Friday, January 25, 2013

Blogging for Writers

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Recently, I’ve noticed a shift in writers’ opinions on the importance of blogging as part of a writer’s general platform.

Popular blogger Jody Hedlund expressed it well inher post, “Blogging News,” stated:

I think the nature of blogging is changing. While blogging was once considered essential to a writer's platform, most of us are beginning to understand that a blogging platform for fiction-writers doesn't translate into significant sales (at least for the average blogger).

In a day and age with limited time and resources, writers are realizing their time is best spent writing books—including eshorts and enovellas. Getting our stories in front of readers does much more for furthering our careers than blogging.
I definitely see where Jody is coming from.  I’ve read other posts by other writers lately stating that they think writers should bring their focus back to their writing. 
What I’ve done was to cut back the number of days that I’m blogging. I blogged every day, religiously, for a couple of years before my schedule last year got out of control.  I cut back last year…at first temporarily so that I could handle a few deadlines that were happening at once. Then I decided to make it permanent. I was getting more writing done—and not just writing. I was getting a lot of writing-related activities done (required outlines, Twitter promo, edits, emails, etc.)

What I get out of blogging:
I still feel that blogging is an important part of my platform. I’ve gotten to know a good number of writers through blogging, and the blog has even received some recognition.
The blog provides a good home base for me, helps me interact with other writers (writing can be a lonely job), and provides me with encouragement and support.  And…it’s hard to explain, but I feel more of a part of the writing community with my blog than I do on Facebook and Twitter. This is probably because I don’t interact on Twitter except through DM (leaving my tweet stream clean) and because I have a fan page on Facebook instead of a regular profile.  It’s harder for me to interact through those platforms.
Blogging serves as a good writing warm-up…sort of a writing prompt.
Blogging challenges:
Sales. If you’re blogging to see a direct impact on your book sales…you’ll probably be disappointed. I can’t say I’ve seen a direct correlation. Let’s just say that this isn’t why I blog.
Time.  As always, writers are juggling a lot of promo and their stories.  There are only so many hours in the day.
Connecting with readers.  Do readers visit author blogs? I think they do if the bloggers create blogs specifically with readers in mind. Writer Roni Loren changed her writing-related blog to focus more on readers. She explains why in her guest post “Social Media Overload: How Do You Reach Readers?” on Anne R. Allen’s blog:

… I chose to go a slightly different route because (a) I get tired of writing about writing at times and (b) I wanted to provide my readers with something fun to if they happened to stop by.

Roni gave suggestions for reader extras in her post, “Author Websites: Layering Yours With Sticky Extras.”
Ways to lessen the impact of blogging challenges:
Accept guest posts. (While still keeping an eye on quality control.)
Reduce the number of days a week you’re blogging.
Find other ways to connect with readers.  I’ve found there are more readers on Facebook than other social media platforms (much as I dislike Facebook.)
The problem with group blogs:
A word about group blog challenges.  As a link curator (I share writing-related links on Twitter that archive to the Writer’s Knowledge Base), I’ve noticed a widespread problem with group blogs—attribution.  The reason most writers are on group blogs is to increase their reach and help develop their platform. If you’re not getting credit for your post or if your byline isn’t linking back to your blog, website, Twitter page, etc….then what’s the point? 
As unbelievable as it sounds, sometimes I can’t even tell who wrote particular posts on group blogs.  The byline will just mention “posted by Group Blog” or something similar. That author got absolutely nothing in return for the post. No promo value from the time spent writing the article.
The best group blogs immediately identify post authors with a byline hyperlinked to contact info, an author headshot, and short bio at the end of the post.
Now I’d love to hear from y’all—because most of you are bloggers, yourselves. How many days a week do you blog? Do you have trouble finding time to blog? Thought about cutting back on blogging?  Ever considered trying to connect more with readers than writers? What are your thoughts on group blogs?