In my day job, I help authors bring their books to completion and get them ready to go to press, whether it’s through a digital print on-demand service, an offset print run, or going straight to e-Books.
One thing that’s common with these authors: their dawning realization that after putting in months or years of work—usually in private—to finish their manuscripts, the real work of book marketing has only just begun.
This is one of the reasons I’ve become involved in author education, because many of these authors have made the exact same mistake: they waited too long to start building an audience for their books.
It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
This is the reason I have the same answer to every author who asks about whether—or when—to start a blog to support their books:
- Do you need a blog to help support your book? Yes.
- When should you start blogging? Now!
Here’s why I always tell authors that now is the best time to start blogging: it takes time to reach the goals that blogging will bring within your grasp, like:
- Finding readers who are interested in your subject
- Building anticipation for your book
- Networking with others in your field
- Establishing a base for your social media marketing
- Letting potential buyers sample your content, your style and your ideas
Sometimes it’s a challenge when you first start out, since blogs have some moving parts you have to get right. But there’s lots of help available, and it’s possible for anyone who wants to start blogging to be up and running in 30 minutes.
4 Things You Need to Get Going
On the other hand, this type of blogging has been referred to by Brain Clark at Copyblogger as “digital sharecropping,” since you don’t own the property you’re basing your blog on. If you run foul of the policies and procedures of the host, you may find yourself without a blog at all.
The alternative is to set up a blog that you own, where you have your own domain name and hosting account. I recommend this method for anyone who’s serious about blogging.
By owning your own piece of the internet, you can’t be banned, kicked or lose your blog because of a change in policies or even due to a mistake on someone else’s part. It’s like owning your own home.
Creating a blog you actually own takes a bit more work at the beginning, but not much. You’ll need:
1. A domain name. I’m paying $10 right now to register domains, and you only have to pay it once per year.
2. A hosting account. Rates these days will give you a robust account to host multiple sites for less than $10 a month, billed to a credit card. This blog is hosted on Bluehost.com and it has been very reliable over the last two years.
Many hosts have an automated installation available for the WordPress blogging software. You push a button and it installs it for you in about a minute. You can also download this software, which is free and open source, at WordPress.org.
For either type of blog, you’ll also want to prepare by settling on:
3. Your publication schedule. You may not firm this up until you’ve been blogging for a little while, but it’s good to start off with a definite schedule. If you’re pressed for time, start with once a week or once every two weeks and grow from there.
4. Your content focus. This is more challenging than it might appear. Many of the best author blogs start with a laser-like focus on one aspect of one subject. Obviously, the subject matter of your book is the point around which your blog will form.
6 Reasons Why Authors Need to Blog
Once you’ve got your blog up and running you’re ready to reap the rewards. I promised 6 compelling reasons, and here they are:
- Home base. As your hub, your blog is a home base you can direct people to in your travels throughout the internet. When you post on forums, leave comments on others’ blogs, or participate in discussions, people who want to find out more about you need somewhere to go. There’s no better place to send people than to your blog.
- Opt-in. I encourage every author to start an email list, and the best place to do this is with an opt-in form on your blog. This is a great way to encourage greater engagement with your ideas.
- Test bed. A blog, by its nature, focuses attention on one article at a time. Each blog post pushes the older ones down toward your article archive. This allows you to experiment with style, subject matter, and other aspects of your writing that you’d like to get feedback on.
- Content collector. It can be overwhelming to sit down and try to write a 50,000 word book. But that’s just 50 1,000-word blog posts, isn’t it? Chunking this task down to a manageable size can be a powerful force in helping you meet your writing goals.
- Media focus. You’ll need a place to point media – like book reviewers and feature writers – to when they want to find out more about your book, you, or your work. A blog can easily host your media kit and all the materials needed to make you shine in stories and reviews.
- Reader hangout. There’s nothing more valuable for authors than to be able to get into a conversation with their readers. The comment section on a blog can be the most interesting part of a blog post, where others weigh in with their own opinions, insights and experiences. This not only gives you great feedback, but it builds your community of readers, and that’s a good thing.
I hope I’ve managed to interest you in blogging. The most successful author blogs I see are those in which the blogger is passionate about his or her topic, engaged with readers who want to know more, and innovative in how to offer more content and more fun to people who subscribe to the blog.
So get out there and start blogging today, if you haven’t started already. Don’t worry about how many people are reading your blog, just find a way to make it enjoyable for you and let people know that you’ve started blogging. You’ll have an audience soon enough.
More on Blogs and Building Your Author Platform
How to Make Your Blog Readers Into Rabid Fans
Why Your Blog’s “About” Page Matters
Writer’s Blogs: 5 Essentials for Engaging Your Readers
7 Formats for Winning Blog Posts
3 Keys to Successful Author Blogging
Author Platform: What Are You Waiting For?