Author Blogging 101: What’s Stopping You?

by Joel Friedlander on March 11, 2013 · 23 comments

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Stella, an old friend, told me this true story:

One day Stella decided to go to her favorite piano bar. She was one of the regulars there and enjoyed the camaraderie and loved to sing along with her favorites.

She got dressed and headed to the piano bar for the evening where, true to form, she had a great time singing old songs, having a few drinks, and talking to friends.

At the end of the evening she returned home. But when she went to get undressed, she realized something terrible: she had had her dress on inside out the whole time.

Nobody said anything, maybe they didn’t even notice.

She told this story, laughing at her own mistake, to make the point that we focus on our own real or imagined shortcomings a whole lot more than other people do, no matter what we think.

And That Goes for Blogging, Too

Sometimes I think about Stella’s story when I talk to authors who are having a hard time getting started with a blog.

They keep trying to get going, but there’s always something holding them back.

  • “I don’t know what platform to use, but I’m going to decide next week.”
  • “Is what I have to say really worth someone else’s time?”
  • “I realized I need to look through all my old newsletters and manuscripts and book drafts to get everything in order before I get started.”
  • “People will see through me, that I don’t really know that much after all.”
  • “There’s no way I can keep up a blog, it’s way too much work with everything else I have to do!”
  • “I’ll write something I regret, or that’s stupid, or that’s poorly written, and it will be there forever.”

Behind a lot of this hesitation and stalling, I suspect, is the terror of putting yourself out there, for all to see.

Yes, hitting that “Publish” button when you’re a new blogger can take quite a leap of faith. But there’s no better time to do it than now.

The Importance of Time

Time never restarts, have you noticed that? Whatever we did in February, 2013 is now history, we can’t go back and do the things we thought we were going to do, but somehow never got around to.

Before you’ve created your own blog, you don’t realize how much a blog is like a garden. In both you need to put in work up front, maybe a couple of years of it, before you start to get the benefits of a bountiful harvest.

In blogging, each month builds on the last. Growth for most bloggers is slow and steady, and will continue that way if you practice basic blog marketing.

It does take time. Time to find your blogger’s voice, to find your style, learn different content formats, become familiar with the power of syndicating your blog, get to know other bloggers in your niche—all the things it takes to run a successful blog, one that will truly make a difference in your readers’ lives.

But none of that can happen until you start.

I Know About You

Here are some things I know about you:

  • You’re creative, you have no lack of new ideas or new insights into how things work.
  • You love to write, and you know how to write reasonably well.
  • You’re keenly interested—even passionate—about the things that really matter to you.
  • You’re glad to connect with someone else who shares your interest or passions.

It doesn’t take much more than that to start a really great blog. Just a few technical bits that are easily mastered, or for which you can get help.

If you start your blog (or revive the one you abandoned) now you’ll start working, no matter how modestly, on:

  • building new skills as a writer
  • finding readers who resonate with your writing
  • adding people to your mail list
  • establishing connections with other bloggers
  • learning what your community needs from you
  • attracting speaking, writing, and teaching opportunities

And all of the other opportunities that open up to you when your blog becomes the center of an active, engaged community of like-minded people.

And maybe you will say something stupid, or find out you need to learn more about something you thought you knew, tick some people off. Maybe, like Stella, you’ll go out with your clothes on backward.

But then you’ll find out, like she did, that you can still have a good time while you’re doing it, and that’s what people will remember.

So, what’s stopping you?

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 22 comments… read them below or add one }

    Ernie Zelinski March 11, 2013 at 3:03 am

    Joel, I know you are right up to a certain point about the importance of a blog for writers.

    I myself started two different retirement blogs and then tapered off, eventually not posting at all. I also noticed several people much more successful than me who have started blogs, posted three times a week, and then their blog posts tapered off to only posting three or four times a year or none at all.

    In my case, I have a lot of material that I can use from over 20 books that I have written to use on blogs, but I always wonder about the payoffs.

    I always remember these important words from one of my favorite writers, which have inspired me to work only 4 or 5 hours a day and earn a better income than 90 percent of the people who work 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day.

    “It’s better to do a sub-par job working on the right
    project than a great job working on the wrong project.”
    — Robert J. Ringer

    In 2012, the print edition of my self-published “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” sold around 18,500 copies, the best year ever for the book since I published it in 2004. (I make almost $5 per copy in profits.) For the first 9 weeks of 2013, the print edition has actually sold 30 percent more than during the first 9 weeks of 2012 (which just goes to show that the so-called “book experts” who say “print is dead” are either lying or brain dead.) And I just published the Kindle edition which is earning me an extra $53 per day. I have other minor sources of income as well.

    So I have to ask myself whether Joe Konrath is right. Joe feels that the key to writer’s success is to forget about promotion and just to write more and more books. I know that this works for him mainly because he has already had a great measure of success.

    So, even if one has had a much more modest measure of success than Joe, perhaps it’s better to spend one’s time writing and publishing more books than to spend one’s time on a blog.

    Besides, I don’t need my own blog to “say something stupid”, “tick some people off”, or go out with my “clothes on backward.” I can do this on your blog (as well as many other people’s blogs on which I post).

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Ernie. You’re welcome to go out with your clothes on right or wrong here on my blog, no worries.

    For many nonfiction authors starting out, a blog can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool with lots of advantages. Obviously, this kind of effort isn’t going to appeal to everyone and, since books are a lot older than blogs, it’s also obvious that they are not absolutely necessary.

    However, for solo entrepreneurs, writers, service providers and others, blogs seem to me to be the best marketing vehicles ever invented.

    Reply

    Caimin March 11, 2013 at 4:00 am

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Joel. Like riding a bike when you’re a kid, at some point you just have to get on the thing and try it.

    You’ll make mistakes but it’s only by making mistakes that you learn what works and what doesn’t.

    A blog is an invaluable asset for any author, but non-fiction writers especially should blog. That’s because blogging on the same subjects your write about means you’ll automatically attract the very audience who’ll buy your books.

    Two other bonuses:

    * Set up a mailing list and you’ll have a highly-targeted audience who’ll be pleased to hear about your next book launch or promotional KDP days.

    * Potentially, your blog can become a source of additional income through ads, related offers and services, consulting work and so on.

    The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get the benefits blogging offers.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Great tips, Caimin, thanks for your contribution.

    Reply

    Yvonne Hertzberger March 11, 2013 at 6:53 am

    What often trips me up is the sense that I don’t know enough ‘stuff’ that others could be interested in, or even if the topic might be of interest, the reader will know more than I do and I will look foolish or amatuer. It can stop me dead in my tracks.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Yvonne,

    And yet you also know a lot more than people who are newer. That’s really all it takes. There will be people who can “hear” you and will benefit from what you contribute. Those are the people to aim for.

    Reply

    Otis G. Sanders March 11, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Great article Joel. I stepped out into the blogging world in 1999, by writing about my photography instead of continuing to show in galleries and museums. That was mostly because of cost and exposure. I figured that I could eventually get more eyes on my images by writing and posting them. Since then I’ve created other blogs that allow me to write about the things that interests me. I do it because I like to write and want to get better at it.

    http://otisgsandersphoto.com
    http://seventhson.org

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    A beautiful photo blog, Otis, it looks like it is fulfilling your aim.

    Reply

    ABE March 11, 2013 at 10:46 am

    It helps a LOT to start quietly, and just go about your business, learning bits and pieces as you go.

    Very few people find you at the beginning – the nature of the discoverability beast – and you can endlessly tinker with what you’ve created, add pages, learn to navigate, create posts – and delete them if you aren’t satisfied.

    I got one of the For Dummies Wordpress books, gritted my teeth, and told myself my reason for blogging – to have a potential audience for my writing since I can’t publish until Sep. 2015 (long story) – and that it was all for ME – was justified. After all, no one has to READ it if they don’t want to!

    I started the blog last Fall, am up to 40 posts, with several short stories, and a serialized novel going up as I polish it.

    I decided at the start that I would let it grow without me pushing it: it was a red-letter day when I got my first spam! Then a follower or two, some Likes, and eventually A COMMENT! A download of a scene template I wrote!

    All at a slow enough pace to deal with each new learning experience.

    There is fear: of not getting it ‘right.’ Of looking like an idiot. Of having someone not like your opinions.

    That last one is manageable by realizing that YOU control what John Scalzi calls ‘the mallet of loving correction’: it is YOUR blog, and you can do anything you want to the comments that come along, including deleting them, changing them completely, and not allowing them to be seen.

    You create your own comment policy by these controls, and by how you respond to those comments you allow through. Some blogs seem to have all comments starting with Great job!

    I choose to not answer unless I can think up either something witty or something useful – but each blogger gets an individual choice.

    I seem on my way to get what I wanted – feedback. Good enough for now – and easy enough to expand to SEO and newsletters and mailing lists when I’m ready.

    Come on in – the water’s warm.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Beautiful advice, Alicia. I especially like (and also recommend) taking it easy to learn the ins and outs of blogging while you don’t have a big audience. Kind of like “building the plane while in mid-air.” Thanks!

    Reply

    J.M. Ney-Grimm March 11, 2013 at 11:42 am

    You’re creative, you have no lack of new ideas or new insights into how things work.
    You love to write, and you know how to write reasonably well.
    You’re keenly interested—even passionate—about the things that really matter to you.
    You’re glad to connect with someone else who shares your interest or passions.

    You nailed it, Joel! Thanks for the shot of confidence! I’ve been blogging for a year, loving it, and watching my number of visitors slowly grow. The thing is: it does take time away from my fiction writing, so I’ve been weighing my priorities. I plan to continue…but hope to keep a closer eye on how much I allow blogging to steal from story writing. :D

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    That’s great, J.M. That slow growth can really lead to something big. See my advice to the next commenter.

    Reply

    Sandra Lee Dennis March 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Joel, Your latest post on blogging got me to the long list of blogging articles on your site.

    I am dazzled by all the advice you offer on author blogs. I am in the ‘terrified’ category, after putting my first blog out there. Now, who has time to read all this good information and take care of book writing/editing at the same time? Where do I start on what looks like a steep learning curve?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Sandra,

    Like anything else, looking at the whole thing can be overwhelming. Nobody learns all this stuff in a couple of weeks.

    The best advice I have for new bloggers is set a publication schedule that fits with your other activities, then stick to it and learn as you go.

    Being able to experiment and learn while your blog gradually attracts readers is a graceful way for both blogger and audience to grow to maturity.

    Reply

    Brett R. March 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I agree with the six benefits you listed above, which happens after creating a blog Joel. I’m working on a new book. My motivation for creating a blog was to write about the experience/journey of writing a book. I’m first-time author and want to document that entire experience with a high degree of transparency, both good and bad.

    I’ve tried to stick to consistency of posting, since a schedule is more difficult: http://www.bitesizebschool.com/thebook/.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 12, 2013 at 11:48 am

    That’s great, Brett. Very nice blog design, too, clean and readable. Keep in mind that although your topic is education for entrepreneurs, you are likely to mostly acquire a readership made up of writers interested in your publishing journey. Good luck with your book.

    Reply

    Brett R. March 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks Joel. You are right – the book blog will dilute the main website. I’ll move the book blog to its own website at some point. I’m in a when cross the bridge mode right now since I don’t want to maintain a separate websites.

    Once the book is published, it will have a dedicated site and take the book blog with it. That’s still a few months off though.

    Reply

    Geraldine Nesbitt March 14, 2013 at 1:56 am

    Hi Brett

    Welcome to the club. In 2003, before blogging was ‘in’ I wrote every month for suite101, a sort of a prerunner to the blog. It documented my own Writing Process. At one point there were thousands of readers and later I even discovered that it had been used as a reference for creative writing programs. The interaction was great and encouraged me to keep going. It did not however, increase sales of the novel that I actually describe in the Writing Process but it did boost my confidence as ‘someone who knows what they’re talking about’. I think in your case, if you commit to blogging regularly about the growth of your book, knowing you are putting it out there will help you stick to your promise to yourself to write the book! I wish you every success and will add your URL to my favourites. Would love your opinion on my ‘new’ blog.
    http://www.geraldinenesbitt.com/blog

    Reply

    Brett R. March 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Geraldine,

    Thank you. Writers are a difficult group to sell to in general. But they aren’t the target audience for the book. They are however, the target audience for a blog about writing a book ;)

    Your site looks really nice. Very clean.

    Reply

    Brett R. March 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks Joel. You are right – the book blog will dilute the main website. I’ll move the book blog to its own website at some point. I’m in a when cross the bridge mode right now since I don’t want to maintain a separate websites.

    Once the book is published, it will have a dedicated site and take the book blog with it. That’s still a few months off though.

    Reply

    Dave Derwingle March 18, 2013 at 4:37 am

    Dear Mister Joel Friedlander- I’m liking the look and feel of your website. Did your website begin life as a worpress blog template? If yes, would you care to comment on the theme?

    Reply

    Peter DeHaan March 19, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Joel, this is a great post for any writer who’s on the fence about blogging. Thanks for sharing your insights with us.

    Reply

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