If you’re not already blogging, you’ve probably wondered whether you should be.
If you are already blogging, you’ve probably wondered whether it’s a waste of time.
As you might guess from the very existence of the Aliventures blog, I’m a fan of blogging. But I don’t think it’s right for every writer.
Before we get into the pros and cons, let’s take a quick look at what I mean when I say “blog”.
What Exactly is a Blog?
A blog is a website that’s regularly updated with new “posts”. These could be news articles, updates about an author, magazine-style articles, excerpts from a novel-in-progress, academic essays, or almost anything else you can think of.
The key to a blog is that new, discrete pieces of content are posted. This isn’t the same as just keeping a website up to date (e.g. by amending contact details).
Some websites, like Aliventures, are blog-focused: if you go to the home page, you get the blog itself. There are almost always a few non-blog bits of content like an About page or a Contact page. (Click the links to see mine.)
Other websites, like K.M. Weiland’s author site, are focused on “static” pages (ones that don’t change much), with a blog for updates.
Chances are, you already read a bunch of blogs. You might even get their posts delivered into Feedly (or another RSS reader), or straight to your email inbox.
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But should you have a blog?
I can’t answer that for you – but I can help you decide.
Five Reasons to Blog
#1: To Build an Audience for Your Writing
This is probably the reason that most writers think of blogging: they want to build up an audience. Some writers are happy doing this for its own sake, but many will have a particular goal in mind, like selling books to that audience, or selling writing-related services.
If building an audience is a key reason why you blog, or want to blog, then:
- Think hard about who you’re writing for. If you’re marketing your services as a copywriter, you’ll be blogging about rather different topics from someone marketing their romance novels.
- Post something new on a consistent basis. I think once a fortnight is probably the minimum, and if you can manage once a week, that’s great.
- Make it easy for readers to get updates from your blog straight to their email inbox, or to their RSS reader. Most bloggers will put the email signup and RSS link at the top of their sidebar.
- Find ways to spread the word about your blog beyond your existing readers. That might mean guest posting on someone else’s blog, encouraging your readers to share your posts on social media, and getting to know other bloggers and writers.
#2: To Get Your Name Recognised
As your audience grows, so will your name recognition. This can be a huge draw as a writer – if nothing else, it’s nice to feel that people know who you are and look forward to your posts! It can also put you in a much stronger position for contacting agents and publishers.
Back in November 2011, I had an email completely out of the blue from an editor at Wiley (which led, less than a year later, to Publishing E-Books For Dummies hitting the shelves). I got that email because I was speaking about ebooks at a conference – and I got that conference gig because I’d built up my reputation in the writing/blogging world through blogging.
If name recognition is a key reason why you blog, or want to blog, then:
- Use your real name (or the pseudonym you publish under). I know that sounds rather obvious, but some bloggers use a nickname. If using your real name definitely isn’t an option for you, then pick a realistic pseudonym to use instead.
- Spread your name beyond your own blog. Guest posting is the very best way to do this, as you’ll get not only your name but also a short bio alongside your guest pieces – and you’ll get access to much larger blogs than your own.
- Get active on social media so that other bloggers get to know your name. Twitter is usually the best network to connect on, and you’ll find that busy big-name bloggers are often much more likely to reply on Twitter than by email.
3. Connect With Other Writers
Even if you’re not bothered about building a huge audience, you might want to blog for the sense of connection it gives you with other writers – particularly if you already know a fair few people who are blogging or active in online communities.
If you like journal-style blogging, where you write about what’s happening in your writing life (or even your life more broadly), then you’ll probably find it best to concentrate on building a small, loyal audience of peers. Unless you have a fantastically interesting life, or a really strong voice, it’s hard to build a big audience for this type of blog.
If connection is a key reason why you blog, or want to blog, then:
- Take the initiative in commenting on other people’s blogs and supporting them: they’ll likely return the favour.
- Join online or offline writing communities and get to know other writers. In online forums, put a link to your blog in your signature. Offline, you can just tell people about your blog — or offer to help them start one of their own.
- Post regularly, but not excessively. While (hopefully!) your writing friends will be interested in how you’re doing, they’re unlikely to have the time to read a new post from you every day, unless it’s very short.
- Consider using a Facebook group to stay up-to-date with writer friends if your blog feels like it’s taking up too much of your time for little reward.
#4: Establish a Regular Writing Habit
If you’ve never written consistently, or if life’s derailed you, then blogging can be a really good way to establish a strong, regular writing habit – after all, you’ve got people waiting to read what you publish.
This doesn’t have to mean writing daily, but it’s helpful if you write at least a couple of times per week. Even if you’re only publishing one post per week, you might find it easier to write it in stages.
If establishing a writing habit is a key reason why you blog, or want to blog, then:
- Commit to posting something new at least once a week. Tell your readers what they can expect from you. Here on Aliventures, for instance, I’ve committed to publishing a new post every Monday and sending out the Aliventures email newsletter every Thursday.
- Choose a regular time, twice a week or more, to sit down and work on your blog posts. Back in the bad old days when I still had a day job, I did this from 6am – 6.45am. If you can’t face early mornings, can you write for 30 – 45 minutes in the evenings?
- Plan ahead. It can be really tough to sit down and write when you don’t know what you’re going to write about. If you come up with a few ideas and quick outlines for blog posts in advance, you can just pick one from your list and get started.
#5: Grow as a Writer
Blogging has done more than anything else – including my Masters in Creative Writing – to help me grow as a writer. It’s taught me new aspects of the craft of writing, it’s helped me find my voice, and it’s got me comfortable putting my words out there for public consumption.
If your growth as a writer is a key reason why you blog, or want to blog, then:
- Look for ways to stretch yourself, rather than just doing the same old thing every week. Perhaps you want to work on a longer piece of content, like an ebook to give away to your readers – or even a full-length book to sell.
- Write for other people’s blogs, and pay particular attention to the style of those blogs. This might mean adapting the way you structure your posts, or the way you phrase things – a great way to learn how to consciously craft your writing.
- Take risks with your writing. This can be really scary, but it’s hard to really grow unless you do things that are outside your current comfort zone. Write a post that’s angry or impassioned, or one that’s structured in an unusual way.
So … five great reasons to blog, with lots of suggestions on making those work for you. It’s all good. Right?
There’s one big bad aspect of blogging that you need to think hard about, though.
One Big Reason NOT to Blog: It Takes a Ton of Time
Blogging will take up quite a lot of your time.
Not just writing time – though of course that’s a big part of it. You’ll need to get to grips with the technical side of things, you might want to play around with your blog’s design, and you’ll almost certainly find yourself spending a bit too much time on social media.
If you’re a novelist, blogging usually isn’t a great way to promote your work. In terms of return on time invested, you’d be better off concentrating on optimising your novels’ profiles on Amazon, getting more reviews, using paid advertising … and writing more novels.
If your big goal for this year is to finally write that novel you’ve been dreaming of writing, this is probably NOT the year to also start your blog.
I love blogging. Without it, I’d probably still be stuck in a 9 – 5 job, dreaming in vain of finding an agent and becoming a best-selling novelist overnight.
But blogging might not be right for you, or it might not be right for you at the moment.
Be honest with yourself: do you have the time to blog?
If you don’t have time, you’re unlikely to get much benefit from it – because it’s pretty much impossible to build an audience, get your name out there, connect with other people, establish a writing habit, or grow as a writer if you only get round to posting something new every couple of months.
If you do have time, fantastic! J I suggest checking out Michael Hyatt’s archive of posts on blogging. Michael has a hugely popular blog, and he’s the former CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers, so his advice is very much on target for writers.
If you’re not sure whether you have time, then pop on over to the newsletter page to get your copy of Time to Write, my mini-ebook designed to help you make more time, and make the most of it.
If you have a blogging-related question, just pop it in the comments below. If it’s a quick one, I’ll answer it there: if it’s something that’s a bit more in-depth, I’ll use it for a future blog post.