ROSEMARY MCCRACKEN: MOVING TARGET
The Mesdames of Mayhem: How long has your blog been running, and why did you start it?
Rosemary: I started Moving Target in 2011, after I signed my first publishing contract with Imajin Books for Safe Harbor. Imajin wanted its authors to have websites and blogs. So I proceeded to create a website and start a blog, knowing full well that both were essential tools for writers. A blog, especially, can help writers connect with readers and with other writers, and expand their target audiences. It can also help writers build authority on their specialties; for example, a writer of cozies set around a restaurant or a bakery might want to blog about food topics and recipes.
The Mesdames: What is the aim of your blog?
Rosemary: Its title, Moving Target, says it in a nutshell. A writer’s target is constantly changing. The first target is probably completing a novel or a short story; then the target moves to finding a publisher. And when it comes to marketing the work, the target really keeps moving. My blog shows the different stages I’ve gone through in my journey as a writer—my little triumphs and progressions—which can serve as signposts for what lies ahead for beginning writers.
Today, nine years after signing my first novel contract, my target is still moving. And I expect that it always will be.
The Mesdames: What topics do you blog about?
Rosemary: The tagline of my blog, on the top right-hand side of its home page, is Rosemary McCracken’s Book Adventure. This sums up the main content of my blog: my exciting (to me) adventures of writing, placing and promoting my fiction, as well as announcing important events that impact my writing and my writing community.
I also post interviews with authors I’ve met in person and online, usually when they’ve had a new book released, to help with their promotion. And I include photos from trips I take because I enjoy travelling, and some of my short stories are set in countries I’ve visited.
And, from time to time, I’ll blog about movies, generally older ones. Film structure is very similar to novel structure, and it’s a structure most of us intuitively know from our years of watching movies. I spend a lot of my leisure time watching movies and analysing their structure.
I rarely post “personal” blogs. I give followers glimpses of my life with my travel photos, maybe a short blog on St. Patrick’s Day because I have an Irish background. That sort of thing. But my day-to-day life isn’t terribly interesting, and I don’t want to bore blog followers with details about it.
The Mesdames: How often do you post?
Rosemary: Not as often as I should. The experts say you should blog at least once a week, preferably on the same day of the week. But I feel it’s more important to blog about events in my writing journey that resonate with me. And these don’t necessarily happen every week.
The Mesdames: What blog post over the nine years has had the most reads?
Rosemary: According to my WordPress stats, my most popular post was an obituary I wrote on Feb. 12, 2015, about the late Canadian crime fiction author Alison Gordon.
The Mesdames: What posts were the most satisfying to write?
Rosemary: In November 2011, four months before the release of Safe Harbor, I announced a contest on my blog for readers to vote on one of the two covers Imajin Books had come up with for the mystery novel. Have a look at the two covers and tell me which one you prefer. I used PollDaddy to keep track of the votes. Readers preferred Cover A (69.29% of the votes) over Cover B (30.71%), and that was the cover we went with. I announced the winning cover in a February 2012 blog.
A contest/poll such as this ramps up the excitement for an upcoming release. It also allows you to interact with readers, and helps them bond with your book. It’s also a fair amount of work.
The Mesdames: Who reads your blog?
Rosemary: According to my WordPress stats, the majority of my readers are in Canada, the United States and Britain, all countries where my novels have sold well on Amazon. But I’ve had readers from all around the world, notably in Ireland, India, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Germany, the Philippines, Brazil and Russia. It’s thrilling to know that I’m connecting with people so far away!
The Mesdames: Since Google prefers posts of at least 500 words or longer do you deliberately create lengthier posts or let the idea determine the length?
Rosemary: I let the content of a post determine its length. Some posts should be short, so I keep them short.
The Mesdames: Do you use keywords and other SEO techniques to attract readers?
Rosemary: I always add a few keywords to the box WordPress provides, even if they are generic terms such as “mystery novels.” I’d be foolish not to take advantage of everything available to promote my blogs. And I use images in the posts. As a former newspaper journalist, I well know how important photos are in attracting readers to a page. A picture tells 1,000 words!
The Mesdames: How long does it take to craft a blog post?
Rosemary: I can write a post fairly quickly because many of my posts are similar to news articles I wrote as a journalist—and these needed to be written pronto, before the news grew old. I find pounding them out quickly—depending on content, probably in about 20 minutes—gives energy to the writing.
The Mesdames: Is running a blog time well spent?
Rosemary: For the reasons I’ve mentioned above, a blog is an important tool for connecting with existing readers and building a wider readership. And writing a blog can also be cathartic. From time to time, bloggers can use a post to rant about a topic dear to their hearts—not too often, of course. That’s what I did on May 23, 2015 in “Etiquette on the book front.” https://rosemarymccracken.wordpress.com/2015/05/23/etiquette-on-the-book-front/
But be careful what you rant about. Something you write in the heat of the moment may come back to bite you. Remember that readers are entitled to spend their money in any way they choose. If they choose not to buy your books at a signing event or elsewhere, that is their prerogative. Move on. Write some more books.
The Mesdames: How do you promote your blog?
Rosemary: Including keywords about each blog, as I mentioned above. I also create a tweet for every blog I post, I link to LinkedIn, and I post about it on Facebook. And I encourage my Facebook friends to share my posts by sharing those that they post. When I interview an author, I remind that person to promote the interview through his/her social media contacts.
The Mesdames: Is writing a blog for everyone?
Rosemary: Blogging makes sense for me, but it may not for other authors. If it’s a real chore, and you’re only doing it because “everyone else is,” you might be better off channelling your energy into other activities.
The Mesdames: What advice would you give authors starting a blog for the first time?
Rosemary: Here are some tips that may help:
- Re-evalulate your blog topics every year.
- Build authority for your “specialty” in your blog by discussing some of the research you do for your novels.
- Draw up a calendar for your blog. And plan out as many of your posts in advance as you can.
- Put your blog readers first. Write posts that will be meaningful to them, not posts intended only to promote your books.
- Design readable posts. Use bullets for lists in order to break up text. Include at least one relevant image for each post.
- Develop a blog promotion plan.
- Invite other writers to contribute guest posts or interview them in Q&A format.
- Refer back to older posts when relevant, including links to these posts in your text.
- Encourage readers to comment by asking them to comment in your posts. By commenting, readers will develop stronger ties with you and your books. And reply to their comments, or thank them for commenting.