A Blog Is an Author’s Best Friend

By Gina Burgess

Last May we talked a little bit about authors blogging, why and what to blog. Something missing is how an author should maintain the blog. Where to get inspiration for blog posts?

I’ve been writing blog posts since 2005 when my professor challenged us to create a blog for a class project. I’d never read a blog post, and didn’t like the examples she steered us to copy or get inspiration. Since then, I’ve written more than 2,000 blog posts, book reviews, and weekly columns. Since my posts run an average of 850 words, that means I’ve written online almost two million words in thirteen years. That’s 850 words every other day except Sundays not counting the six books written and published in that time. I tell you this because I’ve got a deep commitment to writing. James said, “Show me a man who says he has faith, and I’ll show you my faith by my works. Faith and works fit together like a hands in gloves.” (My paraphrase, but the last part is from The Message.)

Motivation and writing, writing and motivation fit together like a burning candle. Without wax, oxygen, and a catalyst, the candle won’t burn. Just wax and oxygen won’t produce light and heat alone, and the catalyst just lays in a match box until it is lit and brought to the wick. You can’t produce a chemical change without putting two or three elements together in one place at the same time.

Most bloggers don’t last three months. I’ve lasted thirteen years. Yes, I got tired. Yes, I was uninspired sometimes. Yes, I got fed up with people not responding. Yes, I wanted to quit several times. The single thing that overcame all those hurdles was my motivation and my God-given talent to write–not always perfect, not always pertinent, but always poked and prodded and motivated to produce because I have a burning desire to write.

You won’t produce unless you understand your desire to write.

Understand your motive to blog

Figuring out what motivates you to blog will help you in more ways than you can count. Is it because your publisher requires it? That doesn’t bode well for continual blogging. Is it to help build your writing skills? Is it to help organize your memoir? Is it because you want to connect with your readers, build a community? Is it because you want to sell books? Is it because you want ________?

One thing I learned while studying blogger motivations is a major motivation underpins most bloggers. They want to help others. This is one of the things that motivates me: helping others.

A lot of writers could say, “Yes. I want to help readers find my books and buy them.” Is that a good motivation? I’d have to say, “No.”

Another thing I found out is that it is important for a blogger to know how their post has helped another person. The only way to know this is if the blogger gets a response or a comment.

In my experience of blogging since 2005 and column writing since 2006, a blogger will have a lot of consumers of their written word, but few responses to any post. One reason is because most bloggers don’t frame their posts in an information exchange style (give a little ask a question, give a little more ask another question). Encouraging responses is a major key to building community. But mostly there will be few responses compared to the numerous readers. It’s a fact of internet life. It doesn’t mean great benefit hasn’t been felt. It just means that most consumers do not feel compelled to offer a response.

Another thing that motivates me is creating community and connecting with like-minded people who are interested in the same things I am. Since so many different things interest me, it isn’t hard to find something to talk about to almost everyone.

What about you? Is your only interest in such a small niche there are too few interested in purchasing your book? Of course not! Just because you like to study mating habits of flies doesn’t mean your interests aren’t broader than that. You’ve got a work of blinding brilliance and lots of people will be interested in all aspects of that story or that memoir or that creative non-fiction.

But what to write about in blog posts?

Here’s a better question. Why do you write the kinds of stories you write? Or non-fiction that you write? Take a minute and visit Debbie Macomber’s blog. Quite a successful author. Many of her stories have been made into movies. She has posts about her new book, about lifestyles, and about recipes. Reading her books, all these things have a place in her writing. These are her passions, and you can tell she enjoys them because she takes the time to write about them.

Ted Dekker connects with his fans on Facebook. That is a rather dangerous thing to do since Facebook has the power to disconnect your page or group for whatever reason. With a blog, that can’t happen. However, you still see on his Facebook what he’s passionate about. You see his picture, you see his family, and you can enter to win a free book plus a lot more. And you can interact with him, comment on photos, and it’s convenient. You’ve already looked at what your next door neighbor had for lunch and where Aunt Minnie went on vacation. Why not check in on Ted?

I searched for other writers’ blogs and found that most of the ones I’m very familiar with connect with readers on Facebook and with newsletters. So how did they get email addresses without a blog? Ted Dekker got more than 1,600 email addresses by giving away five of his recent book. That’s okay when you are a famous author. But most likely won’t happen if you are just starting out. What do you do?

You can do everything Ted does with a blog plus you can gather email addresses and send out a newsletter that features your blog post. Ask people to share your newsletter, get more email addresses. With these email addresses you can hype your new book, ask people to purchase and review it, and get more email addresses. Give them links to your book on Goodreads and Amazon and get more email addresses. So much more that won’t be lost unless you let your web host bill go unpaid. Plus you can auto connect your blog posts to Facebook and get the best of both worlds.

On your blog, you can talk about what peeves you, what excites you, what makes your engine run smooth, what takes your breath away. Travel, research, ask for feedback when a paragraph or chapter stumps you. Readers love it when they are involved in the process. Give away background files on your characters in exchange for an email address. How can you send it without an email address?

Don’t just ask for first name and email. Ask a quirky question that will be fun (and doesn’t take a lot of thought) to answer. Things that pertain to your genre: favorite food, favorite dragon name, favorite sci-fi sub-genre (space opera or military sci-fi, what is your child or grandchild’s favorite book, etc. The answers will give you feedback on your reader base.

Don’t let lack of technical knowledge hold you back!

There are dozens of blog hosting places out there. WordPress.com and Blogger are the two most used. They aren’t going anywhere. They have built in themes, and all you have to do is plug in information, find a few beautiful images on Pixabay.com or Unsplash where the images are copyright/royalty free. Our own Julianne Rigali can help you set up your blog.

There is a vast ocean of information at your fingertips. Use it. Search engines will find answers to your full blown questions. Don’t know how to do something? Ask the question in your browser and your preferred search engine will list dozens of sites that can answer your question. YouTube has millions of how-to videos. Why sit there with a doe-in-the-headlights expression, crying woe is me? You can do it.

Need inspiration for a post? What is the most recent question you asked yourself? Was it a recipe? A technical point for your last WIP? Today authors have the equivalent of millions of libraries at their fingertips. Of course you use the internet. But, use the internet! It will take you places you can’t imagine.

Working on my own WIP today, I needed to know what the strongest material on Earth was. I found out that God created it. It wasn’t manmade, but a discovery of something very intriguing. It’s one atom thick, and it’s carbon atoms in a honeycomb pattern. It can stop a bullet, and most gases and liquids cannot penetrate it except water easily flows through it. It’s graphene and it’s not sci-fi anymore!

25 thoughts on “A Blog Is an Author’s Best Friend”

  1. Thank you, Gina, for another excellent and thought-provoking post. My answer is simple: I post whatever arises in my Step Eleven. It’s my Step Twelve. Translation for those not familiar with the steps of Twelve-Step recovery: I blog to carry God’s Message and to practice His principles in ALL my affairs. I am grateful for the clarity into which your article has catapulted me. Thank you!

  2. I like your motivation for writing this blog. I like what you have offered. I wish there was a way for me to connect every comment I leave on a blog, news article, restaurant, doctor, FB, whatever to an online board under my name perhaps with subject categories like Pinterest has and a link to what I commented on. The fact is that I respond to so much to what I see online, I feel as though I am writing a blog everyday in that process, leaving me with less time to devote to a regular blog. Also, I don’t have the right frame of mind to write a blog regularly. What I have done is take any lengthy response I have written in a comment section and turned it into a blog post or an essay to submit to journals and e-zines.

    1. That is a GREAT idea, Bear. I truly understand that response-time feeling!! Trying to juggle blog, discussion forum, my own writing has suffered. Plus I am a professional editor–so I spend lots of time on that, too, but that is what I get paid for :). Turning responses into blog posts and articles is a great what to conserve time and to maintain your platform. The more places your articles appear, the more credibility you have.

  3. I enjoyed reading this, Gina. I have a blog but write narrative non fiction so my material doesn’t very often lend itself to being the subject of blogs. My aim is to somehow connect my blogging to my serious writing. Working on it!

    1. The readers who are interested in your narrative non-fiction would be interested in your research, little-known things about you. Things that interest you will interest others–unless you study how long it takes grass to grow, which would be a rather limited few, I’m thinking :). However, what ever true stories you are telling, I’m quite sure the research is fascinating. That will help you build a platform. If you use a blog to build your email list, you’ve got a ready-made list of potential buyers of your next book.

  4. I have a blog on facebook and enjoy the challenge every week of coming up with a topic of interest. It is life giving to me. I would love to get more responses from my readers.

    1. Cleo, just know that you get far, far more readers that benefit that will tell you in a response. I have found that God uses our efforts in ways that we rarely find out about 🙂

  5. Great post! It is good to ask ourselves why we blog. I’ve been blogging for quite a while, and you’re right. Sometimes you get bored, distracted, uninspired. That’s when we need to evaluate and go with our passions and interests. And pray for responses! 🙂 I do much better when I post things that interest me. But when I try and copy the popular thing or do something that will look good…blech. Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. Angie, I did the same thing years ago trying to initiate responses by writing about the going trend subject. Sometimes I got more response, but more often those who were chasing trends didn’t stay around. You found out exactly what I did–writing what interested me kept me motivated to keep on writing 🙂 My problem was, I think, I didn’t have a specific focus on my Refreshment in Refuge blog. Here, and on my book review blog at UponReflectionblog.blogspot.com I do have a specific focus and it has helped to keep me on track tremendously 🙂

  6. Excellent post. I’ve been blogging for about 13 years, too, and have loved it. Of course, in the early days I got far more interaction on the blog but social media seemed to have killed that. And then I also deleted old posts and started over and went in difference directions (more than once) and didn’t blog as much. But I do see a resurgence of the blog as people are turning away from social media. So I’m motivated to start blogging on a more regular basis and started posting every day for “Blogtoberfest.” I’m seeking new, interesting blogs like this one and so glad I found you.

    1. Kathy that is so true! I also noticed that readership fell off when my blogging buddies quit blogging. I’ve only kept in contact with one blogging buddy that I started out with in 2005. She no longer blogs, but we’ve kept in contact on Facebook. I have no idea what happened to the others. They lost interest, I guess, before Facebook became a thang 🙂 Congratulations for sticking with it for so long! There aren’t that many that do.

  7. You’ve shared your heart, given some marketing tips and offered some good reading … all in a few hundred words.. Thanks for sharing… really valuable informationm making it fun to read and learn.
    Thanks a bunch!

  8. Blogging is very frustrating. Getting people to respond is like pulling teeth. I wish there was a formula to follow for each genre.

  9. Excellent advice and most thought-provoking. I blog, less frequently than in the past because I’m involved in writing a new book. However, three years of blogging produced a “blook”–a book in paperback of the blog entries on every topic imaginable. It’s on Amazon and still available: The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom by (yours truly) Mark Scheel. My blog can be found on the Scriggler site, based in UK: https://scriggler.com/Profile/mark_scheel
    I blog to alert readers to my memoir-in-progress (posting chapters as completed) and about my forthcoming book And Eve Said Yes with Seven Stories from Waldorf Publishing a year from now. I’ve made many new acquaintances through the blog all over the world and exchanged some exciting ideas. It’s a most worthwhile endeavor. Thanks for a great post emphasizing that fact!

    Mark

  10. Gina,

    Well done! Good points, all. I’ve been blogging for about six years now–even got a “blook” out of three years of posts on every topic imaginable. Available on Amazon: The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom by (yours truly) Mark Scheel. It helped me place my next book, And Eve Said Yes with Seven Stories, with a major publisher, forthcoming in fall 2019. Also made many new friends all over the world! Blogging has been a real boon in many ways!

    Mark

    1. That is so cool that it led to a book deal. Several of my writer friends got book deals because of their blogs. I wasn’t so blessed, but I do like indie publishing my books–I work just as hard, and I get higher royalties 🙂

  11. I gave up on blogging for a year when I ran out of things to write about after doing it for years. I felt like something was missing from my life. Lol! I’ve now gone back with renewed vigor.
    My blogging audience is other indie-authors: my formatting clients, students and others. My newsletter and FB page are for the readers of my novels. Sometimes they overlap, but not often. So that makes things easier for me.

    1. I completely understand. I had to quit writing my column for about 3 months while I settled into a new job, bought a new house, moved, etc. Grueling. But I missed it sorely. It’s why I’ve been writing that column since 2006 with only rare skips.

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