Author Blogging 101: The Power of Viewpoint

by Joel Friedlander on March 5, 2012 · 13 comments

Post image for Author Blogging 101: The Power of Viewpoint

There’s a pretty important decision you make when you start your author blog. In fact, it’s the second-most important decision you’ll make in the early stages of establishing yourself online.

The first decision, of course, is the topic you plan to cover, and that’s a pretty big subject in itself. Luckily, for most nonfiction authors this is pretty easy to settle on because it’s going to be the subject you are writing about, or the one in which you have expertise.

However, even that decision will bear on the second one. What is it? Picking your viewpoint.

Let me explain this a little more.

3 Kinds of Blogging Viewpoints for Nonfiction Authors

At first glance, there appear to be two common viewpoints that authors use when they start blogging:

  1. Authority—This is a standard viewpoint, and it’s easy to see why. If you want to learn about baking pizza, for instance, you want to get instruction, tips and recommendations from an acknowledged authority in the field.

    When you become known as an authority in your field, your blog will become a reference point for others, bringing you traffic and creating influence. You’ll get into the “deal flow” where others want to partner with you.

    People speaking from authority prescribe specific actions, and are able to predict the outcome:

    “First get a big mixing bowl and the largest size of plastic wrap you can find at your local store. You’ll see why this is necessary later. Over 90% of my baking students have learned pizza baking by completing the lessons I prepared for you, so come back here when you’ve finished them.”

    A lot of the challenge of this viewpoint is to remember there are other, less expert people looking for information. If all your stuff is very high level or aimed at other experts, you can build a good blog, but it will have a different aim than one oriented toward newcomers.

    Keep in mind that newbies are always the largest group in any subject area, and experts are the fewest.

  2. Newbie—The other end of the spectrum is also popular. In this viewpoint you establish the fact that you are not an expert, but you’re an informed newcomer.

    This viewpoint can allow you to get much closer to the newcomers in your audience because, after all, you’re one of them.

    As a newbie blogger you artfully share the journey of discovery about your chosen subject.

    For instance, you might write blogs about discovering all the different kinds of flour that can be used in baking pizza. Or about discoveries you make as you make them.

    It might sound a little like this:

    “Yesterday I came home with a lot of new information about all different kinds of flours you can use to make pizza, and now I’m really excited to see how these will work. Last night I conducted my first experiment by adding 1 tablespoon of rye flour to my dough. Just 1 tablespoon! It was amazing!”

    This is a very effective way to build a blog audience around a subject because you create an empathetic connection with your audience that’s very strong.

    Although you need to be better informed than your readers, you don’t need to be an expert to carry this off.

The Third Way

However, there’s another viewpoint that might be even more powerful than either of these other two, Authority and Newbie.

You might think of this viewpoint as Older sibling or trusted friend.

In this viewpoint, you aren’t a world expert or some big authority figure, you’re someone much closer to the newcomer. You are clearly past the newcomer phase, but not so long ago that you don’t remember it or empathize with the confusion and struggles that are endemic to starting anything new.

Your stance might be something like,

“I remember what it was like when I first started making my own pizza dough, and it was tough. I remember looking at a pile of dough I’d dropped on the over door, wondering if I was the only one who couldn’t do this right. Now I’ve got it figured out. I may not be a world expert baker, but my book will show you the method I’ve worked out that makes the best pizza dough I’ve ever tasted.”

This third way combines the best parts of the authority and the beginner. You still have ongoing enthusiasm for your subject, you’re still discovering new things, but your triumphs over the beginner obstacles is still fresh and relevant for others facing those same obstacles today.

You have real, if limited authority, and all the empathy of a close peer.

Learning to use these viewpoints can contribute some incredibly powerful “secret sauce” to your blogging, yielding high engagement with your readers and all that that implies.

Photo by Robbo-Man

Be Sociable, Share!

    { 11 comments… read them below or add one }

    Michael N. Marcus March 5, 2012 at 2:48 am

    “This third way combines the best parts of the authority and the beginner. . . . You have real, if limited authority”

    I like the third way. Not claiming to know everything gives me an excuse to make errors.

    (Also, you don’t have to know more than everybody else knows to give advice and get paid for it. You can make money if you know more than 90%, 80% or even 20% of the people in the world — if they can find you.)

    Another viewpoint which I often use is to challenge authority, experts and conventional wisdom — to be the kid in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale who points out that the emperor is naked, not wearing a glorious new suit.

    Michael N. Marcus

    http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    http://www.BookFur.com (information, help and book reviews for authors)
    – Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html

    – New: deluxe hardcover edition of “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0983057249

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 5, 2012 at 9:43 am

    The “challenge authority” viewpoint is very powerful, the problem is that it’s hard to keep up for a long period of time and you risk coming across as grouchy, never a good stance for attracting engagement. But you’ve done it well by mixing it with other content.

    Reply

    Catana March 5, 2012 at 9:54 am

    As part of a mix, it works very well. I’m innately the kind of person who prefers to figure things out for myself. What works for me is sometimes the opposite of what the experts advise, or even set out as rules. It isn’t unusual for one of my readers to say they’d never thought about “it” that way before, or that the “right” way didn’t work for them. Challenging authority just for the sake of the challenge doesn’t work if your intention is to share learning experiences.

    Reply

    Robert Harris March 7, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    What you write makes great sense for non-fiction, but I’d be interested in your comments in dealing with bloging for writers of novels.

    Reply

    Catana March 5, 2012 at 5:52 am

    I didn’t think about perspective in such a formal way when I began my main blog, but it seems that I naturally chose the third way. I’d just started writing fiction at that point, and wanted to share the learning process. After a year and a half or so, I realize that it’s also making me something of an expert, as least as far as experience is concerned. An important part of that kind of blogging is talking about mistakes as well as successes, and not making the learning process sound easier than it actually is.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 5, 2012 at 9:45 am

    That’s really a good point, Catana, about not making it sound easier than it is. I was at a marketing conference recently and one of the very successful marketers that spoke talked about this. He said that it’s actually better to let people know that it’s difficult, but the payoff is big, and that will actually promote trust with your audience.

    Reply

    Ryan Hanley March 5, 2012 at 7:27 am

    In a service business you might call the Third Way “Trusted Advisor.”

    Not someone preaching benefits but understanding the needs of the reader and talking in a helpful tone rather than a commanding tone.

    I like it.

    Thanks!

    Ryan H.

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire March 5, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I have to say i didn’t really consider this, but i probably should have. So busy thinking about voice and style and colours that this got overlooked. It makes sense though, and when you think about it in this way you can think of Bloggers who fit in each

    Nice article, Joel

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Probably it’s common for bloggers to adopt one viewpoint or another unconsciously. By bringing it into awareness, you get more of a choice about how you position yourself.

    Reply

    Matt March 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    But if you follow the third way, that would also open it up for a fourth way? If so, what would that be, guest bloggers?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Matt, the fourth way is the way of the sly blogger who knows how to use all the other ways at exactly the right time.

    Reply

    Leave a Comment


    nine + 3 =

    { 2 trackbacks }