An Author Blog is still one of the best ways to build platform
By Anne R. Allen
If you tell your non-writing friends you’re thinking of starting an author blog, you’ll probably hear some noise about how blogging is “totally over.”
People have been pronouncing the demise of blogging for a decade. Google “blogging is dead” and you’ll see thousands of entries.
But it turns out the blog is a pretty resilient medium.
Your friends are right in one sense: the “make a zillion-dollars-by-blogging-about-blogging” blog has passed its sell-by date. You can only teach a finite number of people how to make money teaching blogging until the market is saturated and everybody goes back to the current version of selling Amway.
But that stuff has nothing to do with author blogs. As an author, you’re blogging to get name recognition and publicity for your books, not to sell advertising. That means most of the rules of business blogging don’t apply to you. The money comes when you sell your books.
Author blogs are easy, fun, and only need to appeal to your target book readership, not vast hordes of consumers. They’re a venue for entertainment and information, not a hard-sell advertising machine. And they don’t have to take much time. Posting once a week or less is fine for an author blog.
Even beginning authors can benefit from an author blog, and blogging will pave the way for your future career.
Here are some reasons to start an author blog:
1) You Need a Website—and a Blog is a Free Website.
Sending out a query when you don’t have a website can be a waste of time—whether the query is for a book review, guest blogpost, or a publishing contract. Some publishing professionals reject on that alone.
If you’re getting form rejections on a polished query, this may be the reason. Stop revising the query for the millionth time and start blogging.
Yes, you’ll hear a lot of people saying you need an expensive, self-hosted blog, because OMG what will happen when you get ten million hits an hour and your blog crashes?
Don’t worry. It’s not going to happen. It’s an author blog.
Book readers aren’t techno-snobs. They don’t disrespect somebody based on their website’s URL.
Blogger (blogspot.com) works great for a lot of authors. When our blog was there, it got up to 5000 hits a day—and never crashed.
Setting up a WordPress.com free (non-self-hosted) blog is a little techier than setting up with Blogger, but most authors can do it on their own. And I’ve heard good things about setting up a blog at Wix.
You can also blog free on a number of sites like Goodreads and Medium.
2) A Blog Gets your Name into Search Engines Faster than a Static Website.
A static website gets less traffic than an active blog, so the search engines won’t notice it as quickly. The more active the site, the more likely the search engine spiders will find it.
A “spider” or” web crawler” is a software program that “crawls” through websites and reads information to create entries for a search engine index. Spiders begin with a popular site, index the words, and follow every link found within the site.
A blog that’s getting hits and comments and people share and link to will get noticed by the spiders.
3) Interacting with Fans and Attracting Readers
Author blogs are one of the best marketing tools out there, even if you don’t have anything to market…yet.
That’s because a blog is a fantastic place to make friends with people who may later buy your books. If you’re blogging about a topic, historical period, or setting of your book, you’ll attract people who’re interested in the place, period, or situation in your book.
These connections are pure gold.
It’s not that you want to hard-sell your book to everybody who wanders by. These people can become contacts who introduce you to corners of the Internet you might never have discovered otherwise. They can also introduce you to agents, editors, writers’ conference directors, and other professionals who’ll make all the difference in your career.
4) Other Social Media is Subject to Faddism.
Facebook has made it tougher for people to see your posts if you don’t pay to boost them. And we don’t want to forget MySpace or RedRoom…oh, whoops, I guess we already have.
Plus you might lose your account altogether. A few years ago, a lot of people found their Facebook accounts deleted because they used a “fake name” (even if the so-called fakery involved putting “Author” after their real name.)
That meant they had to start all over again getting friends and followers. It took months to get their following back—and some never did.
5) Control of your Brand.
Every author needs to protect their “brand” —which is a jargon-y way of saying your name. “Stephen King” is a brand. Ditto “Janet Evanovich” and “James Patterson.” People buy a brand because they know what they’re going to get.
Unfortunately, the Internet is infested with trolls, hackers, rage addicts, and spammers who can ruin your brand. One friend’s Facebook account got hacked by some diet-drug spammer who hit all her Facebook friends with insulting ads. Several promptly “unfriended” her before she even knew what happened. She got branded a hustler and body-shamer.
Unfortunately, stuff like this happens every day.
On your own blog, you can defend yourself. There’s that nice “delete” button. A troll, spammer or furious fool shows up and you click the button. All gone.
You can also create your own look that will attract the kind of readers who are most likely to be interested in your work.
6) Establishing Yourself as a Professional.
A blog is your online calling card. It’s like your own newspaper column. Writing to deadline and coming up with a topic once a week (what I recommend for authors) is great for building your writing muscles and impressing others with your professionalism.
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 (Search Engine Optimization) keywords, bulleting, sub-headers and white space to draw the eye through a post. This is useful for composing any kind of content for the Web.
When you have books to sell, you need to know how to write guest blogposts (one of the best methods of marketing your book) as well as other Web content. Practicing on your own blog, even before you’re published, gives you a big advantage.
7) Practice Improves your Writing.
Blogging is writing. This is your medium. If you’re a fiction writer, you’ll learn to write nonfiction—and develop copywriting skills—which you’re going to need when you’re marketing your books.
Writing for an immediate audience is different from writing alone in your garret. Comments and shares give you the boost of adrenaline that actors get when there’s a real audience as opposed to acting in rehearsal.
That boost will take your writing to the next level.
8) A Blog is a Solid Plank in your “Platform.”
Whether you’re planning to self-publish or you’re going the traditional route, every author needs a “platform” sooner or later.
Sooner is better.
When should you think about your platform?
As soon as you’re ready to send out a story or submit a manuscript to an agent, or get ready to self-publish.
How can an agent or reviewer tell if you have a platform? They Google you.
The results are a good indication of your platform.
Self-publishers especially need to work on platform building. Many book marketers say authors should spend most of their social media marketing time working on platform rather than selling books directly.
Build that platform and the sales will come.
Blogging is one of the fastest, easiest ways to do that.
But I Tried Blogging and Failed Miserably!
If you’ve tried to start a blog and ended up abandoning it after a few months, you’re not alone. Most blogs are abandoned after 3 months. But you can succeed if you realize that an author blog is totally different from a business blog. And 90% of the advice on blogging is for monetized business blogs. It doesn’t apply to you. Author blogs can be “slow” (once a week or less) and FUN.
For more on how to have a successful author blog check out my post on 10 Tips for Successful Author Blogging.
by Anne R. Allen (@annerallen) February 18, 2018
A version of this post first appeared at Author Marketing Experts in December 2017.
What about you, scriveners? Do you have a blog? Have you been thinking about starting a blog? Did you have one and abandon it? What keeps you from blogging?
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