If you have a well written blog that you work hard at, and are proud of, but the number of official “followers” is low, should you mention the blog in your bio or list it on your query? [I think mine is] funny and engaging. People who do read it seem to really enjoy it. But, I don’t have a high number of followers (at least that I know of). Or, should I mention it, but take out the follower’s box, so [an agent] can’t see how many I have? I notice some blogs don’t even list how many followers they have. I am on [Blogger.com].
Tracking Followers and Subscribers: Feedburner
Let’s start with finding out how many followers you actually have. The “Followers” widget in Blogger only shows people who have clicked “Follow” within the widget. It does not count people who have subscribed in other ways, e.g. by putting your RSS feed address directly into their preferred feedreader.
What you need to do is “burn” your feed using Feedburner, which is a free service (now owned by Google) that lets you track subscribers and post views. You can use it with Blogger, Wordpress, TypePad, and other blogging platforms. The instructions on the Feedburner site are pretty clear (just start where it says Burn a Feed Right Now!), so I won’t repost them here, though you are welcome to ask questions in the Comments if you have any trouble.
Once you’ve burned your feed and are getting subscriber results, you will need to add the number of subscribers you see in Feedburner to the number of Followers you see on your page. (You may find it reassuring that it seems to be pretty common to have, say, 3 times more subscribers through Feedburner than through the Followers widget)
Is Your Blog Related to Your Product?
Agents and editors may be interested in learning about your blog, but only if it relates to your story or book. What publishing professionals are looking for is a built-in audience that will (they hope) purchase your product (ie your book). In other words, if your blog is primarily about your life – family, friends, day-to-day activities and events – and you’re not writing a memoir or narrative nonfiction, you should leave your blog out of your query, regardless of how well it’s written. Likewise, if you have a huge blog on, say, mountain climbing, but your book has nothing to do with mountain climbing, you don’t have the built-in audience an agent or editor is looking for, and mentioning your blog will look like a non sequitur.
Many authors, however, have a blog related to their book’s topic. Granted, it’s easier to do this if your book topic is nonfiction, but expertise and a following in an area related to your novel can be useful. If you’re writing historical novels set during the Civil War and you have a strong history blog in which you regularly talk about the Civil War, that’s worth mentioning. Especially if your work on the blog gives you access to Civil War buffs who might be interested in buying your book – for example, by helping you find speaking engagements, or giving you the credentials you need to publish articles in Civil War magazines.
The whole purpose of mentioning your blog, then, is to prove what a nice big audience you bring to the table. For that reason, there’s no point to mentioning the blog unless you can also offer numbers, the higher the better. The minimum number of subscribers I’d mention is 1000, though I have seen books on platform use 10,000 as an example of a really strong number. “Strong” does depend a bit on your topic. If you have a niche market, a few thousand subscribers is good; if, however, you’re targeting a saturated market with a topic that has widespread appeal (a fantastic new diet or exercise program, for example), you’ll need significantly higher numbers (and probably some kind of professional certification or degree).
Increasing Your Followers and Subscribers
So what if you have a blog that relates to your book’s topic, but you still don’t have a lot of followers and subscribers?
I’m going to give you several tips, but I want to emphasize that this first one is the most important: You need to give the audience something they want or need with each post. If you’re a big celebrity, people won’t care what you post – Angelina Jolie could post what kind of toothpaste she uses and some people would be riveted – but the rest of us have to provide something valuable to readers.
What Would You Enjoy Reading?
Think about what kind of information you’d like to see in your feedreader. What would you find riveting? That’s the kind of material you need to produce, because even if you only post once or twice a week (with a couple days off for major holidays), you're looking at 50 to 100 posts in a year. You need a topic that you’re going to continue to be enthusiastic about for years to come if you're going to generate that many posts.
Finding (Valuable) Post Topics
If you don’t have extensive knowledge on your chosen topic, let the experts guide you. Take the time to research your posts – read books, magazines, and scholarly journals (if there are any) and newsfeeds on your topic, and then explain what you’ve learned to your readers. (Remember, emphasize how they can use that information rather than that you learned it. It’s all about your readers and what they’re getting from your blog!) Interview experts, other authors...people who can provide your readers with something they find valuable.
Impression Management: A Great-Looking Blog is Appealing
Once you’ve developed a plan for strong content, double-check that your blog looks professional – not too fussy or busy, not cluttered with things that will distract from your message (e.g. unnecessary widgets, unrelated things you like). This may seem like a small thing, but just as you make a particular impression with your physical appearance, so your blog’s appearance makes an impression. Make sure it’s a good one!
Now that you have 1) solid blog content that 2) intrigues you and offers you plenty of blogging possibilities and 3) a great look, it’s time to get the word out! You will want to include your blog address, along with your blog’s name and a short descriptive tagline (e.g. ours is The QueryTracker Blog: Helping Writers Become Authors) every place you can think of, including
- Your email signature/s
- Forum post signatures
- Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
- Business cards (Yes, you should have some. I’ll explain how to make some – or have some made – inexpensively in an upcoming post.)
If you have additional tips or places people should share their blog address, please share in the Comments section!
Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook!