Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why Indie Writers Should Blog

One thing most literary agents seem to have in common is that they want authors to have blogs. Some of them won't even consider an author's work unless he or she has a blog and updates it regularly, on the theory of 'If you don't bother promoting your work, then why should I?'

It seems to me that as indies, we should do no less. It seems to some other indie writers I talk to that it's a waste of precious writing time. We don't have to cater to those agents, after all.

Here's why I think we should blog:

Readers get enthused about authors, not just books: Ever wonder how some truly awful books climb to the top of the Amazon lists? I think you'll find it starts with charismatic authors connecting with readers, who buy the books because they like the authors so much. I'd like to say this doesn't matter if your book is good, but I'm afraid experience tells me there are just too many books out there, and yours isn't likely to be noticed without a personal introduction.

Google Adsense: Blame the economy if you want, or compare it to the decline of the horse and buggy, but the old buy-a-copy-for-twenty-four-fifty model is going away. A great alternative: offer valuable content consistently, sign up for Adsense and make your money like they do with television. It takes time, but it works.

To build a fan base: It's one of the nicest feelings in the world, knowing there are people out there - not just my family and friends but people I'd never heard of - who visit this site regularly to see what I've posted today, and are impatient for the next installment of my current novel.

I stumbled about quite a bit before I hit on a successful strategy. I'm sure the 'right' method varies according to your personal style and who your ideal audience is, but here's what I've found works for me:

Be yourself: Your unique personality is your most valuable product, and everyone has to come to you to get it. When I started this blog, I was very concerned with keeping up a professional image, to the extent that I kept my experiences, my feelings and my struggles as a writer out of it. As a result, I had very little to say that wasn't already being said on more popular websites. When I switched to a more personal approach, I found that I had plenty to say, and plenty of people wanted to read it.

Be professional: Drama may be great for your fiction, but it has no place in your blog. If you're mad at your husband, you hate the President or your daughter's a &%@#!, tell that to your husband, the President or your therapist, but please don't tell us. It may be tempting, especially at first when 'nobody will see it anyway', but giving yourself a reputation as a whiner and a gossip will only hurt you.

Showcase what you love: It's part of what makes you unique and interesting, and enthusiasm is very contagious. Subjects that interest you will probably show up in your fiction at some point, anyway, so don't worry if your enthusiastic post on football or crannogs seems a little off-topic. It won't stay off-topic for long and it will help your readers get to know you.

Consolidate your online presence: I used to have two blogs and a website. I could never seem to keep them up-to-date, not to mention promote them, and readers who did stumble across one of them missed out on the other two-thirds of the content. When I discovered that Blogger would let me integrate my website with my blog by adding static pages, I was delighted. I combined them, directed my domain to the blog, and so far, the marriage has been very successful.

Post regularly. I have to shake my head when people tell me, "I don't blog that often because nobody reads it anyway." That's like saying, "I don't bother job-hunting because I don't get a paycheck." It may not be a pleasant thought in our instant-gratification culture, but writer loyalty has to come before reader loyalty; you have to earn your following. That doesn't mean you have to post every day, but you should post predictably and keep your blog fresh.

Keep your nose clean. Soliciting clicks, signing up for dubious link-exchange programs and spamming other websites will only hurt you in the end. Doing things the ethical way may take longer, but when you're enjoying the income from ten years of a solid reputation, you'll be glad you did.

Remember that blogging's only part of it. A blog is a social media tool, and by itself it's about as good as a one-legged chair. Integrate it with your ideal mix of Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, LinkedIn and whatever else.

Join the Communist Party. Oops, I mean the community party. Talk about your fellow writers and other people you admire. Trade guest posts and include lots of links. And have fun. Nobody wants to read a grumpy blog.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. It made me think about Google Adsense. I will definitely take the time to look into it...right after I join the communist party.