By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
When I first started blogging, it seemed that everyone was saying writers should blog to develop a platform. Of course, I jumped on the bandwagon, fascinated and even excited about the prospect of meeting other writers through blogging.
With newbie enthusiasm, I was pumping out five posts a week, visiting lots of blogs to meet new people, and commenting like crazy.
That momentum couldn't last forever (not without sacrificing my writing). Eventually I dropped down to posting three times a week and did that for a year or two. Then I decreased to twice a week for while. And now I only blog once a week on Tuesdays.
After five years, I've learned a LOT about blogging. The number one conclusion I've drawn is that having a blog is NOT essential to a fiction-writer's platform. Why? Because readers aren't surfing author blogs consistently if at all. Thus blogs won't help writers sell significantly more books. Instead of wasting countless hours writing blog posts, writers are better off putting their energy into writing books.
Sidenote: Lest you think I don't draw true "readers" because my blog is geared toward writers, I did experiment for a while with one post a week specifically written to interact with readers. The page views on those particular days dropped drastically, while hits on my writing related posts have only grown.
All that to say, I don't think blogging is necessary for fiction writers (non-fiction is different!). Fiction writers will get more bang for their buck by putting time and money into their books, not blogs.
However, that's not to say blogging has no value to a novelist. It does . . . to a degree. Some people simply enjoy the process of communicating in a blogging format, sharing their thoughts, public journaling, and meeting new people. Others use their blogs to update readers occasionally with events or new books. Those can be valid reasons to blog.
I simply caution writers who start blogging because they want to use it as a platform to draw in readers of their books. Be wary of having too high of expectations. Be careful of expending too much energy on it. Definitely don't sacrifice writing time to blog. And be realistic about the result of blogging helping with sales of book (because it will only help VERY minimally).
For those hearty, daring souls who persist in blogging, there are ways we can give our blogs a chance at having relative success, (and not just having our posts read by a dozen people, half of whom are spammers). After all, no one wants to put time into writing posts no one will read.
As I've analyzed blogs over the years, here are five qualities that "successful" blogs seem to have in common:
1. The blog has a target audience. They know who they're trying to reach and why. Whether that's writers, young parents, work-at-home moms, feminists, etc. the blog is relatable and enjoyable for a specific group.
2. The posts give the audience a reason to keep coming back. The blogger offers something tangible that speaks to a need in the reader. Visitors take away something every time. It could be advice, encouragement, knowledge, community, etc. Whatever it is, readers are willing to sacrifice busy time to swing by the blog because visiting is a worthwhile use of their limited time.
3. The posts are user-friendly, fairly short, and easy-to-read. Enough said.
4. The blogger uses multiple social media outlets for promotion of posts. It's not enough to have the philosophy "If we build it, they will come." No, unfortunately, when we publish a blog post, no one will come . . . unless we promote in multiple places, like Twitter and Facebook (although if we over-promote then people begin to tune us out). Making pinnable graphics for Pinterest can also create a continuous source of traffic (since pins are constantly being repinned).
5. The posts are consistent and reliable. Readers are more apt to return if they know WHEN we're posting (rather than having a random schedule) and if they know they'll get consistently good content time after time.
What's your blogging story? Has your blog been helpful to you or not? What do you think goes into having a successful blog?
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