Author blogs: Are you blogging for the right reasons?
5 Bad Reasons for Author Blogs
1) Getting Rich Quick
Nothing infuriates me more than those books and blogs promising writers they can make a gazillion dollars of “passive income” with a blog in the next month if they take this overpriced course or buy that book of rehashed advice from 2005.
The only people making a lot of “passive income” from blogging are the people selling the overpriced courses and worthless advice. Pyramid schemes always provide “passive income” for the people at the top of the pyramid. That’s not going to be you at this point. The boom is over.
Blogging is work. Writing is work. There’s nothing “passive” about it. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying.
I used to subscribe to a couple of hype-y “how-to-blog” blogs, but I had to unsubscribe because these people are getting so desperate. One blogger now sends an email 15 minutes after you click through to read his post saying, “You’ve had enough time to read my post. Now share it to Facebook.”
Creepy!! I’d just shared his post to Twitter, but I deleted the Tweet and unsubscribed. You’re not the boss of me, dude. And I’m not responsible for your bad life choices. If you really were making the fortune you claimed to be making a decade ago, why didn’t you invest it?
Another sad truth is that Internet ads pay less than they used to. You’re not going to make more than pennies a day from ads (especially “affiliate” ads that only pay when somebody clicks through and buys something.)
Your best bet is to get a deep-pockets sponsor to bankroll you, but even so, that’s not likely to pay a lot of bills.
Medium, the popular blogging platform started a couple of years ago by Twitter and Blogger founder Evan Williams has not found a way to make money. You probably won’t either.
Author blogs are for promoting your own brand. You’re making money by not spending it advertising elsewhere, but that’s not going to buy you a house in the Hamptons.
2) Overnight Fame
The days of Julie/Julia over.
Yes, you can still raise your profile with author blogs, and I strongly recommend you use a blog as one tool for getting your name out there.
But nobody’s likely to become an overnight sensation with author blogs in these days when everybody and his grandmother has one.
When Julie Powell started her Julia Child blog in 2002, the term “blog” itself was only 3 years old. Blogging was a whole new concept.
Now, WordPress alone, with about a quarter of the market, hosts more than 76.5 million blogs.
The odds for instant fame are not on your side. I highly recommend that authors blog, but we need to be patient.
3) Exploring the Inner Workings of Your Psyche
Journaling is a great aid to mental health. It can also get your creative juices flowing. I’m a firm believer in those “morning pages” Julia Cameron talks about in The Artist’s Way. Whenever I’m going through a rough patch, I go back to morning journaling and it always helps.
But you know what I don’t do? I don’t publish the stuff. Because good journaling is by definition bad writing. It’s dumping your unresolved issues on the page so you can examine them. Not other people.
They don’t want to. That’s why shrinks charge the big bux. Other people’s unresolved issues are amazingly boring. And think what the trolls and fake news nuts could do with all that personal stuff about you if you do get famous.
This is why paper journals are still such a great boon to creatives. You might even want to get an old fashioned diary with a lock on it. Ruth Harris has some great recommendations for lovely journals in her Gifts for Writers post.
Not much of our lives is private these days, so grab what little privacy you can still hang onto.
Don’t blog your angst. Think of your reader, not your own needs.
Blogging anonymously in order to dish the dirt on teachers, colleagues or even celebrities is likely to backfire unless you’re brilliantly funny. (Or you’re a clever Macedonian teenager who knows how to make money generating ridiculous disinformation for the “alt-right”.)
If you’re a brilliant humorist, why not be proud of it and use your own name?
There’s no point in being an anonymous snarkasaurus if your goal is to be a bestselling author someday.
Blogging anonymously is a waste of time, because the whole point of author blogs is to get your name out there.
Put that anger into your private journal (see above) and use it in fiction later.
5) Attracting an Agent
There may have been a time, back in the early days of the millennium, when agents perused blogs looking for clients.
I don’t think they ever looked to blogs for novels—because novels all about structure, and the structure of a blogpost shows nothing about your abilities to structure a novel. But they may have gone looking for nonfiction.
However, that was the Jurassic period in terms of Internet history.
This is the age of the e-query and agents get hundreds a day in their inboxes. They don’t need to look elsewhere for amateur writing.
The way to attract an agent is to write an outstanding professional query.
If you’ve got a popular blog you think you can turn into a book, then put together a fantastic book proposal and a query that will knock their socks off.
But don’t expect agents to wander by your blog with an offer of representation any more than you’d expect them wander into your bedroom with a six figure advance. Doesn’t happen.
Lots of blogs have been turned into bestselling books, and I think for nonfiction writers, starting your book as a blog is an excellent idea.
But don’t expect an agent to come calling without some serious effort on your part.
5 Good Reasons for Author Blogs
1) Getting Your Name on Google’s Radar
A static website gets less traffic than an active blog, so the search engine spiders don’t notice it.
The more active the site, the more likely the spiders will find it. (Spiders will begin with a popular site, index the words on its pages and follow every link found within the site.)
A blog that’s getting hits and comments will get noticed. It may take a month or two, but it will get Google’s attention, then when somebody Googles you, you’ll be on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (known as a SERP.)
Last year I did an experiment starting a new once-a-week book blog, and found it only took about 4 posts to get it on the first page of a search for “Anne R. Allen’s Books.”
Whenever you query an agent or publisher or reviewer, or you send a story to an anthology or literary magazine—pretty much every time you want to do business online—the first thing people will do is Google you.
A blog is one of the best ways to get your name on that all important SERP.
2) Establishing Yourself as a Digital Age Professional
A blog is like your own international newspaper column. Writing to deadline and coming up with a topic once or twice a week is great for building your professional writing muscles. (I don’t recommend blogging more often than that when you’re trying to build a career writing stuff other than blogposts. Some people call this “slow blogging.” I recommend it, especially for novelists.)
If you treat your blog as an aspect of your job as a writer, you can prove to people in the industry that you’re a professional. If you’re querying agents or editors, this can make all the difference in whether they decide to do business with you.
Plus writing for a blog teaches you to write for the digital age.
By checking your stats, you can see immediately what posts are getting the most traffic and learn what works for a Web based audience.
You’ll also learn to use SEO, keywords, bulleting, subheaders and white space to draw the eye through a post. This is useful for composing any kind of content for the Web.
Once you’re a published author, you’re going to need to know how to write guest blogposts (one of the best methods of marketing your book) as well as other Web content. Why not start practicing now?
3) Networking with Other Writers
Blogging is a form of social media, and social media is about, well, socializing. Blogging provides a great way to socialize with other writers. The writing blogosphere is generally friendly and welcoming.
Joining a writer’s blogging circle like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group or a genre blogging group can do amazing things for your career. You can find opportunities for great things like:
- Blog hops
- Boxed sets
- Joint promotions
- Exchanging beta reads and critiques
- Interviews and spotlights
- Sharing information about agents, publishers, and warnings of possible scams
Blog hopping is especially useful for new writers because it gets the attention of those spiders I mentioned in #1
Besides, writing is a lonely job and while you’re writing away in your garret you may not have time to get away to the local café to hang out with IRL friends, but your blogfriends can give you moral support through those tough times of rejection and bad reviews and cyberbully attacks.
They may even help more, because they’ve probably been through it themselves.
4) Controlling your Brand
Social media comes and goes. Facebook can kick you off for imagined infractions. Goodreads can attract trolls. Nasty people can invade and turn once-friendly groups into nightmares.
But a blog is your own domain. You can kick out the troublemakers and make your own rules. If you want a politics-free zone, you can have it.
In these days of fact-free “news” stories and cyberbullying, you really want to have someplace online where you can interact with people and nobody will come barging in with fists flying, trying to pick a fight.
Blogs are good for that.
You can also create your own look and the atmosphere that will attract the kind of readers who are most likely to be interested in your work.
5) Interacting with Fans and Attracting Readers
I think author blogs are one of the best marketing tools out there. So does agent Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media.
A blog is a fantastic place to make friends with people who may later buy your books. If you’re blogging about the topic or setting of your novel or memoir, you will attract people who are familiar with the place or the situation you deal with in your book.
These connections are pure gold.
It’s not that you want to try to hard-sell your book to everybody who wanders by. But these people can become contacts who can introduce you to corners of the Internet you might never have discovered otherwise. They can also end up introducing you to agents, editors, writers’ conference directors, and other people who can make all the difference in your career.
A blog can help you make contacts all over the world. Some may buy your books and spread the word about them, some may be helpful with research and a few may even turn into personal, long-time friends.
What’s better than making friends? That is a really great reason to blog!
What about you, scriveners? Do you have a blog? Do you monetize it? Did you fall for any of the “get rich quick” promises of some of the blog gurus? Have you blogged and given up on it? What did you get out of blogging?
by Anne R. Allen (@annerallen) February 5, 2017
NOTE: We’ve already had 2 big power outages in my neighborhood this weekend and we’re expecting another massive storm, so if I don’t respond to your comments, it’s because I’m living the third world life here on the California coast. 🙂
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