By Iola GoultonI hope after reading last week's post that you’re all convinced that yes, you need an author website. You need a central online home where readers can find out more about you and your books.
What about a blog?The idea of blogging causes a lot of anxiety among authors, so I'm going to tell you something not many people know: you can be a successful fiction author without blogging.
Thriller author Nick Stephenson earned a six-figure income last year off his novels, and his website doesn't have a blog. What it does have is a prominent email sign-up list, and Nick uses his email newsletter to build relationships with his readers in the same way that other authors use a blog.
If you’re a non-fiction author, then I'm sorry, but you do need to blog. It establishes your expertise in your specialist area, which will build credibility.
Fiction authors may still need to blog.If you’re aiming for a publishing contract with a major traditional publisher, then you almost certainly need to have an author blog and post regularly. Social media expert Edie Melson points out that regular blogging shows industry professionals you can write to a deadline and produce quality work. Melson does point out that blogging isn’t a way to sell books, but does provide a way of connecting with readers.
What if you’re aiming to self-publish?Then it depends. Self-published authors need a website and an email list, but blogging? It’s not the most important part of a website—that would be your About page, and your Books page, because those are the pages readers are most likely to be looking for.
Do you enjoy blogging?No? Then don’t start a blog. You want your blog to show readers an interesting person they want to know better. That's not going to come through if you think blogging is a chore on a par with (pick the household task you loathe most).
Can you commit to regular blogging? Will you?Will you commit to a regular blogging schedule, including writing, editing and publishing a new blog post at least once per week for at least the next six months? No? Then don’t start a blog.
Don't I have to blog to sell books?No—even a strong blog might not help you sell books. Think of Mike Duran. I often link to his posts in the Australiasian Christian Writers Facebook group, because they are thought-provoking and relevant and he's not afraid to ask the hard questions about Christianity and literature. But he writes Christian horror, and while I think his blog is great, I'm not interested in his fiction (sorry, Mike).
Anyway, no one is going to be interested in your blog if it's a constant infomercial (let your Home and Books pages do the selling).
Okay. I’m going to blog.If you enjoy blogging and can commit to a regular schedule, then maybe blogging is for you. Now your choice is between blogging on your website, or blogging as part of a group blog (such as Australasian Christian Writers or Christian Writers Downunder).
If you choose to blog on your own website:
- Be regular. Blog at least once a week, at the same time and on the same day each week. Announce this on your About page. Don’t overcommit yourself: if one good post each week is all you can manage, then blog once a week. If you can’t commit to posting weekly, you might be better concentrating on an author newsletter (which we’ll discuss next week).
- Be intentional. Choose a topic or theme, and stick to it. If you don’t know what your theme might be, Jeff Goins has a 12-part free email course that might help you.
- Don’t put blogging ahead of writing your book. If blogging is taking over your writing time, you might need to reconsider how regularly you blog.
If you post on a group blog:
- Get your post up early. The earlier, the better. It saves the blog organiser the last-minute stress of wondering whether they need to find a filler post if you miss your slot.
- Ensure your posts fit the blog. Some group blogs (like Australasian Christian Writers) have different themes for different days. I actually find a set theme makes it easier to write a post. And ensure your posts are consistent in length and style with those of the other contributors. This doesn't mean letting go of your unique author voice, but making sure you're not posting deep theological treatises when everyone else is posting about their cute pets (or vice versa).
- Put blogging ahead ahead of writing your book. You've made a commitment. Keep it. If you need to step back from contributing, contact the blog organiser and work out a mutually agreeable schedule. Don't leave your blogmates in the lurch.
What do you blog about?This is the more difficult question.
If you write non-fiction, blog about subjects related to your book (or even blog your book).
It’s not so cut and dried if you write fiction. You want to your blog to appeal to your target reader—it’s a place for your potential audience to get to know you better, so write to appeal to that audience. What else can you post?
- Character information, maps or related plot information
- Questions for book clubs
- Outtakes or deleted scenes (maybe)
- Short stories
- Reviews for books you’ve enjoyed in a similar genre
Make sure your topic or theme is related to your book topic in some way. For example, I don’t see the point in blogging about home redecoration if you write romance novels, unless your heroine is a DIY enthusiast or flips houses to make money. Work out what your target reader is interested in, and blog about that. (Yes, easier said than done, especially for fiction authors.) The Novel Marketing Podcast has an episode on what novelists can blog about.
Whatever you choose to blog about, here are a couple of don’ts:
- Don’t blog about writing unless you’re writing for writers.
- Don’t always blog about yourself. It’s a blog, not an infomercial.
One last tip . . .If you do choose to blog, ensure your blog integrated into your website (so your blog is a page on your website, not a completely separate site). Your blog is where you'll start connecting with readers, through regular blog posts.
Do you blog? How often? And what do you blog about? What hints to you have for your fellow authors?