By Iola Goulton | @IolaGoulton
I'm often asked this question. It seems that the very thought of marketing and platform building and blogging—especially blogging—strike fear into the heart of even the most intrepid writer. So they tell themselves they hate blogging. And don't blog.
Do authors have to have a platform?
Yes. Your platform is how you sell books—it's your way of demonstrating authority in your chosen topic, and of developing relationships with current and potential readers.
And a blog is one of the typical components of an author platform. The others are:
- Email List
- Social Media
(If you know you need to start building your author platform but have no idea where to start, or if you've made a start but aren't sure if you're on the right track, you need to join my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform. Click here to check it out.)
It used to be said that non-fiction authors need to blog (as a way of establishing authority in your chosen field), but that fiction authors didn't. But opinion on this is changing, as a blog is a great way to establish a relationship with potential readers.
But don't let that frighten you off. Blogging isn't scary—at least, I don't think so. Although I might be lying to myself ...
In fact, I am lying to myself. Here's the big lie I tell myself:
Only one person is reading my posts.
My professional background is as a management consultant specialising in writing long and detailed reports (never mind the quality. Feel the weight!). Lots of long words and long sentences and long paragraphs. Plenty of passive voice. My early blog posts—even my book reviews—reflected that writing style. I still struggle with writing a swoof-y book review (swoof = squeezing words out of feelings).
So it was a good thing that only one person was reading my early posts. It gave me the opportunity to try, experiment, and improve. I know more than one person reads my posts now. But I still write as though only one person is going to read it. It frees me to write what I think needs to be written. And it helps me solidify what I need to include because I'm not writing for everyone. I'm writing for that one person.
(Note that the "one person" may change depending on what I'm writing. If you've ever read one of my posts and thought, "Wow. She could have been writing that for me!" ... maybe I was. Knowingly or unknowingly.)
Yes, I write for an audience of one. (Not One. He already knows!)
I've discovered a few secrets in writing and publishing over 1,000 blog posts in the last six years. Okay, so most of those were book reviews which some people say aren't real blog posts. But other people loathe writing book reviews. And Aunty Google sees them as blog posts, so they count.
Here are my four tips.
If you think you're going to hate blogging, you will. Conversely, if you think blogging regularly might be a fun challenge, it will be. If you really hate the idea of having a blog, call it something different: a journal, a diary, a magazine, a letter.
2. Find Your Voice
Blogging is great training for writing. It helps you find your writing voice. It gets you used to writing to a deadline and that's a good thing. I am a procrastinator. I say I work best with a deadline, but that just means I ignore everything that doesn't have a deadline (like, say, housework). It also means that the only way I can get anything done is by setting myself a deadline.
Blogging is perfect. I set myself regular weekly deadlines, and I achieve them (almost) every week. Plan. Write. Revise. Edit. Schedule. Promote.
The hardest part is getting started.
If you're seeking a traditional publisher, blogging regularly has the advantage of showing potential agents and publishers that you can write, and that you can write to a schedule.
3. Have a Plan
One of the most common complaints I hear about blogging is that people don't know what to write. Planning ahead helps. Jeff Goins suggests keeping a list of possible blog post topics. No pressure—just write down the topic and a few notes when inspiration hits. Later, go through your list of potential topics and pick one to write. Edit, and schedule.
I always use the schedule function.
It means I can blog at the same time each week. When I'm on a blogging roll I can write two or more posts, then edit and schedule them to post over time. It's a much better approach than posting three days in a row, then not posting again for a month.
So pick a regular time to post, and stick with it.
4. Join a Meme
Joining a meme is an extension of having a plan. A blogging meme is where a group of bloggers post on a similar subject at a set time. The meme usually has a host, and all participating bloggers link back to the host's site (and from there, they can find other participants in the meme).
Many memes pose a question of some kind. The blogger answers the question, then asks visitors to answer the same question in the comments. This encourages participation, and is a great way of getting to know your readers.
More importantly, participating in a meme or blog hop a ready-made answer to the eternal question: what do I blog about? It's also a regular weekly or monthly blogging schedule, which Google likes.
I'll be back next week to share some of my favourite memes.
Do you blog? Why or why not?
About Iola Goulton
Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).
Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.