If you are an author, should you blog too? Many experts say yes. But are they right? To blog, or not to blog?
This is going to sound radical, given everything you may have read in author marketing books and heard at writing conferences. BUT …
Blogs are not what they used to be.
“The number of bloggers in the USA is expected to grow to 31.7 million in 2020,” per OptinMonster.
The most popular post types are lists and how-to articles. More about that in a moment.
Back when the internet was new, gaining a following was easy. But times have changed. (By the way, the Internet is so ubiquitous, the word internet is lower case, per CMOS 7.80.)
Blogs are NOT essential for fiction authors.
Hear me out! Fiction author, your time is best spent writing your next book and building an EMAIL LIST. But it you MUST blog, then keep reading.
Writing weekly blog posts is time wasted UNLESS it helps you build your brand and your connection to your readers.
Keep in mind that your personal life isn’t that interesting to readers unless you are famous or you are sharing about a non-fiction topic you have in common with your readers. For the most part, your readers simply want to read your stories or to learn something new.
Also, I do not advise publishing short stories or chapters on your blog; build a backlist of books instead, AND don’t give your work away without receiving something in return. See “What about publishing to your blog?” below.
Blogs (or a strong social media following) are essential for non-fiction authors.
If you write non-fiction, you need to be building a high-traffic blog or a social media platform with lots of followers, especially if you hope to land a traditional publishing contract. Building an EMAIL LIST should be your first priority.
What about publishing on your blog?
For Fiction Authors
My advice is to NEVER publish your fiction on a web page.
If you decide to write short stories or distribute free chapters to attract new readers, make it a transaction: the reader’s email address in exchange for your work in the form of a PDF or MOBI file. Do NOT give your work away for nothing.
Prequels, ARCs, short stories, “deleted scenes,” etcetera are perfect newsletter magnets, but make them count! Use them to build and retain your email list.
Lastly, avoid reviewing books by other authors on your author blog; book blogging is fine if that’s what you do for a living or avocation, but it’s not the best use of your writing time because a fiction author needs a backlist, not a website full of reviews of other authors’ work.
Do you see what I mean? You don’t have to agree, but in my opinion and experience, posting reviews of books in your genre can definitely forge bonds with the authors of those books, BUT it may not be the best way to a) build your brand or b) connect with your readers.
Much better to help your author friends launch their books with Instagram posts, tweets, and Facebook props. Best of all, endorse their books in your author newsletter as part of a newsletter swap.
Endorse other books similar to yours, but don’t spend precious time reading loads of books and writing detailed reviews; spend that time writing your next book! I can’t say this too many times—writing book reviews feels productive, but it is not.
For Non-fiction Authors
This sounds contradictory, but by all means, non-fiction author, blog your book. Become the go-to source for information about your area of expertise.
Your book, then, is a condensed version of the BEST material you put out in the world via blog posts, Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, courses, and newsletters.
Finally, blog tours don’t sell books.
That’s a hard pill to swallow because blog tours are so easy to set up and relatively inexpensive, too. A blog tour might help build some buzz for your new book, but most likely, the buzz will not equate to sales. If you have the budget, okay. But go forward with the knowledge that a blog tour represents a LOT of work and a lot of writing, too.
Instead, use your time to coordinate with your author friends to post about your book on social media and in their newsletters. Spend your time searching for people to review your book.
Rather than spending money on a blog tour, spend your money on ads to target readers who are actively looking for a book to buy.
Readers do not go out of their way to read about books except when they are actively searching for their next read on Amazon, Goodreads, or BookBub. Personally, I’ve never searched for books to buy on book blogger sites.
These days, people see Instagram posts, Facebook posts (sometimes), Facebook and Amazon ads, tweets, BookBub newsletters, author newsletters, TikTok (maybe), etc.
What do the places above have in common?
- They are visually oriented. We are a visual society, completely hooked on pictures and videos.
- Posts are usually short on text and easy to digest. Possible exceptions are Facebook posts and author newsletters.
- People hang out there. People are on these sites because they want to scroll or, in the case of author newsletters, because they are scanning their emails.
- People sign up to be there. This is important; when a reader signs up for Facebook or for an author newsletter, they make a psychological commitment to show up.
What if you still want to blog?
If you choose to blog, do these two things:
- Connect with your readers’ emotions. If you can connect with your fiction readers on topics they find engaging, especially emotional topics, then you are golden.
- Blog about non-fiction topics that will build your brand.
Are your readers interested in clothes and makeup? Are they interested in history? Do your readers love the environment? Are your readers socially conscious or are they upwardly mobile? Blog about the topics your readers care about, especially as they relate to your books.
Leverage your writing.
Whether you blog it first or create material for your newsletter first, LEVERAGE your writing. Take what you create and repurpose it for:
- your newsletter,
- your blog,
- your social posts,
- your YouTube channel, and/or
- your podcast.
Make your writing work as many ways as possible, always with the aim of finding new email subscribers and followers.
Remember when I mentioned lists and how-to articles? Share your expertise about a subject or a skill your readers want to learn about. Or share your journey to expertise as you master something (not writing) your readers want to know about.
Let’s consider a couple of examples.
Are you an expert about the Regency period? Blog about that. List the articles of clothing from the skin out for working women of the time. Discuss the historical context of the period. Discuss how society worked back then. Do biographical sketches of the famous people of the court. What did they eat? How did people make a living?
Are you a science fiction writer who wants to learn more about aeronautical design and space travel? Then write about common interests with your readers. Speculate about what might happen in the newest Star Trek movie. Share your experience building a rocket in your backyard. Report on the ten biggest discoveries made by the astronauts on the International Space Station.
It isn’t about YOU, unless what you do is directly applicable to what you write about.
What are your thoughts? Do you blog or not? What do you blog about, or what do you do instead?
My opinions on blogging and reviewing books are based on my experiences. I would love to hear about your experiences, so please write back.