I firmly believe that authors should have a blog, even if only updated on a weekly basis, as part of their website so if you didn’t see my last post about that then do pop along and do that. I’m assuming that you do realise that a simple website is a non-negotiable if you’re to have any sort of career as a writer. This is the 21st century and you need to be seen as professional so buckle up and crack on.
We’ll talk later in this series about the practicalities of building your website but for now, have convinced you that a shiny new blog is an essential element of your writing life, I want to run through a few misconceptions that newbie bloggers have and run through what to expect and – more importantly – not to expect.
So, having given you a load of reasons why you should blog, here is a run-through of the reasons why you shouldn’t set up a blog…
- If you think it will get you a book deal. The heady days of bloggers being offered big bucks to turn their blogs into hugely successful books in the manner of Belle de Jour’s sexy stories have passed into publishing history. The role of your blog is to build a community around your writing, which may persuade a prospective agent or publisher to look a tiny bit more kindly upon you when they’re considering your manuscript.
- If you expect instant results. I see frequent complaints from newbies along the lines of ‘I’ve been blogging for a month and hardly anyone is reading it’. Frankly, when you start blogging, no-one cares and, more to the point, no-one knows. You need to promote it in subtle and sensible ways (more on that in a future post) and to write interesting posts so that the readers you do attract have something to feast on and a reason to return.
- If you expect to make money. Many new bloggers hope to emulate professional bloggers who make a living from their site. For starters, that’s nigh on impossible for someone who blogs about writing and books and secondly, that’s not why you’re blogging. You are blogging to promote your writing and any financial benefit will come from increased sales of your books.
- If you don’t want to put any effort into writing blog posts. Good content that people find interesting or useful will be shared and that will increase your readership. Dull, slap-dash writing will not increase traffic or show your writing in a good light.
- If you can’t be bothered to make it look good. This is the age of Pinterest and Instagram and readers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their expectations of the visual content of blogs and will judge you accordingly. Harsh but true. Find some sites you like the look of, look through the various WordPress free themes, avoid clutter and if you have a friend with any design training for goodness sake make use of them. Photos are essential and there are some great sites with free stock photos that you can use if you can’t face taking your own. That can make your site look a bit generic so it’s best to use your own images as much as possible. Top tip: if you’re not a good photographer you can transform things with a little tweaking on the Picmonkey website.
- If you can’t be bothered to put any effort into promoting it. You need to be consistent but not force your blog down people’s throats. Like I said, we’ll talk about how not to annoy people with relentless self-promotion another time.
- If you don’t want to interact. There’s no need to leap to attention – you are not there to serve your readers every whim – but it doesn’t take much to reply briefly to comments and questions and it all helps to develop your much sought-after community. I also use a WordPress plug-in (don’t worry about that yet) called Comment Luv that automatically adds a link to a commenter’s latest blog post. It’s a nice way to share the love.
- If numbers are all you care about. Sometimes one of my posts will get picked up somewhere and I’ll suddenly see an influx of traffic and daily views for that one post might zoom up to four figures or so. It’s gratifying but it is relatively meaningless unless these visitors become regular readers. Those are the people you want to attract – remember, the point of your blog as a writer is to build a community.
- If you don’t want to update. I admit (rather shamefacedly) that I am sometimes not terribly consistent, especially if I have a deadline but I try to blog at least once or twice a week. You cannot just set your blog up and forget it. You need to post at least once a week or once a fortnight and the less frequently you update the more you need to stick to a schedule. If visitors stop by and there’s tumbleweed blowing past then they won’t stick around or return. But really, 500ish words a couple of times a month is not a big deal. Don’t forget that one of the reasons to blog is because it provides new content for search engines’ robots to latch onto, thus pushing you up the search results.
- If you write non-fiction then blogging alone isn’t the best thing. You need to be using it as a place to archive all the articles you write elsewhere or pieces of journalism, showcasing both your writing and your authority. And you can intersperse those posts with shorter pieces that give readers something fresher that they won’t have seen elsewhere.
So there you have it – writers shouldn’t blog imagining that it will bring them huge financial gain or that it doesn’t require any effort. But, like I’ve said before (and will undoubtedly be saying again) it is an important tool for today’s author.
Next time, we’ll be looking at the buzzword of the moment – branding. Don’t worry, it’s not as tacky, or as scary, as it sounds…