OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
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.
But 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).
Ali Luke and Joe Williams write about SEO and content creation, and offer SEO courses, at Tribe SEO. You can find out more (and read their blog!) at Tribe SEO or contact Joe on Twitter at @joetheseo.
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.
Andy Walker 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.
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?
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.
Joanna Penn 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?
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.
Joanna Penn says
Using another name is entirely a matter of preference Armando – you can authentic even with a pen-name
Roofing Blog 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.
I’ve been debating the idea of blogging vs not blogging but I’m at a crossroads with your list. On the one hand, I want to build a platform since I’ve heard more and more agents and publishers are requesting authors who want to publish traditionally to already have an audience. Plus, a lot of indie authors (fiction and non-fiction) seem to have at least one blog. On the other hand, I plan to mostly focus on writing fiction novels and the blog would mostly focus on updates to the fiction novel, research, interviews, etc. I plan to focus on building a career as an indie publisher for now and maybe expand into hybrid publishing if the right deal comes along.
Annabeth Nash says
I am in the process of building my author platform and planning the marketing of my soon to be self published first novel. It is all a bit of a mine field and I swear that writing the book itself was much easier. I will be using wordpress to create a web page and do plan to do some blogging about my experience. I find this web site very helpful and will put a link to it so that other new writers can be guided here. I think that ultimately, as much online exposure as possible is a good thing. Good luck to everyone out there going through all this. I have no doubt that you can be successful if you put in the work and take all the good advice out there.
Mayur Kashyap says
I am in the process of writing my first fiction novel. I also write short stories.
I was wondering if its a good idea to blog my short stories whenever I get time. I want to build a readership and also get some reviews on the writing that I can use on my novel.
I would appreciate your opinion on this.
I think I might be in the same boat as a number of writers. I’m a school teacher by day, writer at night…but unpublished. I’ve written two novels in a series with what I think is a pretty simple plan. Query, and if still rejected after writing five or so, then self pub. My thoughts on blogging is that, unless I have something out there for the world to see, what kind of traffic would a blog realistically attract?
I’m impatient, but I’m holding back on self pubbing until I have a catalogue ready. I think I’ll do the same with blogging.
Alyssa Rowley says
I am an editor and wondering how to venture into the blogging world. I do not want to write my own blogs, necessarily, but I am wondering if there is a market for “blog-editing”. Do you have any experience with this?
Alan Toner says
Hi Joanne. Very interesting comments about author blogging. As an author of both true paranormal and horror fiction, I am forever agonising over whether I should split all my blog posts into categories (e..g. book reviews, horror movie reviews etc.), or whether I should just have the one blog on my site and put all my posts in that. The problem with putting categories on my site is that I sometimes wonder if all those categories are diverting attention away from my books. Also, I have been using Adsense ads at the top of my blog posts for some time now, and again I wonder if I should scrap these (not making much with the Adsense ads anyway!) in case my visitors are being distracted away from buying my books or signing up to my newsletter.
Joanna Penn says
Definitely get rid of Adsense – completely pointless unless you have huge traffic 🙂
If all your blog posts are tangentially related to horror & paranormal, all those aspects sound good – you can use Categories within the blog itself to segment the posts.