So, should writers blog?
But also, no.
Depending on the way you blog, your blog can be a powerful marketing tool… or a damaging, time-draining liability. Here’s how to foster the first and avoid the latter.
Your Public Face
As a writer, you’re no less than a public figure, and as such, your “personal” blog is your public face. You do not have the luxury of waxing poetically about what you had for breakfast, ranting about the annoying barks of the neighbor’s dog, or disparaging people you don’t like. Your every post should be professional and represent your author self, because that’s how people will be judging it.
Don’t worry, there’s still room there to be unique and quirky and let your personality shine through!
Your writer’s blog has one central goal: bolstering your writing career. Ninety-nine percent of the time, avoid posting things that are irrelevant to your work. Your posts should be about the craft of writing, how your work in progress (WIP) is coming along, when your next book is going to be released, etc. That doesn’t mean you can’t mention other things that are important to you, but don’t make them the central subject.
There are dozens of websites out there that can help you format a blog. No matter how you organize it, a reader should be able to find the following:
Give a brief overview of your life so the readers can identify with you as a person. This can include harmless details, such as your hometown, how you got interested in writing, your dog’s name, etc. It’s also a good place to list any professional publication credits you might have.
This is optional, but it can’t hurt so long as it’s clean and neat. Take the picture in a room with plenty of lighting and smile. If a reader finds you work in a bookstore, they just might recognize your face on the back flap of the dust jacket.
Links to Your Work
Hopefully a reader will want to buy your books when they discover your blog. Grouping links to distributor websites is an easy way to direct their attention, and it saves you the trouble of manually inserting said links into your posts. This is also helpful if you have work for sale from multiple sources, like a story that was published in a magazine’s anthology versus your first novel from a trade publisher.
Some Things to Avoid
As tempting as it might be, don’t update too often. Obsessing over a blog will distract you from writing stories, which ought to take priority. Don’t post trivial “filler” posts, like what you did on vacation or generic holiday greetings.
Not only do you want your blog to look professional, you must act professional at all times. If you reply to a reader’s comment, be polite and thank them for their time.
NEVER post negative reactions to bad reviews or disappointing sales. The trend of combative authors defending their work online has left a bad taste in the public’s mouth (read about this infamous case).
In the same vein, NEVER post political rants or other entries where you vent about something, unless it is directly related to your writing career (see how agent Kristin Nelson handles touchy writing-related topics). While some readers might be genuinely interested in your opinion on this-and-that, the rest of them just want to know when you’re next book is going to come out. Don’t make them take a stand against you by rubbing them the wrong way.
Some Things to Try
Struggling for post ideas? Try some of these:
Outtakes from your current work-in-progress
Weekly progress and goals
Highlighting favorite reviews and your reactions to them
Fictional interviews with your characters
Your writing plans for the future
Blogging can be a great way to attract new readers and keep old ones interested in your writing. It’s a wonderful, simple tool when used correctly. Only don’t let it distract you from your main job: writing!