If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

You can have the best-produced book, the coolest blog, the slickest video or podcast, however if nobody knows about it, who will read, watch or listen to it? You need to inform people so that they can find it. I cannot count the number of times I hear from people who have written a book and complain about it not selling, or of having a blog with no comments or followers signed up for it.

Even with a good publisher who actively helps to promote your work, ultimately you or someone on your behalf will have to generate interest for it. The number one cause I have seen as to why a book does not sell is tied to lack of effective promotion to the target audience by the author. Of course having something that people want to see or hear about for free, or for a reasonable fee is also important. This ties back to the question of identifying your target audience and your motivation for writing that book, blog, etc.

Know your audience and competition:

Knowing who your audience is also helps to understand and research what other works are out there, so that you can articulate how your creation complements or competes with the existing work, as well as how it differentiates itself.

Do not be discouraged if there are similar works, because this can mean that there is a market for this content, and your opportunity is to convey information or a story in a different way. For example with my newest book Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011) not being the first book out on any of the topics covered in the book per se, I took a different approach of addressing how they interact and converge, as well as management issues and opportunities along with related interdependent themes.

In the blog scenario I ask people if they have statistics enabled such as WordPress or Jetpack stats or awstats or Quantcast among others and if so, what activity do they see. Stats can help to determine what people are reading or looking for, which can help with ideas for future posts.

Part of finding your voice and style is practice and also observing what others are doing, what works and what does not. Keep in mind that what works for some may not work for you, and vice versa. Be yourself, practice, do some posts to try different things out. For example when I started blogging several years ago, I got in the habit of trying to do a post about something at least once every week or two regardless of anybody reading them.

Help others help you

Look for opportunities to do guest blog posts (like this one), interviews or question-and-answer sessions for different outlets. There are many venues that are looking for people to write articles, which will provide exposure for your blog and any other projects. Now of course if your objective is to make as much money as possible, your options may be limited as many publications and venues have cut back on what they pay (assuming they pay), however it never hurts to get some practice and publicity when and where you can.

Here’s a tip for getting traffic for your blog or other project: Ask someone if you can interview them, and publish the interview on your blog. You will be surprised how many people will respond positively to requests, as long as you are mindful of their time. While there are some that charge a fee for spending time talking with you, there are others that do not charge, including me. Time permitting, I’m happy to have a quick conversation with bloggers or future authors.

Usually whenever I am interviewed by a traditional journalist or by a fellow blogger, once their piece appears, I will mention it. In other words, what goes around, comes around. Help others help you. Oh, and if you are going to use or reference to others’ material, make sure you attribute and preserve any applicable copyrights.

[To be continued.]

[How to write a book or blog, Part 1]

About the author

Greg Schulz is founder of Server and StorageIO, an IT industry advisory consultancy firm, and author of the books Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier, 2004). Learn more or on twitter @storageio.