :D

Maria Zannini said...

Kim: First, thank you for rescuing your dog. There aren't enough of us out there to make up for the ingrates who abuse and abandon their pets.

Ref: blog fests
The Platform Building Campaign blog fest has been my favorite. I think Rachael Harrie does a great job. I can pick and choose who I want to follow instead of being led around like a sheeple.

Because blog fests take so much time I'm very selective. I don't want to be totally antisocial, but I can't afford to play everyday either.

Jenny: Charm is along the lines of voice. There are some people I read for no other reason than they're fun to follow.

Re: tweets
I wish you could teach me how you manage to follow tweet streams. I keep trying, but I can't keep up.

Jimmy: I'm serious. Good keywords really work.

Angela: You are so sweet. I need more friends like you. :)

Krista: Everyone needs to know about pig bladders. This will be a hoot.

Darke Conteur said...

Bingo, Maria! You hit the nail on the head. I try to incorporate my hobbies and other things into my blog, just because there is so much more to me than just writing, and I like to connect with those people as well.

I know your heart is breaking over Murray, but you made his short life full of love. He knew he was loved, and who knows, maybe he'll come around and visit you.

Sarah Ahiers said...

i honestly haven't looked at my traffic for a long time. I really need to, but i keep putting it off as something i'll do once i'm a bit further in my journey.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: I don't track often, but when I wrote this post, I decided to do a little research. Hence my findings.

Marianne Arkins said...

The post of mine that gets the most hits, hands-down is the one about moles vs. voles. LOL!!

I agree with you, but reaching readers is HARD.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: Well, you are finding an audience here. I've been getting quite a few hits on your guest post on jewelry making. Most came from Googling DIY jewelry.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: I missed you earlier. Sorry. I think you do a good job mixing it up. One-note blogs are good if you're looking for specific content, but I get bored easily. Sometimes I just want to know more about the author and less about his process.

Ref: Murray
Thank you. His death still weighs heavy on my heart. We tried so hard.

Julie said...

Hi Maria! Thank you for your comments on my post at Misha's blog, I'm so glad to have discovered your blog as a result. This post was so interesting to me, as while I love reading about writing and supporting other writers, I often find the posts I enjoy the most are about things that help me get to know the person behind the writer, that's when I start to feel a connection. And on my own blog, my post about The Count on Sesame Street is my most viewed post haha. Anyway, I really enjoyed this post and am going to keep it in mind, I like your ideas for posts that can engage both writers and non-writers alike.
About Murray, my heartfelt condolences. I know how hard it is to lose a beloved pet and I am so sorry for your loss.

Great to meet you!

Maria Zannini said...

Julie: Hello and welcome! I'm always glad to shake paws with a fellow dog lover.

I was afraid this post might offend some people, but like most of my posts, I'm not judging, just making observations of the things I see.

Sherry Roberts said...

Maria, you are pondering the same issues I have been lately -- not being so author insular and reaching readers. I rarely write about writing. Most of my pieces are about issues pertaining to my novel (censorship and parenting)and the slice of life stuff that I like to write, has personality, and lets me be me. I'd like to be a cyber Jean Kerr or Erma Bombeck who also writes fiction. Alas, how to reach readers who like that.

Maria Zannini said...

Sherry: Ah, but just now you reached one new reader who loves slice of life stories. :)

It's nice to meet you. I've added your blog to my reader.

Amy said...

I have also been thinking about this a fair amount (like many other people, it seems).

For instance, on Google+ I recently dialed back my Writers circle so it doesn't show up in my main stream (I can still click to read it by itself tho) because so much of the content writers were producing was boring self promotion and it was keeping me from reading the interesting stuff that non-writers were posting. It was sad to realize that it was pretty much only my Writers circle that was clogging everything up.

So I spend time thinking about how I can be interesting as a *person* and not just a writer. Of course, I end up talking about writing a fair amount anyway because I think about it so much, but I'm hoping there's a happy balance that is achievable.

Maria Zannini said...

Amy: I truly feel that if we reach down to our common denominators that in the long run we'll reach more people.

Write about the things that are important to you. Eventually, you'll hook up with other people who thinks it's important too.