Right, so if you followed the steps in week one, you’ll have the nice skeleton of an author website in place. Week two gave you the opportunity to start adding a little flesh to that skeleton, by choosing a subtle but effective layout and setting up the necessary pages.
I said last week that I’d talk about social media expansion, and growing the reach of your author platform in week three. However, there is a key factor that I seem to have overlooked, and one which deserves a week to itself: blogging.
What is a blog?
Look, I know that seems a patronising question – of course you know what a blog is. You’re here reading this, right? Regardless, many people miss the point about what a blog is, or what purpose it serves.
When I talk about blogging, I’m not talking about a Tumblr account where you share not-so-ambiguous emo lyrics and dubious pictures of two people getting off in an arty black and white filter.
Instead, I’m talking about the blog as a conversation. A social network in itself, if you will.
Th biggest misconception surrounding blogging?
That it’s all about you.
I don’t see my blogs as a ‘be all and end all’ opinion. I want my blog posts to provoke conversation. See that comment box below? Usually, there are five or six comments per post, sometimes more, sometimes less. It’s taken a while to get to that stage, and it was tempting just to turn everything into a self-centred account when no one seemed to be engaging, but perseverance has paid off.
I’m not going to tell you exactly what to blog about, but just remember that your author platform is a glorious chance to connect with new people, and forge strong friendships, even. Always bear that comment box in mind when you’re writing. No blog should be a static entity with no room for alternate opinion.
What should I blog about?
Ah, the age-old question. When you set up your blog, you’ll probably be full of ideas of various schedules and weekly plans.
I remember my initial plan went something like, ‘Monday Musings’, ‘Writing Wednesday’, ‘Focus Friday’. I’m not sure if I ever stuck to it, or worked out what the hell my ‘focus’ would be on every week.
I’m not saying don’t create a schedule though – it’s important to have a sense of direction. Just be willing to break free of its constraints, especially in the early days. A loose schedule is better than no schedule, that’s for sure.
Carving a niche
You might have heard these bloody words a few times on other advice blogs or websites. Sure, carving a niche sounds fancy, but how exactly does one do it?
Some argue that you should pick a topic (say, marketing books) and stick with it from the off. I don’t agree with this.
Instead, open as wide as possible. Find out what you enjoy writing about, and most of all, what readers seem to connect with. That’s why it’s called ‘carving’ a niche. It’s a gradual process that develops over time.
As long as you’re sticking within the constraints of a wider topic (writing, for example), you’re doing it absolutely right.
Should I blog about writing?
There seems to be an interesting conflict surrounding this topic.
Dean Wesley Smith argues that blogging about writing is a waste of time because everything that needs to be said has already been said a zillion times. Joanna Penn, on the other hand, sings the praises of blogging about writing. Some argue that recording the process and sharing one’s journey is an integral part of any author platform.
Personally, I’ve always blogged about writing, so I know where I stand. It works for me, and I enjoy doing it. I blog for my readers too, and there are links to my books all over this site. I’ve sold books through the site through my current balance, so I’m fine running with it.
I don’t buy the argument that ‘everything has been said’ about writing. Every perspective is unique. I do get Dean’s point though – often, new bloggers are tempted to basically rehash what has already been said in a quest for identity and legitimacy. Just write about whatever you want through your own voice and perspective, and your platform will be better for it.
How often should I blog?
Recently, I cut my blog posting from three posts per week to two. This has coincided with a significant increase in traffic, so make of that what you will.
Personally, I’d advise blogging three times per week to begin with, if your time allows it. You’ll soon find out if it’s too much simply by the fact that you’re getting sick of it, or running out of time, or whatever. But still, three is a good number for the first, say, three months, as it enables your backlist to grow fast.
A backlist is basically a collection of old blog posts, and an important part of your author platform. If you post three pieces per week for three months, that’s thirty-six blog posts – a healthy number. You’ll find people checking out your previous work via social media and search engines, because let’s face it – a blog with thirty six posts is instantly more gratifying than one with three.
Anyway, after you’ve forged a few contacts via comments or social media (we’ll talk about that next week), consider cutting down the amount of posts, even just to experiment. It has worked for me, but of course I can’t guarantee the same for everyone. Give it a shot anyway – you can always up your output to three again if traffic really plummets. I don’t think this will be the case though.
Okay, so more of a theoretical lesson on author platform building this week, but an important one I believe. Sure, some dismiss the effectiveness of blogging, but it’s earned me a few new friends and followers, as well as several sales.
Key points? Blog regularly, blog about whatever you want, but most importantly, blog for others. Provoke debate. Be daring.
Next week, we’ll talk about the exciting stuff – growing your author platform, and getting people to read your stuff.
Do you run a blog? Let fellow author platform builders know the benefits of blogging, or even the downfalls if you aren’t a fan! Those of you following this guide – are there any questions you have about the process so far? Anything you’d like me or a commenter to go into more detail about? Give us a shout below!
Platform image courtesy of Ingy the Wingy via Flickr/I Blog Therefore I Am courtesy of alamodestuff via Flickr