When I started my blog nearly 7 years ago I secretly harbored dreams of writing for magazines and publishing books, but I didn’t have a single byline. What I did have was some free time and access to online WordPress tutorials. Thus my blog was born.
Starting that blog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Blogging helped me hone my voice and connected me to a community of readers. But, oh, if I could start over knowing that many of my far-fetched writing dreams would come true, I sure would do a few things differently.
If you’re starting a blog with dreams of writing a book some day, don’t make the same mistakes I did. Launch your blog with your book in mind.
This guest post is by Kim Dinan. Dinan is an author and adventurer. Her writing has appeared in Parks and Recreation Magazine, Northwest Travel Magazine, Trailer Life Magazine, Cincinnati Magazine and OnTrak Magazine, among others. Her popular blog, So Many Places, was named one of the best outdoor blogs by USA Today and has been featured online by sites such as The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. Her debut memoir, The Yellow Envelope, is available at bookstores now. She lives in Ohio with her husband and daughter. Follow her on Facebook , Instagram and on Twitter @kimdinan.
Consider your domain name
If you listen to only one piece of advice in this article, let it be this: Choose your domain name carefully. Did you catch that? Let me say it again, just to make sure. Choose your domain name carefully. I’ll use myself as an example here. I decided to call my travel blog So Many Places (because there were so many places I wanted to go- get it?), bought the domain name www.so-many-places.com (more on those hyphens later), and then soon regretted the whole thing.
Why? Well, when I launched my blog it was just a blog. But over time it grew into a hub for all of my writer-y pursuits including freelancing, editing, public speaking and, most recently, publishing a book. I’ve evolved—but my domain name is still stuck in travel blogging land.
What I wish I’d done is use my own name as my domain name (I did eventually buy kimdinan.com, but now I have two websites to manage). The same piece of advice goes for social media handles. Cheryl Strayed’s twitter handle isn’t @hikergrrl, is it? J.K. Rowling’s Facebook author page isn’t called Wizard Woman Writes. Nope, you’ll find them online by their names. Make it easy for your readers to find you, too.
Don’t use hyphens in your domain name
Imagine this. Your book has just been published and you’ve been invited onto NPR to have a friendly conversation with Terry Gross. She asks, “Where can we find you online?” You respond, “I’m at Joe Smith dot com but there are hyphens between Joe and Smith so it’s actually Joe hyphen Smith dot com.” You don’t want to say that, right? Hyphens just make things complicated. If someone else already owns your domain name, insert your middle initial (joehsmith.com) or, if that won’t work, consider something like joesmithwrites.com.
Collect e-mail addresses from day one
You’ve just launched your blog and there are 3 people that read it: Your mom, your sister, and a Google Bot. No matter, you should collect email addresses from all of them. There will come a day when someone you don’t know will land on your blog and when they do you want to make sure you can collect their email address. On the homepage of my blog, readers can sign up to receive each new blog post via email or my monthly newsletter. Some bloggers offer a free downloadable gift in exchange for an email address. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just make sure you have an email sign up form on your homepage. All of those loyal readers with email addresses will come in handy for book marketing one day.
Your blog and your book should have similar themes
This seems obvious but bears mentioning. Before launching your blog ask yourself what kind of book you want to write. If you start a blog about horticulture but you plan to write a young adult crime series one day, your blog won’t attract the right kind of audience. Use your blog to build a community of readers that will want to read your book.
Be a real human
When someone stumbles upon your blog, they want to know that you are a living, breathing person. Put your photo on your homepage, spend some time crafting a compelling About Me section and make sure your contact information is easy to find (you don’t have to share your email address but at least install a contact form.) Make it easy for your readers to form a bond with you—they’ll be more likely to come back for more and, yes, they might even buy your book someday.
Learn to market yourself
I don’t know a single writer who enjoys tooting her own horn. In fact, marketing is essentially the antithesis of writing. When I’m writing I sit at home, alone in my pajamas, and hang out with my own thoughts. When I’m marketing I am, at the very least, persistently visible on social media and—if I’ve got a book to promote— I’m in the public eye as much as possible. Maintaining a blog has helped me strengthen my marketing skills and made me more comfortable with marketing overall. Over the years I’ve asked readers to buy my e-books, like my social media pages, and fill out surveys. My blog has shown me that the world will not come crashing down around me if I ask for support—and that lesson has helped me promote my book with confidence.
—How writing a blog and writing a book can be the exact same thing
—How to start a blog that will be your writer platform, marketing tool, and self-published ebook all in one
—How to convert blogged books into ebooks, podcasts and more
—Practical tips from a best-selling author, blogger, editor and book coach on achieving your dream of blogging your book
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.