I don't mean to sound preachy this week, and I know I have a definite perspective on the whole blogging thing - one that not everyone has. That's cool. If you have enough patience and the love of writing drives you more than the love of increasing stats, considering who you're writing for can make a big impact on your following.
In the Beginning
Most of the time, at least when we start writing, we're doing it for ourselves. We have a story in our head that must get out. We've written since we first learned how to hold a crayon, and it's who we are. Whatever your reasons for writing or blogging, they're usually very personal.
Me? Well, the first real blog I ever started was to help me navigate all the things I was thinking and feeling when I went through my divorce. The first few posts left me with sweaty palms because I was taking my writing out of a private forum (like a journal) and making it public. Oh, I knew no one but my mother was going to read the thing, but the potential for an audience was there, and it was scary.
Over time, a small (very small) audience found me. They were other divorced moms. They were parents. They were curious passersby who stopped to chat for a while. They read things I didn't always write. What does that mean? I might have written about a particularly good day with my kids - one where the ex-husband didn't piss me off. They wondered if I was lonely. They asked how I was coping.
Once I realized I had a dedicated audience, I began to write to them and for them. Knowing they were reading colored my writing. Oh, it was authentic as ever, but now I felt a responsibility. I needed them to see not just my pain but my defiance and hope. My writing took on yet another purpose.
Writing for Yourself or Your Audience
Once you decide you want to actively pursue having more readers, you have to decide: who are you writing for?
Yourself? Your audience?
There is no wrong answer, as long as you're authentic in what you write, but when you begin to think of your audience when you write, things change - for better or worse.
Some bloggers will say they're writing only for themselves. And truly, when I began this blog, I was. Sure, I'd learned some lessons from my vanilla blog, and I knew that if I was true to myself, wrote what mattered to me, and just put it all out there, a few people would find me. And, within six months, not only did other people find me, I found me.
As a blogger, that was a turning point. I knew who I was, and I also knew the whole process of discovering my sexuality was a journey. The moment strangers began to ask my opinion on their own situation or tell me they were going to try something I'd done, I knew my writing wasn't about me anymore, it was about my readers. That's when the shift began.
But what about authors? Isn't it different if you're trying to sell a book?
The only difference may be in the types of stories you share on your blog. And even that isn't true for everyone. As an author, you (hopefully) know that once you publish a book and it goes out into the world, it's no longer yours. That story now belongs to your readers, and they will interpret it however they wish. It's a painful lesson if you aren't expecting it, but it's also freeing. You tell the story you can't not tell, and then let it go and become something new for a reader.
But on your blog? What you're doing should be completely and totally for your audience. Here's where you have it harder than a sex blogger:
You have to find your unique story to tell - and it can be about anything. At the same time you have to think like your reader.
What do I mean? Well...Do you ever read all the salesy stuff your favorite brands and stores send to your email if you're not actively shopping for something? Probably not. Neither do your readers.
Sure, they want to know about new releases and giveaways, sales and special offers. Of course they do, but they want and probably (should) expect more than that. Think about it. With so many authors out there, how are you going to earn their loyalty so they're even paying attention (let alone, care) when you have a new release? It's not going to be through a blog post each week talking about the same books they've already purchased.
You're going to have to write something that they want to read. And yes, I know it sounds too simple. It's not, and it's going to be unique to you as a person and a writer. You won't even know what people like most about your writing and your blog until you start putting something out there. It's a very public trial and error, but that's okay, too. It won't take long before you find what people respond to - whether it's your flash fiction, your inside-baseball about the writing world, inspirational quotes, or something else.
What Happens When You Write for Your Audience
Sex bloggers and erotic authors have different goals with their writing.
As a sex blogger, I'm desperately trying to write my own truth while simultaneously showing people that what they think they know about kink is either right on (yay for confirmation) or that they might have something to learn.
As an author, I want to reach new people, tell smutty stories, and, let's be honest here, sell some books.
I can't do it without the help of my audience, especially those loyal to the site and (maybe?) to me.
When you build a loyal audience, they can do some of the heavy lifting for you, without even trying and often without being asked.
They share your books on social media and tell their friends and family they loved it.
They share your giveaway.
They share your blog post.
They tag/mention you.
They talk to you. At least, they try.
They ask questions, giving you new things to think about - and write about.
Why do they do all of this? Because you've given them a reason to be loyal. You shared information they found valuable. You spoke your truth in an honest way. You've given them something to think about. And, sometimes, you've turned them on with your words.
So when you start to write your next blog post, the question you need to ask yourself is deceptively simple. Who are you writing for?