Aspiring Author to Blogger to Book Deal to Author
One of my favorite blogger/authors is Dr. Craig Malkin. When we first met at Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, Dr. Malkin had impressive credentials, yet quite a modest reach. Mostly through blogging, he grew his author platform to where a publisher approached him to publish his first book.
Here are Dr. Malkin’s story, advice and tips—for bloggers and those considering the idea.
How to Pitch Your Blog
Lisa: Were you blogging when we first met?
Craig: I wasn’t blogging we first met and I was terrified of it. The thought of sharing my ideas in writing publicly was overwhelming. But you suggested that I simply start and see how it feels. You were right.
Lisa: What was the best advice I gave you when you started blogging?
Craig: Always ask what’s in it for the reader. What can they take away from the article that will help them, but will stay with them as a voice that they can use in everyday life, or insights that can support them going forward.
Lisa: How did you approach Psychology Today and what are some tips for pitching your blog/column?
Craig: First impressions are everything, especially when it comes to pitching.
- Spend time on the blog that you submit to Psychology Today or another site as a sample.
- Make sure you craft your pitch as much as you can because you want them to read your writing in its very best form.
- Make sure it includes something surprising or new, such as a new research finding.
- Again, always keep in mind that articles that take off are easy to read, rarely over 800 words, and generally offer some bullet pointed tips or advice.
Blog Titles, Knowing Your Readers and Reaching Them
Lisa: These are excellent tips. One thing I always find challenging are titles. It’s not my forte, but it is a strength of yours. How do you come up with catchy titles?
Craig: I try to keep it short. I brainstorm until I can come up with a 5 to 7 word title the captures the essence of the piece. I also do my best to answer a question the reader has in the title, or ask a question on everyone’s mind. Example: Can a narcissist change? Whenever possible, I try to have numbers in the title. My most recent piece at Psychology Today that’s been trending for a week on the most popular list is called 4 Keys to Leaving a Bad Relationship.
Lisa: I like that idea of answering a question your readers have. What’s your sense of what makes a post go viral?
Craig: You never know what’s going to take off, but some things are more likely to make an article take off: numbers in the title; clear numbered advice; short and to the point.
Lisa: Who is the audience for your blog? What are some of your considerations in order for the blog to resonate for those particular readers?
Craig: My audience on Huffington Post and Psychology Today includes a wide range all the way from the average reader to mental health professionals. So I try to translate important research into clear down-to-earth language and advice.
Lisa: How many people read your blog or a typical post?
Craig: My average for reads is 190,000 per piece. But I have a couple that went viral and have been read by over a million people. I also have a a few that I wrote because I had the idea in me, even though I wasn’t sure it would do well in numbers. Those can be a low as 4,000. So my range is from 4,000 to 1.2 million.
Lisa: Wow, that’s pretty exciting to be reaching—and helping—so many people! Do you have any other measures of blog success you’d like to share?
Craig: Some of those low number pieces got me interviews and clients. They spoke to someone, even if they didn’t go viral. That’s a successful piece, too.
Lisa: Absolutely. How did you grow your blog readership?
Craig: I can’t blog very often. Just the reality of my life. So most of the following I’ve built through Twitter and Facebook shares helps my articles take off. I work hard with every piece to deliver something people enjoy. I make my writing breezy, and I think that brings people back.
Lisa: I absolutely agree. You also do a great job of sharing the writing and blog posts of your colleagues, which, in turn, invites more sharing of your posts. There’s often humor in your pieces, word play, a sense of playfulness, in general. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned about blogging?
Craig: Blogging brings other opportunities besides a following. It helps you connect with other communities—you become a part of something larger.
Lisa: What opportunities have come from blogging?
Craig: One piece I wrote went so big a publisher came to me to ask me to write a book about it—the one I just released in paperback, Rethinking Narcissism. I’ve also had many interviews in media outlets like Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, NPR, even Time Magazine, to name just a few—all from pieces I wrote.
Lisa: Any exciting stories you would like to share?
Craig: About that piece the publisher loved. It was called 5 Early Warning Signs You’re with a Narcissist, originally published on the Huffngton Post. It almost didn’t happen. I’d just been rejected by HarperCollins and a number of other publishers who’d expressed interest in the first book I was writing. A lot of excitement and meetings, but ultimately, we couldn’t sell it. I was devastated for a while. I thought, “Why write?”—I have no book. Maybe I’ll take a break.
I remember calling you, talking about how lost I felt, and you encouraged me to take the time I need, “The writing will come when you’re ready.” Then, a week later, my free day rolled around and I had a choice to just relax or write up remaining thoughts I had from an interview I’d done on narcissism. So I wrote the piece—which went massively viral, enough to attract the attention of HarperCollins again.
Dr. Craig Malkin, author of the internationally acclaimed book, Rethinking Narcissism, is a clinical psychologist and Lecturer for Harvard Medical School with two decades of experience helping individuals, couples, and families. His articles, advice, and insights on relationships have appeared in newspapers and magazines such as Time, The New York Times, The Sunday Times, Psychology Today, Women’s Health, Huffington Post and Happen Magazine, as well as countless other popular print and online media outlets. He’s also been a featured multiple times on NPR, CBS Radio, the Oprah Winfrey Network channel, appeared on various local morning shows, and been a guest on many radio stations here and abroad.