You’ve probably heard me tout the benefits of blogging for authors and authors-to-be. After offering advice to blogger Maria Palmer, I thought her story made both an interesting read and offered many ideas for how to blog effectively and get the most out of your blogging to develop your author platform. Here’s the scoop.
We’d love to hear your experience (and invite questions) as well.
Lisa: You’ve had lots of success with your blog. How has your blog helped you as a writer?
Maria: Professionally, it’s helped me showcase my writing and become a respected voice in my field. As a result, I’ve been quoted in books, newspapers and magazines regarding the topic of children with incarcerated parents. Through this exposure, I co-hosted a radio show on LA Talk Radio and Blog Talk Radio for about a year.
Lisa: Any other benefits to blogging?
Maria: The blog has helped me use my voice to help others—to highlight the stories of the people affected by familial incarceration. And because I write about running, the blog inspired several readers to take up running.
Lisa: And now it’s going to help you write and promote your book!
Maria: Yes, I know I need an “author platform.”
Lisa: You originally started blogging to help your nonprofit organization, Get On The Bus, right?
Lisa: How did you get the idea to start a blog about running for a nonprofit that didn’t necessarily have to do with running?
Maria: I got the idea while watching Biggest Loser during the infamous marathon episode. As a previous marathoner, I knew the struggles of training for a marathon and the satisfaction of crossing the finish line.
Earlier that day at work I was trying to brainstorm more fundraising ideas for Get On The Bus, a California state-wide nonprofit organization that takes children to visit their incarcerated parents for Mother’s/Father’s Day. At the time, I was the organization’s Director.
The light bulb went off for me. I could train and run the LA Marathon as a fundraiser for Get On The Bus–only I had no idea how to raise awareness. A friend recommended blogging.
Lisa: And what was the fundraising result?
Maria: My initial goal was to raise $4,000 for Get on the Bus, but I raised close to $10,000. And the blog has spread the work of Get on the Bus all over the world—from here to Russia, for instance.
Lisa: Were you nervous about blogging?
Maria: Yes, I’m not tech-savvy.
Lisa: So, how did you hop on the blogging bus?
Maria: The very next day, I was summoned to jury duty with nothing but my laptop and the courthouse’s Wi-Fi. Pretty soon, I was on the blogger website exploring templates and after about an hour, running to get on the bus was born.
Lisa: What did you post?
Maria: Initially, I cataloged my training, my personal story and the stories of the children we served at Get On The Bus—children whose parents are incarcerated. Get On The bus helps them visit those parents. The blog has evolved into inspirational stories about social justice, the human spirit and life’s lessons while pounding the pavement.
Lisa: After we spoke about using your blog to grow your author platform, you took my advice and relocated your blog from Blogspot to your own url. Can you share with readers why you did this?
Maria: One of the first things you asked me about is purpose and end goal for my blog. In my case, my blog is directly related to the topic of the book I want to write. I want to use this blog as part of my marketing plan. I am also hoping to create more interest and a larger audience for my work prior to getting published.
And as you mentioned, having my own URL’s and hosting gives the blog better SEO/optimization, which will help me draw more readers and attention to my blogs.
Lisa: Why did you choose WordPress?
Maria: You mentioned it’s good for search engines, but also WordPress has many more capabilities for tracking, reporting and design than Blogger, yet it isn’t as complicated as using HTML. I’m still a novice, but I have had some help from my friend who owns Pittsburgh Marketing , who builds WordPress sites as part of his business. One of the things I’ve been enjoying most is being able to automatically update Twitter and Facebook when I post. It is a big time saver.
Lisa: You changed the name of your blog and added a couple more new blogs. Why?
Maria: www.runningtogetonthebus.blogspot.com is a big mouthful. I’m also lucky enough to have many friends in marketing. I asked them about the name of my site and they said it was too hard to remember and also unless you knew me or Get On The Bus intimately, you would probably never stumble upon the site through a key word search. So, I launched the new website The Race That Found Me.
I also have always loved to cook so I had another blog on blogspot devoted to cooking easy soup recipes. Since this blog was only one week old, it was a perfect time to switch it over. Thus, Soup E. Doup was born.
You also stressed that it is never too early to start marketing and we discussed the importance of having a website just showcasing my writing work professionally. This is why I created MariaCPalmer.com.
Lisa: Yes, I wouldn’t normally suggest having so many separate sites, because you want to build content for your main website and not take people off the page, but this is a good example of very different audiences, where you really want to separate each audience and blog. Can you say more about how you looked at your different audiences and decided what to do about your different blogs?
Maria: With The Race That Found Me , one of the issues I struggled with was having two distinct audiences that don’t necessarily overlap. I have runners who follow the blog for training advice and I have people who follow the blog for the inspirational stories. To create a space for both audiences, I created two pages on the site: “The People I’ve Met Along the Way” and “Training Stories.” For “The People I’ve Met Along the Way,” I went through and tagged anyone and everyone I’ve mentioned in my blog, hyperlinking their names to the specific posts in which they are mentioned. For “Training Stories,” I’ve listed all the running stories so if people need to get some quick advice, they can hop on and find what they need without having to sift through the rest of the blog.
Lisa: You also created an editorial schedule. Can you say a bit about that?
Maria: Knowing that consistency supports building a following, I’ve created a detailed schedule for Soup E. Doup—blogging 1-2 recipes a week and posting shopping lists the day before I post a recipe. I’ve also catalogued all my recipes, relinking them back to their original posts.
Lisa: What do you plan to do with MariaCPalmer.com?
Maria: This blog is going to be my professional site. I will chronicle any good news throughout the book writing process in the “Latest News” section.
I’ve linked all three blogs to one another. However, I made sure to specify in WordPress that when people click on my other links, those links open in a new window. This is crucial because you don’t want people to be redirected off of your original site. Lastly, I posted an announcement on my two previous blogs about my new sites.
Lisa: Have you noticed any results?
Maria: It is a little premature to celebrate victory yet, but I have noticed a few things.
With The Race that Found Me, cataloging everyone’s names and tagging them in past posts was so much work, but it is the thing I have gotten the most positive feedback on. People love to find themselves and re-read all the posts they appear in. It has been a great way to make my blog very individualized.
With Soup E. Doup, people have given me some feedback that they appreciate getting the soup shopping lists the day before I post a new recipe. Most people have limited time and it has helped them prepare so that when I post my new recipe, they get home and are ready to cook.
MariaCPalmer.com is driving traffic to my other two sites, which was the biggest surprise for me, because this site is brand new and I really haven’t publicized this site as much as my others. All three sites have been steadily gaining more clicks each day.
Lisa: Why do you think that is?
Maria: I credit this to having a clearer picture and focus for each blog, an organized posting schedule, and using each of the blogs to promote one another.
Lisa: Why are you focusing so much on blogging to support your career as an author?
Maria: 1. Blogging is a vehicle to get your writing out there to people who may have never come across it otherwise. 2. It also gives you a space to write and is a way to be published before actually getting published. 3. Blogging helps you and your work gain momentum and positive attention. 4. It’s very cost effective. 5. It provides credibility in your area of interest.
Lisa: Looking to the future, how do you think your blogs will help with your book?
Maria: During the writing process, they will help me gain momentum. Once the book is released, it will be nice to have blog readers waiting for publication and ready to buy the book. And I know the blog will continue to support book sales as well.
Lisa: I think you’ll also find that the feedback you get from your audience will help you write a better book. Let us know when it’s out and we’ll post a link for the book, Maria.
Ask your blogging questions, book writing questions or share your blogging experiences below.