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How Important is Blogging For Unpublished Writers?

At some point in our writing careers, most of us will feel the pressure to blog. I’m not really sure where that pressure comes from. Maybe there are some agents and editors who tell us it’s important. Or maybe we hear that writers should develop a web presence and then we think that means we should blog. Or perhaps everyone else and their brother is blogging, and so we think we should too.

Whatever the case, many of us jump into blogging long before we have an agent or publishing contract. But secretly we can’t help wondering if blogging is really necessary for unpublished writers. After all, it’s one of the most time-consuming of the social media outlets. If we’re going to start building a web presence, does it need to include blogging?

I loved this question by Brenda: "How important is blogging for someone who isn't yet published? I think I'm spending more time on blogging than I am on writing my novel. Am I putting the cart before the horse when I blog before my book is finished?"

As always, I can only share from my experiences and from what’s helped me. My journey isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Everyone needs to forge their own unique path and find out what works for them. With that said, here are a few of my thoughts:

Blogging won’t get us an agent or book deal.

Okay, maybe one or two writers out there somewhere have actually landed book deals because of their fabulous blogs and the fact that they have 30,000 visitors a month. But. . . the majority of our blogs aren’t going to be pivotal in sealing any deals.

When I landed my agent and my book contract, my blog following was still pretty small. And my daily visitor count wasn’t even worth mentioning. Of course I made sure my blog was as professional as possible so that any interested agents or editors could see that I took my writing career seriously. But ultimately, my blog had nothing to do with getting my agent or contract.

If blogging is taking away from writing time, then we need to cut back.

Yes, if we’re spending more time on blogging than working on our books or stories, then we need to cut back. As I mentioned, blogging won’t garner us book deals. Only a stellar story will do that. So, if we’re not putting our best energy and effort into our novels, then we may be working at building a platform we won’t ever get to use.

Notice I said cut back, not stop. If we’re seriously pursuing publication, then we’ll want to have a “home office” in cyberland, and for many unpublished writers a blog is that place (instead of a website). If we’re trying to maintain a professional blog, then sporadic, inconsistent posting won’t help.

I suggest picking a schedule, posting it on our blogs, and sticking to it. Some writers choose once a week and others twice. Because my writing career is at a hot spot, I’ve decided to continue with posting three times a week. But I honestly don’t think there are too many of us that need to post more often than that.

Blogging can promote community, but we have to know when to jump in and how deep.

I didn’t start my blog until after I’d been querying for many months. Before that I was content to observe from the sidelines and absorb all I could. In hindsight, I’m glad that during those growing years, I could focus solely on writing books and learning the basics of how to craft stories.

I personally think that when newer writers jump into blogging too soon and too furiously, they risk the chance of burning out. They’re trying to juggle the unnecessary pressure of building a platform too early in their careers instead of focusing on building their writing skills.

~My Summary: A well written book is THE most important thing for a writer’s career. We hear it all the time, but I’m currently learning that firsthand. Early reviews of The Preacher’s Bride are beginning to show up throughout cyberland. So far those favorable reviews are helping push my book into the spotlight in a variety of ways (book clubs picking it up, front page spots, etc.).

My blog won’t influence those reviewers. Only the book itself can do the impressing. Let's make sure to keep the horse before the cart.

What about you? How important do you think blogging is for unpublished writers? Are you feeling unnecessary pressure to blog, perhaps even burnout? What can you do to make sure your writing stays top priority?

If you want an additional opinion about blogging, agent Mary Kole at Kidlit.com recently had an interesting article: Do Unpublished Writers Have to Blog.

57 comments:

  1. I agree with every point here. Great post.

    Teresa

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  2. No pressure. No burnout. I blog b/c I like to write. It's almost become a journal of sorts to me. I carve time for both and make sure the bigger piece of pie goes to what I love most--my characters.

    I've enjoyed it b/c of the connections too. ;)
    ~ Wendy

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  3. Personally I agree. Writing IS the most important thing. But there are agents out there who would argue that for a NF writer that there platform is more important. I find that sad. Imagine a day in which we only hear from voices that have huge platforms. How restrictive would that be? And yet it is a HUGE pressure for a NF writer.

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  4. I blog only twice a week no because of wanting to get my writing done. I have found over the years that it is eating up that writing time but yet I need the contacts I get from blogging to motivate me to write!

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  5. Great post!
    I'm still struggling a bit to balance it all!

    God will get me there!
    Have a great weekend!
    Patti

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  6. Hi Jody -

    When I launched my blog, I tried to post at least 3 times a week simply because I had read somewhere how consistency was one of the main aspects of building a community. Little did I understand that consistency doesn't necessarily equal frequency.

    After battling to balance my time between working on a novel and blogging, I recently reduced my schedule to only posting twice per week.

    Honestly, I think as long as readers know what to expect, posting frequency can be as little as one post a week if the content is worth reading.

    Great insights as always.

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  7. I agree with this post 100%. Everyone must find their own unique way on this journey. I, personally, had to cut back to once a week while I'm writing and working and caring for young children. It was the right decision for me. Because I love blogging and building relationships with other writers and readers, I definitely plan to contiue blogging, but I did have to learn to priortize. There is nothing wrong with allowing a blog to evolve into what is right for each individual person. Thanks, Jody for this post!

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  8. Thanks so much for answering my question! Your thoughts were very helpful. While I blog because I really enjoy it, it also takes a lot of time away from my book. And I do start to feel a pressure to post, post, post. I'm thinking I will cut back to posting once a week. I think consistency is the key ... not so much frequency. Quality vs. quantity. :)

    Now to check out that link!

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  9. Ok, Jody, I'm not a writer, just a reader & book blogger, and I just wanted to add that I have actually gotten to "know" some writers (like you for example) through blogging and online presence to the point that I already love them and know I have got to read their book before they even have a book out. Maybe that's crazy, but it happens. So, some online presence I think is a good thing.

    Blessings
    Michelle V

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  10. Great post! I've found that blogging helps to stretch a bit of my personal aside and enhance my writing in a way. Using my voice if you will. I mean, a singer needs a warm up sometimes and if I do as well, then why not have it be a blog. It also gives someone who wants to know me a place to go. I like it. But you're right. Balance is key. I can't blog every day, especially when I need to save some of that creativity for the pages. Thank you once again for the insights and suggestions!

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  11. I made the decision not to start blogging yet. I want to make connections in the publishing industry, but I think at this point my time needs to be spent querying and concentrating on my writing. So, for now, I'm happy to meet new people within the industry and hang out with them on their blogs and contribute in that fashion. I know the time will come when I will need to do more, but I'm looking at it as a one-step-at-a-time process.

    In the mean time, I'm watching how others run their blogs, what their content is and I'm thinking about ways that mine could be different. There are a lot of blogs out there that cover the same basic material over and over again (yours is NOT one of those blogs, BTW...) and I don't want to be just one more buzzing noise in the background. So I need to think more about it in the coming months. Maybe this will be my new year's project...

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  12. I lived out the blog burnout you mention. Went from 5 days a week to 3 days a week to 1 day a week. I'm finding it helps me have a more meaningful post that way.

    My favorite benefit of blogging as an unpublished author is all the new friends I've made. Now I feel like I'll go to ACFW already knowing lots of people. Looking forward to seeing their faces in person. :-)

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  13. Steve Griffin said: "Consistency was one of the main aspects of building a community. Little did I understand that consistency doesn't necessarily equal frequency."

    My response: Steve, thanks for bringing up an important point. I am more likely to read blogs when I know the blogging schedule of that particular person. Even if that person only posts once a week, if I know that I can count on a post from them every Monday, I'm more likely to read it than if they're sporadic.

    In other words, if someone posts once a week on a consistent basis, they're more likely to gain a loyal following than someone who posts several times a week, but irregularly (on differing days and times). If we're consistent, then our readers will become more consistent.

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  14. I think there is one benefit to blogging early, though. You get up on the learning curve earlier. You can get the schedule that's right for you, learn what to blog about (and what not to!), maybe even get some followers - before your queries are in the hands of agents.

    I'm still learning with my own blog and I'm glad so far I've been able to without the pressure that an agent or editor might be on the other side of the screen rolling their eyes.

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  15. Hi Jody,
    I started my blog after I signed with my agent. Like you said, everyone's path is different. Like you, I did a lot of observing from the sidelines and mostly focused on my writing. I think you make a good point about your blog not landing you a book deal or favorable reviews. Only a well written book will do that. That said, I'm amazed and continually enriched by all the great people I've met via blogging, so I'm glad I waited as long as I did but am very happy that I dove in:-)

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  16. Definitely a timely post! At a certain point, I have to wonder what can possibly be said that hasn't been already done, a million times, in a bunch of different ways.

    I do believe that when blogging takes over the writing, then something is out of whack, especially for the unpublished like myself.

    Glad the new book is getting good reviews. Thanks for your insight!

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  17. I, too, blog because I love to write. I also started my blog because it had been so many years since I had creatively written. I went through 7 years of college and law school solely writing legal briefs and memos that I wanted to use my blog as a way to ease myself back into writing and eventually work my way into completing my first novel. Amazingly, it's come back easier than I thought it would, and I also truly value the connections I've made via blogging. Part of me feels like if I make a connection out there with enough readers that will only help me in the event I am published.

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  18. Always something to learn about blogging and boundaries and professional writing. I'm often stuck in the middle. thanks.

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  19. Blogging will most likely not win you an agent. BUT, it can garner you attention and interest prior to your book's release date. It can also help you build an audience for your work and warm you up for writing/working on your novel. It should never be a distraction from your novel if that is what your true goal is. If it has become that, then yes--you should take a step back and prioritize. However, there is no one answer for everyone. Like each book--every writer is different and so is their path. It is most likely that the only thing that will land you the deal you seek is your book--if it is good. If you are distracted by blogging or anything else for that matter--you may not have that chance. I will also caution writers who choose NOT to blog until they become agented or land a book deal. This can be seen as negative as well. No one likes to be used. If you are simply using your blog as a means of promotion for your book or to sell books and not to connect with individuals--consider that you may turn people off. Letting people know you prior to the need to sell something by blogging before hand can help in that regard.

    Good luck everyone and great post!

    Cheers-
    Georgia McBride

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  20. I've done the same thing. Gave up entirely on my blog because it was consuming more time than the novel. I've since settled on a Friday word count and thoughts for the week post, as well as a random posting some other time in the week whenever something inspires me to post.

    I also actively review books on goodreads, so I post those as they come in on amazon and my blog since it doesn't' take much time to repost them on my blog.

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  21. I totally agree with you. I'm blogging for the information out there, and the sense of community. But I do have to put on the brakes, or my time disappears.

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  22. Great entry. You bring up some good points about how blogging won't necessarily get you published. I guess I took up blogging because I'm painfully shy at times and this was a good way to make contact with others with similar interests. I've also found a it a great writing exercise when I'm not working on a novel. I'm not published yet, but thanks to blogging, I'm learning a lot of great things just like I did here. Thank you.

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  23. My blog did lead to an agent and a book deal but it's non-fiction and served as the biggest part of my platform. When people hear this they rush out to get a blog but it doesn't ALWAYS work that way, especially for fiction writers. I had no dreams of being published when I started the blog. I just needed a less time-consuming way to keep up with students of my seminars.

    I do like reading back through blogs and comments for ideas for my new book. It does stimulate me...because my discipline to write does not exist.

    I know several people (not all writers) who have blogs that they don't keep up with and I never visit those blogs anymore. I think that a blog is a commitment and can sometimes overburden you. But it's good to dive in and see what happens.

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  24. They’re trying to juggle the unnecessary pressure of building a platform too early in their careers instead of focusing on building their writing skills. I agree with this statement only in the sense that I am probably embodying as I type. I think it's fun to blog for the sake of blogging, but it would be cool to see people on their journey to publication. but I agree, don't over do it. Great post. =)

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  25. I didn't have a blog when I got my agent and book deal... but sometimes I wish I did. And, my blog following is still tiny so it's obviously not doing much for me now. :)

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  26. I think it is important but it cannot take priority over the time spent writing. This is something that I get a little out of balance sometimes, and I need to regroup and do otherwise. Somehow you have this way of posting about things I've been pondering...:)
    Blessings!
    Karen

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  27. I started blogging (about being a parent) before I had many real aspirations for a professional writing career. At the time, I posted almost daily, and it was a great way to keep myself writing--for an audience, no matter how small.

    Since getting agented and selling my first novel, my posts have shifted a bit toward the writing part of my life, and the frequency is down to about twice a week. I'm not really certain if I'll ever go all the way toward a professional, writing-based blog. As a YA writer, it's not as though my audience is going to care about my writing process all that much, and probably they will care even less about my kids. But in terms of building community with other writers, I find it helpful, and in terms of sharing what my life is like--the balancing act of writing, full-time teaching, and mothering two crazy boys--I think it accomplishes that without taking over my professional writing time.

    Now we'll see what happens as I get closer to my publication date...who can say?

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  28. I completely agree with your points. The book has to come first. However, there are a lot of benefits to blogging. For instance, I just recently got a referral to an agent from one of her clients who I met through blogging, allowing me to jump the slushpile. I also found my awesome crit group through blogging.

    However, I think one of the most important things to consider is--do you like blogging? I blog five days a week, which takes some time. But I love blogging, so it's not a hardship. If you find blogging a burden or something you "have to do", that's going to come across to your readers and not accomplish anything. So, only do the social networking thing if it's something you truly enjoy.

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  29. An interesting post. For me, writing is work and blogging is relaxation. I love my blog but I wouldn't let it get in the way of my writing. I don't blog to impress an agent or obtain a publisher. I blog because I enjoy it.

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  30. Great post!! I don't have a definite reason for why I started blogging. I didn't have a book contract then but I had finished three manuscripts. I kept reading about "building your platform" and it seemed like a good idea to try and get my name out there a bit. I didn't blog every day and they were usually short when i did..but it was a start. The best part of starting my blog was meeting other bloggers and writers and agents and others in the publishing industry and learning from their experiences.

    I think it's a good idea for all writers, even if they don't want to start their own blog, to still get out there and read the blogs of writers in all stages of the process and agent blogs too. So much info out there!!

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  31. I started my website/blog after I self-published a few cookbooks. I thought if I added recipes online with comments and photos people would be able to see what they would get and know they could communicate with me. I don’t know if it helped, but my sales have gone up and are consistent (yeah!).

    The biggest threat now (since I fell in love with blogging) is the threat to my creative writing. More so on the “I have to check all the blogs I follow.” Over time, I’ve become strict with myself in regards to time, reading, and commenting. Sad, but necessary.

    I don’t think a blog will necessary help get and agent/editor/publisher but it might build readership if you are genuine (like you are) or post samples of your writing every now and then (like Falen and others).

    Once thing for sure, meeting new /debut/published authors has been great. To see their joys and grief with writing has been insightful.

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  32. I was told by my publisher (of my book that's in editing) to blog. Whether it will help sell the book or not, I'm enjoying blogging! It's fun. I've met so many wonderful people. And you see, I met you.

    This is an excellent post. As a writer, one does need to prioritize. The important thing is to write the book, and to write it well. This takes a lot of time and energy. As with anything in life, one has to keep a balance between writing and blogging.
    Ann

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  33. I didn't start blogging until after I'd sold a book. Yes, it's hard to write on my books and blog, but I think blogging has taught me disciple, plus I think it helps my writing. So while keeping a blog may not attract agents and publishers, it has many benefits for this writer. I love hearing comments from my followers. And yes, it feels like by blog is my office and where I can talk around the water cooler with friends.

    You're posts are always professional and make me want to write and work harder. Thanks!

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  34. "We have to know when to jump in and how deep." Jody,there is so much wisdom and maturity in this explanation. I'm bookmarking it and planning to share it!

    I believe the importance and value of blogging is a progressive thing. I would say that no, in the early stage of being unpublished a blog isn't important, but part way along I think it can enhance our experience within the writing community. However, I'm also convinced social media is addictive, so we need to be as disciplined with our blogging time as we are with our commitment to writing, and find an appropriate balance. When we find ourselves living in our "home office" (I love that blog description) to the detriment of functioning in the rest of the house, we know we've let that balance get out of whack!

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  35. I enjoy blogging but found it difficult to maintain a schedule or post periodically, for a while. With limited time to work on my MS I chose to focus my efforts there, and still do. But I am trying to become better at posting regularly.I've gone back and forth as to how helpful a blog can be for an unpublished author. It seems from reading different opinions that having the community before the product can be good to already have people who like & support you. I enjoy your posts and find them very helpful Thanks for your insight.

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  36. I blog because I enjoy it and enjoy the online frendships I've made along the way. That being said, recently I have decided to write all my posts for the week at once, then publish on various days. Hope that will help me to balance a bit as I have been spending too much time on blogging vs. novel writing and want to change that dynamic.

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  37. Great post, like usual, Jody. I agree with every single point.

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  38. I agree with you Jody, that blogging won't get you an agent, and if you're speding more time blogging than writing, you need to cut back. When I first started blogging, I did it partly because I felt that I needed to. But now I feel like I've developed realationships with other bloggers. Plus, I've learned so much from reading other people's blogs.

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  39. My blogging doesn't overtake my writing- I use it to infuse my writing. It's a welcome break from stories when I'm stuck or getting bogged down. I can blog about anything I want, and it's a little breath of writing fresh air. Plus, it allows me to move a little out of genre. Yay!

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  40. Thank you so much for sharing. I've been thinking of starting a blog for a while, but I guess I better concentrate on my writing for now.

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  41. When I received my publishing contract in 2008, my on-line presence consisted of an e-mail address. Only then did I set up a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. While that on-line stuff didn't get me a contract, it helped me make friends who would become readers when the book came out. I agree - establish a presence, but concentrate on the actual book!

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  42. I set up my blog at the start of my first novel. I consider my blog as part of my writing package. It's my writing group, so to speak.

    The fun of learning from others and meeting writers from around the world, would never have happened if I didn't blog.

    If I had never Twittered, I would never have found you and your valuable blog either. :)

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  43. This is a great post!

    I've been blogging for under a year. I'm neither published nor agented.

    At first, I thought I had nothing to say, nothing to offer. I was, as I said, not agented and not published, so what could I say to writers who are that they don't already know?

    As I became comfortable with Twitter and read the wealth of information and experiences out there, I realized I DO have something to offer. My perspective. The lessons I've learned along a journey other unagented and unpublished writers are also taking.

    I've logged about 30 or so blog posts now and have learned something else. The rigors of blogging are giving me an instant sense of accomplishment!

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  44. I was a blogger for 6 years before I wrote my book. But my blog was not about my book or anything like my (BTW, as-yet unsold) book.

    I don't think starting to blog as a PR trick is a very good idea. But I am glad I happened to have a strong Internet presence and real online community of friends and colleagues before I wrote my book. I can certainly use the scaffolding I constructed accidentally as a blogger to build some PR for my book when it sells.

    I will say this for blogging: after doing it for 18 months or so I really began to be exposed to professional writing opportunities I'd have never seen or been invited to join if I wasn't blogging. I've done a lot of freelance (nonfiction) writing both paid and unpaid (mostly paid these days) because of connections I made blogging.

    I just think publishers or agents or whoever is telling novelists to blog aren't necessarily aware of exactly what blogging is. It's a separate genre of writing, not a promotional vehicle. Real bloggers and blog readers can tell the difference and aren't interested in the latter.

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  45. I love Blogging. It's writing and getting instant feedback - instant connection.

    Blogging sometimes interferes with my novel writing but both are 'writing' activities.

    The problem I come up against is that BECAUSE Blogging IS writing - I'm not actually taking a break from writing by writing. Then I burn out faster and can't write anything until I get a real break!

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  46. Thanks for a very insightful article! A group of writers and I have started a blog, but we’re new at this and don’t know how to generate traffic. Any suggestions?

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  47. Hi Lorena,
    That's a great question. I think that I'll do a blog post about it very soon (maybe next week) in order to specifically offer my thoughts on the subject! Thanks for stopping by and asking!

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  48. Hi Jody,

    I look forward to reading your post! I have to say that I landed here by accident (searching for blogging information) but I'm delighted to have found your site. You have many interesting posts (the down side is I'm going to spend a lot of my writing time reading them, haha) I especially enjoyed your "4 Steps to Organizing Plot Ideas". Best of luck with your book!

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  49. I have had quite a number of friends ask me to follow their blogs because some publisher or agent wants to see that they can bring in followers. It really becomes a numbers game, and it's totally ridiculous.

    Write first. Then blog. Then put your writing on your blog. :)

    Lauren
    Lauren-ritz.blogspot.com

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    1. I agree, Lauren! We need to keep our writing THE top priority. I don't really know too many fiction publishers who really care all that much about fiction authors blogging. I think they realize too, that blogging isn't going to play a huge role in developing a readership. Putting out one good story after another is going to develop a readership!

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  50. I feel that as long as your consistent with a schedule and your writing is clear and precise there shouldn't be a reason why you couldn't blog. For me blogging is a way to practice my writing and to show consistency when I go apply for a job. I don't blog to get the job.

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    1. I agree! Blogging is a wonderful way to practice our writing. I've grown a lot as a writer by blogging, but the skills are slightly different than those I use for my fiction-writing. Beneficial nevertheless!

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  51. I started blogging five years ago and love it. But as a novelist and journalist I think it's essential not to spend too much time over writing a blog post. I give myself a 30-minute deadline to write a post and then get back to the day job of journalism and novels. It is a very good balance I reckon.

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    1. That's a great idea to limit your blog-writing time. I try to limit my blog writing to two afternoons a week. I schedule in the two days that I write my posts and that keeps me on track. We definitely can't let our blogging overshadow our fiction-writing. :-)

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  52. Great post. Do you feel the same principles apply to non-fiction writers?

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    1. I do think blogging can be much bigger tool for non-fiction writers. If you blog about your expertise in an engaging way, give to your readers, and can have your blog become known as a go-to blog, then yes, I definitely think your readers are going to be willing to buy your book once it's released! :-) Wishing you all the best!

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  53. I am regular reader of your blog and no doubt it all stuff is awesome. The best thing about your sharing and posting is that you always provide content that is helpful for both the newbie and experts. Looking for more stuff and tutorials.

    Love from Bloggers Town

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