In the last post, I started a series asking what “things” an author really needs, such as a website, mailing list, Tumblr, Facebook, and so on. In this post, we’ll tackle the question of whether an author should have a blog.
You’ve probably read plenty of posts on this subject. It’s a pretty hot topic with authors. Some will say that authors always need a blog, and that it’s the most effective way to sell more books. Others will tell you that a blog isn’t at all necessary—and that it’s even detrimental to getting your books finished! With so many opinions, it can be a confusing question to ponder.
Little wonder, since the best answer I can give you is it depends. A blog can be a great thing, or it might not be so wonderful for you. Let’s look at some questions to help you decide if a blog is right for your author platform.
But Wait, Isn’t a Blog a Website?
Right off the bat, let’s answer this question: Isn’t blog just another word for a website?
No. While you can have a website that consists solely of a blog, a website can be much more than just that one element—or your website might not even include a blog at all!
Think about this: Your website could consist entirely of a page about yourself, plus a page for each of your books. That’s one way to set up an author site. Those two types of pages are pretty much the bare minimum of content you should have on your author website, which I told you last time is a necessary thing to have. The question we’re considering today is whether you should also add a blog to that website.
With that out of the way, let’s look at what a blog is actually for.
Defining What a Blog Does
What do you do with a blog? Take just a couple of minutes and think about the blogs you like to read. How do they work? What do they post?
Chances are good that you thought of a couple of different things:
- A blog is a place where articles are posted on a regular basis. Usually, a blog tends to keep its posts within a certain topic, such as marketing, food, national news, or any number of things. However, a blog’s topic could just be the collected thoughts of the person who writes it.
- A blog could also be a place where news is posted about a person, company, or product instead of articles on a given topic. For example, an author who does a lot of live appearances might host a blog of photos from book signings and also post about her upcoming schedule.
So on an author blog, you could post articles about a topic relevant to yourself as an author, such as writing tips. Or you might decide to share the latest news about your upcoming books and events. Or perhaps you think that your readers might like to hear whatever thoughts you have to write about. All of these are legitimate approaches to blogging.
What is a blog’s purpose? Just like there are many different types of blog subjects, there are different purposes for blogging. Here are four that an author might be thinking of when planning a blog:
- To post articles that will get readers interested in your books.
- To share your thoughts about any topic with your readers.
- To create posts that will give aspiring authors encouragement and help them with writing books or getting published.
- To post a story in installments for free.
You can certainly cover all four of those areas on an author blog, but you would probably want to pick one to focus on most of the time. You want your blog’s readers to know what to expect when they come to your blog.
Defining an Author Blog’s Audience
Not only should you define the purpose of your blog, you should also think about who will be reading your posts. There are two categories of people who might be most interested in your author blog:
- People who have read your book.
- Fellow authors.
Let’s think for a minute about what each of these groups would like to read on your blog.
First, let’s look at the people who have read your book. They are most likely coming to your website to find out more about you. They are also probably looking for the release date for your next book. But they aren’t too likely to be interested in writing tips, since these people are readers— fans of your books. We could define their interest as “news about book release dates, excerpts or sneak previews of upcoming books, and information about live events where I can meet this great author.”
On the other hand, your fellow authors who visit your blog would be most interested in any writing or publishing tips you might be able to share. They want to know how you’ve been successful as an author and what tips can give to help them improve their own books.
See how these two audiences are different? When you consider starting an author blog, it’s important to think about which group of people you’ll be writing for, then focus on writing posts that will appeal to that group.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Now that we’ve defined what a blog is and how you might use it, let’s decide if you really need one. Again, the answer is it depends. An author blog might be a great fit for you, or you might decide that it’s not your thing. Both are valid choices. To help you make the decision, here are five questions to ask yourself.
Why do I want to have a blog? Examine your reasons for starting down the path of blogging. Do you want a blog because you’ve heard that authors should have one? If you’re not truly convinced that it’s something you need, you might not tackle it with the same passion you have for writing your books. But if you want to have a blog because you think it’s a way to help other authors or because it’s a good tool for marketing your books, that’s a solid reason to blog.
Can I commit to a posting schedule and keep doing it? The key to successful blogging is posting consistently on a regular schedule. Your schedule doesn’t have to be weekly—you can post every other week, monthly, or even daily if it floats your boat. (Fix My Story posts every other week, if you hadn’t noticed.) Think carefully about how often you can write a blog post and if you will be able to commit to it long-term. Nothing says your author site is out of date like a blog that hasn’t had any new posts for months. Be sure you can do this consistently before you begin.
Do I have enough post ideas to fill my schedule? Once you decide how often you can commit to posting, do this quick exercise: Take about fifteen minutes to brainstorm articles or upcoming news that you want to share on your blog. (This post isn’t going anywhere, so you can take your time!)
Now count the ideas you’ve written down and divide that out by how frequently you plan to post. For example, if you wrote down 12 ideas and you plan to post weekly, you have enough ideas to last for 12 weeks. Or if you plan to post those same 12 ideas on a monthly basis, you’ll be set for a year of blogging. (Be careful with that, though. In my experience it’s easy to forget to post if you do it less frequently.)
Now ask yourself if you feel confident that you’ll have more post ideas once this list runs dry. If you think this list is pretty much all you’ve got, you might want to consider other options for sharing this content. Which leads us to…
Could I use these post ideas somewhere else instead? If your goal is largely to promote yourself as an author and get readers interested in your books, guest posting on other blogs might be a better option than starting your own blog. You would get exposure to another blog’s audience that way, giving new readers a chance to hear about you and your books. It’s also a great way to share writing tips if you think you’d rather not have an author tips blog on your website.
Guest posting is absolutely a better option if you don’t have much material to blog about. If your list of ideas is small and you don’t think you can come up with many other blog posts to write after you finish that stack, consider approaching other blogs with your post ideas and see if you can share them that way. (My friend Katie runs a blog for writers that takes submissions. You might want to check it out.)
And even if you call yourself a fiction author, don’t overlook the possibility of writing a nonfiction book. Look through your list of blog post ideas. Do some of them have a common theme? You might just have the start of a book outline in your hands.
Would I rather be writing books instead of blog posts? Hey, it’s a legitimate question! If you think you’d be happier writing books instead of blog posts, write books. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What Did You Choose?
How did you come out after answering the questions? Do you need a blog, or is your author website fine without one? Leave a comment and share why you decided the way you did.