by Anne R. Allen
"Blogging doesn't sell books."
"Don't waste your time blogging."
"Make book trailers! Email those newsletters! Spend more time on Pinterest and Instagram! Blogging is so over!"
I'm hearing this stuff every day.
But I still think a blog is one of the best uses of an author's time. Even if you only blog once a month. (I'm a big advocate of slow blogging, but I think it's best to post on a timetable: write at your leisure, but post to a schedule.)
Why do I think authors should blog?
Because it worked for me. Let me tell you my story—
Six years ago my career was over. My publisher had gone under. My fourth agent had dropped me. All my freelance writing gigs had dried up or stopped paying.
I was bloodying my knuckles on the doors of agents and publishers. If I got a response at all, it was to let me know that nobody wanted a washed-up author of funny mysteries. (Humor never sells; just ask any agent.) I was advised to change my name and start writing steampunk or YA zombie romance.
If you Googled my name you'd have to go through 10 pages before you found one entry about me or my books.
On a sad Friday the 13th in the late 'oughties, I decided to start this blog as a place to post archives of my old columns from Freelance Writing Organization International
I promptly lost the blog. Yeah. Don't do this. Remember to bookmark that baby blog!
But three months later, I went hunting and found it again. And I started blogging once a week or so. For the first year, nobody read it. Nobody. I have posts that still haven't had more than 10 hits.
But posting once a week to a timetable and treating the blog like a job gave me back some of the confidence I'd lost when my career fell apart. I felt like a professional again. I could communicate with other writers all over the world. (As well as close to home: a book blogger I met on an Irish site—so I thought she was Irish—turned out to be my neighbor in San Luis Obispo, CA!)
Then, in 2010, after I won a guest post spot on Nathan Bransford's blog, more people started to drift over here. (Guest blogging is the key to building your blog traffic.)
Fast forward two years and miracles had happened.
- Four publishers came to me—I didn't have to query. Instead I got to choose.
- I was sharing my blog with Ruth Harris: the NYT bestselling author.When I first started reading Ruth's books in the early 1990s, I never dreamed I'd even meet such a famous author.
- I'd written a book with another NYT bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde.
- I was being invited to speak at writers' conferences and seminars—and magazines and anthologies actually solicited my work.
- When you Googled my name, you got 47 pages of ME before you got to Anne R. Allen the San Jose stockbroker (who must hate me. I apologize, Anne.)
And by 2013, this blog was named to the top 101 Websites for Writers by Writer's Digest
and I had 7 books in print, was published in numerous anthologies and two of my novels were on the Amazon humor bestseller list—where they each stayed for over half a year.
And good stuff keeps happening. I now have ten books out there. I chat daily with movers and shakers in the industry. I just got a hefty check from F&W publishing because they'd decided to excerpt one of my Writer's Digest
articles for the 2016 Novel and Short Story Market.
A total surprise.
All of this happened directly because of my blog.
I'm not saying all blogs will do this. But with patience, a blog can help you meet the people
who can take your career to the next level. And that's what social media is about: meeting people and networking.
I know many authors who, like me, have met their publishers, agents, and writing partners through blogging. (And that neighbor I met on the Irish writing site? She's now a literary agent.)
Do all authors need a blog?
Nope. Plenty of successful authors don't have them.
But you need to be on social media somewhere. You can't just have a launch party in your local bookstore and get a press release into your hometown newspaper and expect to make significant sales. (And even if you go the traditional publishing route, don't count on your publisher for much help with marketing.)
Today, a writer's market is global. Do you know the country where people read the most? India.
Or where the 2nd biggest population of English speakers lives? India. Followed by Pakistan and Nigeria
We're going to have more info on the global marketplace next week from Mark Williams of the International Indie Author.
He's been helping me find translators for my books. Ghostwriters in the Sky
and Why Grandma Bought that Car
will soon be available in Spanish!
The advantage of a blog is that it can be your home in that global marketplace—a place where people can drop in and get to know you and find out about your books.
NOTE: Blogging isn't for direct sales of books. No social media is about hard-selling. (See my post on Social Media Secrets
.) Social media is about meeting people and making friends. (With people and with search engines. You want Google to be your BFF.)
As Chuck Wendig said this week
, "Worry less about selling books online. Worry more about being a COOL HUMAN meeting other COOL HUMANS. That last one will take you far."
1) You need a website anyway.
A blog is a website. It's an interactive one, which is a plus when you're starting out. People can comment and get to know you. Yes, you may want a flashy expensive static website later on, but if you're not published, that can look pretentious. A blog is more down-to-earth.
Sending out a query when you don't have a website is often a waste of time. Many agents and reviewers will reject on that item alone. (And yes, if you're getting lots of form rejections on a polished query or book proposal, this may be the reason. Stop revising the query for the millionth time and start blogging.)
I'm not saying you should start blogging when you're a total newbie, or when you've just started that book you've always wanted to write. Don't scatter your energies. If it's either blogging or writing the book, the book should always win.
But I'd say you'd benefit from starting one when you're getting ready to send out queries or preparing to self-publish. (Which should probably be when you're polishing up your second book.)
2) It gets your name into the search engines.
A static website gets less traffic, so the search engine spiders
don't notice it. Before a search engine can tell people where your website is, they have to find it. The way they do that is with special software robots, called spiders. To discover information on the hundreds of millions of Web pages out there, spiders build lists of the words found on Web sites.
The more active the site, the more likely the spiders will find it. Spiders will begin with a popular site, index the words on its pages and follow every link found within the site. (This is why you want to link to other sites from your blog, and you want to encourage other bloggers to link to you from theirs.) This is why blog hops are a great thing for new bloggers.
An active blog that's getting hits and comments will get noticed. It may take six months to a year, but it will get Google's attention, then when somebody Googles you, you'll be on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (known as SERP.)
Whenever you query an agent or publisher or reviewer, or you send a story to an anthology or literary magazine—pretty much every time you want to do business online—the first thing people will do is Google you. A blog is one of the best ways to get your name on that all important first SERP.
3) You're a writer.
Blogging is writing. This is your medium. It's what you do. Like in the Geico ads.
So do it. It's a great way to polish your writing skills. And if you're a fiction writer, you'll learn to write better nonfiction and advertising copy, which you're going to have to do when you're marketing your books anyway.
You'll also get used to writing to a deadline. An important skill.
4) You'll learn to write Web content.
Writing for a blog teaches you to write for the digital age. You can see immediately what posts are getting the most traffic.
You'll also learn to use keywords, bulleting, subheaders and minor headers to draw the eye through a post. This is useful for composing any kind of content for the Web.
Once you're published, you're going to need to know how to write guest blogposts (one of the best methods of marketing your book) as well as other web content. Why not start practicing now?
5) Other social media are subject to faddism.
Facebook is making it tougher and tougher for people to see your posts if you don't pay to boost them. And the word is that Twitter will go the same way
And trend watchers tell us Facebook mostly for old people now
. Instagram is the place for younger people at the moment, but that can change on a dime.
We don't want to forget MySpace...oh, whoops, I guess we already have.
6) Other social media can kick you out any time.
A lot of people have been finding their Facebook accounts deleted because they use a "fake name" (like they put "Author" after their real name.) They have to start all over again getting friends and followers. It can take months to get their following back, if they ever do.
And you can get kicked off through no fault of your own. I got put in Facebook jail for a week once because some troll reported me for spam (for something I posted on my own page.) And once they slapped a CAPTCHA on all my links for about six months for no reason I could see.
Unfortunately, the Internet is infested with trolls, rage addicts, and spammers. I know a woman whose Facebook account got hacked by some diet-drug spammer who hit all her FB peeps with insulting ads. Several promptly "defriended" her before she even knew what happened.
Another friend got hit by a porn site who "tagged" a bunch of amateur porn with my friend's name so it went all over his page. Stuff like this happens every day.
But on your own blog, there's that nice "delete" button. A troll, spammer or furious fool shows up and you click it. All gone.
8) It's FREE!
Oh, I know everybody is going to tell you you need to have a professional, self-hosted blog and pay a designer to set it up for you and pay every month for a really good one, because OMG what will happen when you get 10,000 hits an hour and your blog crashes?
Sorry to pop anybody's bubble, but that doesn't happen to author blogs. Not even the superstars get that much blog traffic. We get up to 110K hits a month here, but not per hour. And this free Blogger blog has never crashed. If it ever does, we may move to a self-hosted site and start paying the big bux, but for our purposes, this little freebie blog has been doing very nicely.
If you're starting out, I guarantee a free Blogger or Wordpress blog will do you just fine.
I don't recommend using the free blogs on dedicated book sites like Goodreads, BookLikes or SheWrites, even though the sites can be great for other things.
- Those blogs are not as likely to get picked up by search engines so the spiders won't find it. (If you want your blog on Goodreads, just link to your Blogger or Wordpress blog and it will go up on Goodreads whenever you post. But I get about 2 hits a week on the Goodreads version of this blog and 20,000 on this one.)
- You don't own your own content. Technically the site owns it.
- Those sites can disappear. Lots of writers blogged on RedRoom until it suddenly died in 2014 and everybody lost their blogs.
9) You get to have fun and make friends.
I have made so many wonderful friends through blogging. Friends who live all over the world. These are people I never would have met otherwise. They have been encouraging and supportive as I rebuilt my career, and it's been wonderful to see so many of them succeed too.
Plus it's just plain fun to write for my loyal core of readers every week and then see new people come and comment and join the group. It's a little informal get-together every Sunday that I really enjoy.
10) It's the only form of social media where you don't have to act all "OMG I'm totally still in high school!"
My favorite reason for blogging. You can be a grown-up. You can discuss complex ideas. You can share them with like-minded people, who can also bring up complex ideas.
If you like to read and write and think, blogging is probably the best medium for you. Most other social media are more about the visuals.
For more on how authors can benefit from blogging, see Robin Houghton
's guest post on this blog from last spring, "10 Reasons for Authors to Blog
What about you, Scriveners? Do you blog? Have you tried guest blogging? What part of blogging attracts you? What stops you from blogging? Do you have advice for new bloggers?
BOOK OF THE WEEK
So Much for Buckingham, #5 in the Camilla Randall Mysteries
(but it can be read as a stand-alone)
is on an Amazon Countdown! Until Sept 19th it will be 99c in the US and £.99 in the UK
"Delicious wit, wonderful eccentric characters, and a beguiling plot. Camilla Randall is a delight!"...Melodie Campbell, Canada's "Queen of Comedy"
It's a comedy-mystery about cyberbullying, the gangs of new media, and the ghost of Richard III. Plus a cat named Buckingham.
"This wonderfully satiric comedy is a joy to read. On the surface, it's a frothy romance cum suspense story about a whacky writer, Camilla, whose life is threatened by trolls and who topples from one hilarious disaster into the next. But underneath, it provides a perceptive insight into the mad world of modern publishing, the sub-culture of Internet lunatics and the mindset of cultists who can - and do - believe ten impossible things before breakfast. The reader is left with the question: how much of the story, perish the thought, might be true? Tremendous fun, wittily satiric and highly recommended."...Nigel J. Robinson
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
Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award winter 2015
. Cash prizes totaling $3200.Ten further Highly Commended entrants will have their stories acknowledged at the site and gain a free entry in the next round. Entry fee $24 INCLUDES A PROFESSIONAL CRITIQUE
. Any genre of prose fiction may be submitted up to 3000 words, except plays and poetry. Entries are welcomed worldwide. Multiple entries are permitted. Deadline: November 30th.
The IWSG Short Story Anthology Contest 2015. NO FEE!
The top ten stories will be published in an anthology. (Authors will receive royalties on sales.) Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging
member (no fee to join the IWSG). The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free. Word count: 5000-6000. Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. Deadline: November 1st
RROFIHE TROPHY NO-FEE SHORT STORY CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE.
For an unpublished short story. Minimum word count 3,500; maximum to 5,000 words. Winner receives $500, trophy, announcement and publication on anderbo.com
. Deadline October 15.
Glimmer Train Press Family Matters
Prize: $1,500 and publication in Glimmer Train. Entry fee $18.
Stories up to 12,000 words: about families of all configurations. Deadline: September 30.
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. SEE YOU THERE!!
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.
Dear Lucky Agent Contest,
judged by Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary. For Mystery, Thriller or Suspense manuscripts. Send the first 150-250 words of your completed ms. This is a FREE
recurring online contest sponsored by Writer's Digest
with different agent judges. With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but each contest is focused around a specific category. ACT FAST, Deadline is Sept. 17, 2015.
Labels: Author blogs, Blog community, Blogging, blogging for beginners, how to blog, slow blogging, So Much for Buckingham, The Slow Blog Manifesto