Five content lessons from curating thousands of news items for the Sell More Books Show.
I’ve been collecting and curating news and tips for Bryan Cohen, H. Claire Taylor, and Jim Kukral’s Sell More Books Show podcast for over a year.
Other authors send me a lot of leads. Leads I can’t always use.
I end up finding a lot of the content myself, because the tips and news people send me are often wrong, misleading, or too hard to translate into short and sweet snippets that can be read ‘on air.’
Whether you want your blog post, podcast, or video shared with the show OR just want other authors and readers to share it, you probably need to tighten things up a bit.
Five content related barriers that keep your blog post from being shared
Let’s get started…
1. They don’t get to the point early enough
When I first starting distilling blog posts and articles down to ‘reports’ that Bryan, Claire, and Jim would read, I would often ‘bury the lede.’
That’s a phrase that means you’re failing to emphasize the most important part of the story, especially right up front.
Writing a few paragraphs of flowery prose at the start of a book might be great, but in a blog post or news item, you really need to get to the point of your post right away.
Readers need to know what you’re about to teach them.
News and important lessons shouldn’t be a mystery.
Get to the point early.
Even better? START with the point.
2. They forgot Chekhov’s gun
Every element in a story must be necessary. Irrelevant elements should be removed.
Elements that are highlighted produce expectations.
“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” – Chekhov, in a letter to A Lazarev
If they don’t come into play later, they should be removed.
Did you start with a story that leads nowhere? An image that promises something your post won’t deliver?
No, don’t further work them into the story, just because you started with them. That’s worse.
At least we forget about them the other way 😉
3. There was a mismatch
The featured image and opening lines of a blog post told me one thing, but the content told me something else.
Much like the book cover and blurb, a post’s image, title, and intro needs to telegraph what’s to come.
Often, though, blog post intros and featured images have nothing to do with what they are teaching.
I know what you’re thinking. Readers can get past that, but it’s not that easy.
When there’s a disconnect on this level, the rest of the blog post rarely holds up.
The author thinks they’ve made their points through connecting their intro to the rest of the content, but they usually haven’t.
I get it. We all have thoughts and tangents while writing our books, short stories, and blog posts. The difference is that books and short stories are looked at multiple times, often by multiple people before publishing. Not so with most blog posts.
And they don’t need to be, but they do need to be looked at with a critical eye if your goal is to get them shared.
So many posts begin with a story about who the author is, an anecdote, or something that happened to them ‘this one time.’
Then comes a blog post that didn’t need that story.
In fact, often I’m still waiting for the return to some of those stories. And the lessons. It rarely happens, and most of the time you know it before you don’t see it.
As if Chekhov’s gun, above, wasn’t enough, you have to be willing to ‘kill your darlings.’
The phrase has nothing to do with killing off your characters, but killing off the parts of your story that you love, despite them being in the way of a great story.
If it’s that good, save it for another blog post where it fits better, but cut it when it doesn’t.
4. There was a lack of supporting evidence
I’ve been in the printing and publishing business for over 20 years, and an indie author since 2011. In addition, since I’ve been in the fitness industry for over 15 years, I’m a skeptic when it comes to reports and studies.
Many of the articles I read assume correlation equals causation, and it does not.
A prime example is assuming a six figure author with 20k Instagram followers is selling books via Instagram.
Maybe, but it’s more likely they’ve sold so many books that they’ve attracted 20k followers.
The same can be said of Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Yes, the two facts are linked, but if you don’t know in which direction things are flowing, I can’t recommend your article advising people to ‘get more followers to sell more books’ unless you have evidence to back you up OR at least have some theories on why we should try it.
Many of the articles are filled with speculation.
Far too many articles tell us how something works (the Amazon algorithm, why Amazon reviews disappear, Facebook hides posts with links to sites that are not Facebook, etc.) without evidence.
Worse, sometimes the evidence is another article, also with no evidence. Sometimes this chain of links can go on for a long time, until it becomes some soft of de facto truth, when it’s actually just rumors.
So what’s the problem?
New and/or overly trusting authors might assume that YOU know the facts, even when you don’t.
The old hats have seen it all, and the more skeptical authors are… skeptical. They aren’t going to share your post. They don’t want to mislead anyone, and a share is an implied endorsement.
5. Their podcasts or videos had no supporting text
I know, you started the podcast or YouTube channel so you wouldn’t have to write all that stuff down.
Who wants to write show notes? Yuck.
Don’t get me wrong, not having them is perfectly fine, but it makes it hard for new viewers and listeners to dive in, much less someone like me, who needs to distill your ‘why listen’ down to 100-150 words.
Even outside of my role gathering news for the Sell More Books Show, I’m an author and have full-time work. I don’t have time to listen to new things that are 20-60 minutes long unless I know what’s in them. I’m sure you’ve passed on a lot of hour long listens that don’t sell themselves in the title or blurb, too.
If you have a podcast or YouTube video, give your audience some show notes.
A good title, a nice blurb, some bullet points, links, and definitely give them a WIFM (What’s In it For Me).
This gives people an idea of what’s inside and gives them talking points when THEY want to share.
No one wants to hear this or see this, much less say it
But a blog post needs to flow, just like a book or a story.
Take my ideas with whatever grain of salt you like, but I’ve read over two thousand blog posts over the past few years, for the Sell More Books Show alone.
Yes, each week I write up twelve article blurbs, and I’ve done well over one hundred show, so far.
For each show of twelve items I read at least twenty in full, plus skip a few based on what I wrote above, above. Luckily, I can spot the ones worth skipping pretty quickly, but sometimes I still feel tricked!
Over time, I started to create a system for writing my own blog posts.
It started years ago with a checklist of images to create, what size the the graphics needed to be, and SEO and keyword notes, but over time I’ve added reminders to do my own content editing based on the above.
I’m working on a master checklist that I can share, but in the meantime here are a few questions to ask yourself about your own blog posts.
Blog post content questions
- Will someone who doesn’t know me be able to see there’s value inside with just a glance at the images, title, and opening blurb?
- Is the image, title, and blurb on track with the actual content?
- Did I bury the lede or get right to it?
- Does my story or opening lead into the topic? Does it circle back at the end to tie up any loose ends? Does it provide closure?
- Have I left any Chekhov’s guns or any of ‘my darlings’ in the post? Can I cut the fluff?
- Is there speculation without evidence? Logical fallacies? Advice based on correlations?
- Will a reader have enough info to be able to share easily or with confidence?
What have YOU seen?
Have you seen any common content related blog blunders that I missed?
What would YOU add to the list of questions, above?
PS. This is just the content. Next time I’ll cover the more technical side of why I sometimes don’t share an article or post.
Yes, I’m looking at you, non-mobile-friendly site. What year is this, anyway? 😏