Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
A few years ago, the standard wisdom was that authors, both fiction and non-fiction, should have blogs in order to gather an audience and build relationships with readers. Now, not so much. As social media and online marketing have evolved, thoughts on blogging have changed. I think each author needs to carefully consider whether blogging is an appropriate vehicle for them. How do you know? You can make your decision based on:
1. If you can do it well;
2. If you enjoy it; and
3. If your writing career can benefit from it.
If blogging doesn’t suit you, don’t spend too much time trying to make it work.
Why aren’t blogs the appropriate vehicle for all authors?
- The proliferation of blogs in the last ten years has made it increasingly difficult to stand out in the crowd.
- Many authors are blogging faithfully but it doesn’t seem to be increasing readership of their books.
- Many authors seem to be blogging to an audience that’s mainly other writers.
- Many authors have a hard time figuring out what their blogs should be about (mostly fiction authors).
So, how do you decide if you should have a blog? Here are my thoughts:
Have a blog if:
1. You have something important to say and it seems people want to hear it.
2. You understand that blogging is about offering something of value, NOT about promoting yourself and your books.
3. You enjoy blogging (for the most part, anyway).
4. You find blogging contributes to your creativity and enthusiasm for writing your books, rather than sucking all the energy out of you.
5. You can find the time for blogging without it completely stressing you out.
6. Your books have a highly defined target audience, making it easy to target your blog.
7. Your books are topical (especially non-fiction), so that you have a clear and obvious theme for your blog.
Don’t have a blog if:
1. You keep asking yourself and others, “But what should I blog about?”
2. You only want to blog to promote your books and/or because you think you “have to.”
3. The whole idea stresses you out.
4. You honestly don’t have the time in your schedule to blog regularly.
5. You’ve been blogging for a couple of years or more, and haven’t built up to a traffic level that seems worth it.
Nowadays there are numerous alternatives to blogging when it comes to online networking and promotion.
- email newsletters
- using Facebook effectively
- leveraging all the various ways Goodreads offers for promoting books
- learning how to attract a readership through Pinterest
- having an effective LinkedIn profile page
- leveraging other social platforms such as Instagram
Do you think authors need blogs nowadays? Do YOU blog? If so, how’s it going? If not, why not?
Oh, at last. I infinitely prefer improving my fiction writing skills over maintaining a blog. I never have been able to determine why one blog post gets more interest than another. I do use photos I’ve taken myself and build posts around my thoughts at the time, and people sometimes respond to those, but the photos aren’t in any way connected to the story I hope one day sees print.
There are so many writing themed blogs, from which I’m still learning, that I don’t believe a writing blog would be effective.
LinkedIn also bewilders me. From what I’ve seen, it’s mainly a blog-like site for corporations.
Thank you for sharing, Rachelle! I have often wondered if authors need a blog with the influx of social media. While I like the different social media platforms, I do like the consistency of an author blog. It’s a solid home base I can work from, where I feel more in control of the information I send out, whether it’s about the events of the day, promoting a fellow author, or offering author behind-the-scenes. Blogging is my worldwide face. I have come to realize that a blog post does not need to be super long. A simple inspiration photo and a quote garners more results than a lot of text sometimes. In fact, I’m more apt to read a blog if the post is less than a five-minute read. Not only can a blog post be short, but also, I can blog twice a month. This keeps readers interested and makes it less stressful for me. 🙂 Ultimately, if I’m able to generate a steady social media presence through blogging, then blogging has served me well.
I don’t haven’t started my online author life yet (apart from the occasional comment here). I worry about blogging and topical comments I might make could be in disagreement with potential readers.
My alternative idea is a web page where I can slowly add content about my characters back stories and the world they inhabit. Keep it focused on the novel(s), and keep it fresh so that readers return regularly. In that way the story can grow outside of the confines of the pages, and I shouldn’t run the risk of upsetting potential readers.
Years ago, I went to a class on newsletters. The speaker said, “There are two kinds of people: readers and non-readers. The readers will read almost anything, and no matter how great your newsletter is, non-readers won’t read the whole thing. You can tell the readers,” he added, “they read cereal boxes.”
I think the same is true of blogs. I feel called by God to write to those non-readers, to give them a big devotional thought in as few words as possible. I keep it simple, short sentences and large font, no more than 100 words. Truth be told, I haven’t yet connected with a lot of those reluctant readers. But, WOW! It’s done wonders for my writing skills.
Rachelle, I do hope you’re planning to blog in some detail about how to garner interest through Goodreads, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Building an email list has to come before the email newsletter, but how does an unpublished author get that started for fiction?
*I’m fortunate to be writing historical fiction about a time period (Roman Empire of AD 100) where there’s copious information in the dozens of books written by university professors on many different topics. (Want to know how Roman military physicians prevented gangrene or how a chariot driver kept from being tossed from the chariot when it bounced into the air after hitting a bump?)
*I wouldn’t have a clue how to create a worthwhile online presence if my problem wasn’t more akin to building a platform for a nonfiction work. I’ve opted to create a site with articles on many topics and activities like Latin crosswords for teachers, homeschoolers, and history buffs, all of whom might enjoy romantic historicals that strive for complete historical accuracy. It will be up within a week (Lisa Sabin-Wilson’s WordPess for Dummies is a fantastic resource for figuring out how to create a professional-looking website yourself!). I have some ideas for reader participation, but details for that are still a bit nebulous. I’d love direct suggestions from the community here after it’s up.
*I hope my potential readers find my site and enjoy it, but whether we use a website or a blog, it’s the same daunting problem of figuring out how to get people to discover what we are offering. I hope you can help us there!
Carol, your comment, “…figuring out how to get people to discover what we are offering” hit the nail on the head for me. The pea-sized, tech savvy part of my brain imagines a person might find your web site via a Google search for Latin crossword puzzles or other key words about the Roman Empire, etc. How to drive your site to the top of the suggestion list is probably a million dollar question.
*BTW I’d love to know how Roman military physicians prevented gangrene. See, you’ve already got a follower.
They flushed the wound with an antibiotic liquid called acetum. Vinegar (dilute acetic acid) was used to extract antibiotic compounds from plants. The acidic pH would keep some microbes from multiplying as well. It would have hurt something fierce to pour vinegar into an open wound, but it worked well to prevent infection. No pain, no gain, as they say, and the Roman soldiers were tough guys, anyway.
Carol – would love to know the anti-bump trick for chariot drivers, especially after seeing the recently released Ben Hur movie this week. SPOILER alert: I prefer the 1959 version.
Davalynn, you can’t beat Charlton Heston.?
Clogs build into the wooden plank they stood on.
We just got back from a two-week camping trip, so I won’t see the movie until this weekend. I’ve read that there are some major deviations from the original book and the plot of the 1959 movie. Still, I’m really looking forward to the chariot race. I was expecting mostly CGI, but that isn’t the case at all. CGI was used when horses or men were injured, but almost all the rest was real horses. They spent three months before the shoot teaching the actors and stuntmen how to drive their chariots. With 8 teams of 4 horses running up to 40 miles per hour around a real track with GoPro cameras mounted everywhere, I’m expecting some heart-stopping action! Apparently Huston was already an accomplished horseman well prepared for the task, but he said that the thought of a mistake with 32 horses running together was terrifying. He was actually dragged – no green screen for that either. I can only imagine and shudder!
Great post, Rachelle. It would drain me dry to have to blog daily or even three days a week, but a happy compromise has been to blog with a group of other writers. In my case, 10 of us, so we each only need to blog twice a month to keep our blog filled daily. I can handle that! The other advantage to group blogs is that you draw from each others’ readers for a much larger audience, and hopefully help introduce your readers to new authors and vice versa.
I think that is brilliant, Deborah. 🙂
Absolutely, Deborah. Someday, oh, someday I’ll group blog. After I find a group.
When you find a group, Davalynn, please mention my name. I’d love to group blog as well!
Judy Gordon Morrow
Deborah, your solution really resonated with me as well. My website was infected shortly before my mom died, so I feel a bit overwhelmed right now about starting over.
You have such an awesome presence on Facebook and use that so effectively. That is the element I am enjoying the most so far, even though I’m still inconsistent with it. I’m going to prayerfully consider the group idea; some names are coming to me even as I write these words. 🙂
I would love to be in this sort of blogging situation. 🙂
Rachelle, To blog, or not to blog, that is the question. As a writer struggling with this dilemma, I found your suggestions both helpful and reassuring
* Timing and quality of work are a key issues for me. I’d prefer not to begin a blog until I have something worthwhile to offer and can fully develop its potential. Choosing to forgo a blog and remain focused on my writing has been a battle. I feel encouraged now. Thank you.
Seems to me that a blog is the best way to showcase writing style and values, and that a solid and substantial blog can do wonders in gaining and keeping readers. Ann Voskamp might be a good example.
* The question a writer has to be able to address in finding a writing theme for a blog is “Why will people read my books?” In other words, what are the elements of setting, characters, storyline, and values that will keep a reader engaged and wanting more?
Great post. I’ve been thinking on this for weeks. I love Deborah Raney’s idea … gathering with other writers and taking turns, that way you aren’t spending much time blogging. I’ve been blogging about once a week, but I’ve been thinking about cutting that back to twice a month or maybe even once a month. My blog traffic has increased dramatically since I started, and I do believe the writing helps to improve skill. But no doubt, it dwindles novel-writing time and focus. I feel like I just received permission, in case I do cut back. 🙂 Thank you.
Oh, and I love Instagram. I’ve only recently gotten on. It’s my favorite social media, perfect for someone like me who loves photography. 🙂
Sylvia A. Nash
Ah, Rachelle, you would post on this topic this week! I’ve never had a successful blog run. I’ve had some decent topics (genealogy how-to, reviews of other author’s books, my thoughts on different topics–all of which I recently deleted). As for now, for various reasons, I was not able to schedule a “blog tour” for my recent release. So I thought, why not just have a week of blogs on my blog site and call it a blog series? Yes, it was for promotion, but I could also give away copies of my book to my readers. All they had to do was leave a comment. And the blogs were on what I thought were interesting or important research topics related to the book.
Yeah, like that worked. I’ve had more visitors for my “opinion” blogs! And in six days, I’ve had six people to comment! What, I can’t get readers or give my book away?
Blogging is labor intensive for anyone. For me, it hasn’t been worth the effort. And I’m not talking about sales. I’m talking about making connections, about writing something people want to read, and having them read it.
I’ve decided I just don’t know how to do this–or Facebook–or Twitter. I’m afraid trying other platforms would end up the same way. Sorry to be so “gloomy and doomy.” But to answer your questions: Yes, I blog. No, it isn’t going that well. And I don’t have a clue why not or what to do about it. I would be open to suggestions if anyone has any for me!
Well, at least I got that off my shoulders! 🙂
I hear you, Sylvia! I was never active with my own social media postings when I had a security clearance, and I haven’t done any more since I retired. I’ve read numerous articles and blogs on how to build a following, but, frankly, I don’t want to spend so much of my time chasing followers when I couldn’t even tell you why anyone would especially want to follow me.
*I opted for the website because I’d already done plenty of research for many topics and I’m comfortable writing informational articles using academic sources. I think I can gain traction in the teaching and homeschooling communities with puzzles and other study aids, but only time will tell. I probably need to include a blog as part of the site for greater reader interaction, but I’m still not sure what to do with that part. I suspect the majority of us reading this blog face the same dilemma you described.
Sylvia A. Nash
Kind of off topic, but I know a former classroom teacher, now home schooling Mama of two kids with extreme allergies, and she is always looking for new things online and off!
Thanks for these thoughts, Rachelle. I am a nonfiction inspirational writer and mainly blog to have a home base I can control and to add value to my followers. The algorithms/rules for social media venues change far too often.
I blog mostly because it’s the only way I’ve ever successfully kept any kind of a diary. Turns out I only want to write if I think someone else might read it! I don’t know that blogging helps sell books, but it does offer me a way to connect with readers and I’ve definitely found a few fans I know about that way. I stumbled around a bit initially, but now I post something writing/book/faith related on Mondays and something Appalachian on Thursdays. Fits my brand and helps keep the hopper full!
Sarah, posting about certain topics on specific days is a great idea. It seems like this variation would relieve some of the pressure to find new and exciting things to share everyday or even weekly. I love that you include Appalachian Thursday as another way to keep readers interested.
Sarah, since you love writing about Appalachian locations I would love to read a group blog with you and other writers who enjoy and write that theme also. If you cannot find that many CBA authors who write about this location, you could extend it to include the Smokies and mountain/country life in general.
I blogged weekly for three years, and felt guilty when I gave it up. After all that time my only readers were still family and a few friends. Also, since I have a full-time day job and other responsibilities, there were weeks I spent more time working on my blog than on my manuscript.
Your post today confirms what I had been thinking. Thanks again.
Janet Ann Collins
When I started blogging about seven years ago I doubted that I’d be able to think of anything to write for more than a month or two. But I’m still doing it and only missed two posts when my computer was unexpectedly out for repairs. I have very few followers and seldom get comments, but I share all my blog posts on Facebook and get lottos comments there. I blog about words, books, and kids and about half my posts are reviews of books for kids. Since I read about half a dozen Middle Grade books and one or two for younger and older kids I have plenty of material to blog about. I only wish my blogging would help sell more of my own books.
Judy Gordon Morrow
Rachelle, you have no idea what a gift this post was to me. Thank you so much for articulating many thoughts I’ve been mulling over in recent months. This has truly helped to bring clarity for me.
Methinks that part of the equation is personality. A blogger can be a rather grimly self-contained individual who nonetheless is a keen observer of the life around him. (I’m everything but the last bit.)
* For Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest there has to be something of a winsome persona; at least a winsome public persona. Nothing short of a lobotomy and a miracle will make me that. (Well, not quite…Barbara has said that when I go through a bout of pain amnesia and lose track of who I am, who she is, and what year it is, I’m a much nicer person…)
I think this is great advice. I love to blog. For me, it is a creative outlet for my thoughts on life, and writing poetry. It is very different than my novel writing. I do not do it to promote myself or my books. It is just fun for me and keeps me connected to people. I think your advice is wise. Do it if you love it. There are too many blogs about nothing. I don’t like reading blogs that promote, promote, promote. I feel blogs are a way for people to get to know me as person and as a writer…but I do not want it to be a constant advertisement. I like that editors (& readers) can find out about my writing style, my professionalism, and my varied talent through my blog. My blog will give them a sense of who I am and if I would be a good fit. But my novel writing is very different and just another creative outlet for my talent. Also, people who read my blog may not necessarily be my market for my book. For example, I write women’s fiction, but I have a lot of male followers to my blog who enjoy my poems and writing. I write my blog because I love it. That is the way it should be. Thanks for your post today. Always enjoy!
“Many authors have a hard time figuring out what their blogs should be about (mostly fiction authors).” Aw, come on! We have lots of voices in our heads, clamoring to get out. 🙂
We’ve got the voices, Sarah, yeah…but figuring out what they have as a common ‘grounding’, and what that offers our readers…I have not nearly figured it out. 🙂
Ha! The voices in my head clamoring to get out usually wake me up at three in the morning. Sometimes it’s God giving me a new direction or idea for a story, other times it’s the lyrics to an irritating song my brain just won’t forget. ?
Thank you for this, Rachelle! As a novelist, I fought blogging, then bit the bullet. For about two years, I blogged regularly – and hated it. It took too much time for too few results. However, I found my blog was a good home page for my Today in WWII History posts, which are more popular on Facebook and Twitter than on the actual blog – but by using my blog as the base, the posts always refer people to my website. I’ve also had success with WWII articles, especially on rationing and other Home Front topics. I get a lot of traffic from those, but they take gobs of time. Now I concentrate them around a book release or historical anniversaries. Other than that, my blog is pretty quiet, and I’m fine with that 🙂
I’ve seen a trend (I don’t know what else to call it) in the last few years of group blogs. This one is a great example. Others are Inspired by Life and Fiction, Seekerville, The Alley Cats, The Grove, and more. Each author (or someone else related to fiction writing) has a certain day of the week that they post. They still get to blog; it gets their name out there; they’re not alone; they don’t have the full responsibility as an individual to carry the whole thing.
I will admit that the group blogs I read the most are of authors that are already well-known to me and whose books I already read. The blogs I do not always remember to read are where everybody who posts are unknowns. In order for it to be effective, I think there needs to be at least two fairly well-known authors as contributors and they need to be extroverts who naturally advertise it with excitement, fervor, and dedication.
You make great points and build a good case for those who find blogging to be a chore to allow themselves to stop. I blog because it somehow feeds my soul. It leaves (out there in the cyber cloud) a record of God’s grace in my life. And once in a while a reader tells me how it has impacted his or her life. Somehow, all that is enough to keep me blogging.
Last year I gave a presentation at a writers conference about blogging. Afterward an attendee thanked my profusely for my talk and said that because of what I said she decided NOT to blog.
At first I was devastated.
Then I realized that blogging isn’t a good fit for everyone writer and too many writers are pursuing blogging because someone told them they should and not because they actually want to.
I am a fiction author and I do not blog for the reasons stated here. I would be very interested in future posts that detail how to implement the alternatives to blogging that you mentioned, as well as how best to utilize an author website without a blog.
I started blogging because I heard an author needed to blog to build a platform. I struggled to come up with creative ideas to post, and I narrowed my focus. Thank you for showing us other ways to have an effective platform. I’d love to hear more about making LinkedIn work for authors.
I’ve come very late to this party, but here goes. I began blogging reluctantly, with great encouragement from writing friends. Three-and-a-half years later, I’m still going. Blog posts keep coming to mind, and my audience is growing slowly. I find that, though a ton of readers don’t take time to comment, those who do offer thoughtful answers to my questions. Preparing and posting a blogpost takes more time to than I’d like, but I have come to enjoy the interactions. I’m trying to evaluate how to determine if spending time blogging is the best way for me to spend my writing time.
You’ve got me thinking about all this, Rachelle. If anyone’s still reading, I’d love to hear thoughts.
Jeanne, for what it may be worth, I have found that the restrictions (in terms of length and focus) imposed by blogging have markedly improved my fiction-writing skills. It’s cut away the sloppiness.
* Also, I’ve heard that ‘professional’ bloggers make a lot more money that writers. I don’t know how, though I think that affiliate links (like Amazon) are a beginning. I don’t mind seeing them on blogs I frequent, and it definitely does not make me think that the writer’s gone commercial. I’m glad for their success, and glad that the income makes a high-quality blog possible.
* Finally…your blog, Jeanne, is one of the best out there. Your writing, your photography, and most of all your strong heart of faith are unique. I treasure your posts; they have changed me for the better.
Several years ago I had a personal blog which I enjoyed but shut it down for some personal reasons. Since hearing about the necessity for writers who hope to be published to have a “platform” I have created a website, dusted off my twitter account, signed up for instagram and created a facebook page. I’m pooped just thinking about it. I am too early in the game to know how effective it is, but do find, like others, that as I have my blog linked to my facebook page that is where I seem to get most of my comments and interaction. Since reading this very encouraging post, I am not going to stress about posting on my blog more frequently, but just share aspects of my writing journey when I have something to share. Thank you, this post and everyone’s comments are insightful and very helpful to this newbie.
Carol J. Garvin
I’ve made some wonderful cyberfriends and writing connections online. Blogging isn’t onerous for me, and, like journalling, it’s an outlet — another place to express ideas and try to improve my writing skills. I spend a modest amount of time on Facebook and Twitter, too, and seem to reach different followers in each place with minimal overlap, so I think continuing to blog is worthwhile.
I blog partly because of a lack of ‘self-hosted’ website yet. The moment that zooms in, I’d cut it.
Besides, it has helped a lot in terms of writing skills.
Golden Keyes Parsons
Very interesting. I have a pretty loyal following of readers, but never have gotten much response to my blogs. I think I’d rather stick to doing my newsletter periodically to communicate with those who enjoy my books to keep them updated. I do blog once a month with a group of historical fiction authors which I do enjoy. There is the added benefit of reading the other authors posts as well as garnering a larger audience together which we would not be able to accomplish alone. That once a month seems to come around every couple of weeks, however!
Thanks for the post. This is freeing for me.
A big sigh of relief! Thank you to Rachelle very, very much. I could tick nearly all those points on, “Don’t blog if:”
Several years ago I had to reluctantly accept I am a story teller, not a non-fiction article writer. I prefer the “showing” through my characters’ stories rather than the “telling” in blogs.Being a perfectionist also meant I simply spent too much of my precious writing time on trying to publish a regularly, worthwhile blog post.