My answer isn't the same as you'll hear from most blogging gurus: I say it depends on where you are in your career.
1) If you're a new author/blogger, your primary goal is to build an audience. The best way to do this is to network with other bloggers.
Most people who read blogs and comment regularly are also bloggers themselves, so this is your potential core audience.
Blog hops can be very valuable at this stage of your career. Jump on any opportunity to participate.
Go to other blogs in your niche—that's readers, reviewers and other authors—to see what they're blogging about and get to know people. When you find yourself leaving a long comment: that's your next blog post!
If you hope for a traditional publishing career, you should also be regularly visiting agents' blogs like Janet Reid's and Kristen Nelson's and former agent Nathan Bransford's to find out how the traditional publishing process works. You can also interact with other writers who comment on the blog.
If you think you might go indie, do the same on indie blogs like Joe Konrath's and The Passive Voice.
No matter what path you're contemplating, hanging out at friendly, troll-free writing-community blogs like Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group, Nathan Bransford's forums, and Kristen Lamb's We are Not Alone, will make you feel less isolated and help you meet people who can help you in your career.
This is like hanging out with co-workers in the coffee room or cafeteria 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. (As long as you don't complain too much. Believe me, we've all felt the temptation to vent about the unfairness of the industry, but it won't help your career.)
2) Once you've got a few followers and you're getting ready to publish, 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.
Remember people surf the Web looking for two things: information and entertainment.
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. (Although experts generally advise against fictional yarns. More on that below.)
Joel Friedlander wrote a great blogpost this month on 3 major mistakes author-bloggers make . He points out you need to know who you're blogging for. If you're writing hard sci-fi, you're going to want to reach to a different readership than if you're writing cozy mysteries. Unfortunately, marketers often tell authors to market indiscriminately to the entire population.
Try picturing your ideal audience when you're deciding what to blog about. 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 a Hunger Games type YA dystopian, blogging news about the next Hunger Games film might attract your ideal demographic. Tweet Jennifer Lawrence news and you'll get the HG fans coming to your blog.
If you're writing Regency romance, run a series on your favorite films set in the era, or talk costumes and history. Or join a Janeite community and weigh in on controversial topics like the mental health of Jane Austen's mother and whether Colin Firth is the one and only Darcy.
What Works in a Writer’s Blog
This is a partial list. I'd love more suggestions in the comments.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reviews and spotlights of books in your genre: But be wary of starting an all-review site if you're an aspiring author. Honest reviewers sometimes have to be negative, which can open you up to bullying by an authors' posse. Spotlights make more friends.
- Film Reviews and info about other media in your genre. Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog is a great example of how to do this right. (Alex will be visiting next month to talk about how to create a blog community.)
- 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. An author who does a fabulous job with the comic personal story is rom-com author Tawna Fenske.
- Stuff about your pets. Seriously. Never underestimate the power of a cute puppy or grumpy cat to draw hits. Catherine Ryan Hyde posted photos and videos showing the progress of her new cat and old dog learning to get along: a lesson in diplomacy. It got so popular, the dog and cat—now best of friends—have their own Facebook page.
- Opinions (as long as you avoid polarizing subjects: see below) Any opinion piece about publishing news will probably get a lot of readers in the bookish community. Weigh in on Bezos buying the Washington Post, or how you feel about "authorized" fan fiction.
- History and nostalgia pieces: 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 books of 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.
- Travel pieces about 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. This is where your own photographs can be a big plus. (Make sure all other photographs you use are not copyrighted. Only use photos licensed through Creative Commons.)
- 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.
- Almost anything of general interest—especially to the kind of people you think might like your books. Anything that might make a good magazine article will make a good blogpost—especially a magazine your ideal reader is likely to buy.
- A series of articles or vignettes you hope to make into a book. For nonfiction, blogging your book is OK, although if you get a traditional contract, you may be asked to take down those posts because of "non-compete" rules.
Not so Much
- Daily word count. Sorry. Nobody cares. (Unless you're a member of a writers' group encouraging each other on—as sometimes happens during NaNoWriMo.) 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.
- Rejection sorrows and personal woes. These belong in your private journal. The one with the lock on it.
- Your writer's block. Ditto.
- Teachy-Preachy stuff. Especially if you're not an expert. Don’t lecture people on how to get published if you’re not.
- Pretentious word-farts. I landed on a writer's blog recently that gave no indication of the writer's name, genre, or work. Random phrases were scattered around, like: "This is all there is," and "Unless you are in pain, you're not doing it right," and "99% of published work is BS." Um, speaking of BS... OK, this person is obviously young and going through a stage, but this isn't something you want to do in public.
- Apologies for not blogging. 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.
- Writing about writing exclusively, unless you have a "how to" book for writers.
- Religion or politics: unless your work is exclusively for people of the same faith or political persuasion. 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.)
- Your Fiction WIP. Especially if you hope to attract an agent. Not only do agents not have time to hunt for novels in the blogosphere, but they generally won't take a novel that's been blogged because it's already "published." (Selling novels is a different process from selling nonfiction—which is generally based 99% on platform—so the rules are different.)
Some writers ARE able to attract a blog following by posting some short fiction or poetry, but I don't recommend you do it exclusively, because people skim blogs and usually won't read denser stuff. Plus you are giving away first rights and can't enter it in contests or submit to journals after putting it on a blog. It's better to post work in progress on a place like Wattpad which is password-protected and therefore not "publishing."
But especially don't blog your unedited, unfinished novel hoping for praise or critique. You'll thank me later when you're at your editing stage. Honest. (If you want critique, I suggest you join one of the many online groups for the purpose, like CritiqueCircle.com.)
A blog is an expression of who you are: the face you offer the world. So be real and have fun.
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—a much more lucrative field than writing novels. Nina Badzin discovered she enjoyed blogging more than fiction writing and used her blog to launch a career as a freelance writer.
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 book blogger Danielle Smith, now an agent at Foreword Literary.
But if you have your heart set on being a novelist, remember your fiction must take priority. That's why I support "slow blogging
"—blogging once a week or less, preferably to a schedule.
For fiction writers, here's a quote from Jason Kong's post "7 Reasons Why Social Media isn't Growing Your Fiction Readership
" from Joel Friedlander's blog.
"Your key to more followers isn’t posting more frequently or having more conversations. Nor is it constantly checking your feeds to see who said what. A readership develops because they have something to value and talk about....Writing good stories, as always, should remain your top priority."
For a more in-depth piece on how the stages of your writing career affect your blog you might want to read my piece, How to Blog Part 3: What Should You Blog About?
And here's a great piece about how to make your content "addictive"
from Jeff Bullas.
What about you, scriveners? What do you blog about? What do you want to read on other blogs? Any suggestions for the new blogger?
Next week: Ruth Harris is going to tell us about METADATA: one of those things we're all supposed to know about, but if you're like me, you're not quite sure what it is.
THIS WEEK'S BOOK DEAL:
The Camilla Randall Mysteries Boxed Set is now on sale INTERNATIONALLY!
My publisher has now spread the sale to all outlets. Thanks everybody, for keeping it on the Amazon US comic fiction bestseller list all summer. (And this week on the women's fiction bestseller list in Canada and comic fiction in Germany.)
The Best Revenge, Ghost Writers in the Sky and
Sherwood Limited are hysterical. Anne Allen will keep you laughing throughout, but in the meantime she dabbles her fingers in some topics worth some serious thought: sexism, weightism, lechery, murder, duplicity, homelessness & poverty to name a few. If you love to laugh, you'll like these three books. If you love to think, ponder AND laugh, be ready to fall in love"... C.S. Perryess
Note to anybody who has read a Camilla book and enjoyed it—
I could use your help. If you have time to leave a review on Amazon
or Barnes and Noble
, I'll be eternally grateful. When you have a bestselling book, the negative nellies come out and your star rating takes a hit. Comedy can be so subjective and a lot of people don't "get" the same things. (And sock puppets abound: a lot of the nasty comments come from people who've never reviewed anything else—
or give nothing but one-stars to every other book on the same bestseller list. Plus on B & N, people can give stars with with no text.) If you do like my humor, and you've enjoyed the books, I could really
use your help. Just a star rating on B & N could make all the difference.
1) Find a Writing Group through Galley Cat! One of the most reliable and popular news outlets in publishing is creating a directory for writers to network to get critiques of their work You can sign up here.
2) Get your book international visibility for a reasonable price. EBUK is now advertising bargain books to close to a dozen countries, including the US and Canada, and they're still at half price through the end of August. You can get more info here. Make sure your book is under $3.99 and provide links to all stores, not not only Amazon (unless you're in Select.) Ads are a little over 10 bucks until the end of August.
And you can sign up for the newsletter for your country right here. I've signed up for the new US version. If you like bargain ebooks, this is a great free service.
3) Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Awards. Since most short fiction contests tend to favor literary work, this is a great one for genre authors. Choose your favorite genre and enter your best in 4,000 words or less. Six first prizes of $500 each and a Grand Prize of $2,500 and a trip to the 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. Deadline September 16th
4) FAMILY CIRCLE FICTION CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE Submit an original fictional story of no more than 2,500 words. Three (3) Entries per person and per household throughout the Contest Period. Grand Prize: A prize package including $1,000; a gift certificate to one Mediabistro online course of winner's choice, one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership; and a one year Mediabistro Freelance Marketplace membership. Second Place Prize: $500; one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership; and a one year Mediabistro Freelance Marketplace membership. Third Place Prize: $250; and a one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership. Deadline September 16th.
5) The Harper's Bazaar UK Short Story Prize is open to all writers. NO ENTRY FEE. Are you the next Dorothy Parker or Anita Loos? Submit an original short story (up to 3,000 words) on the subject of 'spring' to:firstname.lastname@example.org. The winning entry will appear in the May 2014 issue. Its author will be able to choose a first-edition book from Asprey's Fine and Rare Books Department to the value of £3,000 and enjoy a week-long retreat at Eilean Shona House, on the 2,000-acre private island off the west coast of Scotland where JM Barrie wrote his screenplay for Peter Pan. Deadline December 13th.
Labels: Alex J. Cavanaugh, Blog hop, Blogging, blogging for authors, Danielle Smith, how to blog, Jason Kong, Joel Friedlander, Nina Badzin, social media for authors, Tawna Fenske