Happy New Year! During my blogging break last week, I evaluated the direction I wanted to take my blog in the coming year. I asked myself some hard questions about my blog and what I’m hoping to accomplish through blogging.
Among the many questions I asked, one in particular kept surfacing: “Do fiction readers really read author blogs?” I’m not talking about a one or two time visit. I’m talking about a regular following, week in and week out.
I’d always imagined at some point after I published my first book, I’d slowly transition my posts, gearing them toward the readers of my books and fans of historical romance. I believed readers would come to my website and blog, and that I’d be able to connect with them there.
But now, several months past publication, I don’t think it’s working out the way I imagined. A few readers have left blog comments, but they’re not flocking to my site. Granted most of my posts are geared for writers. But even when I’ve ventured into other more generic topics that might interest readers too, I’ve still had a hard time drawing them in.
Most of my readers connect with me through personal emails or on Facebook. So, again, I can’t help wondering, do fiction readers really hang out on author blogs?
I honestly haven’t seen too many fiction authors who have large followings of blog readers. As I pondered the phenomenon, here are a few of the reason why I think many fiction author blogs fail to draw their readers:
Blogs are largely non-fiction writing. And our readers are interested in our fiction. Even if we talk about our characters or interesting facts from our stories, readers don’t usually have the time or interest to keep coming back to our blogs to hear ongoing facts about our books or about us. In other words, blog posts are not our books. And that’s what our readers like and want.
Topical non-fiction blogs tend to generate more consistent traffic. Think about the blogs we read on a regular basis—they usually involve sports news, parenting, or some other topic that is of particular interest to us. We go there because we’re getting something—sports scores, parenting advice, etc. So when we writers use our blogs as public journals to talk about a hodge-podge of ideas, like our families and cats, most people aren’t going to seek us out on a regular basis unless they’re loyal friends or family. If we hope to develop a larger readership, then we have to go beyond posts that are just about us.
If we pick a topic for our blog, it might not necessarily appeal to our fiction readers. For example, if we choose to blog about writing, or historical trivia, or romance, or mental illness, or whatever—we’ll likely draw readers to our blogs who are interested in that specific topic. And those readers may not necessarily be interested in our fiction. Sure, there may be some overlap. But let's say I geared my blog around historical trivia. There's no guarantee that the history buffs who seek out my posts would be interested in my historical romances. In other words, with topical blogging, we could end up building a different readership than we have for our fiction.
Blogging is an excellent tool for non-fiction writers hoping to develop a readership. Non-fiction writers should use their blogs to showcase the topic of their books and draw in future readers. But I’m realizing that for average fiction writers, unless we’re a big brand name with a hug fan base, it’s not likely our blogs will be a huge magnet for our readers.
So what’s a fiction writer to do? What should we blog about?
When I tossed around ideas for the direction to take this blog in 2011, I came to the realization that perhaps I don’t need to switch what I'm doing. I’m passionate about writing and publication, and since that’s something I love, why not keep blogging about it? Writers seem to find my posts helpful and insightful. Perhaps some of the readers of my books (when they do stop by my blog) will enjoy getting an inside glimpse of the writing and publication process.
Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves when trying to discover what to blog about:
What are we most passionate about? What topics interest us?
Then once we’ve narrowed down our focus and topic, we should begin to ask: How are we going to make the world a better place through that topic? How can we help others with our blogs? What can readers take away from our posts? If we want them to continue to come back, then we must meet a need they have.
Question for readers: If you’re a reader, what would you like to see in author blogs? What would draw you back on a regular basis?
Question for published authors: If you’re a published author and you have a steady, growing population of your fiction readership visiting your blog, what are you doing to keep them coming back?
I’d love to hear your opinions. Do you think fiction writer blogs can really attract their fiction readership on an ongoing basis? And if so, how?