It's a question I get asked a lot, usually by other writers who are wondering how in the world to manage a blog amongst all their other writing commitments.
My answer has varied over the years.
As most regular readers know, I started this blog on a dare. Then I became consumed by it. Then I realised that it was cutting into my writing time in a big way. So I cut back. But I'm still here, for a variety of reasons - love, community, habit, sheer bloody-mindedness.
But it got me thinking.
These days, most writers know that they need to build a 'platform' - that elusive beast from the back of which they will launch their books and other projects to the waiting world. They must, they are told by experts, 'get into social media'. But social media can be a bewildering and unwieldy premise, and they are left trying to tweet and Facebook and Pin and Instagram and YouTube and blog and ... basically run around like headless chickens.
So I thought I'd start a new series and get a few experts in to answer some questions and... well, clear a few things up.
The first person in the hot seat is Jane Friedman, talking about blogging. Jane is the web editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, an award-winning national journal, where she leads online and digital content strategy. She also teaches digital publishing at the University of Virginia. Before joining VQR, Jane was the publisher of Writer’s Digest (F+W Media) and an assistant professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati.
She's also very good at answering questions.
Will blogging help me to sell books? How?Jane Friedman: When done correctly, blogging directly reaches your target readership and helps develop a community around your work. When done authentically, with good content, you'll will develop loyal fans who keep returning for more, plus generate word of mouth and reach new readers. Your blog content is rarely about directly selling books (with the exception of big launch campaigns), but about building an audience who is interested in your work for the long-term (and of course do buy your books when available).
How exactly do I set myself up to make the most of blogging as an author? What should I blog about?
Do I need huge numbers of friends/followers for it to work?
Top three tips for making the most of blogging as an author
2. Wherever else you're active online, be sure to point people to new blog posts.
3. Writing for online is not the same as writing for print. Your headlines have to be clear, literal and descriptive; your copy needs to be broken up for easy reading. If you're new to online writing, spend 1-2 hours reading the most popular posts at CopyBlogger to start learning best practices.
Biggest mistakes authors can make with blogging
2. Lack of consistency. You don't have a regular schedule, regular series/categories, or regular themes.
3. Lack of patience. It takes time to build a following. It also takes time to get good at blogging and understand what people respond to. Many authors abandon their blogs too soon or too early, before they've reached the point where blogging offers benefits and opens up opportunities.
Three authors you think are using their blogs well – and why
1. Joanna Penn. Strong focus and consistency, with multimedia elements. (AT: Read Joanna's Fibro Q&A about self-publishing here.)
2. Chuck Wendig. Strong, unmistakable voice, not afraid to offend people who aren't part of his audience to begin with.
3. Chris Guillebeau. He was able to develop a strong following in under a year by being super-focused on his mission and audience.
Like to know more about blogging for writers, follow Jane on Twitter (@JaneFriedman) or visit her blog for writers.
So, tell me, what do you blog about? Why do you blog?