5 Reasons Authors Should Be Blogging Right Now

by Joel Friedlander on January 18, 2011 · 23 comments

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I’ve been asked to give a talk on author blogging next month, and it’s got me thinking. I’ll be speaking to a group of self-publishers, authors, indie publishers, and people who provide publishing or marketing services.

We talk a lot about author blogging, and why it’s a great idea for authors to create an author platform. Yet very few authors I know write regularly about their book, or its subject matter, or about anything at all.

Most blogs, in fact, are probably abandoned early in their life. There must be millions of “ghost” blogs around the internet, sitting in that same kind of stasis the old mining towns are in when someone stumbles on them in a movie set out west.

What Seems to Be the Problem?

The classic mistake made by self-publishers is not thinking about marketing until their books are at the printer. They are too busy, too wrapped up in the manuscript, or they don’t want to step so far out of their comfort zone.

I get this, I really do. We’re all busy, and marketing seems to most self-publishers like something somebody else does. But not any more.

If you’re like most self-publishers, you’ll be doing a lot of your marketing online, and that’s where a blog is going to help you out. You’ll be setting up an outpost on the internet, establishing a brand, and you can’t start too early.

Maybe you won’t have three years to blog before your book comes out, but it wouldn’t hurt. Whatever time you have, it’s important to make use of it.

Why? Read on.


5 Reasons to Start Blogging Now

  1. Nothing happens at first—Although you can get started blogging within minutes, it takes time to build up some content and to get taken seriously by search engines. Lots of blogs are abandoned soon after they start, and search engines know this. Starting now is your best option, because you immediately start the clock ticking on getting search traffic.

  2. It takes practice—You may be a perfectly good writer, but you’ve been writing books, or articles for trade magazines, or press releases or whatever. Blogging has its own rationale, and blog posts are not like other types of writing. You’ll need a bit of time to get used to the form.

  3. You need to find readers—Maybe you’re an amazing writer, but there are a lot of choices for people who spend time online. At first, no one will know you’re there, and building a community of readers is an organic process.

  4. Work on building connections—As your blog grows, you’ll naturally start to connect with other bloggers in your field. You may be surprised at how many connections you can make this way, and that there’s a supportive community you can become a part of.

  5. Branding doesn’t happen in a day—Whether you realize it or not, you are creating an online author brand, a media presence, by building your blog. Brands have tremendous power over our buying decisions, but it takes time and repeated exposure to get traction for your brand.

Of course, the whole idea is that after you’ve been blogging for a while, establishing authority, building readership, gaining trust by delivering content of authentic value, there will be a payoff.

Imagine yourself a year or two in the future. You’ve done all these things, maybe because you read this article or another one like it. Now it’s time to release your book. You have an audience waiting, other bloggers ready to help spread the word, and access to media sources through your blog.

A Fine Example

This isn’t a fantasy or out of your reach. I’ve been watching (and helping) Joanna Penn, who blogs at The Creative Penn, as she launches Pentecost, her first novel. It will be a great success. Know why? She has spent the last couple of years connecting to people, delivering content of value, engaging readers and peers alike. Hundreds of people have voted in her polls about choosing a cover for the book. Everyone is anticipating its release.

Wouldn’t you like to publish your next book to an eager and waiting community of fans?

Start blogging today.

Photo by Mackenzie Kosut

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    { 20 comments… read them below or add one }

    John Soares January 18, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Joel, I think that blogging can really benefit many authors, and you give sound advice here. I have multiple blogs for both my mainstream trade paperbacks and my self-published e-books.

    I do think, though, that authors need to be clear on the amount of time and energy blogging well will take. Authors must have a clear commitment to a long-range plan.

    And for some authors, the return on the time invested blogging may not be worth it. Marketing efforts could be more profitably spent on other methods.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 18, 2011 at 10:58 am

    John, good point. Each author/blogger has to decide what kind of commitment they will give to blogging. For beginning bloggers I often recommend they start with one or two blog posts a month, to keep from getting overwhelmed. Staying with the commitment is the important part, not the frequency. Nice to see you’re back from your blogging break, and thanks for your contribution.

    Reply

    John Soares January 18, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Joel, I really like the advice to start slow but stay consistent. Posting once or twice a month is very doable, and it also establishes the site in Google’s eyes.

    My brother just started blogging three months ago or so in support of his new sea kayaking book and his existing how-to dvds. He blogs once a week and is really enjoying it. Getting lots of comments too. (tsunamirangers.com, if you’re curious)

    Reply

    Joan M. Sargent January 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Great points, Joel. And I agree with the previous poster, blogging does take time, and a branding plan. My question now is, how often should one produce a blog post? Daily? Weekly?

    Reply

    Nathan Lowell January 18, 2011 at 10:29 am

    My advice — which is different from ‘common wisdom’ — is blog when you have something to say. Writing for the sake of writing isn’t really all that useful particularly if it’s not related to your audience.

    While the common wisdom holds that you should pick a schedule and keep it — once a day, once a week, etc — because the consistency will train visitors to look for you content on those days, I think that’s wrong.

    In the first place, serious readers are using feed aggregators like Google Reader to put content together. In the second place, there’s a lot of psychological research on the utility of irregular reward gratification. In the last place, posting as bait to get people to visit you whether they need to or not seems a bit disrespectful of the people whom you hope will become your ambassadors.

    I believe the goal should be 100 people who love your work, rather than 10,000 who know of you. If you have the first, the second won’t matter.

    Just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 18, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Joan, as you can see by the other comments here, different writers have found different solutions to this question. Blogging is a two-way conversation you have with your readers, and these readers may or may not be the same people who are likely to buy your books. While I’ve committed to a definite blogging schedule, others have done quite well without one. You have to find what works for you and your community. Keep in mind that it’s hard to do it incorrectly, most blogs are works in progress, and if you need or want to make a change, be open and transparent about it and I think you’ll find that your readers will respond in kind.

    Reply

    Nathan Lowell January 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

    This is some good advice for writers, Joel. Too often I see the same (somewhat misguided advice) on these lists and you’ve hit all the nails on their respective heads.

    The key is to connect with the readers — or potential readers. Connecting with other writers in your genre is a great idea, if they’re writing to readers. Too often I see writers – at a loss as to what to write about – writing about writing.

    When I started in 2007, I largely ignored almost everything but the books. Of course, I had an instant audience because I podcast the novels and created a website to support the universe in my stories. It gave me a handy place to point listeners (readers) to for more information and for me to tell them things I thought they wanted to know.

    Like when the next book was coming out.

    In 2010 when I signed with my publisher, I already had 10,000 listeners from around the world ready to at least consider buying the books. The first one came out in May, the second just last month. Blogging in support of my podcast gave me the base to blow me into the top 10 in my genre categories and the attention there has been enough to keep me there. It took a while for the first book to get into the top 100 but the second has been in the top 100 for something like 27 out of the 25 days since its release.

    Keep up the great work, Joel. I do enjoy your posts.

    Reply

    Nathan Lowell January 18, 2011 at 10:31 am

    .. duh .. type too fast. think too slow.

    should read “.. 25 out of the 27 days since its release.”

    >.<

    This is why writers need editors.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I could correct this Nathan, but it makes your point about editors.

    Reply

    Liz Broomfield October 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Thanks for making the point about editors!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Great contribution, thanks Nathan. Your results are exactly what I was pointing readers toward, since you spent 3 years building an impressive platform. Continued good fortune with your books.

    Reply

    Luke Raftl January 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I’m new to the blogging scene, having just completed my first novel, and I have been very interested to see the important role that blogging can play for writers, especially as Nathan has demonstrated above: building an author platform. Obviously with all the talk and speculation of the changing landscape for writers and publishers, this platform is especially important to build fans, market and promote your work (like all goods and services really) in an increasingly digital world. I never blogged or read set blogs before recently, and were it not for my girlfriend I would never have got into it as soon as I have in my search for publishing answers, and as such I believe I would have found myself behind the 8-ball so to speak when I do eventually get the manuscript published or decide to publish it myself. I would never have realised what it was I was missing out on before it was too late …

    Nathan’s numbers and story above is certainly inspiring. Thanks for the article, Joel!

    Luke.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Glad you got something from it, Luke, and good luck with your book.

    Reply

    George Angus January 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Joel,

    Such a great article. Muy important, too. Writers need to blog, regardless of their anticipated publishing method.

    Blogging can supply a platform and a means of engaging with other writers and your readership.

    Go Blog!

    George

    Reply

    Patricia Benesh January 19, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Joel,

    Thoughtful information–as always! I’d like to mention that blog responding is an excellent way to build connections, bring people to your blog, and build a fan base. You can do it daily for 15 minutes or so and it’s relatively painless.

    Reply

    Megan C. Floyd January 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Okay, I’ve been procrastinating, lollygagging, whatever you want to call it on the blog scene. You just gave me the much needed inspiration to just start doing it. Thanks so much!

    Reply

    Simone Benedict January 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    This is a great article. Blogging is an excellent way for an author to gain a reader base. As a writer, my biggest joy is knowing that others are reading my work and hopefully enjoying it. The other four reasons are equally important.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 28, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks all for the comments. I’m having a good time getting ready for the presentation, and it’s great to have people’s thoughts to add to the mix. It seems that if you’re an author blogging ought to be a natural way to expand your writing. And I’m sure most of us are, as Simone says, writing for readers, that’s what drives us. Great to have you here.

    Reply

    Liz Broomfield October 17, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    A good post with very good points. I see so many abandoned blogs, and it’s a real shame. I would just add that, especially if you already have a friendly editor, or, indeed, if you want to give some a test-run, it’s perfectly acceptable (and often necessary) to get an editor to look over your blog posts, just like you have them look over your text. I was curious about this and ran a survey on my website “Do you need to proof read blogs?” – currently 65% of people have chosen “Yes – if a blog has errors I will trust the writer’s judgement and opinions less”. Worth a thought, anyway.

    Reply

    Patrick G Cox June 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for this post, it gives great advice. I’ve been blogging since 2003 and run two blogs. It does take time and a lot of effort sometimes. I note one commentator suggests not writing about writing, and that is probably good advice as well. I tend to write about what I’m doing or what people are saying about my writing. The key is to write as if you are in conversation with the reader.

    Plus, you need to find ways to generate traffic to your blog!

    Reply

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