Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
A writer emailed me to ask, "When do you think a writing blog should be started? Before you publish so people have someplace to go if they're interested, right away? After you publish so there's already interest, hopefully, and something to talk about? And how do you get attention once you have one?"
I see this question asked fairly often, and it always knot me up inside because I'm fearful of saying the wrong thing. Every writer's path is different. Every blog and blog readership is different. With blogs:
There are no absolutes or guarantees
Some published authors have very popular blogs. Other very successful authors have blogs that don't seem to have much traffic. And then Jill and I, who aren't racing up any best sellers lists, have seen success with Go Teen Writers. You can do things to help your blog be successful - like posting consistently and promoting on social media sites - but sometimes even that doesn't get you traffic.
Why are you starting a blog?
This is the first question you should ask, in my opinion. Who is the blog for? Who do you want to reach? What are your goals? Because if your goal is to sell books...that won't keep readers coming around. I don't like being sold to all the time, do you?
I've blogged unsuccessfully and successfully. And you can see the difference in these answers:
Who is this blog for?
My original blog that was on my author website: Uh, the publisher told me I should have one, and I want to do what they ask.... Teens, I guess.
Go Teen Writers: Teens who love writing and who hope to be published someday.
Who do you want to reach?
Original blog: Whoever is already on my website and wants to connect with me.
Go Teen Writers: Teen writers.
What are your goals?
Original blog: To promote my books and to be able to connect with readers.
Go Teen Writers: To encourage teen writers along their journey and to build a community for them.
When you look at those answers, it's clear why my author blog never grew to more than ten or so faithful readers. I had no idea what I was doing or who I was doing it for.
Why a blog?
Another question you should ask is if a blog is the right thing for you. When a blog is done well, it takes up a lot of time. A lot of time that you could be using to write or read. When you think about your goals, is a blog the best way to achieve those goals? Or would it be better to use a YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, or other sites that I'm not savvy enough to know about?
I've seen writers have success with starting email loops for their genre or with Facebook groups for people who are in the same season of life as them. I've been a part of YA lit email loops and was briefly in a Stay At Home Writers Facebook group for moms who write with little kids underfoot. Maybe you don't need or want a blog, maybe another format would serve you better.
How is this different than what's already out there?
This one requires a bit of research. When I first started Go Teen Writers, I did an internet search to see what else was out there for teen writers. Because I knew if teens were already happily plugged into a community, that meant they probably weren't looking for a new one. Figure out what would make your blog unique.
When should you start? Before or after you're published?
I have no idea. Some people create wildly successful blogs and land book contracts and TV shows because of it, like The Pioneer Woman. Other people limp around in the blogosphere but still manage to get book contracts.
I don't talk to publishing committees on a regular basis, but it seems to me that a great blog can help you, but a so-so blog won't hurt too much because there are so many ghost town blogs out there. (Unless on your blog you regularly roast editors and publishing houses - that will hurt you.)
If you start the blog after you're published, you'll have something to promote (your book) but it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have more to talk about. The average writer's life isn't full of blog fodder.
Should you talk about writing?
This wasn't in the question, but I'll address it anyway. Writing is a natural thing for us to want to talk about. We are, after all, writers. And other than my kids and trips to Costco, there really isn't much that's consistent in my life that I could talk about outside of writing.
Amanda Luedeke is an agent with MacGregor Literary (Jill's agent, actually) and she wrote a
|View Amanda's book on Amazon|
Blogging as a fiction writer is difficult. So difficult, that if I were in your shoes, I’d probably choose something else to build my platform. Maybe Facebook or Twitter. Something easier. Because unlike nonfiction authors, fiction authors aren’t really experts at things. They don’t have people coming to them, looking for answers or solutions or world peace. They don’t have that clear topic to drive their blog. They just have themselves and their imagination. And that doesn’t always make for an interesting blog experience.
But she does offer 6 great ideas for blogging as a fiction writer in her article, and you can read her great suggestions for blogging and growing your blog here.
I don't consider myself an expert in blogging or anything, but if you have questions, you can leave them below and I'll do my best to answer them.
Next week Jill and I will be teaching at the One Year Adventure Novel conference in lovely Olathe, Kansas. This means we won't be blogging BUT Jill had a fabulous idea. Next week we're going to host a massive word war here on the blog.
Not sure what a word war is? It's where a group of writers compete to see who can write the most words in a set amount of time. Details will go live on the blog Monday morning, so make sure you check it out!