Last year, I wrote a column with three golden rules for author blogging. Here they are, in order of importance: (1) create relationships, (2) entertain your readers, and (3) sell books. The first rule is, by far, the most important. (Most of) Your blog posts must have as their main goal to create relationships with your blog readers.
Whether you are writing blog posts on your own blog, writing guest posts on someone else’s blog, or “microblogging” on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, your primary goal had better be to create relationships with other people. If you are simply spamming people to “buy my book,” then you are driving readers away from you. You are failing at social media, and worse, you are being annoying.
Repeat this to yourself every time you sit down to write a blog post: “My job is to create relationships with my readers.”
If you feel shaky about your author blog, this column will help you launch your blog or improve the one your already have.
What is a blog?
Let’s back up a moment with some technology basics. What is a blog? A blog is a page on your website that you update with “posts” on a regular basis. The page is a page like any other page on your website, but instead of holding steady with its content, it functions more like your Facebook wall as a place where you post new content, and the newest content is posted to the top.
Why have a blog?
The most important reason to have a blog on your website is to create relationships with your readers—as I mentioned in the opening to this column. But the second most important reason to have a blog on your website is to increase web traffic to your website. Posting blog posts to your website informs the internet that your website is active and pushes your website up in web searches. When you write about a hot topic, when people search that hot topic, they will find your post. If you share your posts on social media like Facebook or Twitter, you drive more traffic to your website. And driving more traffic to your website encourages people to learn more about you—about your other blog posts, about your biography, and about your books.
But blogging is hard work!
That’s totally true. It is indeed hard to write a regular blog. Furthermore, it is not a good idea to let your blog go “stale”—ideally you post something new once a week. (!!) So how to do you write an interesting, fun blog, one that creates good relationships with readers—and do all of this without wearing yourself out?
Here are some ideas
(1) Host a friendly author correspondence. My friend and fellow novelist Lauren Faulkenberry and I write public letters back and forth and we publish them on our blogs. When I write a letter to Lauren, we each publish it on our blogs. When she writes a letter to me, ditto. Do you see that magic? First, there’s a pre-created topic.
Second, there’s already something to respond to! Third, we’re giving our readers a peek into something personal, which is always something a reader appreciates. And fourth—and most importantly—one post goes on TWO blogs—we get to double-dip! (When you see how we publish these, notice the important preamble material we put at the beginning of the letters so readers who are starting in the middle know that the letters are a series.)
(2) Host author interviews. Reach out to authors online and invite them to be interviewed on your blog. Authors often need publicity, and you need blog posts. The best interviews, however, are not boring. Come up with fun themes for your author interviews and use them for all of them, so that your develop a readership who expects these quirky interviews.
(3) Keep a list of possible blog topics going all the time. This is super important. I have a list of possible ideas that I’m constantly adding to. At red lights. When I’m in the shower—I hop out and write them down. They’re everywhere. And you need to keep a list. On a similar note, take a lot of pictures with your phone. Take pictures of strange things you see, funny signs, weird cars, anything. These strange pictures are excellent starting points for blog posts, which leads me to my last piece of advice…
(4) Always, always lead with a photograph. Blog posts that don’t have photographs don’t get read nearly as often as those that do. Plus, that adage about pictures and 1000 words is true—if you use an image, you don’t have to write as much. Some people spend some of their blogs simply “photoblogging.” Yes, that’s a real thing. Which leads me to my final piece of advice…
(5) Just write something, even if it’s short. Short, regular blogging is better than no blogging at all.
Best of luck with your blog. Be sure to share your posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter so that your readers can find them. Pretty soon, your blog will start generating its own community. That’s when you’ll know that you’ve done it right.
Katie Rose Guest Pryal, J.D., Ph.D., is a novelist, freelance journalist, and lawyer in Chapel Hill, NC. She is the author of the Entanglement Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, and CHASING CHAOS, all from Velvet Morning Press. As a journalist, Katie contributes regularly to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late, lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE, and more. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. Currently, she is teaching creative writing through Duke University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, working as a writing coach and editor, and writing her next novels.