The best way to do that is to network with other bloggers. Your colleagues can be your best resource early in your career.
I often harp on how silly it is to market to your fellow writers, but when you're starting out, you're not marketing. You're networking. And other writers can help you form a great support network.
You also want to network with book review bloggers and bloggers interested in your subject matter.
Most people who read blogs and comment regularly are also bloggers themselves, so this is your potential core audience when you're starting out.
Blog hops can be 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 them. When you find yourself leaving a long comment: that's your next blog post!
A great place to network is the Insecure Writers Support Group
, founded by sci-fi author Alex J. Cavanaugh
. The Insecure Writers have even published an anthology
full of inspiring, helpful tips for new writers (and it's free right now!) Their blog always has great tips, and they have blog hops that help you get to know a bunch of other bloggers fast. They have a new one coming up in September.
I also highly recommend Kristen Lamb's Blog
for top-notch writing, publishing, and social media advice 4 days a week and her We Are Not Alone
website for networking.
And the Writer's Village,
administered by Dr. John Yeoman (he has a PhD in Creative Writing) is a great place to learn craft and hang out with other writers, especially if you're in the UK.
Also spend some time on sites that cater to your genre. I highly recommend Romance University
for romance and women's fiction writers and Adventures in YA Publishing
and YA Highway
for Young Adult writers.
If you're planning on a traditional publishing career
, you should also be regularly visiting agents' blogs like Janet Reid's, BookEnds
and for Christian writers, Books and Such
. You can also network with writers in the query process at QueryTracker
If you think you might go indie,
you can network on blogs like Joe Konrath's
, The Creative Penn
, Indies Unlimited
and The Passive Voice
Visiting blogs can be 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, the stupidity of some reviewers, and sheep-like buyers of badly written bestsellers, but I guarantee that stuff won't help your career.
2) Once you've got followers and you've got some books published, 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.
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.
Of course, first 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.
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 YA dystopian, blogging news about the next Divergent
film might attract your ideal demographic. Tweet news about the stars 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 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 by necessity a partial list. Please feel free to make more suggestions in the comments.
consider any of the following:
- 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 those people—and their friends—to your site.
- 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.
- 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: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stuff about your pets. Seriously. Never underestimate the power of a cute puppy or grumpy cat to draw readers.
- 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. An opinion blog I love these days is hilarious Irish writer Tara Sparling's blog.
- 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 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.
- 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. This is especially true of nonfiction, and fiction and poetry are becoming more acceptable too. But do note that if you get a traditional contract, you will be asked to take down those posts because of "non-compete" rules. Also, a blogged short piece may not be eligible for contests or "first rights" publication in a traditional magazine.
Not so Much
These topics don't do much to advance your career:
- 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.
- 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 WIP. If you want to write your novel in public and get feedback, Wattpad is a great place to do that. It's password protected and posting there is not officially "publishing". Remember every novel needs editing. Your future self will thank you for not publishing that "s***y first draft". Remember the Internet is forever.
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—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 Red Fox Literary
But if you have your heart set on being a novelist, remember your fiction must take priority. Slow blogging
works! I'll be talking more about my version of slow blogging in future posts.
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?
BOOK OF THE WEEK
"Anne R. Allen's book of short stories explores womanhood in all seasons. I've read this book twice and get something new to appreciate each time. It is the kind of book one returns to periodically, just to revisit characters and stories like old friends that help clarify ages and stages of life and the changing world. Her poems are timely, tying stories together with theme, grace, and humor."
...Mary J. Caffrey
a short book of short stories
Humorous portraits of rebellious women at various stages of their lives. From aging Betty Jo, who feels so invisible she contemplates robbing a bank, to neglected 10-year-old Maude, who turns to a fantasy Elvis for the love she's denied by her patrician family, to a bloodthirsty, Valley-Girl version of Madame Defarge, these women—young and old—are all rebelling against the stereotypes and traditional roles that hold them back. Which is, of course, why Grandma bought that car…
Great for the morning commute!
Narrated by C.S. Perryess and Claire Vogel
The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Contest. $10 fee
Unpublished fiction. 1500 words or less. Simultaneous submissions ARE welcome. All entries will be considered for publication in Fiction Southeast.
(a prestigious journal that has published people like Joyce Carol Oates) Winner gets $200 and publication. Deadline: Dec. 1st
The Central Coast Writers Conference.
One of the best little Writers Conferences around! You can attend Anne's workshops on How to Write 21st Century Prose
and How to Deal with Reviews
and even have her critique your work. September 19-20.
Real Simple's eighth annual Life Lessons Essay Contest
FREE to enter, First prize: $3,000 for an essay of up to 1500 words on: "What Single Decision Changed Your Life?" Would your world now be completely different if, at some point in the past, you hadn't made a seemingly random choice? Deadline Sept 21.
BARTLEBY SNOPES CONTEST $10 FOR UNLIMITED ENTRIES
. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. Must be under 2,000 words. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.). These are the only rules. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine. Last year they awarded $2,380 in prize money. Deadline: September 15.
Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers Entry Fee $15
. A prize of $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories,
and 20 copies of the prize issue is given quarterly for a short story by a writer whose fiction has not been published in a print publication with a circulation over 5,000. Using the online submission system, submit a story of 1,200 to 12,000 words. Deadline: August 31.
Creative Nonfiction magazine
is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to MARRIAGE. TRUE STORIES about marriage from any POV: happy spouses, ex-fiancees, wedding planners, divorce attorneys. whoever. Up to 4000 words. $20 Entry fee.
$1000 first prize. Deadline: August 31.