Blog? Why? Blog What?

by Gina Burgess

Over and over we hear that authors need to blog in order to build their platform. They need to be reachable and online touchable, or so we’re told by the publishing gurus.

Why?

There are lots of reasons, but I’m pretty sure the main reason is that when readers become fans they like to get close to their favorite authors. I’ll never forget how excited I was to be asked by Frank Peretti to review one of his books (House). I was honored and jumped at it. It didn’t hurt that I’d joined his little community on his website. That seems like such a long time ago, but I still remember how good it felt to be included in the process. I loved commenting on Don Miller’s progress as he wrote one of his books, and was inspired by Brandilyn Collins’ testimony as she recovered from Lyme disease. It was relationship building at its best.

The only one still blogging after ten years is Donald Miller, and he has some help from other bloggers.

Blogging is hard.

It is grueling to blog every day. It is arduous to blog three times a week. It is exhausting to blog once a week. Therefore it takes commitment to continue a blog, the kind of commitment that you give to that person whom you love so much you exchange rings and say, “I do, I will, I’ll be faithful to you.”

Of course, you can start a blog and keep at it for a few months then let it go. But what a waste of time and effort. Cutting to the bone here, if you are committed enough to write a book, and committed enough to get it published, then you have what it takes to blog.

As an author, you have to have a website.

You have to have an online presence that is not dependent upon Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, or the like. Anything can happen and you can lose your page, anything. Some authors have put a great deal of work into their Amazon author page and since readers click on authors names they are taken to your page where they find all your other books, this is a good thing. But take a note here. Facebook has removed pages of authors for “false names” simply because they used Author behind their name. They’ve had to start all over gathering friends and likes and lost all their hard work. Also, these sites don’t show up in Internet searches. You need a better reach than that.

Here are six things that Tom Umstadtt has pinpointed readers want from your author website:

  • Exclusive content: special offers and goodies, giveaways, etc.—[be very careful with this because you’ll gather a list of freebie addicts who won’t give you anything in return such as purchasing your books.]
  • Your schedule for book signings, interviews, and appearances.
  • Books you recommend by other authors.
  • Book News: Inside information about your books, updates on tours, reviews, and WIPs.
  • Your contact information for reader feedback.
  • Your social networking information.

But readers can’t really get to know you very well from a static website. Nor is Google or any other search engine impressed with a static (nothing new to view in like forever) site. A blog that is updated with new posts at least once a week makes those search engine spyders crawl all over your site and raises you in the search results pages so you’re more easily found. Your own, independent blog gives you the opportunity to invite guests’ posts and a wider audience.

As a marketing tool, your blog is your friend.

  • It keeps your stuff fresh on the net.
  • It reinforces your brand—your name.
  • It allows you to draw close to your readers, and your readers to you.
  • It helps to build your email list.
  • It uses skills you already have, and helps to hone those skills.
  • You have control – maybe this one should go to the top.
    • You can kick out trolls and spammers
    • You don’t have to worry that some site control freak will close you down.
    • No worries the company will disappear overnight taking your blog with them.
  • It’s information sharing where you have plenty of time to compose your thoughts before sharing. (Hint: never post angry. Cool down first)
  • You can combine your blog with your newsletter so your readers can comment back to you. (Hint: Always reply! People won’t come back if you don’t reply.)
  • It’s a networking opportunity for other authors to guest post – sharing fan bases works beautifully to sell more books.

So what does an author blog about?

There are as many ideas and focuses for a blog as there are bloggers. Back in 2013, Neilson (yes, the TV ratings people) said there were hundreds of millions of blogs and that as many books are published in a year, that many blogs were started each day. The key to the study was that only 20% of these new blogs lasted past three months, and only about 7% of those lasted past a year. (I looked for that link, but couldn’t find it. It was a study I used in my Master’s thesis Understanding Christian Blogger Motivations: Woe to Me if I Blog not the Gospel that amazingly got published in a real journal.)

Jane Friedman outlines some different types of blogs that might interest you. But I think you should consider a combination of all of them. The main question you need to answer is:

What are you passionate about?

When writing your passion, you’ll have no trouble sticking to your commitment. I think the answer to this question is very close to the answer to the question: Why do you write what you 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 __________?

One thing I learned while studying blogger motivations is the major motivation underpin of  bloggers is that they want to help others. It’s important for a blogger to know what they post has helped another person. In my experience of blogging since 2005 and column writing since 2006, a blogger will have a lot of consumers of material but few responses to the posts. It’s because most bloggers don’t frame their posts in an information exchange effort (give a little ask a question, give a little more ask another question). Encouraging responses is a major key to building community.

What should a fiction author blog about?

What should a non-fiction author blog about?

As a reader what would you like to read on a favorite author’s blog?

10 thoughts on “Blog? Why? Blog What?”

  1. Honestly I cannot see an author/writer or indy publisher NOT having a blog! I myself have two blogs (one domain, one wordpress domain), one to promote my books (especially the FREE PDF ‘The Prodigal Band’), the other to explain the why or how or scenarios or characters or historical events in my books. Also just signed up to Facebook (something I didn’t want to do with all the privacy issues but felt I had to for more promotional purposes) under my author name with OmegaBooks logo pix. And what better way to ‘keep on writing’ than blogging? (I also have a political/social/spiritual/economics blog on wordpress called ‘somethinghappeninghere’ derived from a former domain site, a prepper rural remote site. Good post, Thanks!

  2. There is an important extension to this and that is specific book websites.

    Whatever book you write, there will always be things about your world (and it doesn’t need to be fantasy) that never make it into the book. There may be things about the characters, the language, the setting, the religion, politics – all kinds of things that enrich the story but would have made your book like War and Peach if you had included them.

    So what to do with them?

    Create a website for the book or series. Obviously, it will have links to buy the books and might have lots of other selly things, but you can also add all those bits that didn’t make it into the story.

    I have done this with my Dirt fantasy. This is one big series and there are are hundreds of characters, the dragons, the complicated religion, and an entire world of geography.

    So, under a section called The Abbey (which relates to the story), I have tons of articles about the world, written as if it was real. I even have one of the characters from the next series editing it!

    I have been careful not to ruin the story. Some information is protected in hidden fields labelled “Read only if you have read People of Dirt,” or whatever.

    In the sidebar on some pages, there is an additional tab which has additional notes from me – again, since those contain spoilers, it is not shown by default.

    But why do this?

    Initially, it was because I have 100,000 words of notes plus maps, and I wanted to do something with them. I thought it would interest some fans.

    But I have also gained a few readers. My SEO is good and my articles on Dragons have been hit thousands of times. I reckon it has gained me a few readers.

    This works with all sorts of books, not just fantasy. Anything set against a historical background is a prime candidate, and you might pick up readers who find a page on your site related to something they were looking up.

    So, blog yes, but think wider too!

  3. I’ll second that advice about being careful giving away stuff. In January 2017 I started a giveaway on Goodreads. I gave away thirty physical copies of my book, Dark Muse. The folks at Goodreads ( Amazon, really) said I could expect about twelve reviews in return, and create a “buzz” for my book.
    Well, there’s never a problem giving away anything for free. And in return? Three reviews, including one absolute trashing. The whole thing cost me almost $1.000.00. Goodreads said that the giveaway had to be real books, not electronic copies.
    Still, never again. I se lots of marketers saying that free books are crucial, that they build loyalty. Nonsense. They feed moochers, and I’ve talked to experienced people who agree with me.
    And that reviewer who trashed the book? Well, the fifth one is now on the drawing board, and I’m including her as the queen of Walmart nation, size fifty sweats and all.

    1. Philip, man I feel your pain and frustration! Yep, I gave away 25 of my first book in a blog tour, which is supposed to generate a review for each book given away. It’s this commitment thing a blogger signs when signing up for the tour. I got 5. I was hot and let the blog tour owner know it. That’s when I said never again.

      I give away books to people who are legitimate reviewers, but I’m very picky about who receives a free hard copy. It just costs too much to mail. I spent $14 just to send a book to a friend in England. He at least did give me a review. But, I think $14 is too much to pay for a review. Just my opinion.

    2. I’m getting ready to set up a new blog. I especially appreciate your comment. Had to laugh, and loved your last comment re your new character, the queen of Walmart nation! Love it.

  4. Although I am a long-time author with almost 60 books, guides and webinars with my name on them, as well as numerous articles in trade journals, blogging is not something I have gotten into. Number one reason? I have no clue how to do it (web platform, disbursement, etc.). Can someone give me some beginner ideas?

    1. I blogged for 13 years, now I write a weekly column and have moved my blogging to Authors Community blog. I’ll tell you how I started.

      Back in 2004, I went back to school to finish my Bachelor’s. My technical writing professor challenged the class to each start a blog. She sent us to numerous blogs from political pundits to recipe hounds to mommy bloggers so we could see what others were blogging about. It took a few months of wrestling for me to finally get down to business. I chose Blogger as my venue because it seemed the easiest to use at the time.

      I wrestled because I knew this would be a commitment of time and energy and creativity. So often in my searching other blogs I saw posts that began: “I don’t know what to write about today…” I realized there would be days I’d feel the same way, but I decided I’d never say that on my blog. Who wants to read that? I decided I’d call it Refreshment in Refuge. I was nervous. Putting my inner thoughts out there! ACK! So I posted a few several days apart. Then I committed to write 365 posts about something that I was passionate about; that struck my interest. If I was interested, then most likely others would be, too.

      About 6 months into it, I realized one morning I didn’t have anything to write about. All day I tried to squeeze out something. That afternoon I decided, what was one day? I’d figure out something tomorrow. Then God said, “Gina, you are going to need all these posts. Keep at it!” So I did. Six years later, I had some writing that would work well in a book, so in 2011 I published Refreshment in Refuge, Vol. 1.

      1. Make a commitment for longer than 3 months–If you are doing this just to get readers or to create a community, I doubt you’ll stay with it long. You do not have to stay with one thing to write about. You should write about what ever you are passionate about.

      2. Choose your venue–a lot of folks have gone with WordPress. I still like Blogger. You want to choose something that has been around for a long time, or at least choose your own website that you own so all your writing won’t disappear overnight because the company was sold or went belly-up.

      3. Then write. Write even when you don’t feel like it. Write even when you don’t have anything to write about. Stick to your commitment, and then after you’ve finished the number of days/months/year, assess your whole time you’ve been blogging. Are you satisfied with what you produced? Was it cathartic? Did you get some terrific ideas to further your writing? So was it worth it? Then decide whether to keep on or to quit.

  5. Thanks, Gina. I am assuming WordPress and Blogger have instructions on how to do it? format, posting directions, etc?

    1. Ah! I see I didn’t address exactly what you needed 🙂 I’m sorry.

      Yes, you have set up instructions. I found the Blogger instructions much easier to follow years ago. Back then, you had to know a lot of HTML for Typepad. Now it looks like is is as easy as Blogger. If you get stuck, email me at gina at authors community dot net, and I’ll see if I can untangle some things for you 🙂

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