Welcome back to The Book Launch Show. Today on the podcast we pick up where we left off last week, talking about content, email lists, and author websites. As we started to dive into the topic, it reminded us that we really needed to back up and answer bigger questions and look at the broader picture. So many times we get so caught in the weeds that we forget why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place. So this week, we talk about blogging, whether or not you should have a blog, and what exactly a blog is today. Blogging has changed a lot in the last 10 to 12 years, so it is important to understand what a blog is good for, and how to leverage it for your brand as an author. We also discuss podcasts, your email list, and whether to write short blog posts or long blog posts. Finally, we consider whether authors should even have a blog at all to begin with. or should I even have a blog and what goes on my web? All of these kinds of things. So join us on today’s episode as we take a step back to look at the macro view in order to better make decisions on the micro-level.
Key Points From This Episode:
- What is a blog today: the evolution of the blog.
- Using your blog or website as a place to store content.
- Importance of letting your audience know that your content exists.
- Asking the right questions about your content.
- Understanding that it’s not about whether to blog or not to blog.
- How to create different types of content out of one individual piece of content.
- Figuring out your ideal content toolbox and tactics.
- Why it is important to have a strategy to get your content out to others.
- Don’t get stuck in the content creation stage.
- Finding the balance between offering free content, and asking people to buy.
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Tim Grahl — https://booklaunch.com/
Tim on Twitter — https://twitter.com/timgrahl
Valerie Francis — https://valeriefrancis.ca/
Valerie on Twitter — https://twitter.com/valerie_francis
The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast — https://valeriefrancis.ca/podcast/
Running Down a Dream — https://www.amazon.com/Running-Down-Dream-Winning-Creative/dp/1936891557
Seth Godin — https://www.sethgodin.com/
Blogger — https://www.blogger.com
WordPress — https://wordpress.com/
Moveable Type — https://www.movabletype.org/
Forbes — https://www.forbes.com
The New York Times — https://www.nytimes.com/
Lifehacker — https://lifehacker.com/
The Joe Rogan Podcast — http://podcasts.joerogan.net/
Neil Gaiman — http://www.neilgaiman.com/
[0:00:00.3] TG: Hey there, this is The Book Launch Show. I am Tim Grahl and this week, Valerie and I pick up where we left off last week talking about content and email list and that sort of thing. But as I started to answer the question, it reminded me that I really needed to back up and answer bigger questions and look at something kind of wider. Because so many times, with this stuff, we get so caught in the weeds that we forget why we’re doing what we’re doing, right?
So this week, we talk about blogging, should I have a blog? And I’m like, “Well, what is a blog?” Blogging has changed a lot in the last 10 to 12 years. So what do you even mean when you say blog? What is a blog good for? And even with that, what about podcasts and your email list and should I write short posts or long blog posts or should I even have a blog and what goes on my web? All of these kinds of things.
I take a really big step back and hopefully help you see and help Valerie see like how all of the these stuff kind of fits together and how to think about this on a kind of wide macro view so that you can make much better kind of small micro decisions.
It’s a really great episode, I think you’ll enjoy it.
This podcast is all about marketing, launching your book. But if you’re an author and you have a book, book coming out, book already out, you’re doing something special, you’re doing something that most people are afraid to do in my opinion. They’re actually going after that thing that they want. Everybody says they want to write a book, you’ve actually done it, you’re actually doing it, what that means is that you have a dream that you’re trying to accomplish.
You have this idea, the kind of writer you want to be, the kind of life you want to live, the kind of artist you want to be. I wrote my book Running Down a Dream —Your Roadmap to Winning Creative Battles for people just like you. Based on my last decade of overcoming my creative battles of being stuck in the mud, stuck feeling like I’m always going to be a failure, stuff feeling like this thing that I want is stupid and never going to happen.
I wrote this book to share the true journey of what this looks like, a lot of self-help books, a lot of books about creativity, they kind of share, what was really hard and then look at all the awesome stuff I learned? This book is different. It will walk you through what I think the real story of running down a dream really looks like. I put everything in there and on top of that, I put the tools I learned along the way. If you know anything about me and my work, you know I can’t help but be practical.
I took that story off running down my dream, of chasing what I wanted in life of overcoming creative battles and I broke it down into really practical tools that you can apply to overcome your own creative demons. Running Down a Dream is out now to Amazon and all the other different places that you can buy books. It’s available, audiobook, ebook and paperback.
Check it out, buy a copy, share it with a friend and it’s a great way to support this show, thanks.
[0:03:26.1] ANNOUNCER: Welcometo the Book Launch Podcast, helping authors launch and market their books.
[0:03:33.1] VF: Hello, Tim.
[0:03:34.0] TG: Hey, Valerie. How are you?
[0:03:36.3] VF: I am well, thank you.
[0:03:36.8] TG: Good, good.
[0:03:37.3] VF: Last week we were talking about getting my mailing list up and running and we finished off talking about newsletters. I wanted to come back to this because it speaks to the building the relationship with your subscribers and your fan base and building a tribe around me and what I’m doing.
I struggle with what to do with my blog posts. I’ve come up with a bunch of ideas because the blog is there sitting on my site and to me, it is untapped potential, right? I came up with something on the editing side that we talked about when we first started the podcast, I had the daily – the very short daily posts for people, modeled after what Seth Godin does and they worked really well for building my editing business. But I’ve stopped those because I’m trying to focus on building the fiction side. That’s great. But that leaves me with a bog that’s sitting there, not doing anything.
Last time you mentioned, maybe having the book review as a blogpost and letting people know that it’s there. I can do that, totally. I’m just wondering if there is a way that I can somehow provide exclusive content to subscribers as sort of an added bonus, an added perk of being in the inner circle that is separate from what’s on the blog or maybe I can – I don’t know, am I making sense? Am I asking this question properly?
[0:05:07.4] TG: Well, so let’s talk about what a blog is for a second. Because I feel like that’s become a supper vague term that people are using but nobody really knows what it is anymore. Because when we back up, 11, 12 years, when blogging first came on the scene, when it was revolutionary. Because, for the first time, you could put content on the Internet without being a nerd or without having a nerd in between you and the Internet, right? Because up until then, you had to know HTML, you had to know how to put stuff up. I think before that, you had like geocities where you could build a website but it was really hard and you could definitely not easily add content to it. When blogger came on the scene, WordPress came on the scene, Moveable Type came on the scene.
It was revolutionary because anybody could start a website and start posting regularly and putting updates and building their own audience. Literally before that, the only people that were doing it were businesses and, you know, news organizations that had entire staffs dedicated to putting content online. They were originally called web logs, right? It was this idea that you know, I could create a journal online where I was posting.
So — Well, let’s stay back there for a second. One of the things that was so great is that you could build an audience pretty easily because it was, there was like no competition. You started one off these blogs and you started posting regularly and you might be the only one or one of a few people talking about whatever subject that you’re talking about and you could build an audience pretty quickly just by putting stuff pup online.
Where now, now that’s come to nowadays, what is a blog exactly, right? Because Forbes, there’s tons of people that write blogs for Forbes. There’s blogs all over The New York Times, there’s blogs like Lifehacker that post like a dozen times a day that have entire staffs of writers. Is a blog merely posting something? So is my Instagram feed a blog? Because, you know, it’s basically the same thing, I can post a picture and write as much content as I want underneath it. But then it’s not really a website, right?
So I feel like it’s not super helpful to think about whether or not you’re posting to a blog. The other thing that’s really hard about blogs is that it’s hard to get people to your website to read them, right? Just because you post something does not necessarily mean that people are going to find it. Especially, unless you’re building an audience around posting something brand new every single morning so they know to come to your website and check it out. Otherwise, if you post once a month, they’re not going to – your fans are not coming to your website to find the new blog post this month.
So I look at your website or your blog or where you keep your articles on your website, I just look at your website as a place to store content. What they’re good at is storing content, right? If you wrote up that review of a book and just put the whole review in an email and send it out, you would maybe get people to read it but it would immediately disappear, right? It would go into the archives of everybody’s email inboxes, there’s no easy way to share it, it won’t get found by search engines, you can’t post it on social media.
I say, well why don’t you put that on your website because your website or your blog, whatever you want to call it is really good at storing content. You could put it up there where people can link to it, people can share it, it can get found on social media. But, people aren’t automatically going to find it just because you’re posting on your website, right? I talk to authors all the time, they’re like, “You know, I tried starting a blog and I posted for six months but nobody ever read it, it was a complete waste of time.” It’s like, “Well yeah, you are putting stuff in a place, it’s like storing something in your garage, you know? You have it, you own it but nobody’s ever going to see it or find it.”
That’s where having something like an email list comes into play because an email list is bad at storing content but is really good at getting people’s attention and driving action. Where posting on your blog is bad at getting people’s attention but you can store content there. So I feel like I’ve kind of got off track but I think it’s important to think about it in that way. This is not so much whether or not you’re blogging or what kind of content are you putting up, it’s, “Okay, here’s how I’m going to engage my audience, here’s the kind of content that I’m going to produce. Okay, where should I keep that content? Where should I store that content? How should I make sure people know that content exist, right?”
If you look at a podcast, you can run a podcast from your own website or you can run a podcast from something like SimpleCast, which is where we do all the podcast for this one and all the Story Grid Podcasts. Now you’re storing the content there but people are subscribing to the feed, so they’re automatically downloading the latest content and then you could also put it up on your website. You could put the – you can embed it, you can put the transcript up. Then I could also send out an email to my list saying, “Hey, go check out the latest episodes, subscribe,” that kind of thing.
So, all of these things are just kind of, okay, what are they good at? What are they bad at? Let’s use them for what they’re good at, let’s not use them for what they’re bad at, does that make sense?
[0:11:08.5] VF: Yes.
[0:11:11.5] TG: Now, thinking in from that perspective, how are you thinking about the kind of content you want to produce?
[0:11:17.4] VF: How am I thinking about the kind of content I want to produce? Well, it’s the same kind of information that we talked about last week but I would also have it on my site, not just in my mail out, right? It would be, well, the book reviews are still a good idea for the fiction side because we’re talking about fiction and the type of stuff that we love. I feel like there’s an answer that you’re looking for an answer that I’m not thinking of.
[0:11:46.2] TG: Well, I just think it’s important. I feel like asking the question, “Should I be blogging?” is the wrong question, right?
[0:11:54.3] VF: Oh okay.
[0:11:54.8] TG: The right questions are, “What kind of content do I want to produce for my audience? What do I think the’ll love? What do I think would be entertaining that they’ll enjoy getting? What is the best way for me to get the most out of that content? Okay, what’s the best way for me to get the most eyeballs on that content? Okay, now, let’s decide what to do,” right?
So let’s say you’re going to do book reviews. Well, actually, let me give a different example. Let’s talk about the Joe Rogan podcast. The Joe Rogan podcast is one of the most popular podcasts. When he does a podcast, he streams it live on YouTube. So you can go to YouTube while he’s doing it and watch it. Then, what he does is he takes that and he takes the audio of it and he puts that up as an audio podcast that people can download and listen to on all the different apps. Then he takes the recording of the video and he post it as a standalone video on YouTube. Awesome.
Now he takes that video and he takes out little – because his interviews will go two, three, sometimes four hours long. He’ll take out little, like five, 10, 15 minute segments that are kind of standalone segments, he’ll extract those videos just of that and then put that up with like a nice click bait-y title. Right? Because he’s trying to get as many views on these things so that he gets advertising money from YouTube and advertising money from his advertisers. So now, he’s taken literally one piece of content, a three hour interview and he’ll produce 10 different things with it that gets in front of people in 10 different ways.
So he’s not thinking, “Should I blog or should I create videos for my website?” It’s like, “Okay, here’s the kind of content I want to produce, here’s how I’m going to get in front of people and here’s how I’m going to leverage it to get the most I possibly can out of it.” Another client of mine one time wrote this white paper for his tech industry and it was like, 10 Things You Need to Know About X. So he created a white paper around it.
Then he created 11 videos based on that white paper and he put them up on his blog, as individual blog post, emailed links to those blog post out to his email list and then also posted those videos on YouTube so that they could be found on YouTube. So he created one piece of content and kept slicing and dicing it different ways to engage people in different ways. So the question is not, “Should I be blogging?” The question is, “What kind of content do I want to produce for my audience that I think they’ll enjoy and then what’s the best modality? What’s the best tool for that,” right?
If I want to hammer two boards together, I’m going to get a hammer and a nail or a nail gun. But I don’t want a screwdriver, right? We want to make sure all of these things, whether it’s a blog, an email list, posting videos on YouTube, doing a podcast, these are just tools in a toolbox that you have to figure out what you’re trying to build first and then we look at all our tools and say okay, what’s the best tool for that?
[0:15:09.9] VF: Okay. As you’re saying this, it’s dawning on me that you’ve already said this to me before but clearly I need to hear this a few times.
[0:15:20.9] TG: That’s totally normal. I mean, because it’s a different – honestly, this is a totally different way than we’re used, that we’re kind of taught about this. Most of the time, the way that book marketing is taught, is kind of tactic and tool focused. “I learned this new way to use Instagram,” or, “Here’s how people are engaging with people on Twitter.” Or, “Well, Seth blogs every day, maybe I should blog every day,” right? We kind of come at it from this tactic and tool sort of thing.
The reason that Seth blogs every day is because he likes blogging every day. If you hear him talk about it. He just opens up the window and starts typing and then it’s just a habit that he enjoys that he’s been doing it so long that it’s become successful. Posting a little clip a day would be torture for me. I’ve tried it, I’ve also wanted to be Seth Godin and so I just hate it. I don’t want to do it and it’s not a good way for me to do things.
There are way – especially with Seth’s following now, there’s probably better things he could be doing but it doesn’t matter because he does this and it’s good enough. But, it’s important that you step back and look at it as a whole and that’s why I kind of used the tool and blueprint thing. You would never just go out unless you’re like a child, you would never go out to your shed and just grab random boards and tools and start putting shit together. Like you wouldn’t build anything, right? You always start with this idea of, “Okay here is what I am trying to accomplish. Now what are the materials and tools I need to accomplish that thing?”
This is the same way as like, “Okay if I could wave a magic wand and think about the best kind of content, I have my personas, what could I create that they would absolutely love that they would just eat up that I think would really add to their lives? Okay, how close can I get to that and what is the best way to do that that I can do, that I think I’ll enjoy doing?” So maybe it is doing daily YouTube videos that are book reviews. “Okay, I can’t do that but I can do this thing over here that works as well.”
[0:17:48.4] VF: When you said this to me the first time, I remember thinking about social media. I started to observe how authors, different authors are using different channels of social media, Twitter, Instagram all that kind of stuff, and I have come to the conclusion that Twitter is sort of the modern day version of fan mail and when I approach it that way, it seems to work for me. Me as a fan of people, but also when other people connect with me. Whether it is me as a writer or me as the round table, one of the round table hosts, or me as an editor, whatever. So that is the only way I use Twitter. It is one of the ways of engaging with fans, right? It is one of the ways of interacting with them. Blog posts is another, my newsletter would be another. So if I just focused on those three that would be enough for now.
So I also then was looking at the way other authors are using their blogs or not using their blogs and not a lot of them actually do. A lot of authors don’t even have sign ups on their websites but those who do, the emails that I get tend to only be sales pages when their latest book is coming out, which even though I am a fan of them sometimes drives me a bit nuts sometimes. It does drive me a bit nuts. The one person who is using their blog in a way and social media really in a way that I like and I keep checking, I keep going back to his website to see what is there or check him on Twitter or Instagram is Neil Gaiman and his blog, it is a journal. It is his writer’s journal.
Now obviously it is not his really private thoughts but it is less formal writing and it could be someone he met that he found interesting and what he found interesting about that interaction, it could be what he’s working on right now and his thoughts or maybe an — because he is working on Good Omens right now for Amazon Prime, something that happened in the post production of that and what it does, I have been observing him now for a while is easily 90% social interaction and getting to know you.
Every so often there is a little bit of, “Oh hey, my latest book came out. Go check this out.” Or, “Oh hey, here is an interview with me about my latest book.” That is a really small percentage of what he’s doing and I like the fact that because it is not formally written, I mean obviously I don’t know the man, but it makes you feel like you know him, you know what I mean? So that could be an interest — because that is how I started blogging years and years and years ago, when I was writing my first book it was a journal. Just the things I was learning in the process of writing a first novel. So that could be something that might be interesting as well. I could give that a little more thought but that’s the type of thing that a blog would be good for, right?
[0:20:49.1] TG: Yeah, I agree with that. Well, I do think that at this point what you want to do is start figuring out is to make a decision and start doing it. You know, I think you are still putting the final touches on getting everything set up for your website and getting it moved over, but I think what I find is when you come to these situations, you want to think about it really hard for certain period of time, mull over all your choices, figure out, “Should I do this, should I release it once a week? Should it be just my personal thought? Should it be book reviews, should it be this? Should I do video? Should I do a podcast?”
Like think through all those things, put it all on the table and think about it but then when push comes to shove, make a decision on how you’re going to do it and do it that way for at least six months. So, let’s say let’s go back to last week when I was talking about doing two emails a month, you know the first and third Tuesday of every month, all that kind of stuff and when you say, “Okay I am going to do it that way,” and I don’t care how you end up doing it but let’s say you do it that way. Well the rule is do it for six months.
So you are not allowed to send out three emails a month, you send out two emails a month. You send the first one out on the first Tuesday with some new content. You send the second one on the third Tuesday with an author update and if you get crazy and write four reviews of books, that doesn’t mean you send them all out this month. That just means you are four months ahead. Because you need to do something long enough to see how it feels, how it’s working. You know, one of the things that makes somebody like a Neil Gaiman, his blog successful is he’s been doing it long enough that he let it become successful.
So many times, I have stopped doing something because I didn’t feel like it was working when really, I just was stopping when it was getting going, you know? So I feel like a lot of times we can get stuck worrying that we are not doing it right or there’s better ways to do it or we hear about something new or we get really excited, so we post twice a week for three weeks and then we kind of get burned out and then nobody hears from us for six months and it is better to be consistent and do something long enough that you see how it feels. You see how people are responding, you see if it is working, you see how you like doing it. Is this me, how is my time?
Then at the end of six months, you can say, “Okay let’s look at how this is going. How is my open rate? How is my emails list growing? Are people responding?” Look back, what content did they like the best? “Could I do two of those a month instead of one of those a month,” right? And then you can actually have some perspective and have a little bit of time under your belt that you can make a good decision on it. But if we keep thinking about what you should be doing instead of doing things we’ll never know. Because you can’t ever figure this stuff out until you actually start doing it and seeing how it feels and seeing how people respond.
So I don’t think – I am not pushing you to make a decision right now, but it does need to come relatively soon so that we don’t spend all out time just talking about what you should be doing. We can actually have you doing things and then being like, “Okay, that is working, that’s not working,” and then we can find out that what I am saying is, “I am full of shit or not,” too. So one other thing I’d like to talk about here that it’s the same thing but from a different perspective is anytime I create new content, I am thinking about the channel I am going to use to get it out into the world. So a lot of times people are creating content with no real idea of how they’re ever going to get anybody to see it, right?
So of course, if you just want to create a blog or write a blog because you like writing and you need somewhere to put it that’s fine but you know we are talking about trying to make progress towards a goal. So whenever I create a new piece of content, I think about where it sits in my overall plans of what I am trying to accomplish and I have a plan of how I am going to get people to see it, right? So if I am writing a new blog post, I know I am going to email out to my email list to let them know that I have a new blog post. So I am going to create content and I am going to create a channel for people to actually find their way to the content, right?
If I am doing a big giveaway on my website, I might get three or four of friends that have big email lists to email out to their list helping me promote the contest, right? So it is not just creating a contest and hoping people find it. Like I have an actual plan of how I am going to get people to find it. So I think that is important when you are thinking through your content plan of like, “Okay, how am I going to get people to find this?” and it may be like, “I have no platform, nobody reads my blog and I’ve got 10 subscribers. So I am going to start doing this every month and sending stuff out but I am also going to be going out and getting on podcasts and promoting my email list so I actually start growing my email list so I can get people to read my blog posts.”
But I feel like a lot of people get stuck creating content, creating content, creating content and not really figuring out how they are going to get people to pay attention to it and they get frustrated because they do that for a while and nobody sees it and it feels like it is a giant waste of time because well, it kind of is. So anyway, that came to mind as we were talking about it. To me that should be a consideration every time you are creating something new.
[0:27:03.7] VF: So when I am writing the content, so the two pieces of content a month, the first and third Tuesday of the month, when I am writing those do I put a call to action in there like I don’t want to say sales pitch but sales pitch at the bottom of the blog post or the email. How do I handle the selling side of things? Is that something I would only come out and talk about when I have a new release coming up? Masquerade is one book in 12 parts, right? So they get part one when they sign up to the site, do I then put at the bottom of the mail out, you know, “Get part two. Click here to get part two,” or whatever?
[0:27:49.5] TG: Yeah I try to again, I always want people doing things. So I would always have something that people are supposed to do, whether it is buy something, whether it is share it, whether it’s email me. A lot of the times I will say, “Hey I am working on something new, could you give me your opinion on this? Just email me back and let me know.” But as far as the sales pitch, I think it is completely fine and natural to put one in every single email.
Even if it is like, “Hey, I wrote a new review of such and such book. I think you’ll love it. Click here to see it. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks Valerie. P.S. if you haven’t already, you should go here and buy a copy of book two of this series here. I think you’ll really love it.” You know, I think weaving that in because what I like, the other thing is I want again, I feel like I don’t want to create a world where I give, give, give, give for nine months or two years and then suddenly, I ask them to buy something.
It feels like that’s how it should work, of like, “I am going to give all of this stuff away for so long that when I finally ask people to buy stuff, they are going to be so thankful that they’ll buy whatever I say,” and unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way. People read one out of four of your emails because they are busy. They’re distracted and so I also want people to understand that on my email list, I am going to give you a lot of great free, helpful, useful, fun content. I am also going to regularly going to ask you to buy something for me and if you are uncomfortable with that, you should unsubscribe because I am not going to stop doing it because that is how I keep the lights on.
So I like to put stuff in just about every email promoting something whether it is my book. For me it might be a book, it might be a course, it might be “Hey check out this new thing I am working on,” but I am constantly want people to feel comfortable with the fact that this email list is not how I donate my time in the world. My email lists is there so that I can make money so that I can continue to do all the free shit that everybody likes.
So I like to do constant always promotion, especially paired with giving stuff away. Because it’s like, “I just spent a few hours of my life not even counting reading the book, writing this review, editing it, getting up, formatting it correctly, writing this email to you, all free and so I am also going to ask you to buy a copy of my book. One is I think you’ll love it and it is a great book but the other is, this is how I keep the lights on.”
Now I don’t like when people say that like when authors say stuff like, “Hey, if you want to support my blog, you should buy a copy of my book.” It’s like, “No, you should buy a copy of my book because my book is fucking awesome and you’re going to love it and you are going to be so glad that you bought a copy of the book.” That’s how I approach selling a book. Nobody is doing me a favor by buying a copy of my book. Like I am doing them a favor by charging so little for it.
So I think I try not to fall down that hole of when you buy something from me you are doing me a favor but I do constantly say, “Hey, you should check this out I think you’ll really like it. Hey, if you haven’t bought a copy of my book, you should go here and check it out. If you have bought a copy, you should click here and leave a review for me on Amazon.” Like constantly invite them and expect them to be a part of the community.
[0:31:47.5] VF: Okay, I could do that.
[0:31:50.3] TG: All right.
[0:31:50.9] VF: I can do that. All right, thank you Tim.
[0:31:53.7] TG: Yes.
[0:31:54.3] VF: I’ll see you next week?
[0:31:55.7] TG: See you next week.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:31:56.5] TG: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Book Launch Show. For all the past episodes, the show notes, or to connect with me, you can go to booklaunchshow.com. I have dozens of free book marketing resources and articles that you can access at my website booklaunch.com. Lastly, if you like to support the show, you can do that by telling another author about the show and by visiting us on Apple Podcasts and leaving a rating and review.
Thanks for subscribing and being a part of our work here at booklaunch.com. We will see you next week.
February 19, 2019