On the Facebook group English Historical Fiction Writers, one of the members said that she’d been told she needed a blog, and asked for recommendations for a good blogging tool. The discussion segued, in the wonderful way that conversations do, into questions about whether ‘need’ was the right word.
Should writers blog? And if so, why?
As you will quickly realise if you look through my posts so far, I’ve been blogging for less than four weeks. At least as Jude Knight. But I’ve been blogging for a lot longer under my commercial writing identity, and I didn’t even think about whether or not to blog until Lynn’s respondents raised the question.
Key point number one: write a great book
Another discussion on Facebook a few days ago asked whether we write because we enjoy it, or whether we write to make money. Now, not being a fool, I don’t expect to make a fortune as a novelist. Would I like to? Too right! I’d love to write fiction full-time, and for that to happen, it needs to generate enough income to pay the bills.
To sell, though, I need a few things.
- First, I need to write a book that is worth reading. Nothing else I need to do even comes close to this in importance.
- Second, I need to let people know that the book exists. The kinds of people who read my kind of book. Lots and lots of people. They can’t buy it if they don’t know about it.
- And then there are a heap of other practical things that I’m not going to talk about in this post.
My to-do list
If you look into my OneNote personal notebook, you’ll find a to-do list I made way back in May.
My idea was to raise my profile before I published Farewell to Kindness. To me, that means making myself visible to people who might enjoy reading what I’ve written. And that means giving them a reason to visit, which in turn means giving them something that they find interesting.
Liabilities and assets
In making myself visible, I have a few challenges. Here I am at the other end of the feed chain in so many ways.
- I’m a new novelist, untried, and, as I said in my very first post, unsure about many, many things.
- I’m in New Zealand, far away from most of my potential readers, and unable to easily connect with them in any way except online.
- I have very limited time to introduce myself to people, and still write, and still work full-time to pay the mortgage, and still be a wife and grandmother. And let’s not even mention the garden.
And I have a few advantages.
First, I have some practical knowledge of the technicalities of creating and maintaining an online presence:
- I work in the writing industry, and have created and maintained a number of websites and blogs
- I know a little bit about other social media.
Second – and much, much more important – I really, really like getting into conversations with other people about books and about history.
Social media should be social
This is what blogging should be about, in my opinion. People meeting people and having conversations. So my plan is to blog about the things I’m currently thinking about – research that fascinates me, bits of the writing process, long answers to short online discussions.
I absolutely agree that a blog will not sell books. That’s not its purpose. What it will do, if it serves a useful purpose in the community of writers and history buffs, is attract people to your website (yes, your blog should be part of your website), thereby pushing the website up in search engine results. And search engines respond to changing content, so a blog helps there, too.
And useful content gets shared and it gets comments, and both of these also push the site up in search engine rankings.
Do readers read blogs? I’ve heard arguments both ways, but there is no doubt that readers go to authors’ websites to find out what books that author has. So the more likely you are to appear in the first two or three search pages, the more likely it is that your reader will find you.
Your blog can also be set to automatically update your Facebook page, so if you have a Facebook following, building a blog following should be pretty easy. (I’ve also set my Twitter feed to update my Facebook page, and to post to the right hand column of my blog. More automatic changes, so better search engine results, once again.)
The key, as always, is useful content.
This is a WordPress website
So, to answer Lynn’s initial question, I’ve used WordPress to create a website with a blog as the home page. I like WordPress; I’ve used it before, and I appreciate the broad range of plugins. I also found a very neat series of tutorials that pointed me to plugins that made it really easy to create a multi-functional website.
I particularly like MyBookTable, which turns creating book pages into a snap.
I’ve been exploring a number of different social media outlets, and here are my conclusions so far.
- Blogging is a great way to share stuff I learn.
- The website is a kind of an anchor for my online personality.
- Facebook lets me connect with all sorts of people, and discover who has information I might be interested, and who needs help I might be able to give.
- Goodreads lets me talk to other readers about the books I’ve loved and the ones I haven’t (as do the four or five review blogs I’ve started to follow).
- Pinterest is an easy way to collect images I might use later, and keep them in a place where they might be useful to others.
- Twitter is useful for small snippets of information, but can also be a great timewaster – I’m going to have to ration my use.