Monday, February 7, 2011

The Holy Grail: Blogging for Readers - You Can Be Perceval


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  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.


  1. Great post! I've been thinking about this very thing lately--how to connect more with readers who like the kind of stuff I write. You've given me some really good ideas. But the whole "stop thinking about writing" thing--uh... does...not...compute... It's worth a shot, though! ;-)


  2. Good post C.N. I know many people who focus on this. I tend to reach out to mothers as well as writers, because I am a mom.

  3. Excellent post, Nevets. I definitely need to work on all four of these. Great advice!

  4. Great advice, Nevets.

    I'm checking out LT Host's blog now.

  5. I like "don't look for readers, look for people". It makes the exercise somehow less cynical - as well as more rewarding.

  6. Good post. I don't comment on half the blogs I read. I only comment if I have something to add or a smartass comment. :D

  7. @Amy - I saw your tweet the other day, when I already had this blog post half-composed in my mind and I chuckled. Timing! :)

    @Summer - That's great!

    @Jennifer - It goes against the grain when everything in you is so dedicated to establishing yourself as a professional writer, doesn't it?

    @Misha - It's a good blog! I hope you enjoy it!

    @Tim - I try to save the cynicism for my fiction. haha

    @Hannah - lol! No doubt! And if writers, who run at both the mouth and the fingers comment less than 100% of the time, how much less do readers probably comment?

  8. You're right. I am good looking! I try to post everywhere I go and just assume others do to, but I'm probably wrong.

  9. @Chris - Your vulnerability to Hulk hands is the only that that diminishes your charm. ;)

  10. Love it, Nevets! Fantastic post.


  11. It's an interesting discussion here, Nevets. I've thought a lot about this same topic but came to different conclusions. I'll be curious to see what happens here!

  12. @Bru - Thanks!

    @Domey - As usual, I'm presenting something that falls short of my own actual conclusions. haha But a lot of those have to do with why I keep this blog, which has only about 15-25% to do with building a platform.

  13. Good post, Nevets. It's fair to say that there's also an etiquette to networking via blogs etc. There are many peeps who just leave a message - follow me - without engaging in your efforts. To my mind this is lazy and gets them nowhere. As Tim says it's much more rewarding when you connect with other people rather than simply trying to build numbers.

  14. Although I don't get a lot of comments on my forensic posts, it's the highest read posts. Also, I've started writing Telly posts because I know it's going to attract the readers and maybe not the writers alone. I'm trying to write more "for readers" posts now. Thanks for mentioning my blog.

  15. Really interesting post Nevets.

    I think a lot of writer's blogs focus a great deal on the art/nuts & bolts of writing and getting published, which is why I read a good many of them. They, however, don't necessarily offer samples of their own writing, which is too bad, and doesn't encourage average readers to follow or comment.

    Most of the followers on my art blog crossed over from my writing blog (I'm one of those who has little advice for other writers, as I still feel like such a newbie). I'm now starting to get a few artists looking in on my writing, which is neat.

    I also follow quite a few blogs that are just people writing--not all about their private lives (I don't like reading TMI blogs), but well-thought-out essays that entertain and provoke thought.

    I have to admit, that I am one of the 'readers' who has often lurked without leaving comments. In my case it's a matter of shyness and feeling a little intimidated. So many times, I have come across some profound posts that raised issues I hadn't consciously thought about and needed time to digest--and then to go back and comment a week or month later feels anticlimactic (yes, I likely need therapy, lol). That used to happen to me at the Lit Lab all the time. (I'm trying to be better about at least saying something so they know they have an appreciative and varied audience).

    I hope I haven't rambled too much--I guess you hit on a topic I've been thinking about...
    ...and thank you for being a hospitable host. That counts for a lot :)

  16. Dude, I left you a novel on your 1/31 post. Be sure you go pee and grab a beer before you settle in (lol).

    But seriously; I read more than just the Flash link. I love your writing. I am definitely hooked on Sublimation. Why don't you post those same tabs in the header of the main blog? I only made it half way through the Free-Write application for Notes From The Underground contest, but I intend to finish it when I have more time. Awesome stuff.

    As for READERS, well you really never know who in your day life might be reading your blog. I'm amazed sometimes when I go to work and people say they've been enjoying my 3WW serial on my blog, or other posts/excerpts. I link on FB (thanks for friending me) and some of my friends and family click the links. They don't comment of course, but sometimes when they see me in person they say something encouraging.

    Those kind words in passing mean the world to me.

    Your blog here is about more than just tips on writing, and I'm sure whatever variety you have planned will be worth reading. Even if I am a writer :)

    Take care this evening . .


  17. @Michael - Tell me about it. While I've been excited to have my blog following grow, what's been most exciting for that is that it's grown at a pace that has allowed and encouraged actual engagement.

    @Clarissa - I think what you're doing with your blog is fantastic. You're really making it a home for folks who are interested in your "genre," regardless of why. I aim to incorporate some of that attitude here over time.

    @Bridget - Thank you so much for your thoughtful commentary on your own experience with blogs. It's taken me a while, but I have definitely come to appreciate that not every reader is geared for commenting, and while I would love it if everyone did (because I like interacting with people), I realize that it's not realistic or necessary.

    And thank you so much for saying I'm a hospitable host! For me, this blog is really about engaging and interacting with people, so making folks feel at home is essential. :)

    @Donna - Thanks so much for your kind words about my writing. It would be impossible to overstate how meaningful it is to me. And you are so right; you really have no idea who all is reading. Which is good practice for writers, I reckon, since you don't know who all is reading your book either.

    Thanks too for your kind words about the blog. And I actually hope this year to move toward more integration of my website and the blog, but right now I have both done pretty simply so they don't distract too much from my writing. Once I've finally knocked out the rest of Sublimation (jeez, will it never end) and have started querying, I will address it. Because I really do want a consistent flow between the two and to maximize the presentation.


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