An author blog can be fun if you ignore the rules intended for business blogs.
by Anne R. Allen
The most common question I get from authors who are thinking about starting a blog is: “What should an author blog about?”
My answer isn’t the same as what you’ll hear from the major blogging gurus. That’s because 90% of the advice on blogging is about business blogs—ones that sell advertising. Most of their rules simply don’t apply to authors. We’re blogging to sell our own books, not other people’s products.
Business bloggers will tell you to find a niche, stick with it, and blog 3-5 times a week. They’ll say you need lots of bells and whistles and they’ll urge you to be aggressive about snagging subscribers with tricks and bribes.
But if you’re blogging to promote a fiction writing career, forget niches, numbers, and competitive behavior. Instead, aim to be friendly, welcoming and entertaining.
Also: don’t let your blog take over your fiction writing time. This is why I recommend slow blogging once a week or less—but preferably to a schedule.
Your blog subject matter can change and evolve, depending on your genre and where you are in your career.
Of course, first you need to get that career started.
When you’re a newbie, your blogging goals will be different from those of an established author.
An established author is blogging for fans and readers that already exist.
But a newbie is blogging to meet people and network.
If you’re a Pre-Published or Newly-Published Author:
You want to get your name out there and reach as many people as you can, so right now, your primary goal is networking. You can start by networking with other author/bloggers. Fellow writers can be your best resource early in your career.
NOTE: I’m not telling you to market to your fellow writers, which can be pointless and obnoxious. But networking with your colleagues can pay off in much bigger ways than simply the sale of one book.
Visit blogs that focus on your genre—that’s readers, reviewers and other authors—to see what they’re blogging about and get to know them. When you find yourself leaving a long comment: that’s your next blog post!
If you’re planning on a traditional publishing career, you should also be regularly visiting agents’ blogs—especially the ones who rep your genre—and you can network with writers in the query process at QueryTracker and AgentQuery .
Visiting blogs can be like hanging out with co-workers in the coffee room at a new job. You’ll find a huge amount of information just by listening. Think of your blog as your cubicle where people stop by to say hello.
But first you have to introduce yourself in a general meeting place.
This means yes, you CAN talk about writing and publishing when you’re starting out. You can commiserate and congratulate each other as you ride the roller coaster of this crazy business. (But no whining. Trash-talking people in the business can stop your career before it starts.)
Once You’re an Established Author:
Now it’s time to switch gears.
You don’t have to stop blogging about writing entirely, but mix it up so you can start attracting more non-writers—especially readers in your niche. (Do as I say, not as I do 🙂 unless you have, ahem, a how-to book for writers.)
Remember people surf the Web looking for two things: information and entertainment.
So provide either or both.
Your blog can spin a good yarn, make people laugh, provide information, or all three, as long as you put it in your own honest, unique voice and you’re not too whiny or preachy. You want to provide a way for people to relate to you on a personal level.
Choose content for your ideal audience.
You need to know who you’re blogging for. If you’re writing hard sci-fi, you’re going to want to reach a different readership than if you’re writing cozy mysteries or romance.
What movies and TV shows might appeal to people who would like your book? What’s their age group? What other interests do those people have?
If you’re writing YA dystopian, blogging about the Divergent films might attract your ideal demographic. Tweet news about the stars and whether or not there will be a fourth film, and you’ll get those fans coming to your blog.
Write mysteries? Discuss classic mysteries or all the retellings of the Sherlock Holmes stories in film and new books.
If you’re writing Regency romance, run a series on your favorite films set in the era, or talk costumes and history. Or conduct a survey on what actor was the ideal Darcy.
12 Types of Content that Work in an Author Blog
This is by necessity a partial list. Please feel free to make more suggestions in the comments. Anything that might make a good magazine article will make a good blogpost—especially a magazine your ideal reader is likely to read.
1) Interviews and Profiles
These don’t have to be interviews with authors, although that’s a fantastic way to network AND reach readers. Write crime novels? Interview a cop, forensic expert or private detective. Write bookstore cozies? Profile a series of bookstore clerks and visit their blogs.
Any time you write a post about somebody other than yourself, you bring that person—and their friends—to your site.
2) Curated lists
Do you surf the ‘Net looking for articles and blogposts on your favorite subjects? Collect the urls of the best ones and recommend them in a regular list on your blog.
This is one of the best ways of getting to know top bloggers. Put them on a list and they’ll get a Google alert and stop by your blog. Maybe they’ll even invite you to guest post. And if you recommend a lesser-known blogger…you’ve made a friend! Some blogs that have great curated lists are Joel Friedlander’s This Week in Blogs and Elizabeth S. Craig’s Sunday Twitterific.
3) Informative pieces
This is where you can use all that research you did for your books that sounds too much like “info-dumping” in your novel. I’ve had a lot of fun sharing information I’ve gleaned in my research on poisons in my book blog series. Poisoning People for Fun and Profit.
4) Reviews and spotlights of books in your genre
Reviews are hard work and sometimes a thankless job, but good reviewers get a lot of respect in the industry. Spotlights are easier, so you might want to intersperse them.
5) Film reviews and info about other media in your genre
Readers are interested in more than books, so talking about films and television shows in your genre will draw readers.
6) Comic or inspirational vignettes about your life
This can be almost anything, as long as it’s entertaining, has a point, and doesn’t turn into a pity party.
7) Stuff about your pets
Don’t dismiss this as too silly. Animal photos and funny pet stories are some of the most clicked-upon content on the Web. Never underestimate the power of a cute puppy or grumpy cat to draw readers. Especially if animals play a part in your fiction.
Do avoid polarizing subjects like politics and religion unless they relate to your books. But any opinion piece about publishing news will probably get a lot of readers in the bookish community. An opinion blog I love these days is hilarious Irish writer Tara Sparling’s blog.
9) History and nostalgia pieces
Do you write historicals, or novels set in an earlier era? Anything about that era will be of interest to your readers.
This is where people writing war memoirs or books about military history can share their own experiences. If you lived through history, the world wants to know about it. A blog is the perfect place to share.
10) Travel articles and photos
You can talk about your own travels, or write about where you live or the settings of your books.
Even if you’ve only made the journey via Google maps and Wikipedia, your readers will be interested. If it’s your hometown, even better. Interview local business owners and people who live and work in similar places to your fictional ones.
11) How-to’s and recipes.
Write crafting mysteries? Offer interesting quilt patterns or knitting directions. Have a character who likes to fly kites? Tell readers how to build one.
And no matter what genre you write, if food is involved, people will enjoy a recipe for it. Or maybe you can offer a recipe for the busy writer to throw in the crockpot, or a tasty snack to serve to your book group.
12) A series of articles or vignettes you hope to make into a book.
This is especially true of nonfiction. You can post fiction and poetry too, but they tend to be less popular. Also, do be aware that a previously blogged short story or poem will not be eligible for contests or “first rights” publication in a traditional magazine. (See more on this in “Your WIP” below.)
But many nonfiction books start as blogs these days. Blogger Nina Amir has written extensively about How to Blog a Book.
8 Topics to Avoid on your Author Blog
The following topics can fizzle a blog, so mention them sparingly, if at all.
1) Daily word count
Sorry. Nobody cares. (Unless you’re a member of a writers’ group encouraging each other on—as sometimes happens during NaNoWriMo.)
2) Rejection sorrows and personal woes
These belong in your private journal. The one with the lock on it.
Although the original “weblogs” were often personal diaries, today’s blogs are “other” oriented rather than “self” oriented and you need to write stuff that’s interesting to people who don’t already know you.
3) Your writer’s block
4) Teachy-Preachy stuff
Especially if you’re not an expert. Don’t lecture people on how to get published if you’re not.
5) Apologies for not blogging
I see this on Medium all the time. Some writer hasn’t made his own self-imposed deadline and then spends ½ of his post apologizing for it. Bo-ring.
We know it’s hard to get around to the old blog. You don’t need to tell us the specifics. Just call it “slow blogging” and get on with something interesting.
6) Writing about writing exclusively
It’s tempting to start a blog like this one that caters exclusively to writers. But it’s not that great an idea unless you have a “how to” book for writers. You want to reach a wider audience.
7) Religion or politics
Unless your work is exclusively for people of the same faith or political persuasion, you’re eliminating a big percentage of the population by posting about controversial stuff.
I know some big name authors have been expressing their political opinions on their blogs recently, and it hasn’t hurt their sales, but it’s a bad idea for newbies.
Unless, of course, your books are about religion or politics—or you live in a part of the world with interesting politics and you have a unique viewpoint. (Extra credit if you’re in a war zone.)
8) Your WIP (Especially if it’s a novel.)
Don’t compose your novel on your blog. It will be considered “previously published” by the publishing establishment, so agents and editors won’t be interested in it.
Even if you’re planning to self-publish, it’s not a good idea. Remember every novel needs editing. Your future self will thank you for not publishing that “s***y first draft”. Remember the Internet is forever.
If you want to write your novel in public and get feedback, Wattpad is probably the best place to do that. It’s password protected and posting there is not considered officially “publishing” by most people in the industry. However some agents now consider a book that’s been on Wattpad to be “previously published.” so do it at your own risk.
Treat a blog as an expression of who you are.
It’s the face you offer the world. So be real and have fun. Think of your blog as something like your own version of Oprah magazine. It can be any collection of eclectic things that add up to you.
Blogging can lead you to unexpected places:
- Sometimes blogging can take off and you find you’d rather blog than work on your WIP. There’s nothing wrong with that. You may have a future as a professional blogger and content provider—often a more lucrative field than writing novels.
- Or if you’re a book review blogger, you may be invited to intern for an agent and even become an agent yourself. That’s what happened to former book blogger Danielle Smith, who was first hired as an assistant and then a full-fledged agent at Fuse Literary and now has her own agency, Lupine Grove.
But if you have your heart set on being a novelist, remember your fiction must take priority. Slow blogging works!
…Anne R. Allen (@annerallen) March 19, 2017
What about you, Scriveners? Do you have a blog? Do you have trouble deciding what to blog about? What’s your favorite kind of blog to read? Have you tried to write a novel on your blog? How did it turn out? Do you have more suggestions for topics to blog about?
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