Building an audience requires patience and foresight.
Presently I’m working on my tenth novel and at the same time I commit myself to two major blog posts a week. One of them is always speculative non-fiction that I write that week. I also post short fiction, some kind of crazy story, or a book excerpt on the weekend, usually.
Because there are links to my products on the blog, I work to build up the audience for the blog with the presumption that it will help to sell books.
Sounds simple enough. After getting about 5,900 hits in the first four years of blogging, in the early part of this year I started using the methods of ‘active blogging,’ which can be found here.
At this point in time I’m getting just under 5,000 hits per month, which shows some success with these methods. With a little applied effort toward a specific goal, I might crack 5,000 hits this month.
While there are a million factors that affect the sale of one book to one reader, everything from the blurb, the cover, name recognition, genre and price, number of sales channels, et cetera, at some theoretical level, the more people who simply see your book, the more likely you are to make a sale.
But, there are challenges. If a million people see your book, by reading your blog, and absolutely every one of them says, “Man, this is the worst blog I ever read, Buddy, I ain’t ever going to buy one of your books,” then clearly the blog is a failure. Even though you have somehow developed an audience of a million people for your blog.
The blog’s effectiveness is exactly zero if the sole purpose is to sell a book. There are any number of purposes for a blog, including politics, news, commenting on popular culture, simple information, recipe-sharing, whatever. You don’t necessarily have to be selling anything, but you want to be read, and the same principles apply.
Now, if a million people see your products on your blog and a thousand of them actually go and buy a book, then you have converted that audience into a readership, and the effectiveness of the blog would have a zero, and then a period, and then two or three more zeros—(Whatever. My math never was too good, and then you have the numeral ‘1.’) It’s probably eight or nine or ten zeros.
This looks like this in real math: 0.000(whatever)1
Then the goal or challenge becomes to improve the ratio. You want to take a few zeros out of that result, right? Maybe even move it up into the realm of whole numbers.
There are ways to test results. If you post something on atheism, and get thirty hits off Twitter in the first hour, that tells you that thirty of your available followers are interested in that subject matter, although the quality of their experience is still guesswork. That’s why comments are so important. Someone liked it enough to care about it and comment on it. (Not all of your followers are on at any given moment.) Assuming that people are buying the books, if a post on fuzzy bunny rabbits brings in a hundred and eighty page hits in an hour and you sell six times more books, then the measure of effectiveness remains the same, but the subject matter has six times the audience-interest, and perhaps you should post more of that type of material. Obviously I’m over-simplifying. It’s best to remain true to your basic message, which in my case is that I’m a hell of a good writer and people really ought to consider reading one of my books…
Also, if you post something and get 100 hits in a day, repost it on the weekend and get fifty hits, repost it Monday morning and get three hits, then obviously prime-time versus off-time factors come into play, but also your available followers have become saturated. Those who saw the link the second and third time around might have already read the story. Or, they're just not interested.
The best thing is to post it all over your available platforms, maybe repost it on Twitter once or twice, and then drop the story for weeks or even months. Trust me, I do recycle stories. Stories that started off with fifty hits will eventually have several hundred, or more as time goes on. That involves a certain amount of SEO, (search engine optimization,) which I'll talk about some other time. This is one reason we try to build up the number of Twitter followers, as well as friends and followers on other platforms. This does not exactly equate with ‘fans.’ A fan is someone who likes you or your material for any reason and may occasionally purchase it, download it for free, collect them or swap with friends, etc. (That’s a whole different blog post, in my humble opinion.)
At a very simple level, the interactions, which are all human, can still be rendered in terms of mathematical formulae. Hari Seldon was right, ladies and gentlemen. It’s psychohistory in the making.
The trick has always been to figure out what people want to read and then provide it for them. It's an attempt not so much to predict the future in probabilistic terms, but to somehow affect its outcome, also using probabilistic methods.
I guess that’s all I was really trying to say.