Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Business of Writing: Structure of the Author Blog with @kayelleallen and #giveaway

Image c2015 by zzoplanet
Depositphotos  ID 86051516.
Welcome to 2016, and welcome back to The Business of Writing on The Maze!

The new year being all about fresh starts, I decided to make my first Business of Writing post of 2016 focus on the Author Blog—mainly as a prod for me to do some sprucing up of The Maze. I am so not in the habit of rearranging furniture in my home, but I do hope that you like what I've done with this place. :)

I became a published novelist with the sale of my first manuscript, Dawnflight, to Simon & Schuster in 1997, when the Internet was taking its first baby steps, long before social media in general and blogging specifically was a gleam in anybody's eye. When blogging started to become A Thing, my writing career was in hiatus.

"Why bother blogging?" I asked myself. Lacking a sufficient answer, I did not bother to begin a blog in those days.

Kayelle Allen, founder of Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW), offers a great take on that question:
A blog is a way of having fresh content on your website every day. How often can you release a new book? Probably not often enough to get people to come back to your website on a regular basis. Blogging brings people, and can generate followers for your blog, and for your social media.

Ask yourself—so what? 

Why does that matter? Because those people who come back are people who have heard of you. When people buy books, they buy books that interest them, and they buy books by authors they know. They've learned that the author will give them a good read. Name recognition in this business is a major key to success.

Read the rest of Kayelle's excellent article here.
In mathematical terms, the average fiction reader will not take a chance on a novel until she or he has heard mention of the author at least SEVEN times. An author blog is an excellent way to help improve those odds… providing the author follows some basic advice about blog structure and content.

Blog Structure

Blog structure includes the platform, layout, and elements included with each page or post.

Blogging Platform

If you haven't yet established a blog, the first decision you'll face is which blogging platform to use. The two major players are Blogger and WordPress.

I picked Blogger in 2013 because it's free and easy, with "free" being the more important consideration since I have been a native HTML coder for decades and already had a static web site. Where Blogger makes things easy for me is in the post-publishing process, since my static site required use of File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software to perform uploads whenever I wanted to tweak a page. This functionality is built in to Blogger (and WordPress), so that's one less tool I have to worry about.

Then I started hearing about WordPress and how those sites look more "professional" and so forth. For a while, I considered running both a Blogger and a WordPress blog, but I have since abandoned that plan.


Mainly because I get the distinct impression that the free version of WordPress will not support my needs as an author-blogger. One of the best (and also free) blog-marketing tools I've discovered in the past 12 months is Triberr—the post-sharing service that increased my blog reach one hundredfold within the first few months of my membership there—and I often hear bloggers grumble about how difficult it is to get their WordPress blogs set up to feed the Triberr stream. And even when those bloggers do get their WordPress posts to show up in the feed, there are issues about the display of images and content.

I don't have time to wrestle with technological issues like that, and I am not interested in paying WordPress to solve those issues for me when Blogger already does what I need for free.

Blog Layout

There are just about as many ways to layout a blog as there are bloggers on the planet. Because my list of published novels is only six at present, I have elected to devote one static page to each, plus a page for my personal appearances.

If you are fortunate enough to have ten or more books in print, and still want to set up static pages, you might choose to organize your books by series or genre to maintain a manageable page count.

The whole point to a blog's layout is to present pertinent information without overwhelming the visitor.

Last year I had (among other things) embedded my book trailers' YouTube code in The Maze's sidebar, and repeated that code on the books' dedicated pages. This year I have replaced the sidebar trailer embeds with the actual book covers. Although all my trailers are well worth watching and are especially impressive on big-screen TVs, since they are very similar to movie trailers, it's the cover that is an author's first, best chance of engaging a potential reader.

I also rearranged the order and elected to place my social media info and newsletter signup at the top of the sidebar, above my books. One of the things that turns me off when I visit an author's blog is to be inundated with book covers and buy links right from the start, so I've tried not to do that to The Maze's visitors.

Originally I had developed a dedicated page for listing my giveaways, but I found that it's easier to mention them on individual blog posts rather than to keep updating the Giveaway page. I still have that page saved as a draft if I ever decide to rearrange The Maze's "furniture" again. :)

Oh and speaking of giveaways, don't forget to scroll down and enter the vast, multi-author Rafflecopter giveaway that's running today!

Blog Elements

Individual blog elements are legion, but the basic necessities for an author blog include the display of book covers, buy links, and social media following opportunities.

I've already chimed in on the subject of book cover placement—again, the key is to disseminate the information without overwhelming the reader. Having the social media following opportunities placed in a prominent position is important too, because they are going to be more chances for you and your books to reach that magic "seven mentions" threshold for clinching the sale.

Displaying graphic elements for the various social media sites is a fine practice, but please, PLEASE do not code them to reappear on the screen like a cloud of hopeful puppies as the visitor pages down the post. That is just flat-out annoying, and I will leave your blog faster than you can blink, never to return.

Another turnoff for me is to be hit with a "sign up for this blog" popup immediately upon visiting the site. Even with blogs I visit on a fairly regular basis, I never subscribe to them—I'm drowning in emails as it is—so to be bombarded with a request when all I want to do is read one post is also annoying.

Wow. I didn't realize that I had so much to say about blog structure! In keeping with my recommendation to not overwhelm the visitor, I'm going to stop here and cover the various aspects of blog content next week.

So… stop wishing that you had a great author blog, and start doing it. :)

Enter for chances to win a prize in this massive multi-author giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


All this month, you are invited to...
— Follow Kim on Twitter
— Follow Kim on Pinterest
— Subscribe to Kim's YouTube channel
— Leave a comment on any page of The Maze, especially if you have done the Twitter, Pinterest, and/or YouTube follow
... and each action this month is good for one chance to win a copy of any of Kim's e-books. Please enter often, and good luck!


  1. Thank you for the lovely quote, Kim. I'm honored. I agree with your post. I had tried one of those pop ups that's supposed to get you sign ups. Not only did it not work, my return visits dropped. So after a 6 mo trial, it was gone, never to return. Good advice overall on this post.

    1. You're most welcome, Kayelle, and thanks for your kind comments! I'll be mining your SEO post for my followup article at the end of the month too. :)

      As for the blog-signup popup, have you considered using one of those that appears after a visitor has lingered on a post for more than a minute or two? Those are less annoying to me because they usually include a "go away" option so that I can keep reading undisturbed.


Scribble a note on the wall of the Maze so you can find your way out again... ;-)