Should Fiction Authors Be Bloggers?

by Joel Friedlander on December 21, 2012 · 79 comments

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It’s pretty easy to make the case that almost all authors should have a writer blog. And some publishers have asked their authors to start a blog if they don’t have one. Out of all the digital innovations that allow writers to advance themselves and their ideas, none can match blogging. Here’s why blogging is a no-brainer:

  • It requires very few technical skills. Anyone who can produce a manuscript in a modern word processor is likely skilled enough to do it.
  • It costs very little to get started on your own domain, and nothing on a hosted blog provided free by sites like blogger.com and wordpress.com.
  • It allows you to set your own schedule, so there’s no outside deadline pressure.

And the rewards can be profound, especially considering bloggers are gaining them all by themselves. Blogs give you the opportunity to:

  • Create communities of interest around the books you publish and the ideas you promote
  • Interact with readers, and gain insight about what your readers have in common
  • Generate actionable marketing intelligence without much trouble or expense
  • Introduce your work to an ever-widening circle of readers
  • Create excitement about your forthcoming books, enlisting “raving fans” to help spread the word

You can even monetize your blog by offering other products or services that compliment your subject matter. A pretty good picture, don’t you agree? So where’s the problem?

Let’s Divide By Three

The problem is that all these benefits only accrue easily to two kinds of authors:

1. Nonfiction authors, with lesser effects for memoirists or literary nonfiction writers, and
2. Well-known fiction authors, who already have a base of enough fans to make their books successful.

In the first case, blogging is probably the most effective marketing device available to an individual author ever invented. If you’re a nonfiction author wondering if it’s worth blogging, don’t debate, just do it and you’ll find out.

And if you’re something of a celebrity in your genre, your legions of fans will be fascinated by almost anything you write, giving you permission to satisfy their cravings with your blog.

But what about the third category?

3. Unknown fiction authors, aspiring novelists, and first-timers.

Let’s have a look.

They Are Trying, But Is It Working?

Many fiction authors have blogs, of course, but there’s one common problem to many of them: many of the blog’s readers appear to be other struggling fiction authors.

And if you scroll through the blog posts on these blogs, you see a pretty typical mix of articles about what they are writing, personal stories and, for those who have published, articles about how they did it and what their results are. Some of these blogs are popular but most, I’m afraid, never attract much attention and don’t seem to be doing much for their authors.

Another approach that seems to work better is used by authors whose work is centered around a specific historical period, a particular place or occupation, or some other theme that ties their work together. This allows the author to blog about the subject of her books instead of the writing or publishing process, which are mostly of interest to other writers.

And this makes sense. Some percentage of readers who enjoy novels set in ancient Egypt might well be attracted by blog articles that explore what life was like in that time and place. This also gives an author a way to put to productive use some of the research that goes into her books.

Likewise, a novelist who writes police procedurals might blog about advances in forensic science or interesting news items involving police investigations.

But do these blogs work in attracting fiction readers? I think that’s more problematic. Obviously, they can’t hurt, but it seems to me that people read novels for different reasons than they read informational articles.

What Are Your Choices?

I’ve had this conversation with numerous novelists, and some, like Joanna Penn, who is both a novelist and a very successful blogger, have suggested there are other things that might be better for fiction writers (until they become mega-famous, of course) to focus on when it comes to marketing your books.

These might include:

  • Concentrating on getting the best book cover you can afford for your book.
  • Making sure you have killer sales copy for the back cover and everywhere your book will be listed.
  • Offering a sample chapter or look inside the book to entice readers into the story.
  • Creating a book review program when your book is new.
  • Making sure your book is widely available and attractively priced.

So if you’re a novelist, should you be blogging? At this point, the answer is “it depends.” For the right writer with an appreciative audience, blogging can be a powerful way to create community around your books. Until you get those fans, put all your efforts into writing great books and promoting them as your long-term plan.

Author blogs to check out
Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog
Larry Brooks’ Storyfix blog
Janice Hardy’s The Other Side of the Story
Jody Hedlund’s author site
Joanna Penn’s J.F. Penn blog

Do you know any great author blogs? Leave a link in the comments, I’d love to have a look and it would help me for a project I’m working on right now. Thanks!

Photo by bigstockphoto.com. Originally published in a slightly different form as “Is Blogging Good for Fiction Writers?” on CreateSpace

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    { 73 comments… read them below or add one }

    Byddi Lee September 23, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I’ve been blogging for four years now. I have a steady following of gardeners and people who like to travel since my blog is about life as an Irish gal living and gardening in California. Lately my posts have been fewer and far between as I concentrated on the final stages of my fiction book, “March to November” which just got published last week. Now it’s time to give my blog a third purpose – Marketing. So I was delighted to come across your post. The comments below have been inspiring and to some degree validating. It’s hard to get a new blog off and running, but one that has some following is a great place (I hope) to market the book and drive new eyes to it. I think perhaps anyone hoping to someday publish any book should think about getting a blog going with any angle that inspired them. For me the angle was primarily gardening which worked out nicely when I started my own garden coaching business a few couple of years back. I also love to travel so pitched in a few of those posts too. They are by far the most popular posts. Fortunately I can also blog about the location of my book (Ireland). I’ve been asked to go guest blogs for travel sites too. So I would say I’ve had a very positive, fun experience with my blog.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    It sounds like you’re doing everything right, Byddi. I would also encourage you to network with other bloggers in your field, it can make a huge difference by putting you in front of new audiences.

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    Diane Holcomb September 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I’m a fiction writer and wanted to get some of my work “out there” for the public to read, so I started blogging. I’ve felt squirrely about it ever since. Is anyone reading it other than family and a few friends? Is it worth my time? Isn’t blogging a distraction from revising my novel? Are my humorous posts anything like my literary voice? If so, what am I doing??? As the questions came, I realized that I can’t think of a single one of my favorite authors who blog. They’re too busy writing their bestselling books! So, your post was a timely read for me.
    Still, I can’t seem to let go of this blog. Even though letting go would be in the best interest of my fiction goals, and might clear up my insomnia!

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    Joe August 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Hi, I agree with the advice that fiction writers are better off not blogging, at least until their reader base can accommodate the time investment; however, I wish someone could expand on the suggestion to maintain a static page. What kind of information should the site feature other than a good About page and an e-mail sign-up form? If something has already been written on the subject, I would appreciate URL referrals. Thanks in advance.

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    Rodney Ballenden June 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    I practice my extreme thoughts on one blog (selfextreming)
    and my specific excerpts from the series on http://sonofxanos.wordpress.com
    and my fiction based teasers on http://rodneystclairballenden.com

    My last post was on “sex and killing” (pretty hectic topic) NOT ONE comment.

    It is a waste of time BUT I practice CONFLICT & SUSPENSION jibs…just for the hell of it!

    Reply

    Jaime Buckley April 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Love this article Joel, and I’d like to contribute if I may.

    I’m in the not-famous category, but I’ve come to a slightly different conclusion in how and why I should be using my blog. I’ve had both an author blog and my main creation site, WantedHero.com, for years. It used to be a comic book site, but I overhauled it when I began writing YA Fantasy. For the last three years I’ve been trying to rebuild my readership base–but it’s not the same as comics. Not even close.

    However, I’m a stubborn git and determined to make a living at this.

    I was recently asked by a youth organization to speak at one of their Boys Homes in the mountains of Utah. The director found my site and became a fan. After three years of thinking it might not happen, I finally got to do what I loved the most: encourage youth. I spent the day with troubled teens, giving them hope and a new perspective on life.

    It got me thinking about how I could be using my blog:
    #1) Use the website for my “platform” –a way to uplift, educate and teach, using the storyline as the foundation for conveying that message.
    #2) Redirect my personal author blog (JaimeBuckley.com) to my main site to conserve efforts. I agree with you and the other writers that most of my time should be writing books (I’m on #6 now)–and any blogging should piggyback efforts in the same direction.
    #3) Use the blog to expand the story’s universe: Dictionary/Pronunciation Guide, answer fan emails as posts, share lost/deleted/extra content for free (even if it’s posted for readers to find in the future). In fact, I had to create a disease for my last book, so I posted it through the blog (http://wantedhero.com/twitchworm/).
    #4) Use the blog as my characters. This is the most fun, writing as the actual personalities of gnomes, wizards, and even having arguments between them. When I stared doing that, Google Analytics showed a drop in my bounce rate from 64% down to 3.4%. That’s huge.

    Now granted, maybe this won’t help me initially, but it should over time. Especially when readers discover a wealth of unique and quirky material waiting for them.

    Just a few ideas.
    BTW, I listed you as one of my favorite all time resources Joel.
    http://wantedhero.com/wallpapers-facebook-covers/our-favorite-links/

    Just trying to give back. Thank’s for all you do.
    -Jaime

    Reply

    Lauren Christopher February 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Wow. I’m struggling with just these questions. Good reading here — and I have bookmarked it to return to again later. Much to ponder on….

    Reply

    Dee for D.I. Telbat January 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Hi Joel, Thanks for this post.

    I work with Christian author D.I. Telbat. He writes mostly Christian fiction, and I take care of the blog, editing for him, and other writing related tasks. This frees him up to continue writing posts, novels, and short stories for the blog. When we first researched whether we should run a blog or not, the mantra was always to “give, give, give.” So we asked, what can a fiction writer give? His fiction writing, of course! So we began posting weekly short stories, and then decided to try serializing one of his novels, a chapter a week (before making it into an ebook afterwards.) Readers do seem to enjoy the stories.

    For the second weekly post, David writes “author reflections” on different Christian subjects, or something interesting he learned in his research, and sometimes his book review on another Christian book. The site also helps keep people updated on when his next book is coming.

    I think it’s been very worthwhile to have a blog, especially David being a newer author. It gives readers a good way to get to know him. It certainly keeps us both very busy. I don’t know how authors do it all themselves!

    Dee

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Dee, those are great tips for other fiction writers, too. Sounds like you’ve got a good system worked out.

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    Jaime Buckley April 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Dee, those are fantastic ideas. Have you seen an increase in visitors or reader participation on the blog?

    I ask, because my best friend encouraged me to do “installments” for my books. My last novel was 610 pages and during the process I felt a bit overwhelmed. It was taking so long to complete…and I was used to making a 24 page comic book every month.

    Solution? Smaller bites. It started as a personal need, but I actually made more sales in the long run and received feedback during the whole process, directly from readers.

    I hope you’ll share how that works for you and Mr. Telbat!

    Reply

    Dee for D.I. Telbat April 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Jaime,
    It sounds like you have a great working plan set up for your site and material!

    You asked me to share more of what’s working for us. We did see a definite increase in visitors to our site, especially to read the continued sagas. When we get comments, they are very encouraging and David Telbat has gained several fans through this endeavor, and therefore, buyers for his books. But, it still seems that most our visitors are shy and don’t comment very often.

    When we serialize a novel, we do one that can be finished within a few months so people don’t get bored with it. We’ve been doing one from fall to spring, and will be starting his third one.

    We learned that readers preferred longer chapters. Our first serial chaps were way too short. They stuck with it but they told us they wanted more each week. So we try to give at least 1500 word chaps now.

    I leave all the chap links on one page so they can access all from one location. I’ll leave them on the site for a couple months after its finished then take it down when I’m ready to create the ebook. If we add anything new for the ebook, I send it to our subscribers so they can see everything that’s coming out in the book. I don’t want them to feel cheated.

    I’ve not had much time to do very necessary marketing (David is a prolific author and keeps me too busy editing, website, etc!), nor have I gotten involved in social media. Both of these things I know would help us a lot. But we just keep plugging along.

    Hope something here helped, but it looks like you are well on your way! We wish you much luck with your endeavors, Jaime!

    Reply

    Jaime Buckley April 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Dee,

    Thanks so much for the response. You helped me quite a bit.

    My installments are a bit different and I don’t have subscribers for the material, I simply create ebooks after I have at least 4 chapters with a minimum of 50 pages (printed). They each have their own ISBN’s in various formats–and they’re priced at $1.99 each. I had them all at $0.99 each, until my wife got her hands on me (smile). She’s brutally honest with me, which I need often.

    She said that in her opinion–which was confirmed by several other authors I know–that installments are for those who just cannot wait for the whole book. So to have it in advance should be a premium offering. Well, I fought it for a while, refusing to go past a dollar…but the very day I did, I sold more in 48 hours than I had the previous six months.

    I don’t presume to know why, though I’ve been told it’s perceived value. Maybe someone here has experience with that.

    When I have the chapters/installments done, I make the books–both ebooks and print. Oh, BTW I’m wondering if there is an added benefit to doing installments and having all their own ISBN#’s assigned to them…the number of “works” that appear under your name and in searches for you? Again, maybe someone here has some knowledge of that.

    Thanks again Dee!

    -Jaime Buckley
    wantedhero.com

    Reply

    Jaime Buckley April 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Wow…there’s a lesson: don’t try to respond when rushing out the door!

    Hope my comments make sense =(

    Cyd Madsen December 31, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. This year has marked my return to writing after being away for 12 years, and has it ever been confusing. I have tried blogging, but reading the blogs you’ve mentioned, especially Joanna’s, all I really have to offer is more noise. White, irritating noise I suspect others follow in the hopes of being followed. And I do, leaving no time for the actual writing. It’s an odd phenomenon of our culture that so many of us need permission to do what we already know should be done. As 2013 approaches and decisions weigh heavily, this is the permission I’ve needed, and I’m grateful.

    Too much time and money has been spent on building a platform when the best platform out there is outstanding writing. What a great post to find on New Year’s Eve.

    Reply

    Lynne Spreen December 31, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Hi Cyd! I saw your comment. I agree with Joel – I think new authors should have a website but not a blog, at least, not at first. Spend your energy on (A) writing, and (B) building an authentic base of like-minded peeps on social networks that feel authentic to you. Happy 2013!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 1, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Thanks, Cyd, so glad I could help. Your blog is beautiful, by the way.

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    Elliott Garber December 29, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Joel, thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I am aspiring fiction writer with my first novel in its very early stages. I’ve started a website and social media presence in the last couple of months for the long-term purpose of building a community of future readers for this book and others.

    I’m a veterinarian currently serving in the Army, and my website and blog are focusing on sharing about unique opportunities for vets and vet students outside of traditional clinical practice. Most people think that veterinarians only do clinical medicine with dogs and cats these days, but in reality we are actually involved in a much wider spectrum of activities benefiting society. I’m trying to encourage other vets and students to consider these other fields.

    The protagonist in my novel is also an “uncommon veterinarian” (the tagline of my site) who was previously in the Army and is now studying infectious diseases in Africa at the start of the story. I’m hoping that the community around my own website will be connected enough a year or two from now that they will at least give me the benefit of the doubt and purchase and review my book. I think that the veterinary profession is small enough that this could work, but I really don’t know for sure.

    I would love to hear yours and any others’ thoughts!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Elliott,

    Thanks for your comment. I think it’s very difficult to predict whether readers of novels about an “uncommon veterinarian” will also be interested in “unique opportunities for vets and vet students.” Offhand, it doesn’t sound like the same readership.

    However, having said that, you have a terrific premise for a niche blog that would be worth pursuing on its own, since you have the three things needed for a great blog: expertise, writing ability, and the desire to share. Opportunities for this type of blog are significant.

    On the fiction side, there’s really no substitute I know of for creating the best book you can and then getting it in front of the most number of readers who are likely to be interested.

    You could well end up with both a successful series of books and a profitable niche web asset.

    Reply

    Elliott Garber January 9, 2013 at 3:03 am

    Thank you for your input, Joel.

    I agree that the vets and students in my targeted website audience are not all necessarily going to love biological thriller novels. However, I think that they are the closest I can get to a supportive community other than a blog that simply tries to connect with new authors like myself. It seems like there are more than enough of those already!

    I also think that the veterinary community is small enough that we’re always kind of interested in supporting “one of our own” in doing something that will bring in attention and goodwill to the group as a whole. I’m hoping that this will be the case for my future novel!

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    Cesar Noel December 28, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Well blogging at times helps since it can be used to promote your books as well a tool for “crowd sourcing” some ideas.

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    Leanne Dyck December 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Thank you for this finely penned article. Although my conclusion differs from yours. Your article has made me pause. And has inspired me to write an article in reponse.
    Happy Holidays

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Leanne, I hope you’ll leave a link to your article when you post it, thanks.

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    Cy Price December 23, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Thank you for another great blog post, Joel. There’s lots of validation here in the comments on why authors should be blogging but it really comes down to what Bill Thompson says, “No, give me interesting, engaging content and I’ll read you and follow you. And fan you.”

    Most author blogs tend to be boring and inconsistent. They attempt to mirror what others are doing in their respective genres and it simply does not work for them. Before an author starts blogging, they really need to decide what they’re going to blog about. Is the blog topic a good fit for them AND readers? Do readers want to read blog posts that are primarily writing tips? Or would they rather read about what inspired the author to write a particular scene?

    Building a successful blog with a following is no easy task and definitely not one that authors should take on “just because”. For some authors, there won’t be a connection to blogging…and that’s ok too.

    Cheers and Happy Holidays to all :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    And happy holidays to you, too, Cy, and thanks for weighing in.

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    Mary Tod December 23, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Hi Joel … very good perspective. I’d be interested in your thoughts about A Writer of History. I’ve tried to use this blog for two main purposes. The first is to explore the historical fiction survey I did (report results, analyze data, interview top authors and bloggers) and the second is to post about WWI. Occasionally I post thoughts about writing. Hope you’re well.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Mary, your blog has come a long way in a short time, hasn’t it? It seems like you are engaging readers far more with this approach, and building a real community at the same time. Nice!

    Reply

    Lynne Spreen December 23, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Joel, the comments on this post are really interesting! Here’s my main knock on blogging if one is a beginning writer of fiction: the ROI is stupidly small. Let’s say the writer works hard to build a community of blog followers. How many books will be sold as a result, compared to expending the same amount of energy interacting on, say, FB and Twitter? I’m in too deep to quit my blog now, but I think it’s not for everyone, and it drives me nuts when “authorities” counsel ALL new writers to have a blog! If you’ll allow me to piggyback on your post, I wrote about this very subject here: http://anyshinything.com/2012/10/26/stop-blogging-now/

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for the link to an excellent post, Lynne. It really does sum up the quandary of blogging for fiction writers.

    Like you, I also love the feeling of community and being the owner of a media site, even if it’s itsy-bitsy in the grand scheme of things.

    But authors do need to get clear about why they’re blogging, and if it’s bringing them the results they want for the time they are putting in.

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    Bill Thompson December 22, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Many excellent points are being made in this discussion, Joel. Thanks for getting it started.

    The perspective I bring is as a longtime media interviewer of authors, both indie and traditionally-published. One of the first things I do when trying to learn about an author is to visit their website. Any author without even a basic “postcard” website is like a businessperson without a business card.

    @Joanna Penn nailed it: “I think fiction authors DEFINITELY need at least a static website with an email list sign up.”

    But if all I see on your website is your photo, a short bio, and a list of your books .. huh? @Serban V.C. Enache said it best: “An author who has no opinions, no beliefs, is just a cardboard individual.”

    That’s where the blog comes in. Your book is your book, but your blog can be a conversation about your book .. and your work, your life, your kids, your fear of the number 13…

    @Vannie Ryanes had it right, when she commented, “When I read fiction, I like to know about the ‘whole’ writer.” Amen. Me, too.

    I recently interviewed an author whose blog introduced me to an entire new fiction genre I had never heard of. And now I’m a fan not only of this writer and her books, but also her genre.

    I respectfully disagree with @Anna Erishkigal who said that “nobody reads [your blog] but the occasional other author looking to create interlinking posts to THEIR equally unsuccessful blog.” No, give me interesting, engaging content and I’ll read you and follow you. And fan you.

    And buy your books.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Bill, don’t you wish every author site had a “Media” page? I know I do. “interesting, engaging content” is also a pretty good description of a successful book, so an author’s ability to show us her work is reason enough to maintain a site, even if it’s a static one.

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    Julia Rachel Barrett December 22, 2012 at 10:50 am

    There are many reasons to blog, not necessarily dependent upon the number of readers or hits. I view my own blog as successful – for me – but then I’ve been blogging for, wow, five years. Time does fly.
    I’m not a blogger who discusses my publishing journey. I don’t give writing advice – most of the time. However…
    A blog is useful for thinking out loud.
    Sharing stories, both heartfelt and funny.
    Sharing interesting photos.
    Communicating with other authors.
    Communicating with readers.
    Announcing releases and offering blurbs and sample chapters.
    Posting poetry on a day when I feel like writing a poem.
    Random stuff and nonsense.
    Continuing the habit of writing daily even when I’m in between books or taking a break for personal reasons/responsibilities.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you, Julia, that’s delightful.

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    Nathan Lowell December 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Blogs aren’t for everybody, but they’re invaluable to me.

    I’ve been blogging since 2004. I have several blogs — one for each audience. I have a main “author” blog that serves as a collection point and index. I have blogs for each of my two main franchises — one for science fiction and one for fantasy. I have a blog that hosts my daily podcast. I have two blogs that are mostly defunct at the moment that served to support my teaching when I was still teaching grad school. I have a blog that I was using to introduce my fans to interesting people I’d met but that took too much time.

    I’m also a bit of an iconoclast when it comes to blogging.

    I don’t want people to visit my blog. I want them to subscribe via RSS and a feed reader (like Google Reader) because I want them to follow a lot of blogs, not just mine.

    I don’t publish regularly. I publish when I have something to say. If readers are following on a feed reader, then the new content is delivered to them whenever it appears. I don’t need to train them to come to the blog on some schedule. (It’s how I follow this blog, in fact, along with about 400 others.)

    I don’t look at traffic very much. I have some rough idea about how many visits I get per day and how many unique visitors visit each month, etc, but that’s not the point for me.

    I don’t write to other writers. I only write stuff that’s important to that audience. In the science fiction blog, I write about the status of my science fiction titles including new projects, the status of old projects, where we are in terms of getting new science fiction up, etc. I do the same thing on the fantasy site. My umbrella site has general news about convention appearances, changes in status, notices about works that I’ve contributed to venues outside my normal franchises, etc. I will – rarely – write a guest blog post about craft, the industry, or practice on sites like amwriting.org but *never* on my “author blogs.”

    It’s already been pointed out that blogging is a great way to build community. It’s also a great way to document your path, provide extra content, and collect readers from one work and point them to another. It’s a handy place to park an email subscription signup link so you can email the hard-core fans when a new work comes out and they can be the first on the block to find out.

    Fiction authors really need to take more advantage of blogging.

    JMO. YMMV.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Nathan, thanks for a very clear explanation of how you use your web properties. Your approach exemplifies how an author with a body of work and a following can leverage online sites without having to blog about subject matter or craft or publishing itself.

    Readers would do well to click through to see Nathan’s site for an example of a mature and fully-worked out author site.

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    Nikole Hahn December 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I’m a fiction writer, aspiring in the novel area, but have been published in small presses. My audience varies. Most of them are bloggers, some of them are seniors who don’t blog, but stalk my site, some of them are publishers and authors, and others are people who don’t want to be novelists or writers, but blog for the fun of it or have a specific niche that they blog. A pastor from Kenya and India read my blog. As a fiction writer, I love the outlet blogging gives me, forcing me to read outside my genre and within it, and it hones my writing. It’s very beneficial.

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    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Nikole, you seem to be in the perfect place to combine your writing and blogging, because part of your audience is also make up of bloggers. Thanks for the input.

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    Elizabeth Saunders December 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Which came first, the blog or the book? For me, I started blogging my genealogy finds about the same time I started thinking about turning them into a historical novel. This year I’ve started seeing the blog as more of a platform and tried (tried!) to narrow my topics down with more history and less about writing.
    I know the next step is to build a list, but I’m not sure what to write in e-mails when the book is still unfinished.

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    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I think more and more books are starting from bloggy origins. As far as your email list, you don’t necessarily have to write anything until you have news or something specific for people. That way they are also more likely to open your mail.

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    MarkBeyer December 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Hello, Joel, and thanks for your comments on blogging authors. My own story is a little of both worlds/experiences: I spend far more time writing my novels than “blog writing” … and more’n’more time marketing. My author site is also my blog site, and I’ve had it for more years than my first successfully published novel. It’s a casual site, as you have suggested writers invest their time, but still has a writing slant, with lots of “book culture” mini-blogs attached to it. I really call it “my home site” to make it clear vis-a-vis webmrktg. For small-press published authors, we must make our presence known, and a land spot for fans — and all those potential readers/future fans — is not harmful. Just as long as your writing time does not get cheated.

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    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Mark, that’s a great point and I completely agree that every author needs a “land spot” or home base for fans and also for media inquiries. Even a static site can do that, but updating once in a while will help to keep it “fresh.”

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    James Showalter December 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I write because I need to. I write fiction because I need to tell stories. I blog to think out loud about a subject that I think very few writers and artists are thinking about. There’s only one connection between my blog and my fiction: the ideas I blog about supply the intellectual underpinnings and a bit of craft to my fiction. Otherwise, my fiction doesn’t need my blog and my blog doesn’t need my fiction. I doubt that this will change after I’m published, but who knows. I just need to write.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    James that’s an interesting setup and sounds like it has lots of possibilities for synergy between the two sides of your writing and thinking life, thanks for the input.

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    James Showalter December 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    A question for you: if you were me, would you continue writing only the blog as it is currently or write a second blog dealing with my fiction?

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    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    James, I would consider a blog about your fiction once you have people reading your books because they will form the base on which the blog will succeed. Until then, you probably don’t need the second one. You might think about doing more to market your current blog, which has excellent writing but appears to have few readers.

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    Serban V.C. Enache December 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    In my opinion, regardless if you’re a fiction or nonfiction author, you should be blogging, or rather – exposing your views on contemporary life, history, and a lot of other subjects. An author who has no opinions, no beliefs, is just a cardboard individual – and most likely his writing/characters are the same. Authors must not be afraid to talk about controversial issues. Of course, I’m not saying they should be trolls ^^ But we don’t have freedom of speech in order to talk about the weather. George Carlin said that the job of a comedian is to see where the line is drawn and to deliberately cross it. I believe authors should do the same with their writing, plots, and characters. An author should be an interesting person, therefore, he should share his thoughts and views of society with his readers and nonreaders. That’s all I got at this hour.
    PS: 2013 will be a boom year for indy authors.

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    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Great feedback, Serban, and for authors who are able and who enjoy it, sharing opinions is a great way to find readers and establish a bond.

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    Petra Kidd December 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I enjoy blogging as a way to connect with my readers – it can be tricky to find time to update it but it is a great way to get feedback and engage.

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    Lexi Revellian December 21, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I have a website for my readers, and a writing blog for me and my fellow writers which I’ve been writing for five years. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it, and often the comments are better than my posts.

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    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Hi Lexi,

    That’s a great plan if you can keep both sites running, and I think it’s similar to what Joanna is trying to do. As far as the comments, I’ve experienced that here many times. It’s humbling and reminds me just how much blogs rely on reader engagement to have any kind of success at all.

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    Garry Rodgers December 21, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Hi Joel, I’m a regular follower and thought I’d share my evolving blogsite with you & your readers:

    http://dyingwords.net/

    I set up Dyingwords.net 6 months ago as a brand for my also-evolving true crime/fiction writing and to share my expertise and thoughts about death, as I’m a retired homicide detective and forensic coroner.

    I really believe that all authors, published and aspiring, should have a blogsite even if for no other reason than ‘getting out of the house’ and interacting with the world. I use Wordpress.org, which is a hosted pay site, but Wordpress.com is available for free although not as versatile. Wordpress is easy to learn and can be added onto as the writing career grows.

    I’m going to ramp up the Dyingwords.net site over the next month – custom banner, sidebar linkages, etc. I’d appreciate visits & comments and if I can be any help on the project you’ve got in mind, let me know.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Great idea, Garry. There have been successful books published on this topic, including “Last Words” of the famous, it’s a genre with quite a long history.

    And thanks for your offer, I appreciate it.

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    Stephen Tiano December 21, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I understand that, under the circumstances you describe, there’s no one thing–least of all blogging–that an author without a following can get instant sales results from. But I suspect that blogging, as part of a comprehensive, multi-prong program to publish a work of fiction (or, indeed, any book) and market it successfully, has it’s place. But that place is down the line, after writing a story people are interested in reading, and writing it well; engaging a professional editor to make the writing the best it can be; and getting seriously talented design and layout help for both the book’s interior and back cover/spine/front cover. Then comes marketing, the foundation for which should begin during the writing of the book–where blogging to raise interest in the coming book makes sense.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Thanks, Stephen. I particularly like your suggestion that marketing really ought to be a prime concern during the writing of the book. That’s when you can start to build interest and attract readers. Don’t wait until pub date to think about marketing!

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    Ross Lampert December 21, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Hi, Joel. I’m one of those new writers and I’ve decided to take an approach that I’ve seen recommended elsewhere (wish I could cite the source but lots of folks have recommended it): provide SOMETHING of value, even if it isn’t directly related to your novel. In my case, it’s been reviewing other bloggers’ particularly good posts (including yours and Joanna’s). At first my Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs and Critique Technique posts didn’t get much attention, but now the readership is building, enough that soon they’ll be moving to my own web site (you read it here first!).

    While I know not all of my blog readers also read science fiction, some do, and some of those will be willing to take a chance on a first novel. We’ve all got to start somewhere; this is the somewhere I’ve chosen.

    Now, about that great e-book cover….

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Ross, I think that’s an interesting strategy. As you build traffic, there will be an increasing number of people within your readers who are likely to be sci-fi fans.

    And thanks for your links, always happy to see them when the trackbacks arrive, much appreciated.

    Reply

    Sarah Peloquin (@SrhPlqn) December 21, 2012 at 8:37 am

    THANK YOU! I blog, but sporadically, and my lack of readers hasn’t given me confidence to keep working at it.

    I will probably still blog, but it won’t be such a demanding part of my schedule anymore. I can focus on writing what I love… :)

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    Joanna Penn December 21, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Hi Joel, great topic and one I do indeed talk about a lot :)
    I think fiction authors DEFINITELY need at least a static website with an email list sign up – then at the back of the book should be a call to action – something like “If you enjoyed XX, then come and sign up here to get advance notification of XX2 coming soon – URL.com”
    That is a non-negotiable and that builds a list of fans who you can notify when the next book is out. This can move the needle on the Amazon charts by itself.

    I do maintain a very infrequent blog on my fiction site – but it is mainly for articles about my research, or videos I make around the locations or research. They are all keyword targeted but mainly, I link to them from the back of the Kindle books e.g. find out more on the Codex Sinaiticus here. This then brings these potential fans to my site where hopefully they will sign up to my email list. But those posts are every 2-3 weeks so it isn’t a blog as such, more infrequent articles!

    If you take a broader view of blogging e.g. podcasting – check out the success of Scot Sigler, whose Junkies devour his audios every week. It keeps him writing content like a nutter and they buy everything he puts out. I am thinking of podcasting Pentecost in 2013 and will put those audio files on the blog.

    Thanks Joel!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Hi Joanna,

    Yes, the email list is frequently what separates writers who blog from writers who are serious about establishing a sustainable business from their work. “The power is in the list.”

    I love the idea of maintaining a site where people can get more information and background on subjects in your books, I think that’s brilliant. As this whole field matures, I think combining web content with book content and including links to connect them is going to become more common. And for good reason—it’s reader friendly!

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    Vannie Ryanes December 21, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Does a serious fiction writer have time to blog? If yes, why not? I don’t believe blogging takes away from his/her fiction writer credibility. If I were a fan of this writer I am sure I would follow. If unknown to me, the blog would tell much about his/her writing style; I might become a buyer of his books if my interest is piqued. When I read fiction, I like to know about the ‘whole’ writer. When reading fiction by an author that is new to me and the book is captivating, I find myself looking the back of the book looking at the writer’s photo while I marvel and wonder about this person. I always want to know more, a blog would help me get to know the writer. I did this with J.D. Robb (Nor Roberts) back in the 90’s, years later, I still find myself looking at the back of the book as I read. So yes. Write on!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Thanks Vannie. Also a good reason to make a point of including an author photo and bio—people are curious!

    Reply

    J.M. Ney-Grimm December 21, 2012 at 5:02 am

    One of my writing mentors urges unknown fiction authors to have a web site, not a blog. That way your readers (whose numbers will grow slowly over time) can find you and your next book when they want to, but you won’t waste valuable fiction-writing time and energy blogging. (Wordpress software can be used as the content management system for a web site – you don’t have to blog with it.)

    I would undoubtedly follow this advice, but…you knew I had to have a but, didn’t you?

    Life events propelled me to investigate and reassess some core beliefs I held. I was shocked to discover that much of what I thought true about health and nutrition was false. Because my mistakes had profound repercussions for my well-being, and because so many people share my old misconceptions, I wanted to do my bit in challenging the status quo. People should know these things, so that they can make informed decisions!

    So I blog.

    Being who I am, I can’t confine myself to one topic, however. So my blog features all the subjects that evoke my passion. :D

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:37 am

    J.M. thanks for that. Both approaches work, of course, and the static site you are recommending for fiction writers is a completely different enterprise than the health-oriented educational articles that could form the basis for a popular blog.

    Fiction and nonfiction: not always the same solutions.

    Reply

    Rosanne Dingli December 21, 2012 at 5:00 am

    Oh, golly. I need to print this and stick it on my fridge. How right you are, Joel. How RIGHT you are.

    Reply

    J S December 21, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Joel, Can you expand on the sub-topic you present here: “Creating a book review program when your book is new”? That would be helpful for many startup authors.

    Blogging is one of the legs on an author’s marketing stool. It’s necessary but won’t drive traffic/sales on its own (so get a site that is nice but don’t over spend on it, look up wordpress .org and .com both). One of the techniques I’ve been using lately is ensuring a blog has RSS capabilities and then using that to auto-feed content into my goodreads author profile as well as my amazon author profile. “Write once : Post Everywhere”. You still want to minimize your posts on writing (most readers don’t want to see how the sausage is made) – easiest to do by creating a separate author-to-author page on your site or a completely separate site for such discussion.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:35 am

    JS, book reviews are one of the best ways for self-publishing authors to get attention for their books. With the explosion of online book reviewers and book bloggers, it’s also become easier to get reviews. I’m a big advocate for planning a book review campaign as part of any book launch, and will take your suggestion for one of the webinars I’m planning in the new year because haveing a step-by-step action plan will make this much easier for authors to tackle.

    And good tips about RSS syndication. There are more and more sites where you can link up your blog feed and benefit from spreading your work without more writing involved.

    Reply

    Mercedes Douglas December 21, 2012 at 4:13 am

    I’ve been following you on twitter and have enjoyed many of your articles. Thank you for voice, I’m learning a lot. My blog isn’t just on fiction, but I feel what I write is purposeful and interesting enough to read, at least I think so. I hold myself accountable to writing more often since I started the blog. I’m a writer simply sharing ideas, nothing formal just casually speaking.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Mercedes, casual blogs are probably the most fun for the blogger to write, and I wholeheartedly approve of that approach. And it might become popular, but it’s a different, more personal and less commercial approach to blogging. Thanks for your comment.

    Reply

    Anna Erishkigal December 21, 2012 at 3:49 am

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing an article for telling me it isn’t just me!!! For a while now I’ve realized self-published fiction writers are just spinning their wheels whenever they pour their hearts into their blogs. I bought into the traditional wisdom of buy a domain name, build a website, and blog, and … nothing. Nobody reads it but the occasional other author looking to create interlinking posts to THEIR equally unsuccessful blog. I’ve decided to put that creativity where it belongs … into writing my next book.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Thanks, Anna, and you’re welcome.

    My still-valid advice to fiction authors is to spend the vast majority of your time writing books and making them better, and marketing your work. If you do those two things well, I believe the rest will take care of itself.

    Reply

    Lynne Spreen December 23, 2012 at 6:02 am

    That’s a comment worth framing, Joel.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus December 21, 2012 at 1:00 am

    After writing 20-something nonfiction books, I am now dabbling in a “based on a true story” semi-novel. I doubt that its subject will be bloggable. It’s more of an intellectual exercise (can I describe scenes and write dialog?) than a business project.

    I think the main value of an author’s blog is to ‘accidentally’ sell books.

    If I write a how-to book or history book about bicycles or electric trains, I probably know a lot about the topics and can churn out regular blog posts day after day, year after year.

    Anyone searching for topics I’ve blogged about will find links to my blog, find my blog, and see an ad for my book and maybe buy it.

    If I am a novelist who specializes in gay teenage albino vampire sex, how many blog posts about my novel could I come up with over the years? Three? One?

    Maybe a better strategy for a novelist would be to blog with news and opinions about something remotely related to the book topic — like teenage sex or albinos — that might catch searchers who might be interested in reading a novel.

    I read at least 100 books per year, but no fiction. I doubt that any novelist’s blog could sell me her novel. I do a lot of Googling that takes me to blogs, but I haven’t read a novel in over 40 years. I tried to read a highly rated novel two years ago but bailed out after about 20 pages.

    I don’t know how many other people don’t read fiction, but there must be at least a few.

    Michael N. Marcus
    NEW: self-publishing company parody, http://www.99BuckBooks.com
    NEW: books for self-publishing authors: http://www.BooksForAuthors.com
    UNDER DEVELOPMENT: http://www.InfoForAuthors.com
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com
    http://www.Facebook.com/SilverSandsBooks

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 21, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I think it’s interesting that, having not read a novel for decades, you’ve decided to write one.

    On the nonfiction side, my take on blogs has changed considerably over the years. Before, I was pretty much in agreement that blogs sold books “accidentally,” but now I see the blog as the center of an ongoing, sustainable business, and that has changed my approach to the blog. I’ll have quite a bit more to say on this topic in the near future.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus December 28, 2012 at 2:38 am

    I put ‘accidentally’ in ironic scare quotes and said selling books is the main value of an author’s blog.

    By this I meant that the blog looks like a source of information, not like a book store. The information draws in people who should become buyers.

    My http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com and http://www.BooksForAuthors are overt efforts to sell books.

    My http://www.InfoForAuthors and http://www.BookMakingBlog.com are more subtle.

    Reply

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