Don’t Let Readers Walk Off the Pier …

Lake Worth, Florida Pier © 2012 R.L. Herron

I’m sitting in Lake Worth, Florida tonight, getting ready to attend the Readers Favorite Awards in Miami this weekend. At the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn (I am), I’m here because I won a Gold Medal for my novel Reichold Street.

I’m a little nervous, so I thought I’d try to calm my nerves by updating my blog … but I wasn’t sure what to write about. I was thinking about it late this afternoon when I took the picture above. Then it hit me.

I’ll blog about blogging.

Every writer seems to be blogging these days, from unknown authors to literary legends. If you’re a writer or want to be, you should be, too. But since blogging has become ubiquitous as a book-promotion tool, it’s important to do things right.

Here are ways to make sure your blog has a positive impact on your writing career.

1. Look Professional
The design of your blog is really important. It’s how you lure visitors and direct them to the places you’d like them to go, no matter how good your content. Remember business-speak about an elevator pitch? Consider your blog the same way.

If you’re not certain about that term, think of it this way: Does your site pass the “Three-Second Test”? We constantly pass judgment on people and things; often, in less time than it takes to take a deep breath. It’s how most human beings are wired.

The elevator door opens, a stranger enters and your brain instantly starts gathering data: Age: 50-ish. Build: Athletic. Tan: Real. Clothes: Expensive. Demeanor: Confident. Briefcase: Leather. Occupation: Trial Lawyer?

Of course, first impressions are sometimes wrong. Perhaps this fellow isn’t a lawyer at all, but a rich tennis player who also sits on the Board of a large sports equipment conglomerate. Regardless, your first impression of him was formed in those first seconds.

The same is true for websites and blogs. It’s important your site makes the right impression, because within those crucial seconds your visitors will know whether they’re going to dive deeper into your content, or hit the back button and forget about you.

Don’t let readers fall off the pier. At a glance, your website should instill confidence.

How many followers do you already have? What are your credentials? If you’re blogging about writing, why should the visitor trust you? Is your content well written, believable and relevant?

Visitors will often judge your quality and trustworthiness based on that first brief visual impression, so make sure your site sings in perfect pitch right from the start.

2. Convey an Emotion
Beyond simple quality and trust, visitors are looking for something more … something they might not even be able to put their fingers on, but will know immediately when it’s there. It’s an emotion; a feeling; an intangible resonance that gives them faith in their connection with you. Make sure your website conveys your personality, your aesthetic and your reason for writing.

3. Imagine the Whole World is Reading
Before you post anything on your blog, ask yourself two questions: (1) would I be embarrassed if anyone I know reads this, and (2) is this content WORTH sharing? In other words, you should be sure that your blog posts will interest your readers, that they’re share-worthy and, most importantly, that you won’t regret them later.

4. Keep It Simple, Stupid
There’s a lot out there in the blogosphere competing for those few moments of your readers’ time. People have short attention spans. Feed them tiny meals. The shorter and punchier your posts, the better they’ll perform in terms of engagement and sharing. Plus, shorter posts are easier to create.

5. Let Your Personality Shine
If someone is visiting your site, they’re there for YOU – so give them what they want. Make sure your personality is on display. You don’t have to be an authority all the time, and you certainly don’t want to come across as pompous or arrogant, but be sure readers can tell from the content you post why you’re unique, or at least worth listening to.

6. Post Photos and Videos
Social media thrives on the sharing of photos and videos. So post your own. Post others, if you need to. Create a book trailer for your books, or link to one for a book you like. The three most important rules are: Post, post and post. You can even try an on-camera interview.

When Stephen King released Full Dark, No Stars he also did a live UStream video interview. King sat in front of the camera for 25 minutes and answered questions as they popped up in real-time. If you’re so inclined you can watch it here.

But you don’t have to do it live. Put it on Facebook and Twitter you’re going to be recording a video interview and you’re soliciting questions. Then, when people have responded to you in those places, compile your favorites and tape yourself responding. Record your answers off-the-cuff so they don’t sound stiff and contrived.

Once you like what you see and what you hear, upload the video to YouTube, embed it on your blog and link to your blog from Twitter and Facebook. Your readers will be excited to get a glimpse into your creative mind. The good thing about this kind of interview is you can always do it over, if it doesn’t come out great the first time.

7. Be Part of a Blogging Community
Be sure to network with other authors through their blogs and social media profiles. Share content and introduce your readers to other peoples’ works that you admire. Let other writers introduce your work to their fans. Remember, there is strength in numbers.

8. Tag, Tag, Tag
Finally, tag every post with relevant names and keywords that people might use in a search engine (think Google) to find your post. Tagging posts is one way to ensure that search engines (and more importantly, readers) find the content they’re looking for.

If you have a moment to spare, please check out the book trailer below for my novel, “Reichold Street.” It’s the book for which I’ll be accepting the award on Saturday.


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5 Responses to “Don’t Let Readers Walk Off the Pier …”

  1. Ron Herron Says:

    Thanks for the comments. Do I pass my own “Three-Second Test”?


  2. A.K.Andrew (@artyyah) Says:

    Lots of great points here Ron. I think first impressions are crucial, so the aesthetic of your blog must be both pleasing and a reflection of who you are. I also think that connecting with the blogging community is invaluable. I am in Bloggers Helping Bloggers in LinkedIn and it’s SO supportive. I’d def. recommend it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. T. W. Dittmer Says:

    Congrats again, Ron. Relax and have fun. 🙂


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