Can Blogs Be More Effective for Authors Than Social Media?
Updated: Jan 24
For the past 10 years, I’ve relied on social media for online visibility and to promote books. It’s a little like having a pop-up kiosk for books in the glitzy mall at Fashion Valley in San Diego with more than 200 upscale businesses where shoppers pursue the latest trendy items. A few people have noticed me, but not many.
Publishing a blog is a little like having space in a smaller shopping center, such as the nearby Hazard Center with only 23 businesses including Barnes & Noble and neighborhood restaurants. If I had a kiosk for books that’s where I would want to be.
Over the past couple of years, I've been studying what other authors are doing to improve visibility and connect with more readers. What I learned is that some of the most successful authors I follow have blogs. So, I launched this blog in September of 2021.
Jane Friedman, an author and veteran blogger who focuses on the publishing industry, wrote an updated article in 2021 titled How to Start Blogging: A Definitive Guide for Authors. Courtney Simms, a blogger who writes about women in tech, recently published “A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging” on Medium. She also tweets almost every day on Twitter with links to her blog posts.
Two authors I follow weekly—David Gaughran and Mark W. Schaefer, have high-visibility blogs to discuss promoting books and to tout their online courses. Several indie authors I know personally—including Carmen Amato, DV Berkom, Jeanine Kitchel, and Terry L. Turrell—also have blogs that I read and study for both content and techniques about promoting books.
Two other authors are literary bloggers, including C.M. Mayo who has been blogging since 2006. More recently, I've connected with Maud Newton who began blogging in 2002, which led to a lucrative freelance career with newspapers and magazines including a cover story for Harpers. Lately, she has returned to her blogging roots in combination with Medium and her social media accounts to help launch her first book set for release on March 29. Time magazine and Esquire and others call it one of the most anticipated books of 2022.
Unless authors are willing to share data, it’s difficult to know how many readers authors reach with blogs compared to social media.
Lynda L. Lock is a Canadian author I know who is in a private Facebook international writers’ group with me. She writes two different series of murder mysteries, one of which she created while living on Isla Mujeres near the tip of the Yucatán peninsula before moving back to Canada after her husband died.
She has been blogging for more than a decade and believes her blog is more effective for her than social media. We exchanged emails this past week, and she agreed to let me use some of her comments.
“For the 10 years when I posted every Friday, we had over 2,000 followers, but, since Lawrie passed away in 2018, my blog has been neglected. I know it can be a good source of potential book buyers, so I really have to get back to doing a weekly article. The last few that I have done have had around 350 views.”
Getting 350 views for a blog post indicates that about 17.5 percent of her followers are viewing her blog posts. That’s a lot higher than the 2.83 percent organic reach rate for Facebook posts in December of 2021.
If you’re interested in launching a blog, the folks at Reedsy have a free online course for beginners. It helped me get started.
I began creating and archiving blog posts on the website KindleBookPromos.com to share information and insights from book marketing professionals and successful authors. During the past week, 40 people viewed my January 16 blog post.
In December, I started sharing the blog posts on Substack, which considers the blog posts are newsletters. Whatever—I’m simply following the example of Schaefer who shares his blog posts on Substack.
Schaefer has also been sharing his blog posts on Medium for years and has 26K followers over there. In early January, I started sharing my blog posts on Medium to see if I can reach some more people. It’s my online version of putting a book kiosk in the same shopping center as B&N.
I also use my Facebook and Twitter accounts to link to the blog posts so I can compare the number of views and the reactions (likes, comments, and shares) on each channel. And I’m putting all the data into an Excel worksheet so I can analyze it month by month.
Personal insights: From Jan. 16-20, I tested the number of views and reactions by using my blog and social media to offer a free Kindle version of a book I helped publish in 2012. Kirkus Reviews gave the print version a starred review back then.
It’s too early to reach definite conclusions about how effective my blogging will be, but here are the results from this test:
· The promo post on Facebook and Twitter with a Bit.ly link to the book on Amazon produced 88 views, or 59.9 percent of the total views, with 21 reactions.
· During the five-day promo period, my website blog and Substack and Medium produced 59 views, or 40.1 percent of total views, with only 4 reactions.
· However, the 59 views for the blog posts generated 50.0 percent of the clicks on the Bit.ly link to go to the book on Amazon. The 41 views on Facebook generated 43.75 percent of the clicks on the link, and the 47 views on Twitter produced only 6.25 percent of the clicks on the link.
Those data indicate that blogging may be more effective for me than social media in getting people to download Kindle versions—a least free Kindle versions.
I want to collect and analyze more data. To see if genre makes a difference, I plan to use my blog posts to promote free Kindle versions of other backlist titles. I’ll use the same methodology: Create the blog post on my website, embed Bit.ly links to track the click-through rate to Amazon, and share the blog post on Substack and Medium. Then, I’ll post the same promo on social media and collect the data to analyze.
As always, I’m interested in your feedback, especially if you have data to share. Just send an email to email@example.com as Lynda Lock did. And when you have time, I hope you’ll check out my monthly newsletter and consider subscribing.