By Jean Marie Stine
It cannot be emphasized enough. Your blog, your tweets, your photo-sharing, your Facebook page, and any and all of your other social media efforts aren’t just something to be reserved for your new book’s debut, or a contest, or an online or in-person appearance.
If you take that course, you will only be preaching to the converted—which is to say, you’ll only be reaching the people you have already reached.
Those readers are crucially important, but even they are not really your #1 target audience for social media. It’s time to re-conceive your presence on the world’s computer screens, phones and tablets from a whole new perspective: as a magnet designed to reach as widely and as frequently as possible beyond your normal circle of fans to bring in new potential readers for your books.
At the same time, you don’t want to take one more minute away from actually writing those books and stories than you have to.
It may not seem like it would be possible to maintain an active blog presence and still have all the time you need to do your core creative work.
But it can be!
Most social media mavens recommend that, at the very least, you put up some kind of blog entry every week, twice if possible. That may seem like a lot of work—and it would be, if you have to write all those blog entries yourself.
But you don’t!
Some writers (perhaps because they are writers) make the mistake of believing that blog posts invariably have to be lengthy, comprehensive, entirely original written pieces.
Instead, there is an easy way to let your own personal interests generate compelling blog entries for you—entries that will bring lots of visitor traffic, most of it new, to your blog. And it involves almost no writing on your own part. Using this technique, your entire contribution to each blog entry you create is a sentence or two to a paragraph at most.
There is no way an author can write a story without putting some of their own personal interests into it. That might be skiing, Europe, the town you live in, collecting stamps, the world of high fashion, the U.S. Civil War, rodeos, motorcycles, etc.—and chances are, if you are interested in something, other people are interested in it, too.
For instance, you might have visited Paris, or wanted to visit it, and thus your newest novel is set there.
Say you see a great picture of Paris on the internet, one that is beautiful, or touching, or shows some specific locale you used in your book. Insert or link to the picture on your blog. Write a sentence or paragraph about why you liked it—something like “I had to share this stunning picture of Paris at night from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I love both so much, I made Paris the scene of the second half of my book, For Love or Money.” Or, perhaps it is a photo of the Champs-Élysées. You could write: “I set the climactic chase scene from my romantic espionage novel, Secrets of the Heart, here.” You will be surprised, over the course of the next year, at how many new visitors have come to your site.
You might be an aficionado of the U.S. Civil War era. You might do research in old magazines and newspapers of the time, or read books reprinting material from them, and come upon an chapter or article that captures your interest. Perhaps an 1864 Harper’s Monthly contains a piece by a woman describing her feelings as she saw the Union Soldiers come running back in terrified, chaotic retreat from the battle of Bull Run. Since anything written in the U. S. before 1923 is out of copyright and in the Public Domain forever, you have every right to reprint that article for free (and there is a great deal of such material in text form free on the internet, at sites like Gutenberg.org and Archive.org). If printed materials are involved, consider purchasing a scanner. They can be very inexpensive, often below $100—and voila, you have a cheap and almost limitless source of blog entries. Again, all you have to write is a sentence or two, such as “I had to share this very moving eyewitness account of the Union rout at the first battle of the Civil War by a young Northern woman whose boyfriend was a soldier in that battle. I found it while researching my next novel, Troubled Allegiance.”
Or you may have written a romantic thriller set at a championship skiing event in the scenic Grandvalira region of Spain. On the web you can surely find photos or video of Grandvalira, as well as present or historic footage of ski meets there. Pick five that catch your eye, and turn them into a little series of posts—put a link to one each week with a few words about the region and your book. You now have five blog entries to draw people in, if they’re interested in the area and/or its skiing, and introduce them to your book—or to get people interested in your book if they’ve heard of you but not Grandvalira.
If your story was set at an oil camp in the 1920s, you can certainly find archival photos of the real thing all over the web.
You get the idea. Here are some more tips to letting your blog draw in new readers and keep existing ones happily following you—without spending valuable writing time and energy on it:
* Don’t overlook your own (digital or physical) filing cabinet! In it you may have all kinds of work you’ve already done but never introduced to a larger audience: articles, school papers, book reviews, interviews and so on. Depending on the subject, they are likely to be of interest to others, too. For example, I recently found an interview I conducted with science fiction great Frank Herbert for a Los Angles publication when the movie Dune came out. I suddenly realized it might be of interest to science fiction enthusiasts, and draw some to our science fiction blog. Not only did I publish it there, it was so lengthy I broke it into three entries. It brought in double the number of my most-read posts till then. I also found a paper I wrote for a university class on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, arguing that she based much of the monster on herself and her own experiences. I plan to post it on the same blog soon; it should appeal to both aficionados of Shelley’s book and more widely to fans of horror fiction and films as well.
* Link to movie trailers. Somewhere on the web, you can find a trailer to almost any movie ever made. Find trailers for a favorite movie or one related to your latest book (or your writing in general), post a link to the trailer, and write a few words about it.
* You can do the same with full-length movies. There are quite a number of sites were you can watch recent or classic movies for free, like Crackle.com and Archive.org. Browse their stacks. Find a personal favorite or one related to your writings and post the link for it, inviting visitors to watch it too.
* If an article or chapter you want to reprint is lengthy, break it up into two or even three blog posts and serialize it.
* You can also include a scene from your book, its cover image (if one exists at that point), and several others books you have written on the same subject.
* Always attribute the source of any material you reprint: ”From Harper’s Monthly June 1864, found at the Gutenberg Project.”
Using this easy approach, you can find material for hundreds of blog posts, and draw in new visitors, without going an inch out of your way. All you’re really doing is pursuing of your own interests and passions as you would anyway, and sharing these interests with readers.