What Should a Novelist Blog About? Do's and Don'ts for Author-Bloggers

by Anne R. Allen

When I teach blogging to new writers, the most common question I get is: "What should I blog about?"

My answer isn't the same as you'll hear from the major blogging gurus, because most of them are teaching people how to blog for its own sake.

They will all tell you to find a niche and stick with it. And they'll also tell you to blog at least 3 times a week.

But I say if you're blogging to promote a fiction writing career, forget niches and just be yourself. And don't let your blog take over your fiction writing time. This is why I recommend slow blogging once a week or less (but preferably to a schedule.)

Your blog subject matter should depend on your genre and where you are in your career.

Of course, first you need to get that career started. When you're a newbie, your blogging goals will be different from those of an established author. An established author is blogging for fans and readers that already exist. But a newbie is blogging to attract readers in the first place.

1) If you're an unpublished or newly-published indie author/blogger, your primary goal is to get your name out there. 

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 and AgentQuery .

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.

Do consider any of the following:

Not so Much

These topics don't do much to advance your career:

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:

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?



August 22-26

"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

Why Grandma Bought that Car 

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…

And the audiobook is only $6.09!

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.

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest $4,000 in prizes. Entry fee $10 per poem. Submit poems in modern and traditional styles, up to 250 lines each. Deadline: September 30.

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. 

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