Meet Louise Amy Kennedy, the human behind the voice of Bailey Boat Cat - a successful blog-turned-book about the adventures of Bailey, a cat who lives with Louise on her boat in Rome. Here she explains how Bailey's story became so successful and gives her tips for writers looking to grow their blog's readership.
I’m extremely thankful to be in a small group of people who’ve been offered a book deal as a direct result of a blog. This didn’t happen purely by chance though - I worked hard on the blog to get it to the stage that it was appealing to a publishing house and I’m sure everyone can get more out of their blog if they’re willing to work on it.
The Bailey Boat Cat blog was initially just a way to chronicle the sailing adventures and preparations to go cruising of my partner and me. It was the perfect way for me to get into the habit of writing and being creative daily. I researched other sailing blogs and noted most were similar and quite matter-of-fact. I wanted to write something different and considered writing from our cat’s perspective. He loves life aboard and it gave me licence to make fun of us ‘the humans’ and explore areas no other blog did.
Knowing your audience
Setting the tone of your blog is extremely important, whether it’s professional and formal or chatty and informal, it doesn’t matter, as long as you keep it fairly consistent. Your loyal readers will return because they enjoy your style and content. Bailey’s blog, for example, is basically a journal, it isn’t intellectually challenging but tries to provide light relief and hopefully a smile and a giggle. His character is feline and aloof when it comes to his humans, but he’s never controversial and always optimistic. Ultimately people know that Bailey’s blog is for fun and although non-sailors learn quite a few things about boats, predominantly it’s an environment that doesn’t take itself too seriously and a place to have a light-hearted time when people visit. If Bailey suddenly started ranting about politics it obviously wouldn’t work.
I find it’s also beneficial to be honest with your readers. If you’ve fallen behind with replying to comments or visiting other blogs, a quick line to explain or apologise will show you’re only human and make you more likeable. Of course you can always pre-empt this if you know you’re going away or will be exceptionally busy and inform readers before your virtual absence. It’s hard to strike a balance between working on your content and replying and networking with others. Due to the huge success of Bailey Boat Cat I’m now, unfortunately, unable to follow everyone that follows him and reply to every single comment. I do, however, continue to make a huge effort with his loyal followers and visit them as often as I can. I’d recommend you give yourself a set amount of time daily to interact with readers and other blogs. If someone asks a direct question I make sure I answer it. If you find you’re getting lots of very similar questions, I’d suggest a ‘frequently asked questions’ section. It’s a lot easier to direct someone to a page than to type lengthy explanations each time.
Growing your readership
Growing your readership takes time and patience. I think it’s important to remember blogging is very much a social activity. The main way I built loyal readers is by interacting and following blogs with similar topics. When I started the blog I spent lots of time networking with both sailing blogs and other pet blogs and the readership steadily grew. A quick comment at the end of a post with your thoughts will be really appreciated by most bloggers, who then naturally are interested in your blog too. There are lots of different blogs ranging from narrow single subjects, to blogs with a much more eclectic range of subjects. There are no right or wrong ways to approach this but I would advise you have a basic theme to your blog so readers know what to expect when they arrive.
Bailey’s blog is a daily blog. I’d advise you to post regularly (at least two or three times a week) so your readers have a reason to keep returning. Make sure you organise your posts into clear subfolders so people can find what they’re looking for and have a prominent ‘about me’ section so new readers can instantly feel involved. I publish posts at the same time daily with the exception of Wednesdays and weekends. I’ve found posts published in the early evening get much more traffic, however as people are busier at weekends the statistics are better if the post is published during the day. On Wednesdays I do ‘Wordless Wednesdays’ which involves just using a great photo and an imaginative title and similarly on Sundays I do a ‘Silent Sunday’ post. These are effectively my two days off, I’m able to schedule the posts to upload, it doesn’t take much time and since one of the main features of the blog is the photos of Bailey, it works well.
This brings me to effectively tagging your posts. Both Wordless Wednesday and Silent Sunday are enormously popular within the blogging community; by ensuring you tag them in your posts you will inevitably attract new visitors to your blog. Tag the key words/themes from your post to get a better SEO. Taking part in blog hops with a similar subject to you can also help you get recognised in your niche.
It’s very easy (and worthwhile) to set your blog up to be automatically shared on social media websites. Bailey’s blog gets lots of visits from sites such as Facebook and twitter. These sites make sharing content very easy too, so if you’ve a catchy title and attract someone’s interest the chances are they will engage with the post and potentially share it, expanding your reach.
Louise Amy Kennedy is an author, blogger and photographer. She has recently published her first book Bailey Boat Cat - Adventures of a Feline Afloat. When she's not writing or taking thousands of photos you can find her floating around the Med on her beloved boat Nocturne. You can visit her at www.louiseamykennedy.com. To visit the (much more loveable) furry member of the floating family visit www.baileyboatcat.com. You can also find the salty family on most social media sites (all links are on their websites). To watch the trailer for Bailey Boat Cat's book click here.