As I mentioned in this post (go comment now -- there's a contest!), I am interested in blogging for readers, not just for other writers, though I appreciate all the writers who stop by and I hope even more do. I think for many authors in the blogosphere this is held out as the unattainable dream. We want a presence that attracts readers, we're told we need one, and yet we're told readers don't read author blogs.
I think it's doable, and I'm about to give you some tips, but first here are two more tips that may relieve some of your stress:
You really don't know how many readers are reading your blog. I happen to know I have several readers who check my blog pretty regularly, but just never comment and don't sign up as followers. They just bookmark the page or click through Twitter.
But if they read, why don't they comment? Many authors track their success in terms of followers. Some track their actual hits. Some count comments. Why would readers show up almost only as anonymous hits?
Writers write. Readers read. Yep. You've read it hear first. I'm being glib, but it's also true. As writers it seems natural to express ourselves in writing. For many readers, that is not the case. Maybe this will help you. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has 2,451 reader reviews on Amazon.com. Sounds like a ton of reader feedback, doesn't it? Only... The book has sold an estimated 30 million copies. Let's say 1% of those copies were sold through Amazon: 300,000. May not be accurate, but it seems reasonable, given that their huge and increasing market share. The 2,451 reviews would be less than 1% return on reader feedback. If I get 2,500 visits a month, maybe that's 125 hits per blog post, and if I know that 75% of those are writers, then maybe I have 32 readers checking out each post. And 1% of 32 is less than 1. So if I never get a reader comment, it's still within the percentages.
Don't get too caught up in the numbers. The point is this: You may already have readers, and you may just not know it, and until you're famous and generating gabillions of hits, that's not surprising.
But, that said, there are some things that I have done and will be doing to increase my readership among non-writers. You all can do these things, too
1) Be proactive about showing your well-roundedness. I know a lot of writers who blog about broader topics of life and popular interest. A couple of them use photos and tags in a way that might generate a few accidental web hits. That's a bit of the battle, but here's the real secret to doing this: get out of the writing blogosphere. Go read and comment on blogs associated with other hobbies you have and other interests of yours. Be active outside of writing, and your readership will over lap. Andrea Eames is excellent at this and she has one of the most diverse blog readerships I've come across. She's a writer and she's into vintage clothes, and her blog is a place where the two communities overlap.
2) Be a font of cross-over information. In case you're not, Clarissa Draper's blog overflows with information about the broad field of forensics, compiled for her own research and then posted for the public to use as a great starting point. Every Monday, Lydia Kang features a new medical malady, condition, or procedure, each one crazier or more obscure than the last. In both cases, most of the blog readers seem to be readers, but I always see a few comments from non-writers who just find the insight fascinating. If a few are commenting, probably even more are reading. These aren't accidental web hits, these are people who stay and return because the font of information appears predictable and bottomless. I anticipate LT Host having similar success as she continues to develop her series on horses.
3) The internet is more than the blogosphere. Maybe you don't "get" Twitter, or you see Facebook as a time-sink. That's all well and good, but those are both great ways to reach out and make new net friends and contacts beyond the bubble. I'm just now exploring how to use Facebook optimally, but most of my contacts there are and will always be most readers, several non-blogging writers, and a few from the blogosphere. I've begun extending my Twitter chat out beyond the strict writing world and have made contact with people in comedy, martial arts and other areas of interest -- and they sometimes check in on my blog, and will be potential readers when I release stories.
4) Don't look for readers. Just look for people. Stop thinking about your writing career for a while. Stop trying to enlist readers. Stop trying to build awareness among potential reading populations. Stop trying to build a dang platform. Just. Go. Out. And. Meet. People. Seriously. Check out of the writer's mindset, and just meet people. They'll figure out that you blog. And they'll check it out. But stop trying to make it happen. Just be yourself.
You really are pretty/handsome, and you're so smart and funny; if you're just yourself, I know they'll like you.
Soundtrack for writing this post provided by Eric B and Rakim.