What should I blog about as a writer?
How can I build my online presence, accessibility, and fan base, and boost sales of my stories, my books, or my writing services?
Here’s my short list of good things to blog about for any author. While most are obvious, some are overlooked. And if methodically tackled over time, the accumulating body of posts will create a powerful element of your marketing platform. The goal: think strategically, think long-term and sustainable, and avoid letting your blog become a bottomless sinkhole of time and writing energy.
1. Posts related to the topical focus of your writing.
If you write nonfiction, then post extra tips, new developments in your field, brief case studies or profiles, feedback from readers or colleagues. If your work is fiction, there are plenty of topical connections. As an example, one pair of co-authors, Hilda and Emily Demuth, wrote a children’s chapter book called Plank Road Summer, a historical novel. It’s a story of two best friends, 19th-century rural life, the plank road that runs by their homes in southeastern Wisconsin near Lake Michigan, and a subplot about a fugitive slave trying to escape to Canada in the decade before the Civil War. Those are the topics they can write posts about: period history, Underground Railroad resources, growing up on a Midwestern farm, etc. They can offer links to regional museums, Civil War re-enactor events, other books or websites, that relate in some way to their book’s topics.
2. Posts to tell the story of researching and writing your work.
Tell how you got the initial idea for a major piece of work, researched it, wrote it. What got you going on this topic? Was it a lifelong interest or a sudden brainstorm or remarkable encounter? How did the idea get fleshed out? What was the break-through to develop something special or unique? What problems did you encounter? Why do you think the work is worth reading? People are interested in the writing process, and enjoy behind-the-scenes knowledge.
3. Posts to present your nature as a likable person.
What kind of person are you? Funny? Wry? Thoughtful? Kitchen-table friendly? People enjoy getting to know other people; blogs, with their conversational, storytelling, quirky nature, are great vehicles for this. And knowing a bit about a writer’s personality probably gives an insight into their writing.
4. Post about your own journey as a writer.
What writers inspired you (and how?) What were your early writing activities? How did you get to this point, how did you build your career? Remember, the blog format is best for short bits of story, not full-fledged biography. Keep it brief. Do you remember a teacher who inspired you? Remember writing your first story as a young writer? Not surprisingly, childhood or adolescent or early-career memories can connect deeply with readers.
5. Where do you live?
Location often informs and affects your writing. An author from the American Midwest might be different in outlook from one from the East Coast, West Coast, Deep South, Scotland, Zimbabwe, etc. Not in all ways, but in some ways. Your location also has some practical application in the publishing world; it affects conference attendance, speaking engagements, inclusion on lists of regional literature, etc. And it is a basic search tool: searching the web for Philip Martin in Wisconsin gets you closer to me than a generic search for that very common name.
6. Posts to give contact information, ordering details, book reviews.
A good blog includes some way to contact you or your agent, how to order your book or engage you on a new project. Post info about coming appearances (and brief reports afterward will help reinforce the connection). Describe any programs or workshops you offer. Post recent reviews (from periodicals) or testimonials (praise from knowledgeable individuals) for your work.
7. Posts with some brief samples of your published writing.
This should be obvious! I wouldn’t overdo it, but oddly, I see that brief excerpts of published writing are often not included on many writer blogs. It’s interesting to see which passages a writer might choose to quote, which are particularly dear to you. You can add a bit of commentary about your craft. Who’s your favorite character, and why? Why did you pick a particular structure, point of view, word choice?
8. Posts to connect with related topics of current interest.
Share news and opinions, comment on breaking trends. For instance, if you’re writing Regency romances, comment on the breaking news (as of writing the first version of this article in 2009!) of the Tiger Woods illicit-romantic-flings scandal. Marketing your work involves connecting it with anything people are interested in, reading about, talking about today. And this can create strong search-engine interest.
A blog lets you work these ideas out over time, in bits and pieces, allowing you to grow your own thoughts and expressions about your work, organically (unlike a website that tends to be more static). A blog is clearly a work-in-progress. It lets a writer try out pieces of his/her “stump speech” – stories and info-bits that might become part of the standard patter of the accomplished writer, appearing on jacket flaps or in interviews.
If you do this with skill and aplomb, with a fresh twist, you can develop a great resource that shows you off in a positive light, that pumps up the search engines, that develops a growing audience, that shows you off to influential people in the business (agents, editors, reviewers, interviewers) in the best ways.
Just keep your eyes on the prize. Consider the needs of your reader. Always remember it’s a marketing tool, albeit one that will grow in bits and pieces.
Blog Post by Philip Martin, director of Blue Zoo Writers and Great Lakes Literary (www.GreatLakesLit.com) and author of How To Write Your Best Story and A Guide to Fantasy Literature.