January is a good time to think about your career as an author, even if you must still hold down a full-time job. Authors who want to find readers should have a website and perhaps a little blog. The website is more than just a pain in the neck that you haven’t figured out yet.
It’s a platform where you can advertise your books and discuss your interests, and most importantly, talk about what you are writing.
If cost is a problem, don’t sweat it. WordPress offers free blogs and free theme templates, so with a small amount of effort and a little self-education, you can have a nice-looking website. I began in 2011 with no website skills whatsoever, but I can hold my own now.
I have made a personal commitment to post three times a week on this blog. This allows me to rant about the craft of writing and gives me a place to talk about my growing love of fine art.
My first blog failed in 2010 because writing about current affairs has never interested me. Journalism is not my strength, but my unlamented first publisher wanted me to write about politics, etc.
What I learned from that otherwise-negative blogging experience is important. When I stopped trying to fit into a mold someone else had designed for me and began writing about my interests, I learned to love blogging. When I made that connection and commitment to writing about what I enjoy, I began to grow as a writer.
This blog never fails to provide me with a sharp dose of reality. I proofread my own work, run it through Grammarly, have the Read-Aloud function of my word-processing program read it back to me, and then publish it.
Still, I drop words, phrase things incomprehensibly, and misspell things.
Nothing bursts your bubble of self-importance like discovering gross errors and bloopers several days after you published the post.
Writing blogposts requires me to become a thinking author, as well as a pantser. I can write using the “stream-of-consciousness” method or from an outline of whatever interests me at the time. I do the research, and the post begins to write itself.
Readers like short articles. I have found that a reasonable post length varies from about 500 words to not much more than 1,000. Having that limit forces me to keep my area of discussion narrow. Also, topics that try to sidetrack me in the writing process often become posts in their own right.
This constraint helps me when writing flash fiction. Most publishers of flash fiction only want stories that top out at no more than 1,000 words in length. When I first began writing flash fiction, telling the entire story in so few words was often an issue. Writing blog posts really helped me learn that skill.
For me, writing blog posts isn’t that difficult per se. If I’m fired up about the subject, I can knock one out in less than an hour.
Finding new and interesting content can be a challenge. Sometimes, I consider cutting back to publishing only on Mondays and Fridays. I have written posts on nearly every aspect of the craft and worry about repeating myself.
But then, a complex subject is raised and can’t be dealt with in only 500 – 1,000 words, and I get fired up again.
I love to see what questions people might want to have answered. Sometimes topics crop up at my writing group that no one has an answer to, and then I get to do a little research—my favorite thing. Other times I find interesting questions in the writers’ forums that I frequent.
During the week, I make notes as I come across topics that might make a good blog post. The only day I write blog posts is Sunday. Usually, writing the posts for the week only involves the morning.
If you are a blogger who only posts once a week or once a month, writing your blog post should only take an hour (or less).
I spell-check and self-edit my posts as well as possible. Then I go to my website and preschedule them.
You can do this too. Use the tools that WordPress or whatever platform hosts your website offers to schedule your posts in advance. They will post without your having to babysit them.
Prescheduling allows me to work on my real job the rest of the week. (Writing novels, baking bread, cooking, and doing laundry.)
If you are an author, you might consider having a little blog as part of your website. You don’t have to blog as frequently as I do.
Your website is your store, your voice, and your public presence. We write novels and want people to find and read our work. Readers will find you and your books on your website. It’s your job to give them a reason to come and look at your books.
Authors regularly complain that it’s hard to gain readers when you first begin to blog. That is true but if you keep at it, you gain readers. If you write it, readers will come.
When we have a limited audience, gaining readers can feel like climbing Mount Everest.
In the world of blogging, as in everything else, we start out small and gain readers as we go along—but we gain them more quickly if we keep the content updated at least bi-monthly.
My advice is to write short posts, schedule them for a particular day and time and not worry about how many hits, likes, or comments you get. That’s a stress you don’t need. Instead, write your posts as if every person on the planet is going to read them. Just post them and forget about them until it’s time to post the next one. Don’t even look at the stats.
Once you’ve been at it for six months, you have a history of stats to look at. THAT is when you gauge what topics do best, and make sure the time the blog goes live is a good slot. You want to post it when people are looking for something short to read, like when they’re riding the bus/train to or from work.
Readers will find you, and you will be doing one positive thing to advance your career during this pandemic.
Authors want to gain readers, so we must use every opportunity to get the word out. Updating your website twice a month to discuss what you’re writing and how life treats you is interesting to readers.
If you feel that it’s too much work, consider how you update your other social media. Try posting a haiku, a tweet-length post, or an Instagram-style post once or twice a week. Any social media platform post can be converted to serve as a blog post.
It’s your opportunity to connect with people who want to read your work. But beyond that, I’ve met wonderful people from all over the world through this platform!