This will be a strange way to begin a guide to blogging, but I want to save you time, trouble, and heartache: The average author does not benefit much from blogging.
Yet blogging is still recommended to authors as a way to market and promote. Why? Because blogging does work, if certain conditions are met. The problem is that few authors meet those conditions. This post will delve into what it means to blog successfully and in a meaningful way for an author’s long-term platform and book marketing efforts.
For clarity: I define “blogging” as publishing material to a site that you own and control—usually your author website. Blogging is sometimes conflated with online writing for other websites or blogs, but that’s not what I’m discussing in this post.
What it takes to become an effective blogger
If you approach blogging as something “lesser than” your other published writing, you’re more likely to fail at it. While blogging can be less formal, less researched, and more geared for online reading or social sharing, to do it well requires the same kind of practice and skill as crafting a novel. You get better at it the more you do it, but I see many authors give up before they’ve put in enough hours to understand the medium. Furthermore, to stick with blogging for long enough for it to pay off, you have to actually enjoy what it means to blog, and how online writing can be different from print.
If you treat blogging seriously, all the writing or content that you generate for your blog can have another life, in another format or within another publication.
Blogging is often straightforward for nonfiction writers, less so for novelists
Nonfiction writers and experts have it easy: their subject matter lends itself to blogging, especially if they’re teaching workshops or regularly interacting with their target readership. Such writers probably know off the top of their head the questions that get asked most frequently, the topics that are most popular, and the problems that surface again and again. This is invaluable starting fodder for a successful blog: knowledge of one’s audience.
Fiction writers can have successful blogs as well, especially if they’re able to focus on a specific topic, theme, or subgenre—in other words, a particular cohort of readers. But I find it most difficult for unpublished novelists to gain traction with an author blog; only after the novelist has built a name for herself does a blog readership tend to develop. With nonfiction authors, the opposite is the case: blogging can help build a platform that leads to a book deal.
This is why advice about blogging can be so contradictory and confusing: much depends on what genre you’re writing in and who you’re writing for.