Social Media Secrets, Part III: What Should an Author Blog About?

This is the third in my series on my "Social Media Secrets." If you haven't read the first two yet, you might want to check out #1: How to Avoid Twitter-Fritter and Facebook-Fail and #2 How to Blog Your Way Out of the Slush Pile and onto the Bestseller List.

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

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.

Not so Much

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.

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.)

99c on Amazon US, NOOK, and now £0.77 on Amazon UK  and 99c CDN on Amazon CA and 49 rupees on Amazon IN, and the equivalent on all Amazon stores.

"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 elseor 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' 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.

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