Blogging to promote your book

People are much more likely to buy your book if they feel a connection with you and see you as an expert willing to share your knowledge. A blog is a perfect way to establish such a connection.

Also, a blog will invariably bring good ideas from your audience for the next edition of your book or for other books.

Blogs are basically easily created Web sites that enable you to post entries in chronological order, with the most recent displayed first. These entries can comprise text, images, video and links to other blogs. Blogs are interactive because readers can post comments, enabling an online dialog. Also, most blogs enable keyword-tagging of entries, which allows users to search for previous entries.

Blogs do have their down side. A successful blog requires posting at least weekly and having something substantive to say, both of which can means hours of work. And, with any blog, you will have to tolerate the occasional crank.

To get an idea of what good science blogs are like, check out ScienceBlogs.com, a comprehensive collection of science-related blogs. More generally, browse the most popular blogs on the blogging site Technorati. You can also search for blogs by topic on Google's Blogsearch and IceRocket.com. You can have blog posts automatically compiled for you by using a "newsreader" like Bloglines or Blogrunner.

You can easily create a blog using popular blogging software — including Blogger, Livejournal, Typepad, or WordPress. Also, Blogger offers a good basic tutorial on blogs. It is desirable to host your blog on your own Web server, rather than having it hosted on the blogging site. Thus, each blog post is registered by search engines as new content on your site, enhancing your search engine ranking. If your blog become particularly popular, you can also consider selling a subscription on Kindle.

Here are some tips on developing and managing your blog:

  • Make the name descriptive enough so people will know what your blog is about, ideally using words from the title of your book.
  • Make sure your blog page has a link to information on your book and how to buy it
  • Focus your blog on your book topic, but make the topic broad enough to give room for useful discussion.
  • Practice first. Set up a temporary blog and write blog posts for a while without making them public, until you feel you are ready and can manage a blog.
  • Before you even advertise your blog, produce a number of entries, as many as a month's worth, so that when people arrive, they will find significant content to read and respond to.
  • Adopt a casual blogging "voice" — more like talking to your colleagues over coffee than being a distant, omnipotent author. This casual voice is necessary, since otherwise you risk coming across as a pompous know-it-all, rather than your friendly neighborhood writer-blogger. To learn this new voice and gain experience at the give-and-take discussion of blogging, consider posting comments on other blogs.
  • Make your entries substantive, perhaps a couple of hundred words; not just a few sentences.
  • Before you promote your blog widely, ask your friends to review it for content and approach. Is the tone right? Are you too heavy-handed or too diffident in your opinions?
  • Include an RSS feed — which automatically sends your blog posts to readers who subscribe to the feed.
  • Use keywords that reflect your target audience's interests, so that searches on those keywords will bring up your blog.
  • Make your blog a valuable information resource by reporting on new developments and products, reviewing new books and articles, discussing hot issues, and highlighting what other blogs are saying. Also, invite guest bloggers and interview experts in your field. You can monitor news on your topic using Google Alerts.
  • Once your blog is rolling, "poke the bear," as one blogger puts it. Start discussions and conduct reader surveys and polls to elicit opinions.
  • Explicitly invite comments and respond promptly and positively to those who comment.
  • Submit appropriate blog posts to a blog carnival, which is a magazine-like collection of blog posts on particular topics.
  • Use your blog to "crowdsource." If you are writing an article or giving a talk, post a draft and invite comment. For example, Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, developed the book quite publicly by posting chapters and inviting comment on his blog.
  • Network with other blogs: add a "blogroll" — a list of other blogs — on your blog, and include links to other blogs in your posts. Post on other blogs, referring back to your blog, to draw readers
  • Get yourself on media blogs by posting on your blog a comment on a media story. That media blog will then list your blog as the source of a comment, and all its readers will learn of your blog. Also, quality posts on your blog will be highlighted on such aggregation sites as Blogrunner, which automatically monitors news articles and blog posts and posts them on its site and distributes them via RSS feeds.
  • Add a Delicious button to the bottom of your blog posts, so people can bookmark them on that social bookmarking site.
  • Monitor the stats on your blog using Technorati to determine where traffic is coming from. That traffic flow can yield tips on how to reach those audiences more effectively.