Successful Blogs: Content is the Key

Have you seen the movie “Field of Dreams”? I love that movie. The main character, played by Kevin Costner, is a farmer with a huge chunk of land in the middle of nowhere. A strange voice starts to speak to him, saying the famous words:

Build it and they will come.

So he does! Inexplicably to everyone around him, he mows down his crops and makes a baseball field. And, as the mysterious voice says, the masses FLOCK to the baseball field. Inexplicably and out of nowhere. Masses of people who don’t understand it themselves. A weird ass field in the middle of nowhere.

Hey, man! Check out my weird ass field! That'll be $50.

I bring this up because I’m getting a lot of positive feedback about my new “professional” website at JenKirchner.com. A few people have been asking me about my overnight success and my amazing ability to write. How did I do that?

Well, I’m a magical leprechaun from the Land of Awesomeness.

Seriously, though. I want to talk about this but I don’t want to turn into a social media person. There are lots of those people out there, and I can even recommend a few who enjoy the subject. I don’t. I’m not a mingler. Internet mingling with strangers for extended periods really wears me out. However, since the questions have been coming in, I want to briefly talk about a couple of things. I’ll probably have to do this in segments so my posts can stay short-ish.

But what about “build it and they will come”? You built it and droves came, right?

No. Here’s the First Truth: Everyone has a blog. Not everyone wants to read yours.

Screw you!

Sorry. I don’t mean to be all Debbie Downer. But the truth is, not everyone will like your blog. I don’t like every blog that’s out there, either. YOU don’t even like every blog out there.

For example, most writers I know love Jodi Hedlund’s blog. She’s a published author, she has an actual agent, and she blogs about smart writerly things. She’s pretty savvy, too. Half the people I interact with on Twitter are constantly forwarding her blog links. I’ve read her blog, so I can tell you the information is spot on.

Yet I don’t like her blog.

It’s nothing personal. Her style and her voice just aren’t for me. I’m a goofy kind of person, a bit of a nerd, and incredibly sarcastic. I want to read blogs that are like that. I prefer Alan Edwards’ blog over hers because he’s looking in my writerly soul and forcing me to laugh about it. I like Amber West’s blog because she talks about writing and pooping and she doesn’t apologize.

You have to be different and you have to be YOU.
Only not the real you. If you’re going to try and woo people through a blog, you must be as dynamic as the protagonists you write about. You have to take your personality and attach a set of jumper cables to its nipples and the other end of the cables to a car battery and then turn on the ignition.

Warning: You and your nipples may not be on good speaking terms later.

Voice is important.

When I first expressed an interest in blogging, my husband, who knows about these things, told me the golden rule:

Content is key.

When I knew I wanted to be a writer and be successful at it, I started investigating what I had to do. Literary agents everywhere were declaring the need for a “platform” and a “professional website” and an “online presence”. These days, agents expect you to already have a reader base. Without having a published novel.

Because we’re supposed to be magical leprechauns who divide by zero and manage not to blow up the world.

Anyway, I investigated what that meant and I checked out other author blogs. Everywhere I went, writers were blogging about adverbs and first person prose, yet were turning right around and saying they are blogging so they can reach out to readers and potential book buyers.

Listen. I have tried that with this very blog, and I’m telling you it doesn’t work for me. It just doesn’t. Maybe it works for you. Good for you. But I was talking about that crap and I wasn’t getting anyone to read it.

Well, I take that back. My mom loves it.

I thought long and hard about what to do with my professional blog. I researched. I went to websites of established authors. I went to the websites of my peers. I thought long and hard about what would get me to be someone’s fan. I asked myself, what would make ME buy a book?

And that’s how I came up with the Vote Your Adventure shorts. I’m trying to build my credibility with you, so when the time comes, you’ll know my books will deliver. No, I don’t believe I’ve delivered on the promise yet — if I can bring The Relic home with an exciting and satisfying finish, I will have earned a little credibility with you. For more about building credibility with your readers, see Andrew Mocete’s Building the Trust Cred. I want you to trust me because one day, when I publish a book, I want you to pick it up with excitement, knowing that you’re not going to be disappointed. I want you to be my fan. And that’s why I’m working as hard as I am.

That’s why my blog is trying so hard to be different. I’m trying to to break out from the crowd.

I will write more on this later. The topic of “how did you do it?” is just way too massive to tackle in one sitting. Until next time, here’s the following websites where you need to start.

Additional Reading by People Who Are Good at Social Media

Start with Kristen Lamb’s blog. I did. She’s written two books on social media and platform for writers of all kinds, and her blog is full of interesting information on how to work up some internet magic. She advocates Twitter and blogging. It’s a good place to start.

When you’re ready, Ali Luke can help you write and format posts in a way that grab reader attention. She blogs for a living and talks about those kinds of things. Recently she released a free ebook on 10 ways to write better blog posts. Get the book.

Lastly, definitely see Andrew Mocete’s post on Building the Trust Cred.

Be warned: they don’t tell you what to write about. You will have to do that yourself. Go to websites that are like yours. Read their content. Find out what’s different. Do something different.

And for crying out loud, write well.

New Website Coming: JenKirchner.com

This blog was created way back in 2006, before the idea of writing novels was a twinkle in my eye. In those days, I just knew I liked writing. I had been writing for two other blogs and wanted more. So Tom bought this domain name and I used this site, off and on, to write about personal things. Really personal. I mean, the topics were not interesting to anyone who didn’t know me. Hell, they were barely interesting to the people who did know me. Ten people knew it existed and only six read it. I liked the freedom of being able to blather about my life and this blog was perfect for it.

Fast forward to a year ago. I knew I wanted to become a published author and I knew that meant sharing my blog with others to some extent. Unfortunately, a lot of the things I had posted here just didn’t fit that. So I went through my blog, post by post. Half of it was either hidden or deleted entirely.

Please don’t be alarmed. That sound you hear is Tom beating his head repeatedly against the wall while screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” a la Anakin Skywalker.

I probably should have left those mundane posts. After all, who is going to go back through five years of a blog? Do you really care what my Christmas Cookie list was in 2007 or that I got an A in Ancient Art History? I didn’t think so.

Anyway, I knew at some point I would need to buy JenKirchner.com. Agents recommend a professional-looking blog and having my own name as a domain makes me feel swanky. Like I’ve upgraded from diapers to Huggies Pull-Ups. So we did. (I’m a big kid now!) And then we bought a terrific looking web theme for it. (Pretty slick for just $35.00 USD. We’re going with the dark blue color.)

Next Friday, unless Tom objects, the new site is going up. I’ll transfer most of my recent posts over and this blog will be “retired”. To kick off the swanky new JenKirchner.com, we’re going to do a riff on “Chose Your Own Adventure” books.

You narrowly escape death by cave-in, only to suffocate in your closet.

Every Friday, a short story blurb (around 500 words) will be posted. At the end of the short, I will provide three choices on what to do next. Everyone votes and, of course, the highest vote will be the next step in the story. We’ll continue each Friday until the story is completed. If we enjoyed it enough, I’ll do another. Or who knows, maybe a writer friend will want to try it out and I can direct everyone there for a few weeks. (I’m friendly and I like to share.) Anyway, I already have the first scene written, and I’m very excited for you to see it. The theme will be the MUD-world we’re working on, so it’s a military-themed, post-apocalyptic, demon-infested earth. Good luck.

Friday, May 6: JenKirchner.com! Mark your calendars! (Or I’ll just remind you.)