I was born and raised in New Zealand and I am the author of the novel ‘Blood Related.’ I operate a small freelance marketing and design business when I’m not writing my books. I mainly write horror and thriller fiction mostly, but I have also ventured into literary fiction, a bit of sci-fi, Young Adult and, more recently, kids stories.
Please tell us something about yourself. Is blogging your profession or just a hobby?
As a writer, Blogging is an integral part of my author platform. What started out as a hobby nearly ten years ago, has now grown into an essential part of my marketing strategy as my career as an author has progressed.
When did you get an idea to launch your own blog and how important is it for you be online?
With the release of my first novel, Blood Related, I began blogging seriously. It is critical for indie authors to market their own books as it is for mainstream authors also. Most publishers offer limited marketing, especially social-media advertising and promotion, so authors need to learn how to market their books online or they’ll have a limited chance of success with their book sales. A blog can be networked with social media platforms very easily with automated widgets and sharing options that are built into most of the blogging platforms. I use WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr for my blogs. All are networked with each other and all are linked to my various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc) so that every time I post a new article on my (main) blog/s an automated post is fired out to all my SM networks. It is very important for me, as a writer and publicist, to be online and to respond quickly to my readers comments and to market trends that may impact book sales and site visits. The more available I am, the more interaction I have with my readers and potential readers, and the more book sales I generate.
Did you have someone help you make the website or did you do it by yourself?
Nope. Taught myself to build my blogs and sites. It has taken over ten years of constant refinement, honing, and experimentation to get to where I am currently but it has been relatively straight-forward. Help is readily available through most of these platforms via their forums and YouTube channels which offer easy-to-follow tutorials and trouble-shooting guides. My various blogs have different features but essentially have a uniformity that extends my platform reach exponentially. I promote my websites and blogs with each other and have a couple of mirror-sites that replicate the content of particular blogs to effectively extend my reach and enhance SEO via search engines etc.
Not long. For an author it is a no-brainer really. The domain name should either direct traffic via your own name or the title of the book. My main website is http://williamcookwriter.com – fairly self-explanatory really. Another of my sites’ domain name is http://3cagency.co.nz and, you guessed it, reflects the name of my business.
What kind of Theme do you use on your blog and what are the “must have” plugins for a blog?
I prefer a simple, slightly minimalist theme, although my main site is quite busy and houses a vast amount of information, pages and posts. I prefer widgets to plug-ins as I have found that some plug-ins interfere with my readers experience if they don’t have the same plug-ins and some can also create a portal for malware etc. Some plugins have caused sites to crash and have created compatibility issues with browsers and anti-virus/adware software. I do have specific and essential ones for social-media sharing but I try to keep them to a minimum to maximize my sites’ compatibility with viewers browsers and online capabilities. The main ones to have for a blog would be social media plugins, SEO plugins, cache plugins, related posts plugins, and pinging plugins. If the right combination is used, your site visibility will be improved and also rankings via search engines. My rule of thumb is, if it’s not going to increase visitors to my site and maximize my site’s potential, don’t use it.
What CMS (Content Management System) do you use on your blog? How hard is it to navigate within your CMS (making a new post, inserting images, moderating comments, etc.)?
I use the CMSs that are supplied with the various blog/website platforms I use. Most of them are fairly simple and have easy-to-sue dashboards that make managing my site/blog content a breeze. I do most of the formatting for my posts/articles via Microsoft Office before uploading to the site. For downloads etc I use Dropbox which allows links etc. My email newsletter is supplied by Mailchimp which easily integrates with most of the blogging and website platforms. All In all, fairly easy to use with regular tweaks. Like everything, the more practice and usage, the more proficient one becomes at utilizing these tools.
How much time do you spend blogging?
I make an effort to blog at least one-two times per month on each blog I manage. Usually, I will try to promote others in my network as well as my own things. A small blog post followed by a larger more information-heavy post once a month seems to work well and gives each post time to be read by most of the blog followers etc before it becomes archived. I do updates, edits, and comment moderation etc most days however, and probably average between 5-10 hours a week on maintaining my blogs.
How do you promote your blog? Do you use social media channels to attract more visitors to your blog?
Yes. Linkedin is proving quite an effective way of promoting my blogs, as is Google+, Facebook (of course), Twitter and Pinterest. Quite often I’ll have a giveaway in the form of a free book that I will promote across all my social media newtworks which usually generates a lot of interest and site traffic. Recently, I have been doing a series of interviews called Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors which has proved incredibly popular and has resulted in a big surge of site visits. The content and the promotion all feed into one another, i.e. if you haven’t got good content, it doesn’t matter how much you promote the blog, you will not get the same amount of new subscribers and repeat visitors. Quality content = more subscribers/visitors. Make it fresh, stay on trend, and remember to write well and use quality visuals to compliment your posts.
Is there a way to monetize (make money) through a blog?
Sure, but it depends on what you’re selling (i.e. if you have a product) and/or if your content and site-visit numbers support offering advertising or affiliate sales. Because I have a number of books for sale at any given moment, I use the Amazon Associates affiliate program which basically earns me a small slice of revenue each time someone clicks through on the supplied link and buys a product from the Amazon website. I have turned down offers to advertise other people’s/company’s products on my sites for two reasons, one – their product/s did not compliment my own and, two – I don’t want the followers of my blog to have to put up with scrolling through advertisements. I think it makes a website look tacky, especially if all you see are automated ads for dating sites etc. Nothing worse than reading an article and having it interrupted with ads. But that’s just my opinion, I make money from my blog, but indirectly through the sale of the books that I promote within the various articles/posts and in static sidebar adverts that are clearly listed and don’t interfere with the reading of the articles/content. Many blogs I visit have advertising and it’s not long before it gets tiring and downright offensive if you have to navigate between posts with ads for dubious dating sites and ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ in-your-face pop-ups etc.
Of course. If you have something to say and good things to share, blogging is the perfect platform to make your online presence felt. As I suggested above: make it fresh, stay on trend, and remember to write well and use quality visuals to compliment your posts. Above all, have fun and interact with your blogging community/network as it grows. There are thousands of blogs and bloggers out there who love to connect with readers and other bloggers. Develop a network, interact, post quality content that other people will be interested in reading and before long you’ll have steady traffic if you make regular posts. The possibilities are endless.
Photos ©: William Cook