In my recent blog post on Blogging for Authors I discussed a few of my own personal Dos and Dont's for blogging. This week, I'll be looking at blog content - or, in other words: what on earth should we be writing about on our blogs?
You'll hear this advice a lot from blogging experts. Personally, I'm crap at coming up with titles, both for my books and my blog posts, so I'd take this advice with a pinch of salt. Sure, you want to entice people with a catchy title, but in this age of click bait headlines, it's far better to give your post a title that's relevant to your content than something flashy that doesn't deliver.
Not another writing blog
Yeah, yeah, I know this falls under the category of 'do what I say, not what I do'. But if you are an author rather than a writing coach, then other writers are not your target audience. Readers are.
Readers might be interested in the occasional post on your writing process, but they're here on your blog to meet you, not to get a writing lesson. So be yourself.
Build your brand
This is another piece of advice you'll hear a lot. It's good advice, but it can also be completely overwhelming, so I'll keep it simple: your brand is YOU. Yes, that simple.
Sure, you need to figure out your voice, and what your genre is, but really your brand is just the you that you curate for public view. What I mean by that is, this is what you want the world to see of you. Like going to a party and wanting to make a good impression. You're not going to want to talk about ingrown toe nails or haemorrhoids, unless you write gritty medical fiction. Instead, you'll be on your bets behaviour, while still being you.
You want the blog reader to get to know what interests you, what types of books you write, what types of books you love. If they feel a connection with you because you bonded over a love of bass fishing, or a particular movie you both loved, then they'll go check out your books.
Since one of the main purposes of blogging is to enable readers to get to know you, it's stands to reason that you need to create your own content, rather than just sharing other people's content. Leave that for Twitter or Facebook. On your blog, you don't want to do nothing more than share links to other people's work or re-blog other people's content. If you feel moved to share another person's posts, give full credit to the content creator - and don't do it too often! Try to make at least 3 out of every 4 posts your own original content.
A few ideas of what to blog about
What interests you? What movies do you enjoy? What are your favourite books? What places have you been? What issues or charities are closest to your heart? What do you do in your day job? Do you have an interesting hobby? What interesting research did you stumble across while writing your book?
These are the things you should write about. They offer readers glimpses into who you are, and what you are writing, without getting too personal.
What NOT to write about
Unless you see yourself as more of a book reviewer than a writer, do not post negative comments or reviews about other books or writers. Just trust me on this. You don't want to be seen as someone who bad mouths other writers. If you don't like a book, just keep quiet about it.
A movie you didn't enjoy? Well, that's another matter entirely!
How personal should you get?
This is entirely your own personal choice. Some writers spill their guts to their readers, while others keep their private and public personalities entirely separate. How much you post about yourself is up to you.
Yes, you want readers to get to know you, but you also need to be aware of the dangers of posting personal information on the internet, and remember that what goes on the internet stays on the internet - forever!
My recommendation is that you don't post about your family or your friends without their permission or without thinking very carefully about how it might affect them. It goes without saying, that you should never post negative things about your partner, share about your domestic fights or your financial situation, or post pictures or information about your minor children, or bad mouth businesses or other people, without very careful consideration.
Imagine yourself at a cocktail party with strangers you want to impress: what would you tell them, and what wouldn't you share? If you're a very open person, your bar may be a lot lower than a more reserved person would share.
Interact with other bloggers
The advice used to be that you should comment on as many other blogs as you can. Those days are long gone. Who has time for that? And does it even have any effect? Short answer: No!
Posting randomly on a hundred different blogs is not going to make you friends or find you followers. But building a relationship with a few bloggers whose interests overlap with yours, can bring huge rewards. Comment when you have something to say, share other people's posts when they appeal to you, take the opportunity to guest post when you can, and invite other bloggers onto your blog. Interact with others to build your network, and remember that slow and steady wins the race.
Don't give up!
When you first start blogging, it'll feel as if no one is listening. And maybe no one is. But don't give up. Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. When readers start to find you, they'll want to see that you have a history, that you have other posts they can read back and discover. A blog that has two posts from over a year ago and nothing else is not going to entice the reader to stay and read!
Don't be discouraged if no one posts comments. When I first started blogging years ago, readers often commented. But you know what - the world has just gotten a lot busier and a lot more chaotic since then. No one has time to type a comment until they are really, really moved to share something. So don't take it personally if people don't interact with your blog. Just the fact that your post is there, and they are reading it, is enough!
Now that I've given you the tools to create your own blog and start blogging, please share the links to your blogs in the comments below. Let's support one another as we set out on this blogging journey together!
If you missed out on the other posts in my series on blogging, you can catch up on the other posts here: Blogging for Authors.