By: P. S. Hoffman | May 17, 2018
Writers: There is a a good chance you don’t need an author blog.
Static author websites are great, and you’d be crazy not to have one. But starting an author blog is a different (and often tragic) story.
In fact, your author blog might even kill your writing. There are hundreds of authors who started blogs, churned out posts for a year, and let it come to a dead stop.
Why? Because they realized it wasn’t worth the effort.
I’ll show you the five major reasons an author blog can be bad for your writing (with examples). We’ll cover some other, better audience-building methods to focus on instead.
And, since I’m a complete hypocrite and I run my own author blog, I’ll show you the one and only reason you might want to start one anyway.
Ready? Let’s save your writing…
1. Blogging Will Steal Your Valuable Writing Time
There are two ways to run a blog:
- Post erratic, guilt-induced content apologizing for why you haven’t posted in a while. Give up. Come back for one or two weeks. Give up again.
- Post high-quality content on a very measured schedule.
#2 is extremely effective for building an audience… But it comes with a heavy price: years of your time, effort, and perpetual focus.
Blogging takes a lot out of you. You need to come up with content, publish at least once a week, manage your website, deal with commenters, etc. To get a meaningful audience on a blog, you will need to carve a huge, vital chunk out of your writing time every week.
Your author blog will steal creative productivity from the writing projects you actually care about.
Jane Friedman, a full-time writer working in the publishing industry, warns about the investment it takes to blog:
“You do not have to blog, and if you don’t have much interest in the form, then please don’t pursue it. As with any form of writing, it takes a considerable investment of energy and time to do it right and get something from it.”
2. Blogging Builds the “Wrong” Skills
I wrote a post on my blog called 26 Ways to Write Instantly Sympathetic Characters. I’m pretty happy with it, because it’s already one of my most popular posts.
In total, it took me six hours to write it. I spent about two hours researching:
- Hunting down examples
- Studying my favorite characters
- Actually learning how to create sympathetic characters
The other four hours? Writing the post. Instead of implementing what I had learned, I was working on skills like:
- Creating internet-viable content
- Blog-style pacing and scannability
- Information dissemination (as opposed to absorption)
Traditional blogging is information heavy and story light. Very few blogging skills translate to writing publishable stories.
As an author (aspiring or otherwise), you’ll build your storytelling skills much faster if you just focus on writing stories.
Are There Exceptions to This?
Of course. There are no rules in writing. (Though there are some very overconfident guidelines.)
Let’s say you publish weekly microfiction to your blog. Every week, you get a little better at storytelling… while also building your audience. Hopefully.
But I have only one question for you: Why do you want to build a following from scratch?
There are plenty of voracious, established writing outlets that are overflowing with readers:
- Reddit’s /r/WritingPrompts
- Writing forums and online writing groups
Skip the years of sweat and tears. Start on one of these platforms. Grow your writing skills while tapping into an enormous pre-existing audience.
Author Blogs Don’t Sell Books (Not Really)
Long ago, quick and dirty practices thrived on the internet…
Back in the “wild west” of the Dot-com Boom, content producers could see massive results with even the laziest tactics.
Publishers saw gold.
I’m not blaming the publishers here – when there’s a new frontier, you have to explore it. But those wild west days are long since over. The almighty Search Engines ruled in favor of the users, not the exploiters.
And with that, the internet was tamed. Yet some old myths refuse to die…
Do you feel obligated to start an author blog? Is your publisher telling you “that’s the best way to sell books?”
Every guilt-tripped author blog looks the same. Start with the first posts, and scroll up through the latest, and here’s what you’ll see:
- The first posts are wide-eyed and brimming with optimism. They vary in length and quality, and make too many promises.
- Then comes a stretch of posts put out at seemingly random intervals.
- The latest posts are sparse and almost always start with an apology.
Eventually, the blog withers like the grass in the West Texas desert.
Answer this for me:
- Who are your favorite authors?
- When was the last time you bought a book… because you were reading their blog?
Here’s how most readers buy books:
- Get recommendations from friends
- Find a great deal or get an email notification about their wishlist
- See their favorite author announce a new release on social media
Unless you live and die by the blog, there are vastly better ways to sell books. We’ll get to those soon.
But first, I want to show you why even the most successful authors don’t bother with blogging.
Even Professional Authors Get Sick of Consistency
The most successful authors are really good at finishing projects.
One day, you will finish your book. No more adding. No more editing.
The same can’t be said for a blog. You will always have to feed the beast. Otherwise it will starve, and it will whine pathetically, and everytime people come over to visit, they’ll see it and make that “Oh, dear” face.
Neil Gaiman was at a wedding. He wrote something for the Bride and Groom, and it was beautiful. People asked if they could get a copy of reading.
Then, Gaiman remembered he had a blog: “I have a blog. And it is dusty there and really, I should put [the reading] up. So look on my blog.”
Neil did not post again for almost six months.
You can tell he’s more concerned about publishing his next book than his next blog post. Which is something his readers (and publishers) are extremely grateful for.
That brings us to the final death knell for author blogs…
Your Readers Just Want to Read Your Stories
Chuck Wendig is a full-time author who somehow has the time to update his blog almost every day.
His advice for starting an author blog?
If you don’t love it, don’t do it. Here’s why:
“Blogging because you have to? What an execrable task. Who wants to read a blog that you feel is an obligation? I want to read something the author wants to write, not filler content meant to prop up a dead thing. This isn’t Weekend At Bernie’s.”
What Should You Do Instead of an Author Blog?
Someone once said, “Blogging is like social media, but for adults.”
This statement is not only arrogant, it’s also extremely ignorant.
Social media is a perfectly valid way to grow your audience. In most cases, social media is a more valuable way to reach an audience – because everyone is on one platform or another.
Barring distractions, ideal social media usage is far less time-consuming than an ideal blog posting schedule. Authors who use social media (with a strong, distraction-free plan in mind) have more time to write.
A Two-pronged Strategy for Building Your Audience
Focus on ONE platform you absolutely love. Build your audience there.
- Want to engage a community? Head to Facebook.
- Are you an endless font of hilarity, unique thoughts, or controversial quips? Take to Twitter.
- Love taking pictures of yourself? Instagram. (Okay, maybe this isn’t the best platform for authors.)
Be consistent. Focus on engaging with your fans (or future fans). Don’t go to Facebook just to share your stuff. (And quit stalking your ex.)
Get into pre-existing networks.
- Offer to get interviewed on Podcasts.
- Finish your book and give away advanced copies to reviewers.
- Guest post on popular blogs where your future readers might already exist.
These strategies will allow you to tap into a much larger audience – without having to build your following from scratch. Most owners of blogs, podcasts, etc. will be thrilled to have you create content for them.
The Only Reason You Should Ever Start an Author Blog
Why did you start writing?
You wouldn’t be a writer if you didn’t love at least some part of it.
The same should go for blogging. The only reason you should start an author blog is if you love blogging. I publish regularly to my writing blog because I genuinely love sharing writing advice.
Your author blog must be a labor of love – or else it will burn you out. Take a stab at your other options first before you start an author blog. Save your writing time for writing.