How to Sell Your Book or Service by Writing Great Blog PostsBy
Author and marketer Lynn Serafinn shares her 12-step template for turning your articles into great content for your readers and effective marketing tools for you.
I work as a marketing consultant for non-fiction authors. Most of my clients come to me with the same problem—they want to build their online marketing platform so they can ‘get the word out’ to the world about their book. For this to happen, it’s vital that we create, define or refine their brand.
Your brand is not just about your book; nor is defining your brand just about getting the right name, logo and colours. Your brand is a profile of who you are. It’s about your values and your mission. It answers questions like:
- What do you stand for?
- What is the change you want bring to the world?
- What value does your book or company bring to humanity and planet?
Armed with this level of self-awareness, an author can then begin the greater work of communicating their brand to the public. In a nutshell, that’s what marketing is.
One of the key methods I encourage my clients to use to communicate with their audience about their book is blogging. Blogging (especially for people who are naturally inclined to write) is one of the most expressive, creative and effective ways to reach your intended audience and allow them to get to know your brand intimately. But a surprising number of authors have no idea how to write an effective blog that a) reinforces their brand and b) ‘sells’ their book without turning into a schmoozy sales letter.
In this article, I’m gong to give you a 12-step template for writing an effective blog that can give genuine value to your readers, build greater connection between you and your audience, and serve as a marketing piece for your book without diminishing the integrity of your message.
STEP 1: Choose Your Topics Strategically
To make blogging work as a marketing strategy, you need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What are they looking for? What problems are they trying to solve? What do they love, hate, fear, desire? See the world through their eyes.
Then, ask yourself this: How does your book address their problems? What expertise do you have that can meet their needs? Make a list of topics and break them into sub-topics. Try to come up with at least 20 ideas. If you blog only once a week, that’s nearly 6 months’ worth of value-driven content ideas.
STEP 2: Put Your Message in the Title
I spoke about this in another article I wrote on my 7 Graces of Marketing blog called ‘Left-Brain Blogging for Right-Brain Marketers’. So many writers I meet do not understand the importance of landing the right title for your blog article (or book, for that matter). Being cute, colourful or poetic doesn’t necessarily work in blogging. If your title doesn’t say exactly what a reader will find in the article, they are unlikely to check it out. Remember, the viral nature of blogging is highly dependent upon people sharing your article on social media and bookmarking sites. Even if someone does share your post, if the title doesn’t speak to their followers and readers, they won’t be inclined to click their link to check it out.
For your blog post to be an effective marketing tool, make sure you SAY what the article is about in the title. Put keywords in the title that will show up in searches if people are trying to find specific information. Finally, try to make your title no longer than 60 characters long (including spaces). The reason for this is that many search engines will cut off after 60 characters. If you need to make the title longer than 60 characters, make sure the crux of the message and the most important keywords are before the 60 character point.
I give a lot of care and attention to creating titles for my blogs. Have a look at the title of this article as an example:
- TITLE: How to Sell Your Book or Service by Writing Great Blog Posts
- It is EXACTLY 60 characters
- The overall topic/message is contained in the title
- The title is keyword rich and the keywords are all relevant to the topic of the article
- The title reflects a topic that is relevant to the needs and interests of my reading audience (authors and business owners looking for creative and ethical ways to marketing themselves online)
STEP 3: Choose a Good, Royalty-Free Image
Always include an image in your blog post that reflects the subject and feel of your article. I encourage authors to put this image at the top of the article on the left-hand side. Make sure it is listed as the ‘featured image’ if your blog has that function.
Search engines love rich media like images and videos, but images also make your article more attractive when shared on social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and encourages people to ‘pin’ your post on Pinterest.
Make sure your image is ‘royalty free’. Do NOT pinch images by doing a Google image search. This means you might have to pay for your images, but if you blog once or twice a week, the investment is no more than the cost of a cappuccino at your favourite coffee shop. Here are some good royalty free sites (some of these are my affiliate links):
STEP 4: Start with a ‘Teaser’
I think it’s a good idea to start your article with a ‘teaser’ that summarises what you’re going to talk about in the article and WHY. This teaser should be only 1 or 2 sentences, preferably no longer than 160 characters in length (with spaces). Make sure the teaser is a complete, self-contained thought, and is not just the first line of your article.
The reason for the 160 character teaser again has to do with search engines and sharing. When an article is displayed on search engines like Google and on social media sites like Facebook, you will see the title of the article and a short description of it. Unless you have your SEO (search engine optimisation) defined in your blog post, that description will typically be the first 160 characters of your article. Rarely (if ever) will your first 160 characters say anything of meaning about the context of the rest of the article. Putting in a ‘teaser’ ensures that people will know precisely what your article is about.
Note how the 160 character ‘teaser’ in this article stands up on its own, enabling readers to know exactly what they will find if they click the link:
Author, marketer Lynn Serafinn shares her 12-step template for turning your articles into great content for your readers and effective marketing tools for you.
Put your teaser in bold italics at the beginning of your article. This will set it apart from the main body of your post, and allow your audience to get a quick idea of what the article is about before reading.
The teaser is also another chance for you to use relevant keywords, making your blog post more likely to be picked up in Google searches.
BONUS TIP: If you are a WordPress user, I recommend using a plug-in called ‘All in One SEO’. Then, in addition to entering your title and keywords, you can use this teaser for the meta ‘description’ of the post.
STEP 5: Present the PROBLEM
After your teaser, start your article by presenting the ‘problem’ you are going to address in the article. Say what the problem is and why people need a solution to it. This doesn’t have to be very long or complicated; a few sentences or a short paragraph is perfectly fine.
Then, after you’ve presented the problem, tell the audience how you intend to address this problem in the rest of the article. This is important because it helps ‘filter’ your audience: those who don’t care about the topic will click away and those who are really interested will keep reading. And here’s the secret: the more ‘filtered’ your audience becomes, the more defined they become. And the more defined your audience is, the more clearly defined your brand becomes in their eyes.
STEP 6: Present the SOLUTION or ANSWER to the Problem
This section is the main body of your article. It is the place where you demonstrate your wisdom or expertise by addressing the ‘problem’ you identified.
How long does this need to be? That really depends upon what you ‘promised’ in the previous step. For example, at the top of this article I said I would give you a 12-step template, so that automatically defined how long this article would be. But I tend to write long articles and certainly your blog posts don’t need to be as long as mine. For example, I asked one of my clients to write an article explaining the meaning of two symbols from her book. Notionally, she only had to write one paragraph for each of these symbols.
TIP: Don’t go off the topic in your blog post. If you presented a problem, stick to addressing it and don’t go off on a tangent. If you find yourself wanting to talk about things that aren’t really related to the problem you presented, save those ideas for a different article.
STEP 7: SUMMARISE the Importance of What You Discussed
After you’ve presented your ‘solution’ write a paragraph that summarises how you fulfilled the promise of the article, and highlights the importance or usefulness of the subject at a wider level. What can this bring us? How does it help us? How does it add to our lives? What’s the bigger vision?
For example, my summary at the end of this article will talk about how good blogging can bring authors and business owners to ‘sell without selling’.
STEP 8: SHORT Mention of Your Book
After all that is done, give a brief mention of your book, relating it to the topic you just discussed. This should NOT be a ‘sales pitch’ but an invitation to the reader to get to know more about you and what you offer by letting them know you have more to give. Try to keep this to a single sentence (two at most).
STEP 9: ‘Call to Action’ 1: SUBSCRIBE REQUEST
In a single sentence, tell your readers what they can expect from future articles, and invite them to subscribe to your blog.
TIP: Be SURE you have an email subscription box set up via Feedburner, JetPack or other subscription service).
STEP 10: ‘Call to Action’ 2: ENGAGEMENT
Always encourage your readers to leave comments on your site. This helps build stronger connection with them, and it also gives you feedback about how they feel about your content. Start your request by saying something like ‘I’d love to hear about your own experience’, or ‘I’d love to know what you think about this topic’, etc. Then, simply ask them to leave a comment in the comments box.
STEP 11: Make it Easy for Your Readers to Share and Follow
Be sure to have links to your social media profiles like Twitter or Facebook, and invite people to connect with you. Be sure you also have a good sharing plug-in installed so people can share your article. If you want, you can encourage them to share the article by saying something like, ‘If you liked this article, please share it with your friends.’
STEP 12: Bio and Headshot
This is a step too many bloggers overlook. It is HIGHLY important for people to know something about the author of the article they’ve just read. Without this, they cannot form an opinion about the value of your content, your book or brand. It’s wrong to assume that people know who you are just because they came to your website. It’s your responsibility to give them this information.
I recommend ending EVERY blog post with a short bio and headshot. This is because your reader will be busy asking many ‘why’ questions:
- ‘Why’ is this person talking about this particular subject?
- ‘Why’ should I believe in what this person has to say?
- ‘Why’ should I come back to this site in the future?
- ‘Why’ should I check out what else this author does (their book, their business)?
Short-term sales might come from sales pages, but long-term customers come through TRUST. Writing effective blog posts on a regular basis is one of the best (and easiest) ways I know to build that trust. The more your audience gets to know you, your ideas and what you stand for, the more they come to trust your advice and your integrity.
The beautiful thing about blogging is that it is a way to ‘sell without selling’. When you share your wisdom, insight, experience, information or expertise on your blog, you are not only giving value to your audience, but you are also building awareness about yourself as a non-fiction author, business owner or service provider. Thus sales become an organic—rather than an aggressive—by-product of this interaction between you and your readers.
In my book The 7 Graces of Marketing, I refer to ‘The Grace of Inspiration’ as being the antidote to the ‘Deadly Sin of Persuasion’. I believe content blogging is a prime example of ‘Inspiration’—where we share our wisdom, ideas and expertise freely. Inspiration breathes life into our readers and customers, rather than hitting them over the head, as so many ‘old school’ marketers do. This shift away from Persuasion to Inspiration is part of the new paradigm I explore in that book.
Of course, to get the word out about our blogs, we need a way of broadcasting them to the world. In my book Tweep-e-licious, I offer many practical strategies for how to use Twitter to promote your blog to your ideal audience.
AND…if you’re serious about building your business through blogging you might consider our Spirit Authors Platform Builder packages (Starter Package or Growth Package). That’s a 13-week programme where we work with you to create an effective blogging strategy for YOUR audience, and support you by doing a lot of the ‘legwork’ to get your articles edited, proofed, published and distributed to your network. To speak to us about our Platform Builder packages, drop us a line via the contact form on this site and we can set up a free 30-minute consultation.
The 12-step template I showed you today is exactly the same one I use and teach my clients. I hope you’ll give it a try and that it helps to strengthen your brand, and increase your following and your sales. Please share this information with your friends if you found it useful.
And as always, I welcome your comments, feedback and thoughts for future articles below.
22nd May 2013
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Through her company Spirit Authors, her marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling self-help and mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.