Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

Dec 30 2011

How to Build an Audience for Your Writing Website

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

I’ve already done an article on how to promote fiction with a nonfiction platform (such as a website mainly devoted to writing advice), but here are some tips for novelists that want to build an audience for a fiction website.


1.  Pick a niche small enough that you can compete in, but big enough that there are enough readers to sustain you.  Your genre and/or subgenre are usually good places to start.  For example, if you were doing superhero stories, Google estimates that there are at least 50,000 searches related to superhero fiction every month (for superhero book, superhero story, superhero fiction, superhero writing, etc).


2.  After you’ve picked a niche, figure out key search terms/phrases to target.  I brainstormed about 10 possible searches related to superhero fiction, but superhero book(s) and superhero story/stories accounted for 86% of the traffic.


3.  When you’re picking out a site name and URL, I’d generally recommend including at least one of your critical search terms.  When search engines are figuring out which sites are the best match for a particular query, they love to see the search term(s) in the title.  (Case in point: Superhero Nation is currently beating Marvel and DC Comics on Google searches for superhero stories, and it’s not because I have more superhero stories than they do).


3.1. If you’d like to include critical search terms into your title, one possibility is including a colon phrase or dash phrase if you haven’t already.  For example, in my case, I did Superhero Nation: how to write superhero novels, comic books and graphic novels.  I’d generally recommend keeping the total title to 65-70 characters so that Google doesn’t cut you off.  (I do get cut off a bit).  There are two main advantages to including a colon or dash phrase: first, it gets more critical search terms into your title, which helps your site perform better on related searches.  Second, it helps identify your website’s purpose to prospective readers glancing through Google results.  “Superhero Nation” doesn’t say all that much about what I offer, but “how to write superhero novels…” does.  If prospective readers do not understand what you offer and how they will benefit, they will probably pass over your website. 


3.2. Your website’s title and URL are critical resources, so don’t waste them on your name.  First, unless you’re a well-known author, people aren’t searching you out by your name yet.  Second, even if people were searching for you by your name, they’ll find you whether or not your name is in your title/URL.  I would highly recommend focusing instead on keywords, or at least on a descriptive phrase that conveys your genre/subgenre or what you offer.  For example, doesn’t really say anything about what you offer, but “Crime Scene: Murder Mysteries and Detective Novels from John Doe” is a much better alternative if you’re dead-set on having your name in your title.  It also does a better job competing on popular search terms like murder mysteries and detective novels. 


4.  When you have quality content on your website, find people that would be interested in your genre and style of writing and email them a 2 sentence synopsis of the story with a link.  For example, a Google search for something like superhero blogs will probably turn up a lot of people that are interested in superhero stories.  If your niche has substantial search traffic, there are probably people blogging about it already.


4.1. As much as possible, I would recommend doing this communication gradually and personally.  Take your time with it.  A form letter obviously written to 50+ people probably won’t go very far.  I think a personal touch (like addressing the recipient by name) goes a long way.  Personally, I almost always read emails addressed to B. McKenzie or B. Mac because it suggests that they’re at least vaguely aware of what I do.  In contrast, “Dear Webmaster” emails are almost always machine-generated spam.  (If there’s a human out there that can’t find a name that’s on 99% of SN articles and the About Page, I am so sorry for him/her).  Another advantage of doing this gradually is that you’ll get better at introducing yourself, introducing your content and writing content with practice, so don’t use up too many opportunities before you’ve given yourself a chance to improve.


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6 responses so far

Aug 09 2010

Unless I’m missing something, this sounds bogus

According to the New York Times, one author got an extraordinarily fast response from agents after starting a blog.  “Within two posts on her blog, which now attracts 30,000 visitors a month, Ms. Dolgoff said, five agents got in touch, and a book idea was born.”  I find that hard to believe.  Interesting even one unsolicited agent is extraordinarily hard.  Five? With two posts?  Unless I’m missing something, that sounds wildly implausible.  For example, author Theodore Beale receives ~200,000 readers per month and has never had an agent solicitation.

I think the NYT should have dug harder here. For example…

  • Who are these agents?
  • Why were none of them interviewed in the article? If they’re real, their perspective on this apparent success story would be pretty interesting.
  • What impressed them about the first two blog posts enough to contact her?
  • Did the agents know her before she started blogging?
  • Did the agents find the website themselves?  If not, who pointed them to it?
  • I have not been able to find any indication that there was a publishers’ auction over her book, nor does the article mention an auction.  If there were five agents potentially interested in representing her after two blog posts, don’t you think it’s a bit strange that the book wouldn’t go to auction?  (Note: I’m assuming “five agents got in touch” means that there were five agents interested in representing her, although an agent could contact an author just to offer friendly advice or chat).

9 responses so far

Dec 14 2009

A few tips for writers looking to network online…

Published by under Blogging

There are three main ways your site can get new viewers: referrals (links), search engines, and ads.  I’ll focus on getting referrals here because ads are probably not cost-effective for authors and search engines can have a low payoff. 

1.  Have content worth sharing.  If your material is good and plentiful, spreading it will be a lot easier. 

2.  Make it easy for your users to share your content.  For example, SN gets a free 50-100 readers a day from StumbleUpon, probably because several of our popular articles end with a link asking readers to Stumble SN.  Adding those links only took me about 30 minutes. 

3.  Hit-and-run selflinks don’t really help very much.  If you insert a comments like “See my webpage!” onto people’s sites apropos of nothing, people are just going to scroll past them.  Interact with prospective readers!  Work your website into a conversation where it fits naturally.  For example, if somebody had a question about male characters, linking a story where you did a male protagonist well would feel very natural and helpful.  (Or, if you’re into nonfiction, you might have an article on writing male characters lying around).  Interacting is critical because it gives people a reason to look. 

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4 responses so far

Oct 11 2009

Website Review: Mike Angley

Today I came across Mike Angley’s website— Mike Angley is an OSI veteran (hu-ah!) that writes paranormal military fiction.  This review will help you design and write an effective website to market your writing.    

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Aug 08 2009

Webmasters, don’t pull rank on your readers!

Here are a few tips about how to treat commenters and reviewers respectfully.

1.  It’s rarely helpful to highlight the host’s comments in a different color. First, it usually looks annoying, particularly if your comments are long.  Second, most of the people that read the comments on your website will know who you are, particularly if you comment frequently.  Third, shouldn’t your writing stand out on its own merits?  By virtue of your experience and effort, you are probably among the most competent and best-written people on your site.  (Ahem– if your guests were more competent than you, they would move on).  When a host highlights his comments, it may feel like he’s insecure about the quality of his writing.

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May 12 2009

How to Create Intense Fans With Your Blog

Chris Garrett has some intuitive ideas about how to turn readers into intense fans that will spread your message and convince other people to check out your material.  I agree that this is a very important goal, but his suggestions are very skeletal.

  1. Provide value and delight your audience.
  2. All of your posts and interactions with readers should be professional.
  3. Be genuine, approachable and friendly.
  4. Let your readers know that you appreciate and value them.

Except for #1 (which is too vague to be useful), these focus more on how to treat your fans than how to create content for them.  So how do we create content that will attract and build enthusiastic fans?  Here are some ideas.

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10 responses so far

May 04 2009

How to Design Your Blog’s Front Page

Published by under Blogging,Website Design

1.  Make it clear what you offer and why readers should stick around. For example, if you wandered across Superhero Nation, you might stick around because you wanted superhero writing advice or because you want my observations about writing.  The trick is to make this as blatant as possible:  for example, I repeat myself in the title, in the header art, in the page headings, in the side-bar, etc.  Everyone focuses on different elements of the page, so it pays to be redundant.

2.  Stay away from adspeak and flowery language. For example, our title includes the phrase “how to write superhero novels and comic books.”  That’s much more user-friendly than something like “superhero writing insights.”  What’s an insight?  Don’t make readers struggle to translate what you’ve written.

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17 responses so far

Apr 22 2009

How to build an audience for your blog

Published by under Blogging

I’ve written before that blogging is a really useful marketing tool and is one of the only ways for a first-time author to establish an audience before he gets published.  When you pitch your book to publishers, they will be really encouraged if you already have an audience.  But how can you attract an audience to your website?

1.  Pick a niche.  If do a general writing blog, you’re competing against hundreds  of thousands of similar sites.  Try blogging about something more specific instead, like a blog about how to write a romance or a superhero story or a young adult fantasy, etc.  If you’re planning on using this blog to market a book, the niche should be related to the book.

2.  Pick a title that identifies your niche. For example, if you Google something like “writing a superhero comic book,” the first result will be a site that calls itself “Superhero Nation: how to write superhero novels and comic books.”  Our name makes it really clear why you should click on us.  We offer superhero writing advice.  In contrast, if our name were something like “B. Mac’s Superhero Site,” that wouldn’t work at all.  If readers aren’t sure what kind of information you provide, they will skip past you.  Also, please do not use your name in the title unless you are a celebrity.

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21 responses so far

Apr 21 2009

Blogging tip: Link to related sites, particularly small and medium ones

Published by under Blogging

If you find quality content that will interest your readers, link to it.

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3 responses so far

Apr 07 2009

1000 Posts!

It took us three years, but we finally got to 1000 posts.  These include about 400 writing articles totaling ~150,000 words.

3 responses so far

Apr 05 2009

How to monetize a blog: ads or no ads? What alternatives do I have?

Published by under Blogging

Here are a few tips about whether you should include ads on your blog.

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12 responses so far

Mar 31 2009

How to grow a small blog

Published by under Blogging

Hi.  If you’ve followed some of my articles on blogging, you know that building an audience is a gradual (read: slow) process.  It takes time for people to discover your content, to link to it, to mention it to other people, etc.

As a result, you will probably have very few readers during the first few months.  But that’s not a problem.  Focus on these issues and the readers will come in time.

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61 responses so far

Mar 24 2009

Tips for Writers That Want to Blog

Over two years, several hundred thousand page-views and 750 posts, I’ve accumulated some thoughts on what makes a blog successful.

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70 responses so far