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.
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?