An author blog is the best way to build your writer’s platform
by Anne R. Allen
Some people have been saying blogging is dead for a while now. But for authors, it’s anything but. On a recent list of the most overrated marketing strategies, blogging was close to the bottom. Only 6% of marketers thought it was overrated. (12% found email marketing overrated.)
It’s true that it’s harder to get a readership now than it was a few years ago because of stiff competition, but blogging is still a valuable use of a writer’s time.
People who want to ring a death-knell on the blog are usually talking about the business blog, not the author blog, which is a whole different thing. An author blog doesn’t have to make money directly, so the saturation and competitiveness of the current blogosphere isn’t such a big deal.
And that makes an author blog a lot more fun. Easier, too. Here’s my post on How to Start an Author Blog in 20 Easy Steps
Starting an author blog is the easiest way to establish your platform. And these days, every author needs a platform. In fact, this week on the Book Designer, Matt Aird says savvy authors don’t use social media to sell books. They use it to build platform.
Blogging will help establish your platform even if you only blog once a month. (I’m a big advocate of slow blogging, but I think it’s best to post on a timetable: write at your leisure, but post to a schedule.)
I know many authors who, like me, have met their publishers, agents, and writing partners through blogging.
I’m not saying all blogs will bring big opportunities, but with patience, an author blog can help you meet the people who can take your career to the next level. And that’s what social media is about: meeting people and networking.
Do all Authors Need a Blog?
Nope. Plenty of successful authors don’t have a blog.
But if you write nonfiction and you’re not famous, a blog can make all the difference in your career.
Memoirists especially can start to gather an audience long before their books come out, and if you hope to publish a memoir traditionally, mentioning in your query that you have a blog following can be a big factor in whether you get a read or not.
And even fiction writers need that online platform. You can’t just have a launch party in your local bookstore and get a press release into your hometown newspaper and expect to make significant sales. (And even if you go the traditional publishing route, don’t count on your publisher for much help with marketing.)
Today, a writer’s market is global. Do you know the country where people read the most? India. Or where the 2nd biggest population of English speakers lives? India. Followed by Pakistan and Nigeria.
The advantage of a blog is that it can be your home in that global marketplace—a place where people can drop in and get to know you and find out about your books.
NOTE: Blogging isn’t for direct sales of books. No social media is about hard-selling. (See my post on Social Media Secrets .)
Here are ten reasons to start an author blog.
1) You Need a Website Anyway.
A blog is a website. It’s an interactive one, which is a plus when you’re starting out. People can comment and get to know you. Yes, you may want a flashy expensive static website later on, but if you’re not published, that can look pretentious. A blog is more down-to-earth.
Sending out a query when you don’t have a website is often a waste of time. Many agents and reviewers will reject on that item alone.
If you’re getting lots of form rejections on a polished query or book proposal, this may be the reason.
Stop revising that query for the millionth time and start blogging.
I’m not saying you should start blogging when you’re a total newbie, or when you’ve just started that book you’ve always wanted to write. Don’t scatter your energies. If it’s either blogging or writing the book, the book should always win.
But I’d say you’d benefit from starting an author blog when you’re getting ready to send out queries or preparing to self-publish. (Which should probably be when you’re polishing up your second book.)
2) An Author Blog Gets You into Search Engines.
A static website gets less traffic, so the search engine spiders don’t notice it. Before a search engine can tell people where your website is, they have to find it. The way they do that is with special software robots, sometimes called spiders. To discover information on the hundreds of millions of Web pages out there, spiders build lists of the words found on Web sites.
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. (This is why you want to link to other sites from your blog, and you want to encourage other bloggers to link to you from theirs.) This is why blog hops are a great thing for new bloggers.
An active blog that’s getting hits and comments will get noticed. It may take six months to a year, 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 SERP.)
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 first SERP.
3) Blogging Uses Skills You Already Have
Blogging is writing. This is your medium. It’s what you do. Like the people in those Geico ads. 🙂
So do it. It’s a great way to polish your writing skills. And if you’re a fiction writer, you’ll learn to write better nonfiction and advertising copy, which you’re going to have to do when you’re marketing your books anyway.
You’ll also get used to writing to a deadline. An important skill.
For more about the writing side of blogging, see my post on What Should an Author Blog About?
4) Blogging Teaches You to Write Web Content.
Writing for a blog teaches you to write for the digital age. You can see immediately what posts are getting the most traffic, and which ones are getting crickets.
You’ll also learn to use keywords, bulleting, subheaders and minor headers to draw the eye through a post. This is useful for composing any kind of content for the Web.
Once you’re published, 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?
For more on this, check my post on how to write blog content.
5) There’s Faddism in Other Social Media.
Facebook is making it tougher and tougher for people to see your posts if you don’t pay to boost them. And some people say Twitter will go the same way.
Trend watchers tell us Facebook mostly for old people now. Instagram is the place for younger people at the moment, but that can change on a dime.
We don’t want to forget MySpace or Redroom…oh, whoops, I guess we already have.
6) Other Social Media can Kick you Out Any Time.
A lot of people have been finding their Facebook accounts deleted because they use a “fake name” (like they put “Author” after their real name.) They have to start all over again getting friends and followers. It can take months to get their following back, if they ever do.
And you can get kicked off through no fault of your own. I got put in Facebook jail for a week once because some troll reported me for spam (for something I posted on my own page.) And once they slapped a CAPTCHA on all my links for about six months for no reason I could see.
7) Control of Your Brand
Unfortunately, the Internet is infested with trolls, rage addicts, and spammers. I know a woman whose Facebook account got hijacked by some diet-drug spammer who hit all her FB peeps with insulting ads. Several promptly “defriended” her before she even knew what happened.
Another friend got hit by a porn site who “tagged” a bunch of amateur porn with my friend’s name (as well as many other well known authors.) My friend and the other authors got porn all over their pages. Since he doesn’t visit his page every day, his page was covered with porn for quite a while. Lots of people unliked it.
Stuff like this happens every day.
But on your own blog, there’s that nice “delete” button. A troll, spammer or furious fool shows up and you click it. All gone.
8) It’s FREE!
Oh, I know everybody says you you need to have a professional, expensive self-hosted blog and you should pay a designer to set it up for you, because OMG what will happen when you get 10,000 hits an hour and your blog crashes?
Sorry to pop anybody’s bubble, but that doesn’t happen with an author blog. Not even the superstars get that much blog traffic. We’ve had 5000-hit days, but not 5000-hit hours. We used a little freebie Blogger blog until December 2015 and it never crashed, even when we were getting over 100K hits a month.
If you’re starting out, a free Blogger or WordPress blog will do you just fine.
I don’t recommend using the free blogs on dedicated book sites like Goodreads, BookLikes or SheWrites, even though the sites can be great for other things.
- Those blogs are not as likely to get picked up by search engines so the spiders won’t find it. (If you want your blog on Goodreads, just link to your Blogger or WordPress blog and it will go up on Goodreads whenever you post. But I get about 3 hits a month on the Goodreads version of this blog and 30,000 on this one.)
- Only members can see them. A lot of people don’t like Goodreads because of the bullying, so they wouldn’t be able to read your blog.
- You don’t own your own content. Technically the site owns it.
- Those sites can disappear. Lots of writers blogged on Red Room until it suddenly died in 2014 and everybody lost their blogs.
One site that is useful and can be very good for authors who want to get a taste of blogging but don’t want to commit to a site of their own is Medium. You can try to get into one of their dedicated publications like the Writing Cooperative, or open an account and publish on your own.
I have made so many wonderful friends through blogging—friends who live all over the world. These are people I never would have met otherwise. They have been encouraging and supportive as I rebuilt my career, and it’s been wonderful to see so many of them succeed, too.
Plus it’s just plain fun to write for my loyal core of readers every week and then see new people come and comment and join the group. It’s a little informal get-together every Sunday that I really enjoy.
Networking with other industry professionals is how your career grows. A blog gives you the “home base” to do that.
As always, I highly recommend joining the Insecure Writer’s Support Group if you’re starting to blog, so you’ll have a ready-made community of blogging authors.
10) It’s Social Media for Grown-Ups
My favorite reason for blogging: you can discuss complex ideas and share them with like-minded people.
We all love those videos of cats riding Roombas, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to talk about deeper things with educated adult humans.
If you like to read and write and think, blogging is probably the best medium for you. Most other social media platforms are more about the visuals.
Almost all the good things that have happened in my career in the past 8 years came as a direct result of this blog. And they keep happening. I’ve recently been invited to write for the new fiction phone app, Radish. You can now read episodes of my satire of the publishing business, Sherwood Ltd. at Radish absolutely free! New episodes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
And The Queen of Staves: The Camilla Randall Mysteries #6, my eleventh book, will debut on the 15th with Kotu Beach Press. My nonfic book, The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors debuts in October.
And I’ll be coming out with a book on “Easy Author Blogging” in October.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
No Place Like Home: Camilla Randall Comedy-Mystery #4
(It’s #4 in the series, but it can be read as a stand-alone)
Wealthy Doria Windsor is suddenly homeless and accused of a murder she didn’t commit. But Camilla, with the help of a brave trio of homeless people, the adorable Mr. X, and a little dog named Toto, is determined to unmask the real killer and discover the dark secrets of Doria’s deceased “financial wizard” husband before Doria is killed herself.
And NO PLACE LIKE HOME IS ALSO AN AUDIOBOOK!!
Nearly 8 hours of hilarious entertainment!Only $1.99 if you buy the Kindle ebook
The Golden Quill Awards. The theme is “Liberation.” $500 first prize. Short fiction, poetry and personal essay categories. Up to 1500 words for prose, 40 lines for poetry. Entry fee $15. Deadline September 15, 2017.
University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize. A prize of $1,000 and publication of your book-length manuscript by UNO Press for a short story collection or a novel. The selected manuscript will be promoted by The Publishing Laboratory at the University of New Orleans, an institute that seeks to bring innovative publicity and broad distribution to first-time authors $18 entry fee. Deadline August 15.
Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards. Write Romance, Thriller, Crime, Horror, Science-Fiction, and Young Adult? Short fiction: 4,000 words or less. $20 fee. Grand prize $2500. Deadline October 16th, 2017
Looking for editors, designers, marketers? Writers Boon. is a FREE discounted marketplace for writers where editors, designers, course providers, book marketers and you get a 15% discount or more on their services. Writers Boon also helps you pump up the buzz like a pro with 3 unique and powerful book discoverability tools that get you out there.
20 Literary Journals that publish new writers. Compiled by the good folks at Authors Publish magazine.
7 Publishers that take unagented memoir. from Authors Publish.
25 Publishers who accept unagented submissions for Young Adult books. Also form Authors Publish, a great resource.
Aesthetica Creative Writing Award Two prizes of £1,000 each and publication in Aesthetica. Winners also receive a consultation with literary agency Redhammer Management. Up to 40 lines of poetry ($15 fee), 2000 words for short fiction ($24 fee.) Deadline August 31.