If you’re an author, you've probably heard that you should consider having a blog. Some authors swear by them. Others swear them off as a distraction and waste of time. But the marketing value of blogs is undeniable, and they can be effective promotional tools for both nonfiction and fiction authors.
In a future post we'll take a look at some of the ways you can simplify the author blogging process to reap the benefits without letting it take over your writing schedule. But for now, let's look at what some of those benefits actually are.
10 Reasons to Launch an Author Blog
Not convinced you need an author blog? Here are ten reasons you should consider launching one if you haven’t already:
1. Blogs build pre-launch interest in your book.
If you blog about the same subject as your book, you can start building a targeted audience of readers who already have an interest in what you have to say. You then have a promotional platform for your book where you can push its launch, offer a special, or offer excerpts and previews to gauge reader interest.
For nonfiction authors, this means publishing a blog related to the niche your book covers (such as publishing a blog on English garden care to promote your book on the same subject). For authors of fiction, it might mean publishing excerpts, similar short fiction, or even reviews of other books in the genre -- taking the "if you like these books, you might also like mine" approach.
2. Blogs can help you build newsletter subscribers.
If you plan to use a newsletter to help market your books, you need start building your subscriber list as early as possible. Readers of your blog are natural candidates and you can include a newsletter subscription form directly on the site. Then you can reach those readers directly through their inboxes if you want to offer specials to subscribers to help push early sales or to keep interest in your book up over time.
3. Blogs are excellent networking tools.
Authors benefit greatly from a strong professional network (other writers, past readers, reviewers, new potential book buyers). Your network will be your best source for targeted feedback about your writing, whether that’s the writing coming from your blog, newsletter, or book.
You’ll know if there’s enough interest in a subject to consider a second book. Or colleagues in your network may have their own Web presence where they can mention or promote you and your book. If you give, you’ll get; but you need to build your network before that happens.
4. Blogs teach you how to deal with criticism.
People aren’t always going to agree with what you have to say on your blog (and therefore what you may say in your book). Some people will be downright nasty with the anonymity they find on the Web, while others will give you constructive criticism and feedback through ideas you may not have considered.
You’ll need to learn how to deal with both situations publicly and professionally on your blog (even when that means knowing when to walk away without saying a word). And that might help when you’re facing reviews and critiques of your book, or even your book proposal if you’re at that phase.
5. Blogs can serve as an additional income stream.
In any kind of business model, it’s wise to diversify your income streams. Blogs are tools that allow writers to do that. Being a writer gives authors an edge in blogging, because they know how to communicate in a way that’s going to interest readers. The biggest problem many bloggers face is their monetization strategy.
If you want your blog to be a viable income source, you can’t just throw a few ads on the sidebar or header and expect to get rich. There’s a lot you can do though: sell your books through your blog, sell shorter reports or e-books there, feature advertisements from ad networks, include affiliate ads, make private ad sales, have a paid membership area of your blog where you offer exclusive bonuses, offer e-courses or webinars through your blog, etc.
Speaking from experience, it’s very possible to bring a blog from nothing to earning a few hundred to several thousand dollars per month within your first year, and even a few months, as long as you put the effort into promoting and monetizing it, and if you update the blog often enough for your audience.
6. Blogs help authors build authority and an expert status.
Blogs are a highly effective PR tool for building your authority status in your specialty area, whether that's through educational content related to your nonfiction niche or commentary related to the type of fiction you write.
By offering consistent high quality content on your blog, you’ll build a strong readership and gain trust. The more readers trust and respect you, the more likely it is they'll buy your book and help to spread the word. It can also turn you into an expert source that members of the media, and even other bloggers, turn to. That increases your exposure even more.
7. Blogs keep you writing.
Blog posts can be relatively easy to write (compared to your book), especially when you get into the habit of blogging regularly. They keep your writing fresh and you may find that your posts later inspire, or even become a part of, a future book.
8. Blogs are inexpensive marketing and PR tools.
As far as promotional tactics for your books go, blogs are downright cheap. You’ll pay less than $10 for a domain name each year and then no more than $10 for hosting each month if you only need a shared hosting account.
9. Blogs are easy promotional tools to use.
Some of the best blog platforms are not only free (namely WordPress), but they have large user communities with people willing to help with any questions you may have. There are pre-made themes, or designs, for most blogging systems so you don’t have to know how to design and code your own blog.
Most themes are very easy to modify on your own these days, with many coming with simple admin panels that let you adjust the basic colors, upload your logo, or make other minor changes. They’re also very easy to update. Plugins will even help you deal with things like spam to take some of the administrative work off of your shoulders when the blog grows.
10. Blogging can help you increase search engine rankings.
If you tie your author blog to your overall author website, it can help your website earn better search engine rankings. That's because Google seems to consider not only relevancy, but also the timeliness of content. By regularly showcasing fresh content through your blog posts, your overall site can rank better. Of course this assumes you're effectively targeting your keyword phrases and not using spammy "black hat" tactics like keyword-stuffing.
As an example, my business website where I promote my freelance writing services has a blog attached to it. Last year after some on-site changes, my rankings dropped significantly for my top target keyword phrases. Where I used to rank #2 in Google, I was suddenly buried on the third page. That had a direct impact on how many people found me and got in touch to hire me (just as it can affect how many potential readers your author website reaches).
While the rankings haven't fully recovered yet, I was able to get the site back up to #4 on Google for that same primary phrase. All I did was start blogging again (one or two posts a month was plenty) and feature the titles and excerpts of my new posts on the homepage so Google would see that the site had fresh content more often. A blog really can make a difference.
Resource Recommendations for Your Author Blog
Disclaimer: This section contains some affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link for one of these services (all ones I've personally used and recommend), and you happen to choose to buy from them, I may receive a small commission for referring you.
Here are my recommendations for resources to help you get started in launching an author blog:
My favorite domain registrar at the moment is called NameSilo. I'm slowly moving all of my own domains to them.
Web / Blog Hosting:
(Note: While I no longer actively support HostGator due to past customer service issues, they did provide a reliable service for a few years, and most customers I know still swear by them.)
HostGator is my former hosting company, and I'd consider them a decent place to start if you're looking for shared hosting.
Most of my sites are currently hosted with MyHosting. I recommend them if you want a VPS (I haven't tried their shared hosting, so I can't recommend it on a personal level, but I've so far had a pretty positive experience with the company).
The only blog platform I recommend is WordPress.org (the self-hosted version; not the free blogs at WordPress.com which come with greater limitations).
Note: This post was originally published on March 4, 2011. It was revised and updated with new resources on its currently-listed publication date.