Should authors blog? If so, what should we be blogging about?
Blogging, like social media, is often touted as the golden ticket to book sales. It rarely delivers on this promise. Of course, they don’t – there is no such thing as a magic bullet to make sales happen. However, blogs, like social media, can be useful tools. Even Twitter has its place.
Should authors blog?
When we covered Author Platforms we talked about authors blogging. Is blogging good for authors?
The answer is yes and no. It depends on the author. That is why I am going to make the case both against and in favour of blogging.
Why authors should not blog
I am going to play devil’s advocate and say that authors should not be blogging before I say why they jolly well should be. There are some authors for whom blogging is not right. This first section is for those authors. If you have doubts, read this bit first.
1. There are too many blogs already.
Who is going to read another author blog?
2. You wanted instant results.
If you wanted instant results then, sorry, blogging is going to, as they say, suck. Too many author blogs start like this
- Author has a book release coming up and wants to be a best seller.
- They hear that blogging is good for promotion.
- They start a new blog and maybe their mum reads it.
3. Blogging is not get-rich-quick.
If you are the kind of person who thinks that blogging is the secret sauce for riches, I have some over priced DVDs to sell you. But seriously, it is not.
This goes back to the way too many blogs start and then have no readers. This has actually created an industry where spammers and scammers take a lot of money of desperate authors who don’t know any better.
4. Authors should be writing books, not blog posts.
Every hour spent crafting a blog post is an hour not spent working on your sequel. Need I say more?
5. You hope the blog itself will make money.
If you have been around the world of blogs for long enough you may have heard of “problogging”. The idea of making a living from blogging alone.
Should authors pro-blog? The truth is that the dream of making money from pushing affiliate links is rarely achievable. If it is, you will have to choose between that and being a writer of books. You do not have enough hours int he day for both.
Why authors definitely should blog
1. There are lots of blogs and this can work for you.
While the massive competition can be seen as bad, it can also be made to work for you. The large number of blogs means that there are bound to be some good ones for you to learn from and a few small ones with really nice bloggers you can build genuine connections with.
2. You want to be part of the wider network of bloggers.
When you stop seeing the incomprehensible number of blogs as competition and see them as peers, you suddenly have a huge potential network of social connections to build. As I said in reason number one, that huge number can be a positive.
The beta stage Author Buzz network is one instant way to get that connection, but there are many others. You don’t need an instant network but if you are feeling lazy, or don’t know where to start, they help.
3. You can build a platform (and you should).
Unsurprisingly now, Author Buzz UK believes in the power of the author platform. That was why I started this website.
Approaching agents and publishers with a big following behind you makes your offer much more attractive. If for this reason alone a good blog can be your best way to get published. You can read more about author platforms in our comprehensive introduction to author platforms.
4. A blog can be your website.
There is no rule that says you have to update your blog every day (or week). While regular updates re one way to get a steady flow of visitors, you can use the blog as your website.
Author Buzz blogs are designed to work like this.
Blogs can also be used to simply keep your best fans updated as to appearance dates and the upcoming releases of new books. We will talk a lot more about that in a moment.
A blog can certainly be better than one of those drag and drop free web page maker systems. Seriously, don’t use them. Derek Murphy explains why in this video (he also recommends WordPress, which the Author Buzz network is built on).
5. Authors can use blogging to develop books
I understand that this will not be for everyone but some authors actually let their readers be the beta readers. How do think Andy Weir got started? His first book went from a thing he shared on a website to something that got a book and a movie deal in the same week. Blogging your book can be great.
The argument for book blogging
I’ve been blogging some of my fiction work on my author buzz blog. So you know that I think this is a good idea.
Writer’s Digest has a list of five ways to turn your blog into a book writing machine. So I am not alone.
The argument against book blogging
On the other hand, Jane Friedman makes the case that you should not ever blog your book. She makes some good points too.
Listen to whoever you think is correct.
What should authors blog?
Having looked at if authors should blog and maybe decided that they should, what do you blog about?
I am not going to leave you hanging. I am about to tell you what authors should blog about.
Things to blog about for authors
1. World Building
You put a lot of effort into your world building. (You do, right?) So why not talk about your world. Give readers a taste for the world they will be exploring in your stories.
This works on two levels.
- World building blogging draws readers in and gets us excited for the story.
- Readers ask difficult questions and those questions can help you catch plot gaps or even open your eyes to some of the implications of your world that you have not even considered.
As a bonus, this form of blogging turns work no one sees into marketing material and gives super-fans so much more to talk about.
Ideas for posts could include:
- A verbal tour of a location that is going to be significant in the story
- A detailed background of a minor character
- The history of the world you created
- The thought process that went into creating certain elements
- Minor details that would enrich the story but you removed because they slow the pace of the story
If you do this right, it could feel like the reader has already started your series before the first one is out. Get them hooked early and keep them anticipating the book until it comes out. That way leads to sales.
2. Your personal life
A personal favourite of mine, Neil Gaiman, is the absolute king of mixing personal life and book news into a compelling blog.
While you don’t have to spill your most intimate secrets (unless you really want to) there is still a lot you can write about.
- Your pets – seriously those furry friends are endlessly interesting. That’s my little cat being a weirdo (she’s sleeping on her back).
- Your dreams – we all have wakey dreams and I find that many of them become story ideas later on. I write them down anyway so really I might as well blog them too.
- The stresses of everyday life, like school runs, shopping, and birthday parties. If nothing else this will be good practice for your descriptive skills as you bring those moments to life in the mind of the reader.
The point is that this posts about you let your reader get to know you. Which, believe it or not, is good for your bottom line. These stories give your readers a chance to become invested in your life and your progress towards the next book.
Human interest stories have always been popular and will probably remain popular. If you find you are good at writing them, you may have a secondary income writing for magazines while you work on your novel. After all, publishers who get submissions from writers who are already published in other fields pay closer attention and are half way to sold before they start reading.
3. Inspiration for budding writers
Would be writers, especially younger potential writers, often get started after their wanting to write gets a kick start with some advice from an author they love. That author will forever after be “their author”. You could be the one with a fan for life simply by showing others your writing process. It costs you nothing to inspire new writers and yet there is so much to gain.
Remember we talked about writing about your personal life? Sure you do, look up – it has a cat picture. That real life topic can be extended to talk about the struggles you face as a writer. This works, in the same way, helping readers become emotionally invested in your success. Also, it never hurts if you have a few fans cheering you on.
Your fellow writers, a rich source of readers, will relish the chance to read about your personal thoughts on the writing process. Not only might they offer some tips back but you may find that you have inspired other writers to keep writing.
This is a blogging topic that can really open blogging up and make it a collaborative and social activity. After all, writing can be lonely if you never share it with others.
4. Blog the book or at least short stories
We talked about how blogs can be used to develop books in the “should authors blog” section. Not only can you use your blog to develop ideas (this works even better with non-fiction ideas) but you can use the blog to share your work for free.
There are several schools of thought on how much to share. They range from the paranoid “never say a word” school of thought to the publish everything right now which did very well for Andy Weir as I said before.
Several authors publish their short stories once they have been sold to magazines and after the required exclusivity period (which is only fair). Authors often publish (blog) the story along with the details of where the story was published (and when). This does a few things for you as an author.
- It shows new fans and agents that you are publishable
- It acts as social proof that others read your work
- It enables readers to discover you with no risk
- It gives readers of your work somewhere to go to read more (and buy a book while they are there)
- It gives you something to blog about.
A good time to publish stories might be right around the time you have an anthology out. The blog post can then end with a link (links are very important) to the anthology. The chances are if people loved the story they will want to book.
Another approach is to publish the first few chapters of a novel on your blog. Right around the time that readers are getting into the story, they reach a point that says “now buy the book”. You can bet they will (assuming it was a good story).
5. Review other authors
This is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you will get a lot of readers if you are pithy and interesting. But you might not sell many books yourself and you run the risk of upsetting your fellow authors. When your book comes out you could run right into some painful payback.
However, it can work and for some people, this is what you need. After all, to write well you need to read widely. You might as well put that reading to work.
Just remember to be kind because Karma will come and get you sooner than you expect.
How should authors blog?
Seriously, your blog could be the first thing that someone reads. So make it good. Use the same level of skill you pour into your fiction.
Write stylishly. Write well. Write with your own voice.
Everything else is stuff we have already talked about.
Where should authors blog?
Ideally, you should blog on a solid blog platform (that’s not the same thing as an author platform, just to confuse you). WordPress is good but it is not the only game in town.
If you have technical skills then self-hosting is very satisfying but if you don’t and can’t get someone to take care of that, then a hosted solution might be what you want.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s what the forum is for.
When should authors blog?
The answer to this question is, well it depends. Blogging works best if it is done regularly. However, if regularly is not going to work for you, then blog when you can and your readers will figure out your pattern eventually. At least some of them will.
That said there are a few hot points worth thinking about.
If you are going to promote your blog post on social media it needs to be ready for about 9am or 6pm. Almost always these are the best traffic times. They are roughly when people are getting into the office and when people are getting home again.
- People read more in the winter and when it is raining.
- People at work are more likely to be reading your blog than working after the week starts to drag.
- Mums are more likely to be reading between school runs.
- Teenagers are less likely to be online in the morning.
- Retired folks tend to log off soonest.
What I am trying to say is know your audience and match your blogging to them.
Over to you.
There is a great deal that an author could blog about. Blogging, though, is not a science but an art. What works for me, might not work for you. Find what works for you and run with it.
There is a lot of blogging advice that says end with a question. To demonstrate, I will end with three.
- What do you think? Should authors blog?
- What else should authors blog about?
- What other advice would you offer an author about to start a blog?