Anyone can start a blog, especially in this age of easily accessible technology and do-it-yourself websites. However, developing a marketable book idea that meets the needs of a specific target audience, crafting a publishable manuscript, and establishing a platform through blogging are much more complex and challenging processes.
Allison K. Flexer is an author, speaker, and blogger who is passionate about communicating the love of God to others.
She started blogging in 2008. In her debut book, Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman (Beacon Hill Press), Allison tells the story of her single journey and gives practical steps for letting go of the lies that destroy the joy and confidence of unmarried women.
A contributing writer for Devotional Ventures (Regal Books, 2006) and Fulfilled: The NIV Devotional Bible for the Single Woman (Zondervan, 2014), Allison joins Inspire Christian Writers to share how blogging led to her first book deal.
Allison, how did the blogging process prepare you for publication in online magazines, periodicals, and other book projects?
My writing skills improved as I blogged regularly. I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but the discipline of blogging taught me so much about the craft of writing.
Blogging opened a lot of doors for me. I met other writers/bloggers online who encouraged me to attend writers’ conferences. At those conferences, I met editors looking for submissions for smaller projects (devotions, take home papers, online articles, etc.) Anytime you can make a connection with an editor, submit according to guidelines, and receive an acceptance and publication of something you’ve written, it’s a huge confidence builder.
How did blogging contribute to the completion of your debut book?
Blogging taught me to organize my thoughts and follow through on ideas that came to mind. A blog is a great repository and online journal. Many times, while working on my book manuscript or writing for a compilation, I would go back to previous blog posts and use them as a launching pad for writing a devotional piece or chapter. All of my work was there for me to easily access (versus combing through written journals). I would have forgotten many of those stories, but blogging preserved them. It was amazing how many of the topics fit seamlessly into my manuscript.
How has blogging helped you interact with readers and grow your audience?
By looking at the popularity of posts, you learn what works for your readers and what doesn’t. My most popular blog post was a letter I wrote to my newborn niece the week she was born. You wouldn’t believe how many people Google “Letter to my Niece.” For a long time, my post was in the top three results on Google for that search term. Although that topic didn’t fit with my book project, thousands of people ended up reading a letter that contained Scripture and Truth from God’s word. We never know the reach our words may have.
As writers with a Christian worldview, we don’t ultimately do this for the money or the publishing credits. When we hear from a reader who was touched by our words, we know we’re on the right path.
Please share your top tips for successful blogging.
Pick a general theme for your blog and establish your brand. Decide who you want your audience to be. For example, I started my blog with a general theme of seeking God’s grace in everyday moments. My goal was to write inspirational or devotional material to help people see God in their daily lives. That doesn’t mean I can’t post a recipe or a book review occasionally, but it’s important to stick to a main theme and brand. Also, I recommend always including an image with every post (and ensuring you have the rights to that image). I use the website PicMonkey.com to edit my own photos and add text.
How have you increased traffic to your blog and nurtured interaction with your readers?
I regularly visit other blogs and comment on them. I ensure my blog’s web address is linked with my comment. I see a lot of visitors to my blog that originate from those comments I left on other blogs. Giveaways are another great way to increase traffic and get your readers to leave comments. If you read a great book that your blog readers would enjoy, consider reviewing the book and giving away your copy. Finally, Twitter has been instrumental in growing my audience. I find other ministries similar to mine and engage with their followers. Often, they will follow back and check out my blog, which is linked to my Twitter account. I find Twitter to be much more effective than Facebook for growing blog readership these days.
What final word of encouragement do you have for writers who are struggling with creating and maintaining a successful blog?
Look for inspiration in your daily life. Blog about something you’re currently struggling with. Readers aren’t necessarily looking for someone who has all the answers. They are looking for someone relatable. Be genuine and readers will be drawn to you.