To Blog or Not to Blog

A blog can help shape your image in your potential reader's mind.

A blog can help shape your image in your potential reader’s mind.

Career Indie Author cover

The question is not why you should blog. As I’ve said before, there are very few things you must do. You must write books, produce them, and make them available for sale. You must have a website with information about your books and links to where visitors can buy them.

After that, everything is optional, based on the types of books you write, your business goals, your talents, and your desire. If you don’t like to blog but you feel obliged to, chances are you’re not going to be good at it. You’ll write in bursts, posting daily when you’re enthusiastic about it, less when you don’t feel like it, or feel discouraged.

I know the feeling; I’ve experienced it, and it’s bothered me for years. There are bloggers out there who have been writing daily for years. They’ve built large audiences of appreciative readers. Their comment sections are full of people discussing the post, many of them around long enough to create in-jokes appreciated only by the regular visitors.

Meantime, at my blog at planetpeschel.com, I’ve flailed wildly from week to week. I post irregularly about a lot of different subjects. I’m not consistent. In short, I’m a terrible host.

Weirdly, I think I’m a pretty good commenter. On the sites I regularly visit, I contribute information, tell jokes, encourage and praise the other posters when I agree with them, disagree politely when I’m not (with the occasional misstep). I’m sure I’ve spent more time on other people’s websites than on my own.

My problem is that I’m interested in too many things. My curiosity is wide-ranging: politics, comics, history, sex, culture, literature, writing, science, space, crime. At one time, I was regularly reading posts from more than 200 websites. I was a read-aholic, and while I was learning a lot, I wasn’t contributing. I wasn’t creating.

Something had to give. I cut back on my reading diet drastically. Now I’m down to about 20 sites, many of which post infrequently.

The point is this: Blogging is not for everyone. If you don’t feel you can do it well, it’s best not to start.

Or, you can look at it another way. Even if you don’t like blogging, there are still ways it can benefit you.

There are six major purposes behind a blog. Some of these purposes overlap—every blog can be considered a form of self-advertising, after all—but if you’re thinking about starting one, picking one will clarify other decisions, such as how often to post and what to write about.

The six purposes are:

Self-Promotion

meljean-brook-blogging for authors Types of posts: Book-focused: announcements, behind-the-scenes looks, interesting research, announcements of author appearances and signings.

Frequency: Irregular, increasing around the time of a book’s publication and decreasing in between.

Goal: Draw potential readers to the website through search engine optimization. For example, a writer of books on space exploration can post articles about historical events, personalities, space vehicles, and similar subjects. Frequent posts on these subjects will raise the site’s profile among search engines, raising the chance that people seeking information on those subjects will find his site. Fiction writers can do the same thing by not only writing about their books, but about other writers and books in their genre. Associating their blog with other writers increases the chance that other writer’s fans will discover your books.

Example: To spread around the work of keeping a blog going, many writers get together to form a group blogs. One example is The Susquehanna Writers. Many popular romance writers such as Meljean Brook and Marie Force use their blog to feed fans and potential readers information about their books, with the occasional personal glimpses.

Community Building

comics-curmudgeon-blog Types of posts: All kinds, but designed to solicit comments and discussions from readers. Most effective types of posts involve expressing opinions, the more strongly held the better. Also, posts involving memories that encourage readers to contribute memories of their own.

Frequency: Daily, usually Monday through Friday. Unless trained to expect a post only on certain days, readers seem to prefer a daily routine. Since many of them surf the Internet at work, a Monday-Friday schedule conforms to many workers’ schedule.

Goal: Socializing and feedback. A community of like-minded individuals with varying experiences can be a useful source of information, a focus group for ideas, and the simple pleasure of people’s company. To the writer, it can also be used to attract fans of your work, and an effective tool at book launches.

Examples: The Comics Curmudgeon (newspaper comic strips), Ann Althouse (politics, Madison, life), The Archdruid Report (climate change, resource depletion).

Advocate

ace-of-spades-blog

Types of posts: Revolving around the cause you’re promoting.

Frequency: Varies depending upon the flow of information and the writer’s desire to push his viewpoint. Blogs focused on politics at the state and national level can post every day, creating a community of like-minded readers that can act as a reinforce and echo chamber.

Goal: To reinforce and harden opinion on a particular issue.

Examples: Ace of Spades (conservative politics), Balloon Juice (liberal politics).

Self-Expression

dustbury-blog

Types of posts: Any and all kinds. Opinions, observations, memories, humor.

Frequency: Varying according to the mood and productivity of the writer.

Goal: Varies. It could be simply the fun of putting down on paper what you’re thinking about that day. It could even be a variation on the journal.

Examples: Dustbury, The Bloggess.

Future Book Material

wattpad-blog

Types of posts: Drafts from an upcoming book.

Frequency: Varies according to the writer’s productivity. One benefit of using a blog in this way is that the pressure of meeting a regular deadline force you to get to work (or, as film director Robert Rodriguez put it: “Action comes before inspiration”).

Goal: To come up with a finished book. Writers Gone Wild began online as a way to use up years of material I had gathered about authors. My wife is using this technique to write Suburban Stockade. I’m using it now to work on The Career Indie Author. In an example of how the Self-Expression model can morph into the Future Book Material model, sci-fi author John Scalzi has published several collections of his posts.

Examples: Suburban Stockade and The Career Indie Author. The popular fiction site Wattpad is, in essence, a collection of bloggers publishing future book material.

Display of Skill

gaughran-blog

Types of posts: Information about a particular field to demonstrate a depth of knowledge and expertise that leads to solicitations of work. It could be examples of book marketing, cultural reviews (books, movies, art), op-ed pieces, humor: Anything that can be used as a portfolio to approach magazines, editors, or other websites to seek work.

Frequency: Varies depending upon the writer’s productivity.

Goal: To promote the writer as an authority on a particular subject.

Examples: Dean Wesley Smith (instructional videos), the Hacker Factor Blog (Internet security), David Gaughran (book marketing).