3 Reasons for Writers to Have a Blog … and 3 Reasons Not To

I love blogging and this site has become the foundation of my business. I also have a fiction blog at www.JFPenn.com: Ancient Mystery, Modern Thrill.

Blog in typescript lettersBut I don’t think blogging is for everyone, and there are more effective uses of your time if you don’t go all-in. In today’s guest post, author Ali Luke and Joe Williams from SEO Training explore some good reasons to blog, and other reasons you should beware.

Perhaps “start a blog” was one of your new year’s resolutions – or maybe you’re wondering what all the fuss is about.

Although I’m a keen blogger myself, I also know that blogging isn’t the best path for every writer (whatever some blogging gurus might have you think!) Today, I want to give you both sites of the “to blog or not to blog” argument – so you can make up your mind what’s right for you.

Three Reasons to Blog

There are plenty of reasons to blog – for many people, it’s a great way to establish a strong writing habit – but these are three which are especially important considerations for writers:

#1: You Want to Build a Platform

Your online platform is your ability to reach people. If you’re planning to approach agents and editors with your manuscript, a blog with several hundred (or even several thousand!) readers can boost your chances of acceptance.

If you’re going it alone, a blog is an even more powerful tool. You can offer services – like freelance writing or editing – through your blog; readers who find your posts valuable will be more likely to hire you. For non-fiction writers, a blog is also a great way to give readers a taste of the type of content they can expect from your book or ebook.

#2: You Want to Be Part of the Blogging Community

Writing can be a lonely occupation … and the online world is a great place to connect with like-minded people. Although blogs have become increasingly slick and professional over the years, there are still plenty of people blogging just to share their thoughts, to report on their writing progress, and make new friends.

LiveJournal is one great place for finding people to connect with – or you could use a simple blogging platform like Blogger. Although your blog might not have hundreds of readers, like more professionally-focused sites, you can build a strong friendship with those who do read it.

#3: Your “Blog” is Your Website

There’s no rule that says you have to update your blog every day, every week, or even every month. Some writers use blogging software (particularly WordPress) to build and manage their website. WordPress is free and fairly straightforward to use – and your blog doesn’t need to be a prominent part of the site.

This way, you can use your blog to occasionally update readers on your progress (e.g. when you’re about to publish a new book) – but you don’t need to spend time writing there on a daily or weekly basis.

Three Reasons Not to Blog

Perhaps none of the reasons above quite fit with who you are, or with your writing plans. In that case, you might not want a blog.

#4: You Want Instant Results

Starting a blog is unlikely to have a significant immediate impact on your book sales, or your freelancing commissions. If you want or need fast results, look into other marketing techniques – like paying to advertise your book on a site like Kindle Nation Daily or sending out pitches to magazines.

Blogging is a long-term investment, and it could take months or years to hit your major goals. Of course, it can be a hugely rewarding journey in itself – but it’s not a path to instant fame and fortune!

#5: You’re Promoting a Fiction Book

It’s much harder to promote fiction than non-fiction through a blog. With non-fiction, you can produce posts that relate to your topics – and that tie in with your ideal reader’s current interests. With fiction, you have to generate initial interest in your plot and characters, and this is a lot tougher.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a blog if you’re a fiction author – it could be a great place for you to put extra content for your fans, like deleted scenes – but don’t rely on your blog as your primary marketing tool.

#6: You Want Your Blog Itself to Make Money

If you’re a keen blog reader, you’ve probably come across the concept of “problogging” – blogging with the intention of making money. Some writers are very attracted to this: if you enjoy writing, building a blog sounds pretty easy, and income from ads or affiliate links could potentially provide you with the funds to quit your job and spend more time writing.

However … the “make money blogging” dream is one that rarely works out. It takes a great deal of time and effort to build a blog that’s large enough to make more than a few dollars from passive income (like ads and affiliate revenue). The bloggers who make a successful living tend to be those who write and sell books, provide services, or who use their blog to market their small business.

So … what will you decide?

Is blogging right for you – or is it something that you’re not going to pursue at the moment? If one of the above reasons struck a chord with you, let us know in the comments (and please feel free to tell us your own reasons for blogging or not blogging, too).

SEOTrainingBio: Ali Luke and Joe Williams offer day-long training courses in blogging, social media and search engine optimization in the UK. You can find out more (and read their blog!) at SEO Training, or contact them on Twitter at @SEOTraining.

Ali Luke also runs Aliventures, a site for writers. I have interviewed Ali before writing fiction and blogging for a living and also about her book, Publishing Ebooks For Dummies.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for this, Ali and Joe (and Joanna). I was overwhelmed thinking about the amount of fresh content needed to maintain a blog around a novel. Hearing that there are more effective ways to promote fiction is a relief.

  2. says

    I think with #5 the assumption is that you have to talk about your book and you don’t, at least not constantly. Readers get sick and tired on constant plugging. Yes, by all means introduce your book when it comes out and post links to reviews and interviews but there needs to be more to you than the fact you’ve written a book and so talk about that. I remind people of my writing constantly by referencing my own writing in my articles and I think that’s enough. These days we’re marketing ourselves more than a single product.

    • says

      I blog, and I write fiction, but I try really hard not to plug the books. What I really want to get across more than that is the journey involved in writing the books. To explain why certain things are the way they are… plot devices, settings, points of view. I also interweave these with parts of my own day to day life… I have some health issues that have made my return to writing a victory, how my hobbies interact with my writing, how those in my house survive (and often, facilitate) living with an author. It’s not the most professional spin to put on it, but it’s what feels right for me.

    • says

      I’m a fiction writer also and I do way more than talk about my book or writing. I actually write fiction for my blog. I’m currently finishing up my second online serial novel. It provides fresh material to my blog and it gives fans a taste of my writing style. Sure I plug my book when I have a sale or event happening but I try to stick to making stuff up! :o)

  3. Matthew Eaton says

    Love Ali, she is awesome! Still have her ebooks, they are still fantastic. Great information, as always, and at the right time too!

  4. says

    I’ve been thinking about this recently… well ever since Indierecon. I’ve been keeping an online journal (I don’t know why but that’s how I think of my blog) for the last 10 years now, but I’m wondering if for my writing/author site I should have a separate blog for that or just go for the kitchen sink approach of they like my writing so they get my thoughts on everything…?

    • says

      Hi Thomas,
      I guess it depends on whose attention you’re trying to get. Fellow bloggers, and/or readers of your book? I’d imagine book readers likely want to know more about your interests. And fellow bloggers perhaps too but maybe their attention is a little more time precious so something more focused could work better.

      ‘#2: You Want to Be Part of the Blogging Community’ – a blog can be a great platform to connect and build your reputation with bloggers. This can extend your reach to new readers and followers. And growing your reputation with other bloggers often means it grows with search engines too :).

      SEO thought: having a blog on your ‘business site’ is often the best way to consolidate all the blogger and search engine reputation in one place, rather than have a separate site for your blog.
      Joe

      • says

        Hi Joe,

        Interesting thoughts. I’m currently experimenting with importing/syncing my 10 years of livejournal with a wordpress-based blog that’s actually integrated with my personal site. So possibly the best of both worlds. I like the community spirit of Livejournal – or at least I liked it because in recent years with the arrival of facebook that seems to have changed – but I like having a tighter control on style/content ownership of my writings.

        Sound like a plan?

  5. says

    Hi Thomas,

    We have WordPress running our main site and blog. I am a big fan, and definitely sounds like a plan. Ideally you’d redirect (301) all your old posts (http://shepline.livejournal.com) to the new WordPress posts (this passes search engine reputation). Although I am not sure LiveJournal allows you to do this. If you want more control, wordpress.org will be better than wordpress.com.

    Hope that helps.

    Joe

  6. says

    I have been blogging since 2005 and blogging helps writers to sharpen their skills and network with fellow writers and that is what I enjoy most. Blogging has also helped to keep me focused on my narrative prose and becoming more informed on happenings in the global village. But blogging has not helped me or other authors in Nigeria to sell more books, because those who read books in Nigeria hardly read blogs since they are often offline. I have sold more copies of my books on the street than from my blogs. But ironically I have made more money from by blogs than my books. How?
    I am one of the popular bloggers in Nigeria and patronized by advertisers and publicists who need more exposure on the internet. A Nigerian writer whose book did not even make up to $2, 000 from sales now makes over $40, 000 annually from adverts on her blog. May be writers should start accepting advert spots in their books like inside front cover and inside back cover can have paid adverts and that can earn some money for the authors.

    • says

      Hi Orikinla – this post is not about blogging as a business which you describe, it’s about blogging for marketing specifically for books, not other products. The tactics you mention are definitely fantastic but more appropriate for the pro-blogging sites like Problogger.net and other sites for specifically bloggers. Thanks though and all the best – it sounds like your blog is doing very well.

  7. says

    Hi Ali, Joe, and Joanna,

    Thanks for a very helpful post. About a month ago, I started a blog to promote my erotic romance novels. The first few posts were all about the books, and it just didn’t feel right. I’m also an volunteer in dog rescue, and decided to include that aspect of my life in the posts as well. Views skyrocketed. While I did it to feel more authentic, the cross-marketing worked. I’m a frequent guest blogger on the Law of Attraction, and this week posted on that topic on my own blog as well. Again, the page views notched up considerably, and have remained high.

    More and more, the blog feels like me. I think what readers want most is authenticity, something Joanna provides here in spades. Her enthusiasm irradiates the blog!

    On the marketing side, book sales haven’t taken off yet (the first novel went on the market a whole two weeks ago!), but it’s all about brand. My brand is my name, since I don’t write ongoing series novels. Having a well-visited blog where people can get to know me is excellent branding. Besides, it’s fun! Bottom line: If you enjoy blogging, keep blogging. If you don’t enjoy blogging, try something else.

    Happy blogging to everyone,

    Carole

    • says

      Hi Carole, you make some brilliant points here
      1) it’s definitely about personal connection so the more you personally share, the better – some people really struggle with this, but as you have done, sharing your other passions can really help
      2) If it’s fun, keep doing it :) whatever that is … so important! Some people naturally enjoy video or audio, or Facebook or whatever else in order to connect or express themselves.
      I love blogging but it’s definitely something I grew into.

  8. Steven says

    The main reason I don’t want to blog is because I just want to write fiction. I feel like when it comes to stories the characters and world I’m creating were given to me and I have my own unique interpretation of them. With a blog it’s information. I don’t feel like I can tell people in a unique way that, they need to write more, or here’s a good market to get into. I also wonder what could I possibly blog about that someone hasn’t or isn’t already covering?

    • says

      There’s definitely no need to blog Steven, and I use my fiction site to put interesting stuff about my research, but not regularly. But you do need to do something to get attention for you and your work, you just have to decide what!

  9. says

    Interesting stuff. I write fiction but I have a blog focusing on helping writers enhance dialogue, creativity and character development. It’s the only blog I have and I’ve thought about starting a fiction one but I would have no idea of what to blog about. I know Joanna’s fiction blog centers around her characters and the places they’ve visited. It’s just that my location isn’t the driving force behind my novel so I’m not too sure where to go with a fiction blog.

    Great post though :)

    • says

      I mainly started the JFPenn.com site as a static site that would have my fiction books, my list building for fiction and any other author type info – since this site has morphed over time and I run a speaking business from here + sell courses etc and it is aimed at writers of all genres. So that’s just how blog sites have evolved. Plus my fiction writing is very dark compared to my lively personality over here and I wanted to have a place that was separate to tackle death, religion and that type of thing.
      It’s certainly not necessary to have multiple sites – it just depends on the goal of the site.

  10. says

    Blogging is definitely very time consuming, but I do enjoy the blogging community. That said, I wonder if you are trying to self-publish how you would find readers without blogging and social media. You mention people looking at the book-jacket Joanna, but are they really going to find you from ads alone? Does a blog not give you a bit more cred, where people can go to find out about you or is that wishful thinking? Thanks so much for the post. Nice juxtaposition.

    • says

      Hi AK, a blog certainly gives you more credibility in the non-fiction world and can also get traffic to your book – as a fiction writer, it’s a lot about volume of product and optimization of the book sales sites, pricing, promos and being where the readers are e.g. Goodreads. But I do agree with you that visibility in general helps sales – that’s certainly what I work towards as well. But people have to decide what’s best for their time. If you love blogging, go for it :) I certainly do.

  11. says

    My blog has worked out exactly as you describe. I write children’s fiction, and I blog because it’s rewarding, it gives me a platform, it connects me with other readers and writers, and because I include at least one MG book review each week, it also keeps me reading in the genre. It does not, however, earn more than a few dollars, and it doesn’t really draw much attention to my books. But I enjoy it completely.

    • says

      Enjoying it is so important Michelle – I love blogging here, it fulfills my need to be useful, leaving the other part of me to write thrillers for entertainment :)

  12. says

    As a newbie blogger with both non-fiction and fiction aspirations, I found this interesting — it’s good to know which genre will make the most sense once I get into the thick of things (with both writing and blogging). For now, I’ve got posts planned in my queue that try to use cross-genre examples (including movies) to discuss universal lessons about storytelling and the writing process in general. There’s a lot of common ground. Thanks for another helpful post, Joanna!

  13. says

    The thought of trying to come up with continual posts sounded overwhelming to me as well. I coined my own term for what I decided to do, which is “zlogging” or slow blogging. My current WIP is memoir, so I look for events or subjects that relate to my life experiences, without covering material I think I might use later. I wasn’t sure if agents or publishers might check it out to see if someone is capable of “meeting the demands of a writing life,” as well as get a better idea of who someone is, if they are reviewing a proposal. I have also found that it really opens the door to see what other people are doing (to try to not to duplicate content), especially on WordPress, to have access to the Reader and be able to select categories to follow. Thanks for the post! –Ceejae

    • says

      I had several blogs before this one that bored me, but the topics I cover here mean I am always months ahead with planning content as there is so much that interests me! If you don’t feel that driven to write blog posts, then don’t do it! Focus on another way to get your work out there.

  14. says

    I love this! It shows me that I have the right intentions to start a blog. My only problem now is figuring out a topic. I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve written guest blog posts in the past…and loved it. Now I want to start my own, but I have no idea what type of topic to choose. I’m afraid that I would get tired of writing about the same thing after a while.

    • says

      Hi Kristen, it definitely has to be something that
      a) holds your interest for a long time
      b) is interesting to other people
      c) potentially relates to something you are going to sell if it is to be a business marketing exercise as opposed to a life project. I recommend checking out Problogger.net for lots of tips on blogging for business.

  15. Jessica says

    I think I would really enjoy blogging, but I’m at a career crossroads that makes it risky. I might be a professional writer, in which case a blog seems like a good idea. Or financial realities might drive me back into the public service, where it can be career limiting to have ones personal views on show to the world. I think the most likely scenario is that I will work in the public service parttime while trying to fit in writing on the side (sigh).
    I’ve considered an anonymous blog, but if I’m a writer I want to build my own name.
    Any advice, or do I stick with my current “plan”: do nothing and sit at the crossroads?

    • says

      I don’t think doing nothing is a plan, and I don’t think sharing personal views is career limiting – in fact, most career blogs talk about having a personal brand to show that you’re the type of person companies want to employ. People get better job offers because of their personal blogs. Check out the PersonalBrandingBlog.com for more on this, but a bias for action is the only way to achieve anything in this noisy world …

  16. says

    Hi. I’ve just started a blog myself ( I’m writing a novel and the blog is about this process) and I am looking for inspiration and help with getting it going. So many thanks for these useful tips.

  17. Armando Vega says

    I was wondering about something.

    I was thinking about starting up a blog with my incomplete work of fiction/manuscript posted up for all to see, I wanted to try a sort of “Work-In-Progress,” thing. I want the blog to be ABOUT the process of creating a work of fiction.

    But I’m worried that posting my non-published, incomplete manuscript online may invite myself to plagiarism, and also if having it hosted online could lead to difficulties with future publication, down the road?

    With regards to that, as long as I list the copyright and then promptly delete the materials at ‘journey’s-end,’ i.e. when the manuscript is complete, then it should not be a problem, correct?

    Please provide me a little bit of guidance here, if possible.

    Hoping Ali and Joe (and Joanna) may have some advice?

    Thanks guys!

    • melissacuevas says

      Personally I wouldn’t put up the whole thing as a WIP. Perhaps certain parts that illustrate a point, or that you’re having issues with, but the whole enchilada? Also, there is truly no ‘deletion’ of things from the internet, once they’re there, they’re out there. You may remove your portion of it, but it will have been mined and will turn up again, and again, later.

    • says

      I also think blogging work in progress, especially fiction is a difficult thing, but mainly because our first drafts tend to be a load of rubbish :) for good reason as well – writing is rewriting, and we only get to a great finished product through multiple drafts. Why would you want to share something that isn’t polished as I’m not sure how that will get you fans for your writing. This is the process I go through before people get to read my words – http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/12/07/after-first-draft-whats-next/
      Perhaps you could just do what I do here which is write about the process without actually sharing the writing?

  18. Armando Vega says

    Finished reading all the comments, I see I’m not the only one pondering this idea, interesting.

    I had one more question, if I may? Is it absolutely, positively necessary for a writer who uses a blog to use their real name and NOT a pen-name? I probably was going to use my full name and not a pen-name anyway, but I was considering it, however I”m wondering about the pros and cons of such.

  19. says

    There’s a writer in each and every one of us. Assuming you’re doing it well, blogs can help you build reputation, rank better in search engines (which will help you promote your book or whatever else) & even directly bring in customers (writing gigs). There’s no doubt that our blog has been instrumental in our overall success.

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