A member of my writing critique group asked recently whether it was useful for an aspirational novelist to have a blog. Having been blogging for about seven years, I think I’m qualified to say something about this.
Now, I could give you a tutorial on how to be a great blogger, but I won’t because
(a) I haven’t been very successful, and
(b) there are hundreds of ‘experts’ out there who will give (or sell) you wonderful advice.
So let me tell you what I’ve been writing, and what people liked. I’ll finish with my tips for being a rubbish blogger.
What did I write, and what did people like?
These are my top posts between 2014 and 2019:
Shoes under a bridge Kreuzburg: This was a little travel piece about an art installation in Berlin. Most of the hits were from Europe, and it was obvious that tourists had walked under the bridge, wondered about the coloured shoes, and hit their phones to find out what was going on. They got me! Did it sell any novels? No! You can tell this from what the visitors clicked on. It wasn’t the links to my novels.
Being British in Australia: No laughing matter: I wrote this satirical piece as a comment on my biculturalism, and for the chance to repeat my favourite joke about Poms in Australia. Most hits were from the UK, and they didn’t buy my books.
A boyhood memory shattered at Navarone Bay: When I visited my mate Paul at his house in Navarone Bay in Rhodes, I was shattered to learn that the movie The Guns of Navarone was fictional. I saw it when I was about fourteen and I have always believed it was true. My visitors were mainly from the UK and Greece. Do I have to repeat that they didn’t buy my books?
Andalus Arabic Choir – Sydney’s best-kept music secret?: I was bowled over by this performance at the Sydney Opera House, and I wrote a review that was picked up by visitors from Australia and Lebanon. No book sales.
Australia and the plight of the Armenians: This was my review of Viveck Babkenian’s fascinating book. Being married into an Armenian family, I had a personal stake in this. A lot of Australian visitors (who I suspect were of Armenian heritage) shared my fascination. Don’t ask about book sales!
How about the numbers?
- My big years were 2016-2017 when I was posting almost weekly.
- The more I posted, the more visitors and views I got.
- In my peak year I had 2500 visitors.
- Once I had a head of steam, visitors keep coming to read my old stuff.
Top tip #1 – Be realistic about selling books via a blog
In 2016 I posted weekly promotional articles in the three months before the publication of Cairo Mon Amour, my first Pierre Farag novel. It didn’t sell books. My guess is that it takes 1000 clicks to sell an e-book, which means that my entire blogging effort might have sold five books! In fact, I only sell books when I pay for advertising – just like selling bananas, cars, or any other commodity.
Top tip #2 Use your blog to improve your writing
Use your blog to improve your writing skills. A year before I started writing Cairo Mon Amour, I wrote twelve posts about my time in Cairo during the 1973 war. It revived a lot of memories and helped shape the book. As a bonus, I bundled up the essays into a free e-book called Cairo Rations! (which turned out to be a completely hopeless promotional tool).
Top tip #3 Write weird stuff and have fun!
Write about whatever takes your fancy. You’ll be amazed at what weird stuff people like!