What Self-Publishers Need to Know
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

What Self-Publishers Need to Know

Here are tips #2 through #6 on What Self-Publishers Need to Know."

About the Author: James Altucher can be found at jamesaltucher.com and @jaltucher, where he spills his guts and talks about failure, success, more failure, a little bit of death, and hopefully some life. And his latest book, "Choose Yourself!" (foreword by Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter) comes out this week..

2. Audience first

If you have no readers, nobody will buy your book. Fortunately, that’s not a Catch-22. You build your audience by giving, giving, giving, giving, before you finally ask them to pay $4.99 for your book.
You write blog posts. You write tweets. You build a Facebook fan page. And on and on. The next several points are about building your platform. If you are not willing to do this, then your spouse will read your book and maybe your parents. Maybe. Your kids will not read your book.
First, two points about writing. This is not a writing guide. Copyblogger has many great posts about how to effectively write something people will want to read.
Read Austin Kleon’s interview here a few days back. I highly recommend it. Then go buy his book.
I will just give two suggestions that I know helped my blog build to 10 million visitors since I started it in late 2010.

3. If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead

Most people are bad writers. If a bookstore has 10,000 books in it, probably 9,990 are poorly written and boring. How can you stand out?
Bleed.
What does that mean? I have no idea what it means for you. Your blood has different diseases in it than mine. But infect your readers with whatever disease you have. If it doesn’t give you pain to hit Publish, don’t write it.
It used to be writers would leave books with cliffhangers. Then they would put cliffhangers into chapters. Now every paragraph should be a cliffhanger. This doesn’t apply just to books but blog posts or even tweets (don’t forget Twitter used to be called a “microblogging service”).
A friend of mine once told me he was afraid to put out his book because of what his colleagues would think. That is exactly the book or post you have to publish. He ended up publishing it and it was a bestseller.

4. Educate

Never write something if it doesn’t add value to another person’s life.
But you have to do it through story as described above (“Bleed”). Bleed and educate in every post. Else, why are you doing this?

5. Make it evergreen

Don’t write “10 things that happened to me on June 3, 2013″.
Write posts that will be read one, two, five years from now. The grass is always green. People can’t tell what date you wrote it. This is the key to having high-quality traffic driven by search engines for years even after you stop writing your blog.
One of the most popular writers out there told me that 99% of his blog traffic is going to posts he wrote over two years ago. He only posts if the posts are evergreen and deliver high value.

6. How to build your blog audience, part I

Assuming you are writing gut-wrenching, painfully honest, self-deprecating, but educational posts that add a lot of value to people, then there’s only one way to drive traffic to your blog:
Write everywhere but your blog.
If you write about cars, write for the top-trafficked car sites. if you write about finance, there are plenty of high-traffic finance sites that would love to have you. If you write about all the ways you’ve caught your boyfriend cheating on you, write for a high-traffic site like Thought Catalog. If you write about steampunk and science fiction, try to write for Boing Boing. If you’re funny, write for Cracked.
Finally, guest post on every blog you can. By doing this — even more valuable than the reciprocal traffic I’ve gotten — I’ve also met many good friends. I love blogging and writing and it’s fun to meet other people with the same interests.
Two reasons:


  1. You get your name out there. Before I started my blog I built up an audience writing for thestreet.com, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and others in the finance space. Then, I branched out into the tech world with TechCrunch, the yoga world with Elephant Journal, and other sites like Thought Catalog, Medium, and others.
  2. Link back to your blog on your posts to other sites. Your blog is going to slowly but surely have a mountain of evergreen content (see point 5). You will have tons of valuable posts that you will be able to link to to add value to the posts you are writing on other sites.


The other sites won’t mind because you are also adding value to their site (because of course, you’ll never link to anything other than your best work). This is the give, give, give strategy in action.
Always be giving. Make your blog a three dimensional art piece. Every post can link forward and backwards in time to other posts. Always go back and add more value to posts from the past. This creates the 3D effect.
People will love the maze you create for them.
The maze is the inside of your brain. Make it as interesting and fun as possible.