How to increase your blog traffic

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This month (January) has been my highest-ever month in terms of traffic! Since August, I've been hovering at around 2.2-2.7k visitors per month. But this month, I've had 5,063 (and that number is still increasing!)

Even before I wrote this post, this month was shaping up to be my best. But after that, traffic really spiked. I also got another boost when my sobriety post was featured on WordPress' internal discovery portal.* It's always surprising to me when the blog hits a new traffic milestone, because I've never really gotten my head around the idea that I have readers who I don't know and have no relationship with.

I don't expect next month to be nearly this good. Generally what happens with every new milestone is that it takes four or five months before monthly traffic works its way back up to the previous peak. And then we're ready for the next spike!

Whenever a blog blows up, the author always says that they have no idea how it happened: everything was just word of mouth. I think that's true to some extent, but I have to say that it really helps to know some wordy mouths. Before I became Facebook and Twitter friends with a bunch of SF writers and started participating in that online conversation, it was much harder for any of my posts to catch fire. And insinuating myself into the online SF conversation was not an organic process. It definitely felt like something of an insertion: there's something unbearably presumptuous about commenting on a near-stranger's blog or Facebook wall or replying to someone's tweet.

Anyways, I am not saying that this blog has blown up, but it's definitely not completely unknown. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that I hope to someday reap the rewards of that. The thing about networking and publicity is that it's not like writing. In order to get anywhere as a writer, you need to be excellent. But in terms of networking, even mediocre goes a long way. Most of my blog readers aren't going to buy my books (and most of my book readers won't read the blog), but there is somewhat of a synergistic effect there. Because of the (minor) amount of name recognition engendered by this blog, my books will get more notice and my stories will get more awards buzz. It'll help, at least a little bit.

On a sidenote, I always feel  embarrassed whenever I am in the real world and one of my friends mentions my blog to a third person. 'Blogger' feels like such a shameful identity: it's such a naked form of attention-seeking--you can't pass it off as just a way that you communicate with your friends (like Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr), and you can't spin it as some sort of entertainment (like a Youtube channel or a webcomic). Nope, you're pretty much just saying that your thoughts about stuff are so valuable that strangers oughta read them.

*The number of hits that I got through this post wasn't huge, but the number of comments was amazing. Even looking at them was exhausting. I have no idea how someone like Scalzi does it: replying to comments must be like a part-time job for him.

I need about 35-40 more hours in a week

For the past six months or so, during the intermittent periods when I am actually in D.C. my schedule has been to get home circa 7 PM on weekdays, and generally spend the hours from 7 PM to 10-11 reading and eating, and then from 11 PM to 2 PM or so trying to write. The end result being that by Wednesday I am borderline exhausted, and by Thursday I am over the hump and manic/frantic with sleep debt...which I recover in twelve hour chunks over the weekend.

I find this to be a pretty satisfying and productive pace, but blogging is basically last in my list of priorities (behind household repairs and above buying groceries). I do not like this state of affairs! My hope was to make my longish essays on books kind of a semi-regular thing. Unfortunately, each one takes roughly 3 or so hours.

But they seem to get a pretty good response, judging by traffic figures, and I think it would be both professionally beneficial (and extremely satisfying to my ego)  to develop some sort of internet following over the coming years, especially now that I have found a format which I think both suits my talents and is at least mildly interesting. So I am forcibly reinserting blogging into my schedule.

I am going to shoot for one long book post every weekend (probably Sundayish), and one post consisting mostly of several hundred work capsule -- well, not reviews -- scattered thoughts on the books I've read during the past week, which will be accompanied by quotes from said book (the Kindle makes it absurdly easy to extract quotes from things. It is amazing). I will also write this during the weekend, but set it to be posted circa Wednesday. And then I will fill the intermittent space with short little posts like this one.

Just letting you know what is up.