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May 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog

To Blog or Not to Blog

 

Seven hundred thousand blogs appear every day on the Internet, according the search engine Technorati. Most of these are personal blogs, meant for online journaling purposes that will never reach more than 10-15 people. A small percentage of them are corporate whose authors are trying to reach out and appeal to internet-savvy customers.

 

Only in the last few years has blogging become a regular pastime, and recently even a profession, of online writers. We’ve talked previously about how social networking can increase your fan base as well as publicize your work, and we all know the credibility blogging has given many people. Three years ago what was known as someone on the Internet with an opinion, is now a credible source of news, support, and reference.

 

Many of the FAQ’s on popular blogs include some variation of the question, “Is it easy to write a blog?” In almost every case, the author will respond that no, it is hard work. Thinking up new topics everyday or every week requires a whole different kind of creativity and commitment than writing a novel. The constant turnover forces the author to keep his or her audience interested without thinking he is unorganized and without a clear message.

 

The most popular blogs on the web have a center around a theme and are updated daily. Many people choose to write about their children, politics, or current events, for example. Many authors tend to focus their topics on their own work, and often branch out and socially connect with their colleagues (who also blog).

 

For published authors, the style may have to be different: updating everyday isn’t a time commitment that can be made by writers busy crafting other works. However, the success of the entries really does depend on the commitment given to them. People are more likely to read something that is updated more often. Content that is fresh and relevant is more interesting and attention-grabbing than a blog that sits stagnant for a few days or weeks.

 

Author’s blogs are almost a medium unto themselves. They meld the journal of the personal author as well as the corporate message of a business. The combination of the two is certainly a challenge for many authors, because you have to be personable while selling yourself at the same time. You need to let the reader into your life, but only so much. So how do you tell where that fine line is? How do you begin?

 

First, make your entries personal. Think about what you want to write ahead of time. Don’t necessarily write about your book and only your book. For example, say your book was a critique of modern parenting. Instead of plugging the book every chance you get (which is just outright selling something and no one will read it), continue where your book left off. Talk about things you would have liked to include, current events, etc. The more you expand your scope, the more readers will be drawn back to your site and the more likely they are to recommend it to others. Be passionate about your subject, but try to remain focused.

 

Talk about your writing process. Treat it like a journal (without being too forthcoming). Fans and readers love to know inside information about their favorite authors, and it creates quite a bit for you to talk about besides re-writing your book. How did you research for this book? What was interesting about it? If you’re promoting upcoming publications, talk about your events and what you hope to accomplish. What is your purpose? What do you have to say?

 

Don’t forget to ask yourself: Is this something I would take the time to read myself? If the answer is no, you may need to rethink your strategy.

 

Second, encourage collaboration. A lot of sites that host blogs have communities or groups to join. This is a great way to encourage readers to your site, and a great way to take tips from fellow authors. Other bloggers love it when you link to their sites, and it encourages them to return the favor. The more places your domain name gets posted, the more traffic your site will get.

 

Third, encourage comments. Make sure there is contact information for someone to reach you. Setting up an alternate email address may be necessary, but never fear. Most search engines have free email (like Gmail or YahooMail) that require nothing more than an address and password. Don’t delete comments if you can help it. Criticism is just as helpful as praise sometimes, although you may want to look into a spam blocker (most hosting sites have them built in).

 

That being said, what happens when you book interest dies out after publishing? Do you keep the blog going or do you shut it down? One good idea is to shift to reviewing books for others on your own site (they may have done, or will do, the same for you). Talk about what you are reading at the moment, or turn your attention to something else that interests you: politics, recipes, etc. Organize a book signing (see April’s newsletter) and write about it on your blog. Go to concerts, conferences, classes, or readings and talk about them! As an author, there are so many aspects of our work to write about.

 

Whatever you choose to do when the book hype dies down, don’t leave a blog unattended as it looks highly unprofessional; don’t walk away.

 

In the end, don’t start a blog just for the sake of having one: as you can see they are a lot of work. While having one can aid in the area of marketing you and your work, it takes time and patience to get to that place. Set goals for your site, and the topics you want to cover: make sure your subject matter is unique. Will it simply informative or will it be a personal connection to your readers? In the beginning, the entries should mean something to you. If you are passionate about it, others will be too. Some authors have even used their blogs to write a second book, using blurb as they already have a potential reader base for their book: their followers.

 

While this method of online communication is probably the most time consuming, the community you can build around your blog can be as invaluable as the ones you have on HARO or Facebook. The contacts and friends that you build through blogging can follow you for your entire career.

 

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