Should Fiction Writers Bother with Blogs and Websites?

I’ve been evaluating fiction manuscripts lately.should writers blog

Most are by authors who are yet to be published, and some are by authors who have published nonfiction and want to break into fiction. The genres vary, but one of the common statements I hear from all these authors is,

“I’ll start blogging and get a website when my book is published.” 

If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you are already a blogger, so forgive me if I’m preaching to the choir. But based on several recent posts I’ve read in the blogosphere, fiction writers are beginning to ask themselves (and others) if blogging and other types of social media are really worth the time they take. Will a blog really help an author sell more books? Will a website really make an author look more professional—and does that even matter? Isn’t success really about writing a good book?

I’m not a marketing expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do read dozens of articles everyday about everything and anything related to publishing, both traditional and self-publishing. (Shameless self-promotion: check out my Facebook page for links to articles of interest to writers.)

One point that those “in the know” (agents, editors, and traditionally published authors, as well as successful, self-published authors) drive home is the importance of building a platform as a means to building a successful writing career.

What does that platform do for a fiction writer? In her blog titled “Are You a Fiction Writer Building a Nonfiction Platform?” blogger A Writer Inspired writes,

Are you like me, in the middle of building a platform that only a non-fiction author can stand on, without even knowing it? I’ve been writing on this blog for almost a year now. . . . Not everything that non-fiction authors do will work for us but not everything is a complete waste of time either. . . . We’re the creatives, the artists, the ones thinking outside the box, blowing up the box. We need to use our creativity to do something different.”

I totally agree with her: creative people need to be creative in their approach to their careers. Creating blogs, websites, and Facebook pages that do nothing more than shout, “I wrote a book and you should buy it!” is a waste of your time and money.

And I’m not suggesting authors should become slaves to social media, posting nilly-willy about what they ate for breakfast and the dog’s latest antics. That’s another point I see driven home a lot. Platform is about engagement, not about being on every social media site known to man for the sole purpose of hawking your book.

New York Times bestselling author Bob Mayer writes about the importance of engaging with your audience:

The number one thing I did wrong in my traditionally published career and now focus on in my indie career is network.  This business is made up of people.  Those people make decisions that affect you.  If they have to make a decision between an unknown name on the internet or someone they’ve met face-to-face, guess what?  It goes against my nature to do this, but I force myself to.”

Author and social media coach Jonathon Gunson writes:

The bottom line is that a change of psychology is needed when using Twitter, or any social media.  Instead of ‘I need to sell my book’, think ‘I need to grow my readership and community’.”

And author and founder of Story Cartel Joe Bunting writes:

Your blog, social media accounts, the Internet itself, they are just tools. Your platform is bigger and more important than any of them. Platforms existed before these tools, and they’ll continue to exist after they’re replaced by newer, shinier tools. . . . Your platform isn’t your blog. It’s the trust you have with your audience.

Don’t confuse story sharing tools with your platform. Your platform is too important for that.”

Selling books is all about discovery, and when you’re an unknown author, how will anyone know to look for your book? A platform is about visibility and people who connect with you, who feel they know you, who care what you have to say.

Creating a platform is trickier for a fiction writer because you aren’t lecturing or teaching classes about your area of expertise—but the social networking aspects are the same. I’ve purchased books by writers I’ve met through blogging (or Facebook or Twitter) because I discover them, like what they have to say, like their writing style or genre, and they’ve hooked me. I’ve purchased several books written by writers who follow this blog (reviews coming soon, I promise!), and you can bet I’ll be one of the first to preorder books from several other writers I’m come to know through this blog. I’ve shared my enthusiasm with friends outside of this community—and that’s what connection and discovery mean.

As Authoress writes at Miss Snark’s First Victim,

I marvel at the ability of the internet to offer true connection.  Despite the noise factor, that ability still exists. . . . So do yourself a favor.  Don’t use social media to pass idle time or medicate or lurk incessantly.  Use it to CONNECT.  I’m pretty sure that’s what the SOCIAL part means.”

Do fiction writers need to blog and maintain websites? That’s a loaded question because a sporadic, unfocused blog or a website that doesn’t engage the reader won’t do anything to further your career as a writer. But I’m a firm believer in building a community of friends who are genuinely interested in you; that kind of connection doesn’t happen overnight, but if you begin today and make social interaction the focus of your blogging, tweeting, pinning, and other social media, I think you’ll find a small army of supporters when you need them.

Do fiction writers need to blog and maintain websites? #writers #indieauthors #writerplatform Click To Tweet

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the value of a social media for writers. Do you think there is value? Can a writer build a platform in today’s world without the Internet? Author Laurence O’Bryan writes, “I get tweets from people who have bought my books because of seeing me on social media.” I’d love to know if that’s been your experience, too—or not.

Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed reading this and want to improve your ability to self-edit and revise your work, please subscribe by entering your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

27 thoughts on “Should Fiction Writers Bother with Blogs and Websites?”

  1. I don’t know whether my blog is doing a good job building my platform, but it’s helped me immensely as a writer. It keeps me stringing words together even when my fiction is stalled, and it’s brought me into a community of writers (and editors 😉 ) who I learn from every day. I had a hard time finding beta readers who would be honest with me until I mentioned the need on my blog, and now I have feedback from a few that’s been both challenging and rewarding. I follow bloggers who link to articles and informative blog posts that I would have missed otherwise, and I try to support them as much as they do me.

    I doubt most readers would be interested in the posts I do about writing, so when I have a website I’ll probably have information and fun stuff to connect with readers, and a link to my blog. I’m not there yet, but I’m thinking about it.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this, Kate, and I’m glad you mentioned your success with finding beta readers by putting the word out on your blog–that’s another great example of the community-building benefit of blogging. And as you wrote, blogging is a great way to keep writing, even when your WIP isn’t your friend at the moment. 😉

      Don’t underestimate your fans’ interest in your writing expertise, either–you can make connections with readers in so many ways, and some of the most popular blogs/websites out there are by writers who share some of the ups and downs of writing and publishing their work. I do believe blogging (as well as all social media) is about connecting with your fans and followers as a real person, and I think your blog does just that.

  2. This is a great post, Candace, with lots of helpful reminders on why I started blogging in the first place. I’m one of those fiction writers you mentioned above, but I feel I’m years away from being ready to shop a completed manuscript around. I started blogging for lots of reasons, and gradually building a platform is one of them. The accountability of having a blog has kept me disciplined, and the regular writing practice it provides is certainly helping hone my voice and craft. But the best, most unexpected side of blogging has been the connection I’ve made with other writers.

    I think there are a lot of writers who abuse social media, blogging included. I get turned off when I blog I enjoy becomes an obnoxious “buy my book!!” platform. Same goes for Twitter. I can’t stand people who find the need to tweet every 5 minutes, even every hour. What are they doing all day long? Frankly, I’m not very active on Twitter because I’ve found it more annoying than useful. I guess I need more time to figure out how it can be helpful to me.

    1. LOL, Gwen, I feel your pain! The connections I’m making on Twitter are with people who post useful content, RT other useful content, and engage in conversation; those people are few and far between (unfortunately), but they are the connections I concentrate on. The 24/7 “Buy My Book!” bloggers are the tweets I just scroll past. The last two ebooks I bought were because of clever Twitter posts that caught my eye–good marketing strategies do work.

      You are so wise to build your platform as you write your book, Gwen. When that magical day comes, I know you’ll have tons of support from the community you’ve built here.

  3. Great post, Candace. When I first started blogging, all I was interested in was writing about my writing journey. It was all knew, writing, blogging, and I wanted some way of capturing that. Over time I realised that my heart wasn’t into writing about writing, but it was into creating. I created a new blog that allowed me to be creative, try out new things, write about subjects that are far removed from my book but still interest me. My writing has improved and it feels less of a chore.
    I wouldn’t say I’ve really started to build my platform, but one thing I’ve learnt is that when I do, the platform needs to be complementary to what I do as a writer, rather than seen as something separate.

    1. You brought up an excellent point, Dylan: blogging about things that interest you keep you writing, and your writing is better for it. Platform-building isn’t necessarily about the book your writing; it’s about creating an identity for yourself as a writer–and your blog is doing for you right now.

  4. I don’t know if I’m doing the platform thing correctly or not. My blog continues to grow, but I’ve stagnated on Twitter and I haven’t focused on Facebook at all. I do have a Web site but thus far, I don’t have too much to share on it. However, I hope that I’m doing something right, as I have made a handful of friends through social media. But I want that number to grow, obviously. Trouble is, I write fiction AND nonfiction, and so the platform-building mantra that you must specialize and become an expert is still hard for me to grasp and follow. This platform business is tricky.

    1. I think you have the best of all worlds, JH, because you write both fiction and nonfiction. I’m a firm believer that everything you do helps everything else you do; for example, let’s say you write a column about the ways your parents instilled in you a love of reading, and your local PTA president reads it and asks you to do a presentation at their monthly meeting about getting kids to read. To everyone who attends, you are an authority on a nonfiction subject, as well as the author of a novel, short story, newspaper column, weekly article (your blog posts), etc., and because that information is given on the meeting announcement, in your introduction, during your presentation, and any other way you can think of, you gain more fans and (if you do it right) collect a slew of email addresses to add to your mailing list (and sell a few books if you have them with you). Now that’s platform building for both fiction and nonfiction–and it’s done everyday by writers just like you.

  5. Good post, Candace, and it touches on issues I’ve been grappling with myself. My blog has been growing nicely since I started in April, in preparation for a book I’m self-publishing in October, and it looks as if connections are indeed happening. But in terms of marketing, getting people to do things I ask for (like join an email list, sign up for a free ebook, etc.), engagement is very low.

    As with all promotional activity, I’ll come to a point where I need to decide if the investment in time (and it’s a big investment, as you know) is worth it.

  6. Great article, Candace. I totally ignore those blogs and tweets that do nothing but push books. I’m interested in building relationships and meeting like-minded people, not trying to sell a product, because I hate being on the other side.

    1. Ahh, you’re singing to the choir, Phillip–sometimes when I’m on Twitter, I scroll and scroll and scroll and STILL can’t find anything worth engaging because every tweet is “Buy my book.” Building relationships does take a lot more time and effort, but in the end, we benefit so much from that investment.

  7. Great post, Candace! Two years ago, I was told by a successful author not to start a blog, just write and study the craft. Obviously I didn’t listen to her, but I do understand her advice. Keeping up with a blog and following other blogs is time consuming and addictive. 🙂

    I’ve read comments made by many authors who’ve said their blogs don’t help them sell books, but it does help them connect with their readers. A blog purely pushing a book is a huge turnoff for me. But what I really hate is when authors ask you to like their book or page on Facebook when you’ve never even read their work.

    1. Thanks for bringing this up, Jill. I don’t pretend to know the best methods, but from my experience in traditional publishing, I do know that an author’s visibility has a direct relationship with his or her success as an author–but nothing guarantees success like writing a fantastic book. A blog won’t sell a book any more than a tweet or an ad will, but a blog has the unique ability to both provide an avenue for writing and for interacting with people who can be teachers, mentors, supporters, partners, or fans. In the end, a writing career is comprised of many things, and the combination that works for you will probably be unique for you, not a carbon copy of what worked for a different writer. “Just write and study the craft” is excellent writing advice, but it doesn’t take selling your product into account. Like it or not, today’s writer is an entrepreneur, not a hermit in seclusion.

      Without your blog, for example, I wouldn’t know about you. If you announce tomorrow that you are publishing a book, you can bet I’ll be one of the first people to buy it–because YOU are the author, and we’ve established a relationship through blogging. Now, multiply that times a few thousand people (times their spheres of influence) over the course of building your platform while you write your masterpiece, and you’ll see how the potential for selling your book is enhanced. Blogging is time consuming, but also an investment in your future (IMHO).

  8. Such an excellent post, Candace–thank you. Blogging and reviewing books gave me the confidence to pursue my heart’s passion–writing fiction. I agree with Kate and Gwen–blogging keeps me accountable to the page and has allowed me to explore different voices, styles, themes in my essays and book reviews. I can see my progress as a writer over three years of blog posts and it’s heartening.

    My blog has become a place to sort out my thoughts and experiences as a writer, but I won’t turn it into the platform to flog my book. I’ve registered a domain of my novel’s title and I’ll use that website as a marketing tool when (God willing and the creek don’t rise) the time comes. Same for Facebook-I’m not ready to launch an author Facebook page…yet.

    Twitter is becoming such a valuable resource for me to connect with writers and to follow/learn from agents, editors, publishers, etc. I’m bemused by writers who emit a constant stream of self-promotional tweets. I’m embarrassed for and supremely annoyed by them.

    I read recently that Google+ is the most important social media tool for writers. I was surprised to read this statement because I don’t hear much buzz about Google +. I have an account but I haven’t developed it. I’d be curious if and how you and other writers are using Google+.

    I’m intimidated by platform building, but I carry on, one Tweep, one blog follower, one connection at a time. Gambate!!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Julie. From everything you wrote, it sounds to me like you are doing all the right things to build your author platform one piece at a time. Building one’s career as an author is a marathon, not a sprint, so trying to do everything at once is both pointless and exhausting . . . and then, who has time to actually write?

      I’ve read the same reports about Google+, and when people add me to their circles, I accept, but honestly, I haven’t had time to educate myself about how it works. Pinterest intrigues me, too, but same problem. My career is in editing and writing, not in social networking (although some days I do spend too much time on the social part!). I think you have to choose what works for you.

      The fact that you can see your progress as a writer through your blog is fantastic! Slow and steady wins the race, right? Don’t be intimidated by the term “platform building,” because that is something that happens every time you post a blog or a piece of your writing–and when you’re ready to publish, you’ll have a community of supporters who will champion you and your work, and that in itself makes a blog worth having.

  9. Hi Candace, just discovered this blog via Twitter. I believe any author, be it fictional or non-fictional should have a platform to get noticed by people and build a following. As both Jonathan and Joe said, it’s all about getting to know people (socially) so that when you book does become available, you’ll already have people ready to buy it or, at least, let others know about it.
    There are several books already that I owned of people I’ve recently discovered on Twitter and Facebook and from reading blogs like this. If it weren’t for social media I wouldn’t have the connections that I currently do.

    1. Welcome, and the fact that you found my blog via Twitter shows the value of social media. I’ve made some wonderful friends via Twitter, Facebook, and this blog, and as I’ve said in other comments, those are the authors whose books I’ll line up to buy when they publish. Thanks for the follow, and now I’m off to explore your blog!

  10. At first I didn’t think I really had any reason to be blogging. I mean, what did I have to offer? I’m not published, so what cares, right? Well, it turns out that’s not all that matters. Blogging has brought me into a community of like-minded individuals who I learn from and interact with on almost a daily basis. It will be a while before I have a novel that’s ready to be published, but in the meantime I’m connecting with more and more talented and friendly people who are writers, readers, editors, publishers, and on and on. Will it help one day when I’ve got one of my manuscripts polished and ready to go? I hope so. But for now, I’m satisfied with building a network of people I like who are all interested in writing and all that’s connected with it.

    Once again, great post, Candace.

  11. Agreed. Agreed. Agreed.
    Also, building a platform provides evidence of something I take very seriously as a customer in my genre: a legitimate timeline.
    If I go to an author’s blog or Facebook after I see their cover on Amazon, and I can see that they’ve been polite, professional, have been at it for longer than a few months, and have posted legitimately genre-specific (it’s Military Sci-Fi and fantasy for me) that shows they care about the community, I buy their book. If I see that they don’t post, say, something about Peter Jackson’s latest teaser, or H.P. Lovecraft memes, and they only started posting “when their novel was published”, I won’t.
    I think we’re looking for writers who truly want to add quality to our worlds. A history of showing that as an author, I’ve been plugging away at that, is what works.

    1. I have to admit that I hadn’t considered your point of view about a legitimate timeline. When authors say they’ll wait until they publish, I think they believe that until they have that book, they don’t really have much to say or offer, so they don’t see the point in committing to a blog or website. As you point out, showing a genuine interest in the community that makes up your fans goes a long way toward actually having fans. Thanks for adding to the discussion, and you’ve given me more ammunition for convincing the authors I work with that they need to build those communities.

  12. Wonderful blog. I was just talking to my friend about this. I was saying I was so exhausted from building my website www,girlinthejitterbugdress.com and learning how to use all the social media, my brain has nothing left for writing. She thought I was putting the “cart before the horse.” I will direct her to your blog 🙂

    1. Hi Tam, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Your website is great, and worth the effort you put into it–it looks very professional. I’m looking forward to reading everything you have there.

      Learning social media can be pretty overwhelming, but think of all those new synapses in your brain! 😉 You’ll find a balance between writing and social media that works for you, and if it’s any consolation, everyone has the same problem. You might like to read my blog post “Blogging IS Writing” http://wp.me/p2IvJd-yk–I think you’ll be able to relate.

      Congratulations on your book–it sounds great, and I look forward to reading it when it’s available.

      1. WOW! Thanks. I was just thinking, gee, I don’t write about writing, maybe that’s a mistake. My Aunt who helped me with the site said I should start another blog “about writing.” I don’t think I can handle another blog and ALL the soc. media, it’s too much. Plus I’ve been trying to get on some syndicated blog site AND find places to guest blog. I will go to your link now. Thanks again, big hug!

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