Friday, January 18, 2013

Should Fiction Authors Be Bloggers?

By Joel Friedlander

It’s pretty easy to make the case that almost all authors should have a writer blog. And some publishers have asked their authors to start a blog if they don’t have one. Out of all the digital innovations that allow writers to advance themselves and their ideas, none can match blogging.

Here’s why blogging is a no-brainer:
  • It requires very few technical skills. Anyone who can produce a manuscript in a modern word processor likely has the skills to blog.
  • It costs very little to start blogging on your own domain, and it is free to create a hosted blog on sites like and
  • It allows you to set your own schedule, so there’s no outside deadline pressure.
And the rewards can be profound, especially considering bloggers are gaining them all by themselves. Blogs give you the opportunity to:
  • Create communities of interest around the books you publish and the ideas you promote
  • Interact with readers, and gain insight about what your readers have in common
  • Generate actionable marketing intelligence without much trouble or expense
  • Introduce your work to an ever-widening circle of readers
  • Create excitement about your forthcoming books, enlisting “raving fans” to help spread the word
You can even monetize your blog by offering other products or services that compliment your subject matter. A pretty good picture, don’t you agree? So where’s the problem?

Let’s Divide By Three

The problem is that all of these benefits only accrue easily to two kinds of authors:

1. Nonfiction authors with lesser effects for memoirists or literary nonfiction writers, and
2. Well-known fiction authors, who already have a fan base large enough to make their books successful.

In the first case, blogging is one of the most effective marketing devices available to an individual author. If you’re a nonfiction author wondering if it’s worth blogging, don’t debate, just do it and you’ll find out.

And if you’re something of a celebrity in your genre, your legions of fans will be fascinated by almost anything you write, giving you permission to satisfy their cravings with your blog.

But what about the third category?

3. Unknown fiction authors, aspiring novelists, and first-timers.

Let’s have a look.

They Are Trying, But Is It Working?

Many fiction authors have blogs, of course, but there’s one problem common to many of them: Many of the blog’s readers appear to be other struggling fiction authors.

If you scroll through the posts on these blogs, you will see a pretty typical mix of articles about what they are writing, personal stories and, for those who have published, articles about how they did it and what their results are. Some of these blogs are popular, but most, I’m afraid, never attract much attention and don’t seem to be doing much for their authors.

Another approach that seems to work better is used by authors whose work is centered around a specific historical period, a particular place or occupation, or some other theme that ties their work together. This allows the author to blog about the subject of her books instead of the writing or publishing process, which are mostly of interest to other writers.

And this makes sense. Some percentage of readers who enjoy novels set in ancient Egypt might well be attracted by blog articles that explore what life was like in that time and place. This also gives an author a way to put to productive use some of the research that goes into her books.

Likewise, a novelist who writes police procedurals might blog about advances in forensic science or interesting news items involving police investigations.

But do these blogs work in attracting fiction readers? I think that’s more problematic. Obviously, they can’t hurt, but it seems to me that people read novels for different reasons than they read informational articles.

What Are Your Choices?

I’ve had this conversation with numerous novelists, and some, like Joanna Penn, who is both a novelist and a very successful blogger, have suggested there are other things that might be better for fiction writers (until they become mega-famous, of course) to focus on when it comes to marketing your books.

These might include:
  • Concentrating on getting the best book cover you can afford for your book.
  • Making sure you have killer sales copy for the back cover and everywhere your book will be listed.
  • Offering a sample chapter or look inside the book to entice readers into the story.
  • Creating a book review program when your book is new.
  • Making sure your book is widely available and attractively priced.
So if you’re a novelist, should you be blogging? At this point, the answer is “it depends.” For the right writer with an appreciative audience, blogging can be a powerful way to create a community surrounding your books. Until you get those fans, put all of your efforts into writing great books and promoting them as your long-term plan.

Joel Friedlander is a self-published author, an award-winning book designer, and an accomplished blogger. He's the founder of the Self-Publishing Roadmap online training course, and a frequent speaker at industry events where he talks to writers about how the new tools of publishing can help them reach and inspire their readers.

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