6 Compelling Reasons Why Authors Need to Blog

by Joel Friedlander on September 14, 2011 · 33 comments

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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:

  1. Do you need a blog to help support your book? Yes.
  2. 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

For a free blog, you don’t need much. You can set up an account at Blogger.com or WordPress.com and be writing your first article in 5 minutes.

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?

Ed: This article was originally featured on CreateSpace.com in a slightly edited form under the title Why You Need an Author Blog.
Photo by kalexanderson

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    { 27 comments… read them below or add one }

    Victor Paul Scerri October 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Hi Joel,
    Thank you for getting back to me on the shared blog idea. To keep it
    within the same genre sounds very pleasing. I wrote a book . . . or so
    I thought, and now being coached by Creative Writing
    Institute–learning the tools of the trade. I have been with them for
    six months, and hope to soon to start, and re-write my book.
    Meanwhile, I have been asked to prepare a website and blog–something
    I know little about. I have started preparations, but I would much
    prefer to join a group. My book genre is; narrative non-fiction. I am
    English residing in Norway and Spain. Hence, it would be great to
    involve authors from different countries. The blog comity members
    could have a logo so they can be reconised. Have I planted a seed for any takers–if
    so please let me know? I read this Author: Sarah Towle
    Comment:
    Wow! Thanks for stopping by and taking such a careful look.

    Everything you say is true. I’m just not sure what my focus should be. I started out writing almost exclusively about French history and culture. But there are so many other blogs doing that, and doing it well, that when the launch of my app was imminent (and I had so much less time for blogging), I tried transitioning to more of a ‘here’s what it takes to produce an app’ story. I haven’t quite found the magic recipe! It’s much easier said than done!

    I’m writing a story about Japanese culture seen through the eyes of couple, that depict an emotional love/hate relationship.

    I think I speak for many that find the idea of blogging energy consuming and intimidating. Hence, to form a blog forum with both talented and not so talented blogger’s could be exciting and hopefully rewarding too.
    Vic

    Reply

    Sarah Towle October 8, 2011 at 5:11 am

    Awesome post, Joel. Awesome blog!

    I’ve been a blogging writer for some time now (I write storyapp tours for teens, ‘tweens, and the young at heart) and it’s hard not to lose hope when it appears that no one ever stops by for a look-see and a read. Then something fabulous happens, like yesterday when I got invited out to lunch by someone who loves what I’m doing and wants to somehow be involved to champion my efforts.

    This made me realize, among other things, that there are many more lurkers than commenters out there, which is okay, but do you have any advice on how to inspire people to comment?

    Thanks!
    Sarah

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Hi Sarah, thanks for your input. I loved your “Death of Marat” sample, fantastic stuff. I think you have to be really clear about your blog, that will help you grow your readership. A number of your posts and news items or references to other articles or like press releases, with regular posts interspersed. You might think about separating that stuff somehow, establish a regular posting schedule, even if it’s once a week, and focus on providing something useful/entertaining that makes people want to come back.

    Hope that helps.

    Reply

    Sarah Towle October 9, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Wow! Thanks for stopping by and taking such a careful look.

    Everything you say is true. I’m just not sure what my focus should be. I started out writing almost exclusively about French history and culture. But there are so many other blogs doing that, and doing it well, that when the launch of my app was imminent (and I had so much less time for blogging), I tried transitioning to more of a ‘here’s what it takes to produce an app’ story. I haven’t quite found the magic recipe! It’s much easier said than done!

    Thanks mucho for the advice,
    Sarah

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Well, Franch history and culture is probably waaaay too big a subject for a blog. You need to “niche it down” and find the area that you have a passion for but which is not well-served by other bloggers. I have no doubt you can find that sweet spot if you look for it, and that will help to orient your blog and make the process much easier.

    Reply

    Roger C. Parker October 9, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Dear Sarah:
    Have you explored all of the potential marketing partners who you could work with, large and small?

    What’s the next beyond your “virtual tours,” which I’m going to explore next?

    What would it take to convince “virtual tours” to “armchair traveler” to “Visitors?” What are the obstacles that need to be overcome?

    If it’s money, for example, could you partner with a French bank or hotel chain to set up “layaway plans” to put aside a little money each month?

    I assume you know about firms like Villa Italia which arrange short-term home and apartment rentals in France, etc.

    Anyway, Don’t despair: the “sweet spot”will show up if you persist and explore additional options.

    Roger

    Reply

    Dave October 8, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I’d like to know what my rights are if I have a blog but don’t own the domain name. The copyright to my blog’s content is owned by me according to the host’s terms and conditions.
    Would I, though, be overstepping the terms of the host if I wanted to use my blog content again such as making a book out of some of the content, or should I rewrite it?
    I suppose I should check with the host. It’s with Wordpress, but I thought I’d ask for your advice

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Dave, it’s hard to comment on that since I have no access to the agreement between you and the host, but you should have full ownership and should be able to post your own material. On this blog I ask guests to wait 30 days (Guest Author Guidelines) but have no other claim or influence on what they do with their content after that.

    Reply

    Vic October 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I don’t know much about blogging, but I can see that it is a skill that has taken the world by storm. The problem with any skill that attracts big time–is the energy required. Would it be more advisable to share a blog?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Vic, a shared blog is a great idea and can work very well. There are examples around the web and it would be particularly good for writers in one genre, you could create quite a magnet for readers that way.

    Reply

    Veronica L. Singleton September 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I followed you all the way through this entire article, which is quite helpful by the way. However, when you got to “media focus,” you lost me. I would appreciate if you would e-mail me to explain. Thank you very much.

    Veronica Truesdale a/k/a Veronica L. Singleton

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Hi Veronica. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear enough. What I meant was that a blog is a good place to have a media kit available for reporters, feature writers, bloggers and others who might want to interview you, review your book, or ask you to appear in an interview. Hope that helps.

    Reply

    TC/The Writer Underground September 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Domain names aren’t one-time fees; you pay annually to renew them.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Quite right, thanks for the correction TC.

    Reply

    Lance C. September 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Who — beside other writers — reads author blogs? I know several avid readers, and none of them have read an author blog.

    An author website has an obvious value. It can host all the promotional information, sample chapters, links to Amazon and B&N to buy books, and so on. But “website” and “blog” are not synonymous. A well-designed website is not the massive timesink any kind of blog can be. One of your commenters suggests blogging daily. Really? That thousand words a day you pour into your blog are a thousand words a day you’re not adding to your next book. Which is going to bring in more money?

    Can you share any metrics showing a positive correlation between author blogging and sales?

    Reply

    Roger C. Parker September 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Dear Lance:
    You bring up an interesting point, “I know several avid readers, and none of them have read an author blog,” and I look forward to Joel’s reply.

    In the meantime, I think the answer involves knowing when and how to differentiate a book site (whether its blog-based, or not) with an author site (blog-based, or not).

    A book site should be topically oriented, i.e., focused on the needs of prospects and readers looking for information about (in the case of nonfiction books), achieving goals or solving specific problems.

    An author site, however, is more promotional and covers a lot more ground, as you said, book promo, upcoming speaking events, author background, etc.

    Perhaps the ideal solution is to think in terms of a hub and spoke arrangement. The author site/blog is the hub of the wheel, and it’s surrounded by spokes (i.e. topic-specific blogs or websites) each related to a specific book or title.

    Roger

    Reply

    Lance C. September 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    I should probably clarify that I’m speaking specifically of fiction. I understand nonfiction writers can make use of a blog to build themselves up as experts in whatever field they wrote about. That’s nowhere near so important in fiction.

    I’d like to see the bottom line: does a blog really move novels? How many readers discover a novel through the author’s blog? What is it worth to me to divert effort from production in order to feed a blog?

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus September 15, 2011 at 1:53 am

    >>Who — beside other writers — reads author blogs? I know several avid readers, and none of them have read an author blog.<<

    I think you're misisng the point. An author's blog or website exists to capture the attention of potential book buyers who may not know that your book exists, or even be shopping for a book. If your book deals with Etruscan archaelology, bagel baking or Mustang modification, your blog or website should provide useful information to establish you as an expert in that field, so people who find you on the web may decide to buy your books.

    If you are writing fiction or poetry, you have a much tougher job to build online traffic before a book is published. You may not be able to rely on subject matter or genre. A Google search for "vampire sex" shows about 73 million links, so there is lots of competition for searchers. You may be able to slowly build traffic from Facebook and other social networks. If friends visit your blog or website and are impressed, they may send their friends to see it.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    — Just out (but needs a few corrections): “STINKERS!: America’s Worst Self-Published Books,” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0983057257

    Reply

    George Angus September 14, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Joel,

    This post exemplifies why I believe your site is absolutely the most helpful writing site on the web. You don’t just gloss over the high points of a topic, you give in-depth, real world tools to help us writers do what we need to be successful.

    George

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 14, 2011 at 10:09 am

    George, thank you. It’s an honor to have you as a reader. (And soon to be guest author, too.)

    Reply

    ishmael September 14, 2011 at 7:57 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Blogs are indeed very powerful tool that authors can use to create a discussion about their book online.

    Reply

    Jim Crigler September 14, 2011 at 7:19 am

    The case you make is, I think, compelling for writers of non-fiction. But I write fiction (mysteries specifically), so once you get beyond the generic description of “author platform,” the actual implementation is, I think, very different.

    Item 4, content focus, is the primary reason I haven’t started a “platform blog” yet. I follow the blogs of several writers (some of whom you’ve interviewed here), but they mostly seem to be blogging for writers. I can’t figure out what to write that would be of use (practical or entertaining) to readers. Ideas?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 14, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Jim, you are quite right that I usually approach these subjects from the perspective of nonfiction authors (probably because I are one) but your question comes up repeatedly.

    There are many ways to create a content focus for a blog about a novel, or a platform blog for a fiction writer. For instance, you can blog about the time period if you write historical fiction, about police or intelligence procedures and concerns if you’re a thriller writer, about the stresses of modern life if you’re a contemporary novelist.

    The idea is to identify what your readers have in common and write about their interests, without specifically writing about your plot, your characters or your book.

    Novelists also do a lot of research, and a lot of that work forms background for writing but doesn’t make it into the book itself, leading to another fertile area of content that is usually intrinsic to the subject or setting of the book.

    I think if you follow these types of threads they will lead you to answer this question for your own books.

    Reply

    Jim Crigler September 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Joel, thanks for that. It is more help than I have heard from any of the other fiction writers who blog.

    Reply

    John Schulz September 14, 2011 at 5:11 am

    I look forward to receiving your articles by email every morning. I really appreciate your work.
    This morning I sent the final chapter of my new book to the editor and decided it was time to start on my author blog. Just as I was pondering, your wonderful and to the point article
    I will follow your directions.
    Thank you very much.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Thanks, John, that’s very exciting to be near the end of a book project, and I hope some of the ideas here help with your blog.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus September 14, 2011 at 3:51 am

    Some tips for new bloggers:

    (1) A nearly empty blog won’t impress many people, or keep people from quickly clicking away. Before you announce a blog to the world, write six or more posts. If you expect to be ready in a couple of weeks, you can publish dummy posts (with Blogger, anyway) to establish dates when items were published. Just use a headline like “Temp headline, 9-14-11″ and put something like “123” or “QWERTYUIOP” in the body of the post. When you’re ready you can replace the dummy text with “real” words and you will have established some history to provide instant credibility when you open for business.

    (2) For a blog to be effective, you want people to read your words on a regular basis. Your “customers” should see new material whenever they stop by. Post something as often as possible. Seven days a week is best, Monday-thru-Friday is fine, less often is less good, but less than once a week looks feeble.

    (3) It’s better to write less, more often, than to write more, less often.

    (4) Establish a publishing sechedule and stick to it. Your new material should be available early in the morning, like the morning newspapers.

    (5) You should constantly be attracting new readers, so it’s OK to post “reruns” of already published material (with updates if necessary). It’s fine to rerun something originally published three months ago, but not three days ago.

    (6) Even without new content, your blog will seem fresher if you periodically “redecorate,” with a new layout, new colors, etc.

    (7) The world’s best blog is useless if no one sees it. Mention your blog in everything you write, including comments posted on other blogs, Yahoo groups, online forums, email “signatures,” on your websites and in books and printed articles. Use social media such as Facebook and Linkedin to announce new blog posts. You can send out press releases for a blog launch and important postings.

    (8) If you will be unable to publish because of vacation, illness, etc., post a notice to explain your absence so people won’t think you’re out of business.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    http://www.BookFur.com (information, help and book reviews for authors)
    http://www.RentABookReviewer.com (pre-publication book assessments)
    — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
    — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0983057249

    — Just out (but needs a few corrections): “STINKERS!: America’s Worst Self-Published Books,” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0983057257

    Reply

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