Monday, November 10, 2014

To Blog Or Not To Blog - That Is The Question

Establishing an online presence. This is one of the first things we hear new authors start talking about even before they have gotten a contract from an editor or agent. Should you create a website? Should you create a blog? Should you create an author Facebook page? The list goes on and on. And, although an author should be considering the online presence at some point, but what you put out there must be quality work. Today, I want to focus strictly on the use of a blog.

We all know what a blog is. By definition, it is
"a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style." (Online dictionary)

For an author, a blog is a great way to give your reader some insight into who you are as a person. They know your characters and they know your stories, but the hope is that they will get to know you as well. The blogs are also great ways to promote those books and create some buzz about upcoming book signings, conferences and contests.

I have heard a lot of writers say blogs just aren't that successful and writers should just not waste their time writing the darn things. What I can say is, like everything else out there, it all depends on the person and the situation. Blogs do work for some and for others, it fails horribly.

What I have noticed, however, is the success of a blog depends on several factors, one of which is that first clause in the definition I gave earlier - "regularly updated". There are far too many blogs out there that are too static. There is simply nothing going on, The success of a blog means that there is new content coming out on a regular basis. It doesn't always have to be daily. If you find blogging every Monday, Wednesday and Friday works best for you, then go for it. Maybe it is just a weekly blog post. That too works fine. You can even title the blog post such as Monday's With Maddie (assuming your name is Maddie and you want to write on Mondays... I think you get the idea). The key is repetition.

Your goal as a blogger is to create a site that readers will know is always going to be changing. They simply don't want to go to the blog only to find the author hasn't done anything with it since the last time they went there. Eventually, they quit checking and you now lost that great chance for promotion when you need it.

The second element of blogging is the content. Like your books, you need to have content that is useful to the reader. This depends on what you want to use the blog for, which, is the same as the idea of branding we speak of when you decide on your genre and voice.

I see a lot of authors tell me in their query letter they maintain a blog so I do go, every now and then, to see what the author is doing. In far too many cases, there is nothing going on. Pictures of a tree or a cat is not inspiring, unless it has something to do with your actual writing. If all I see are links to your books, that too is not going to be useful. I could have seen that same information clicking on my online book store. Sure, there is nothing wrong with posting those book covers when something new is happening, but that doesn't happen 365 days out of the year. So fill it with other information.

If you are an author who has stories set in unique locations around the world, then use the site to promote those locations. At some level, become a travel writer and take them into he world where your characters live. If your books have a cooking flare to them, use this to provide insight into cuisine, spices, and recipes.

When I started blogging here, I decided the approach would be to try and provide some new ideas about the writing craft and publishing, but to keep it as informative as possible. I also approached it from the standpoint that my authors are probably newer authors. Now this doesn't mean that I am only going to write about informational topics. I can slip in promotions, or other fun things, but the primary focus will still be information. You can do the same thing.

Finally, the success of that blog is getting that news out to the readers. Blogs, by nature are very passive. You write the post and hope someone stumbles across it. But to be successful, you have to make it even more accessible. For me, I have the post set up to be published in multiple locations. When I hit PUBLISH in just a few minutes, the post goes live on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other site I have created an RSS feed to. It is about being accessible!

The point of this is pretty simple. Blogs could be a great tool for you, but you have to put the work into the darn things. This is an extension to your writing and you have to keep the quality at that same level as your books. And if you are someone who blogs simply don't work for you, then find something else. Or maybe go back and explore how you approached the blog in the past. It might simply be what you did that caused it to fail.


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  2. Somehow I feel a small smidge of resentment when I come across a blog with no new entries for two or more years. Kind of dumped. I must admit that after 2 1/2 years of blogging twice a week I've been feeling lately that I have been running out of ideas. But I'll be sure to say thank you for reading and say goodbye and then likely take the blog down.