Recently, particularly in the past couple of months, maintaining a blog has become ubiquitous in the publishing world. Synonymous with “online author engagement,” and available for free on a number of platforms, the blog has gone from a writing tool used by tech-type people and emo kids all over (Livejournal, whut whut?!) to a drop box for authors everywhere; all  eager to showcase their unique point of view and, by extension, their books. But, what has the blog post become? Have we lost sight of what it should be doing? Is “author engagement” a goal unto itself?  (Answers: Fluff, yes, and no.)

So, I asked a few questions, wrote a little summary, titled this thing like I do (long, dramatic title with several alternatives…helps for SEO, I swear), and made a little hook. Now, I like to lay out my argument in plain English before I jump in. I can do this in two ways:

Lingoese

Few authors have realized the full potential of the blog as a tool to drive traffic and ultimately sales. Fewer still have maximized their blog’s RSS potential or used their blog in a strategic way which leads to conversion, the benchmark for successful internet ROI.

STFUese

Blogs don’t sell books.

[Pause for backlash.]

Ok, so calm for a moment! Let me rephrase slightly: blogs alone don’t sell books. Or, better yet, if you do not use your blog strategically, you are not going to move the needle in terms of heightened sales. (Neither as dramatic as my original statement, I must say…)

These days, it seems that every other Tweet in my feed is some blog post someone has written about something that pertains to something that I’m vaguely interested in. Right? So, I read the posts now and again, and have noticed that “engagement” has somehow become the ultimate objective, not book sales.

Let me just say this: I agree that community building is essential, and I believe in the power of online community, but PUT YOUR BRAIN ON RIGHT AND THINK – why do we grow a community? So members of that community BUY THE PRODUCT we are selling.

(That last part has apparently been forgotten.)

Here’s another factlet to consider: outside of books “authored” by celebrities, no one (ok, maybe one or two) has been able to use social media to drive sales in a significant way. Yes, I said it. I’ve looked into this, and have found little evidence of social media campaigns driving book sales. (Now, publishers, is where you write a comment below and prove me wrong. Debate wanted. Analytics appreciated. Thank you.)

Now, I don’t want to get bogged down with a bunch of soap-boxy arguments. I mean, I do, but it’s perhaps not the right venue; so how about a top ten list?

  1. Blogs are great marketing tools. Writing a blog simply to showcase you is not enough. In fact, the “Hey, I’m BobbyRae, and these are my musings on the ruminations of the world!!!” blog is a dime a dozen. Let’s get past this.
  2. Blogs have a built-in turbo charger: RSS. USE IT. USE IT NOW. USE IT IN EVERY WAY OF WHICH YOU CAN THINK.
  3. Why are authors, some of the most creative people I know, so unoriginal when it comes to their blogs? Authors are the very pool of people who are capable of taking blogging to the next level; you already have the writing part down.
  4. Please please please please … design. PLEASE!
  5. I have to say this: most blog topics are exceedingly boring. NO MORE. Write something new. Thank you. (cf. Gholdilox and the three blog posts)
  6. Copy is important. Metadata is important. Your bio is important. Tags on posts are important. The “About Me” page is important.
  7. *cough* SEO *cough*
  8. Sometimes a blog is not the answer.
  9. Sometimes only a blog is not the answer.
  10. If your blog is not driving sales, modify it until it does.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The job of the writer is to write. The job of the published author is to promote their work. While this may not be easy, it is necessary. As an author, you must learn how to be a marketing director, a publicity director, a social media specialist, and a strategist. You have to be able to drive people to your book and make it sell. You must be able to build an audience. You must be able to be a champion of your work.

Recently, I gave an author with whom I am friends some friendly advice about self-promotion as an author (shout out to Joseph Wallace!, @joe_wallace on the Twitters):

Think of it in business terms, if you started a company and wanted to sell your product, would you sit idly by and wait for promotion to come to you? In this case the book is your product and you as a writer is your business. The only difference is that a publishing house takes on the financial liability of producing the product.

I encourage everyone to do the same. Learn about how successful bloggers are using their blogs to drive sales of their products and services and take it to the next level. I know you can.

*Notes from Lisa*

Brett is so brilliant that he doesn’t require an introduction.  He does move very quickly so you may need some review notes.

Here they are (please note the links.  Bookmarking and twitter follows are implied):

Quit Being a Hooker, Hooker (QBAH2) is the vlog brainchild of Brett Sandusky and Russ Marshalek.  WATCH. IT.  Wear your Depends.  ‘Nuff said.

Russ Marshalek will be guest blogging here on May 6.  Save the date.

Joe Wallace will be guest blogging here on June 8.  Save the date.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization/Optimized

ROI: Return On Investment