As we’ve outlined in our recent posts about websites and SEO, we encourage authors to include blogging as part of your overall marketing strategy, because a blog is what helps you hunt down new readers, keeps those readers coming back to your site, keeps search engines ranking you, allows for instant reader feedback and more.
So now come the inevitable questions: How long should those posts be? How often should you blog? What should you blog?
If there were magic answers to these burning questions, there probably wouldn’t be thousands of articles devoted to this subject all over the internet. Let’s tackle it anyway! Then, be sure to explore our additional resources at the end of this post for other great blogging tips.
Have a blog to share with fellow authors? Leave the URL and description in your comment below!
How Long Should a Blog Be?
Yes, there are longer blogs that work, and shorter blogs that work equally well. Typically the range is 350 – 750 words. If a LOT needs to be said on a topic, it needs to be said, but then what we often tell authors is, if it can be split into Part I and Part II, do that.
Why? If you’ve heard the term “information super highway” you probably already know this is a fast moving highway, where blogs and social media snippets are what we refer to as “drive-by reading.” Less can be more.
Unfortunately there are few rules of the road beyond that. Yes, we’ve seen effective blogs break the rules; we break them ourselves (including this very post!) But this is a range to get you to started until you find your own sweet spot.
More important is that you don’t slam down a bunch of words just to have something to say, or rush your readers with too few words, just to say you blogged. The point of blogging is to give your readers insight into you… your work, your characters, your interests, your voice, your point of view.
If you’re writing non-fiction, this is twice as important. Readers will be coming to you for the same tone and level of expertise you provide in your books, to keep them up-to-date with news and trends on the topics about which you write.
How Often Should I Blog?
A lot of business advice out there would have us all blogging once, even twice a day; those folks also have teams to do the heavy lifting. Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer wisely says, “Bloggers have different aims, write in different categories, and have wildly different abilities to produce content. If you’ve identified the top blogs in your niche, you’ll already have a head start on understanding what readers might expect.”
We haven’t met many authors who have time to blog each day (well, any), though many start out thinking they can. After a couple weeks they decide maybe only three times a week, then once a week, then… oops, I should’ve blogged last month. Blog readers have expectations – if you set yourself up to meet them daily but can’t, those readers will wander off.
We’d rather see an author blog weekly or every other week and be consistent, so they can establish a pattern and develop a following.
Building an audience for your blog is based on trust. Just as you’d show up to school or work, you need to show up to your blog. If life gets in the way (and it does), give readers a heads-up so they’ll know you haven’t gone MIA. Store up a blog or two in your drafts folder; solicit guest posts related to your readers’ areas of interests for those “I’m on book tour” weeks.
Most important – have fun. If you treat your blog like a chore, it will be, for you and your readers. But honest sharing with your readership will encourage their comments and participation, to help you build a solid and genuine fan base!
What you’re blogging will obviously inform both how long your blogs are and how often you’ll be blogging. If, for example, you’re opining on each day’s political headlines, then daily works. If your blogging strategy is to offer up Top 10 lists on everything from favorite books of a certain genre to chili ingredients, then short and sweet will do the trick, and weekly is more than sufficient.
What to Blog
If you think you “should” be blogging but you’re asking what you should blog, it’s time to take a step back. Maybe you’re not ready to be blogging yet. True enough, while your blog may shift and grow and change as you and your audience do, you’ll want to have some idea of what you’ll be blogging before you jump in the deep end of this really murky pool.
Here are a few tips to get you thinking about the directions your blog may go, whether new or in need of new direction.
Do Your Research
What are other authors in your genre blogging about? Obviously you won’t want to do the exact same thing, but how they’re appealing to their audiences may help give you a sense of how you can uniquely appeal to your own.
What Do You Bring to the Table?
Do you have an area of expertise you can share with readers? Can you motivate readers to take action based on your advice or inspiration? Perhaps your gift is in creating an emotion in your readers — making them laugh, or cry, or get angry, or ponder. Tap into what makes you uniquely qualified to write a book. Does that also make you qualified to share weekly or other periodic wisdom?
Tackling Tough Issues?
Does your writing tackle a predominant issue, an issue you share with readers? Animal rights? Adoption? Organ donation? Issues based blogs can talk to everything from news on the related topic, to events, to substantive discussions on how to tackle tough issues, to curating content from other great writing on your pet issue.
Maybe your common bond with readers is in what you write and read. For example, if you write southern gothic fiction, this represents a particular group of readers to whom discussions of other southern gothic books (both classic and contemporary) would appeal. In this example, an extension of that blog might be discussing southern gothic recurring themes, character archetypes, settings. Genre-based blogging works especially well for historic work, both fiction and non-fiction. There’s no shortage of research and fascinating facts about time periods and historical characters.
Obviously there are few hard and fast rules on the blog scene. We’ve seen blogs that zero in on travel adventures, those that hope to amuse with lists or jokes galore, those that explore poetry, painting, pottery or plants. Some authors (Joanna Penn comes to mind) are brilliant in giving other authors advice. Others, like Dean Robertson, find joy in reviewing books by other authors.
The trick is to find that sweet spot between a blog you’ll love writing as much as your readers will love reading… And if you’ve found that, we want to see it, too!