Maybe you've just finished that NaNo novel and you know you want to publish, so you'd like to get a head start while you slog through the editing process.
Or you've been writing for a couple of years, you've published some short pieces, and you've got maybe two novels in the hopper and you're ready to get this career on the road.
Or you've finally landed that agent, but you don't have anywhere near the platform she wants.
Any of these could be a good point to start a blog.
Yes, a blog is still a great way to build platform and establish an Internet presence. So says agent Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary
, who will be visiting us here in January.
But a writer starting a blog right now faces two problems:
1) There are already, like, a
trillion writers out there lecturing the blogosphere about how to write vivid
characters, prop up saggy middles and avoid adverbs. A lot of them probably
know more than you.
2) If you’re a writer with
books to sell, you want to reach a general audience, not just other writers
So how can you be different? How do you create a blog that
somebody will read—somebody besides your stalker ex-boyfriend and your mom?
The most important thing to remember with any kind of blog
is you need to offer something. It should be fresh, informative, and/or
How you approach your blog is going to depend a whole lot on
your stage in the publishing process and your immediate goals. (For info on
what not to blog about, see How
Not to Blog
Stage #1: You’re a developing writer.
You’re working on your first or second novel, and maybe have
a few stories in literary journals or a couple of contest wins. You want to be
a published author sometime soon, but you’re not quite ready to focus on writing
as a career.
Your goal: LEARNING THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS AND NETWORKING.
You want to make friends in the writing community for career
help and mutual support. You want to learn the best writing techniques, network
with publishing professionals, and educate yourself about the business.
If you’re in stage #1, I think it’s OK to blog about writing. I know
most blog gurus tell you not to do this, but I think that caveat is aimed more
at people at stage #2 and #3.)
I’m not talking about lecturing on craft as if you’re a pro
when you’re not. But an equal-to-equal post about something interesting trick
you’ve discovered about writing the dreaded synopsis, or what agents are
looking for this month is just fine when you’re reaching out to other writers.
Why do you want to reach other writers? Because networking with other writers is essential in today's market. Joint promotions and anthologies and boxed sets will be some of your most most powerful marketing strategies once you're published. The friends you make now will be a huge asset to you later on in your career.
Plus I know a number of authors who got their agents through a
referral from a fellow blogger.
I found both my publishers through blogging.
Also, I’m not sure I would have made it through the darkest rejection phases if it
hadn’t been for the support of writer blogfriends.
How do you get blogfriends? You visit other blogs. Social media is social. Don't sit all alone like a spider waiting for flies. Go out and meet people. Comment on blogs and engage in dialogue with other commenters.
When you have a writing blog, you get to participate in blog
hops, flash fiction swaps, contests and all kinds of networking events that
help you meet people who can be important in your future career. There are some
great blogging groups like the Insecure Writers Support Group
where you can
meet lots of interesting, supportive writers.
But do make sure your writing blog has something fresh going for it—something that’s helpful. There are all sorts of ways you can
- Author interviews
- Profiles of small publishers or agents who are interested in
your genre (take them from websites—you don’t have to bother the agents and
- Info on contests, giveaways and blog hops
- Links to great articles and posts in your genre or field of
- Book reviews. If you write thoughtful, useful reviews,
you’ll immediately become everybody’s best friend. (But don't take on too many!
Book review bloggers get burned out very quickly and unfortunately get a lot of
disrespect from authors and publicists. For more on how to establish boundaries
as a book review blogger, read this great post from book blogger Ed Cyzewski )
- Commentary on the book business or trends in your genre.
- Flash fiction and vignettes that you do not intend to market
to magazines or publishers. Putting something on your blog is publishing, so it
will be considered "published".
I used to advise newbies not to put any fiction on a blog, but I know a number of
successful bloggers who have built an audience with this kind of
writing, so I've reversed on this. What you don't want to do is write the rough
draft of a novel in public on your blog. It can be embarrassing, and no agent
will take it on once it's been published on a blog.
Stage #2: You’re ready for the marketplace.
You’re querying agents or getting ready to self-publish.
You’ve got a couple of books polished and ready to go. You have a business
You’ve been to writing conferences, taken classes, and hired
a freelance editor if you're going indie. Your writing is at a professional
Your goal: BUILDING PLATFORM
You want to get your name out there to the general public.
When you query an agent or ask for a blurb or review, you want a Google search
to bring you up on the first page, not page four, with that rant from five years ago about the ending of Lost
If you’re a stage #2 writer, you should heed the blog gurus'
advice not to blog about writing. You’ve got a trillion competitors and that would severely limit your audience. (Yes, I blog about writing, but I started a long time ago, and I already had an audience from my writing column at Freelance Writing International.)
So try something that’s related to your writing but has a
unique slant. But don't restrict yourself too much. Leave room to grow and change. You may not even know yet what kind of people will be interested in your work.
Here are a few suggestions of topics to try when you're starting:
- Focus on your genre or subgenre (unless you’re still
experimenting with different genres.) You can discuss movies, videogames, TV
shows, even jewelry and costumes—as long as they relate to your niche
- Blog about your hometown or state, especially if they’re
the setting of your novels. Travel sites that link to local landmarks and
Chamber of Commerce will help you make friends locally that can be a big help
- Offer links to important information. If you’re writing a
memoir or fiction about certain health issues, promote organizations that help
with those issues. Link to support groups and they might even link back.
- Provide people with the benefit of your research. If you’re
writing historical fiction about a certain time period—post the research on
your blog. (This is doubly useful because it will help keep you from cramming
it all into the novel at the expense of story.) Have to research guns for a
thriller? Poisons for a cozy? Are you basing the story on a real case? There
are people who would love to read about this stuff.
- Appeal to another Internet community. If that historical
novel is based on a real person or your own family history, you could target
readers from the genealogy blogosphere and links to historical research sites.
If your heroine loves to fish, sew, or collect stuff, connect with blogs for
fly fisherpersons, quilters, or collectors of floaty pens.
- Provide a forum for people in your target demographic. If
you write for a particular group—single urban women, Boomers, stay-at-home
moms, or the just-out-of-college dazed and confused—focus on aspects of life of
special interest to them.
- Offer recipes or how-tos. Have a character who’s an expert
at something? Give readers the benefit of his expertise in the woodshop, garden
or kitchen. Have some great recipes that relate to your character, time period,
or region? Write about the food in your books, or food in fiction generally.
Stage #3: You’re a published author
Your agent/marketing dept. says, “Get thee to the
Or you realize the brilliantly blurbed oeuvre you’ve
self-published is sitting there on Amazon with only two sales in three months
(both to your spouse) because nobody has heard of it—or you.
Your goal: FINDING AND CONNECTING WITH READERS
If you’ve reached Stage #3, you can be more eclectic.
People will be coming to your blog because they want to get to know you and
find out more about your books—so focusing on one subject isn’t as important.
The blog becomes a place to showcase who you are. Think if it as your own
version of Oprah magazine: not a place to toot your own horn as much
as share things of interest to you that will also be of value to your readers.
So you can continue whatever you've been doing in Stage #1 and #2, plus add stuff
about you and your books.
Yes, you can talk about your books. I think people are silly
who say you shouldn’t use your blog for self-promotion. That’s why you’re in
the blogosphere in the first place. It’s fine as long as you don’t use
hard-sell tactics and make sure you provide something besides "buy my book!"
Each type of blog can evolve into another as your goals change.
A few tips for the new blogger:
- Make a list of topics you might like to explore before
you begin, so you have a running start. If you visit other blogs regularly (and
you should) you may find yourself making long comments on some subject that
gets your hackles up/juices flowing. That’s the stuff you should be putting in
your own blog.
- I STRONGLY advise against having more than one blog. If you decide to change your blog tone and content, just change it. You can change everything but the url. But multiple blogs sap your energy and fragment your audience. (It also annoys the hell out of
them: I hate hitting somebody’s profile and finding six blogs. Unless one is
clearly marked “author” I don’t even try to wade through them: you’ve lost me.)
Blogs have many pages. Use them.
- Put your own name (or pen name) in the blog title! Your name is your brand. And also, you’ll find it easier to transition
from Stage #1 to #2 and #3 if you brand yourself from day one. Subtitles are easy to change. Titles, not so much.
“Susie Scrivener’s Blog” can go from “Susie's writing and ranting” to “Susie's Floaty-Pen Collecting” if Susie decides to change the blog’s focus. But “Floaty Pen
Central” can’t be changed to “Susie Scrivener’s Amazing Books” without a lot of
confusion. And you want to keep the same blog. The longer a blog exists, the
higher it ranks with the Google spiders.
- Write an inviting “About Me” page with clear contact
information. I’m amazed at bloggers who don’t even post their names or contact
information. The whole purpose of blogging is to let people know who you are
and how to find you! (And don’t just post your resume. Be informal and
- Don’t succumb to pressure to blog more than once a
week. Posting once a week on a regularly scheduled day is better than posting
often but erratically. Allow yourself time to write your books. Remember you’re
in this for the long haul. Quality over quantity. Slow
- Be friendly. The way to build an audience, no matter
where you are in your writing career, is to be likable and helpful. You don’t
have to be chirpy. Just don’t project a phony or selfish tone.
- Learn to write good headers. If you don't write Tweetable
and shareable headers, nobody's going to find your deathless prose. That means
avoiding titles that are generic, like "It's Wednesday" or poetic,
like "Winter Clouds". And I guarantee nobody's going to retweet a
post called "Random Thoughts" unless it's written by somebody famous,
or maybe that nutjob who just married Charles Manson. The header must make a
good tweet. Offer something other than your own angst. Questions, lists, or
surprising facts will entice people to click
More blog advice in my blogpost How
To Blog: A Beginner’s Guide for Authors
And for a comprehensive guide to blogging
, I highly recommend Robin Houghton's new book from Writer's Digest Books: Blogging for Writers.
It's a beautifully designed paper book, full of useful illustrations and screenshots. I sure wish I'd had something like it when I started blogging. And I even learned some stuff.
Okay, I especially liked it because Robin named this blog as one of the Top 12 Writing Blogs to Follow. That really brightened a dismal day in a dismal month of fighting the endless, will-not-die, virus-from-hell.
But I'd love it even if she hadn't.
And it's only $13.99 at the Writer's Digest Bookstore
right now. It's also available at Amazon US and Amazon UK
. Got any writers or potential bloggers on your Christmas list? I highly recommend this book. It's a goldmine. And did a mention it's really pretty?
What about you, Scriveners? Do you have a blog? Does it suit your stage of writing? Are you going to be able to give up those six semi-neglected blogs and concentrate on one great one? What advice would you give a new blogger?
BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Camilla Randall Mysteries Boxed Set
9 Months on Amazon's Humor Bestseller list!
On Sale for $3.99: Three funny mysteries for 99c each!
Camilla Randall is a magnet for murder, mayhem, and Mr. Wrong, but she always solves the case in her loopy, but oh-so-polite way.
"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
aka the Wordmonger
VIGNETTE WRITERS, here's a contest for you! The Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Contest
. The prize is for a collection of vignettes and poetry up to 20,000 words. Fee $25.
Prize is $500, publication by Vine Leaves Press (paperback and eBook), 20 copies of the paperback, worldwide distribution, and promotion through the Vine Leaves and staff websites. It will be judged by an editor from Simon and Schuster. Deadline February 28, 2015.
THE MEADOW NOVELLA PRIZE $15 ENTRY FEE.
The winner of the contest will receive $500 and publication in the annual print edition of the journal. Submissions should be between 18,000 and 35,000 words. Deadline February 1, 2015.
WALKER PERCY PRIZE IN SHORT FICTION $15 ENTRY FEE
. Winner receives $1,000 and publication in New Orleans Review.
All finalists considered for publication. Enter previously unpublished original stories up to 7,500 words. Deadline December 31st
Writers’ Village International Short Fiction Contest: $24 entry fee.
Prizes of $1600, $800, $400 and $80. A further ten Highly Commended entrants will receive a free entry in the next round. Professional feedback provided for all entries!
Any genre: up to 3000 words. Deadline December 31st.
The California Book Awards NO ENTRY FEE
Three prizes are given annually to writers residing in California for books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction (including creative nonfiction). Prizes are also given for a first book of fiction and a book of fiction or nonfiction that relates to California. Authors or publishers may submit six copies of books published in 2014 by December 22. Visit the website for the required entry form
and complete guidelines. Deadline December 22, 2014
Labels: Blogging, blogging for authors, Blogging tips for writers, how to blog, Robin Houghton, What to blog about