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Should a writer / author have a blog at all in 2021?

This is the first in the series of two posts on writer websites/ blogs. In the present one, we are discussing the following. In the next post, we talk about what makes an author’s website / author’s blog great for the author’s career.

Before we move further, let me clarify how some expressions have been used in these posts. In general usage, writer includes all types of writers, and author is reserved for book writers. Sometimes, only prose writers are called authors while poets are regarded as separate. I have used the expression author and writer interchangeably in a broad meaning of a person who writes as his profession and has either authored a publication or is aspiring to do so. Thus, these words depict published as well as unpublished writers of books. 

The books can be in any literary genre (including poetry) or non-fiction; they can be published through trade publishers or self-published; they can also be print publications or ebooks.

The second thing: websites and blogs are not the same, but since most of the discussion is about web presence of an author or writer, these have been used interchangeably unless where a distinction is required.

Why at all should a writer or author do blogging?

Being on the web offers many benefits to budding and established authors. Sometimes these give the extra push that is needed for success (more on this in the next post), and thus a blog helps them in a big way. The main benefits of blogging/ having an author website are as follows:

  • The author website helps in establishing you as a serious author (creative writing) and an authority on your subject (non-fiction writing). This is more so in the case of self-published books, books printed on demand (PoD) and ebooks.
  • You can use the blog / website for explaining things beyond the book, or giving new perspectives to your book’s subject.
  • It enthuses you to keep writing fresh content around your characters or subject.
  • Your web presence exposes your talent to publishers and others who might be on the lookout for talent for writing/ speaking/ ghost-writing assignments.
  • The author blog or website supplements marketing and sale of books, though the direct benefits may be small till you are an established author.
  • Blogs integrate very well with social networking. Each new post on the blog gives you enough material to cross-post it on Facebook, Twitter, etc. That helps in growth of all social channels.
  • The writer website/ blog gives you the opportunity to create your fan base through email subscription. Subscribers are a ready audience for your blog posts and are likely buyers of your future books.
  • Besides social networks, the blog is the best place to announce something new (new releases, a nomination for a national award, actually getting an award, the book being read in public, etc) to readers, fans and general public.
  • Books cannot be written every week, but the blog becomes a medium of constant communication with the world, especially the existing and potential readers.
  • Some established authors use their blog as a sounding board - a place where they get ideas and critical feedback from readers. Readers also offer a new point of view, and sometimes they even collaborate directly or indirectly into the making of a book! 

What is that an author blog or author website does not achieve?

Some authors have shared in public interviews that they find blogging or maintaining a website wasteful and therefore avoidable. A few have even said that instead of wasting time on these activities, authors should utilize that time in writing and promoting their writings. 

There, indeed, is truth in the criticism of blogging as an aid to an author’s writing career. Blogs or websites do not suit all authors, and that happens due to many factors (including one’s writing discipline, time management, writing inspiration, subject, type of book, etc).

Let me give you a small but important piece of advice, and allow me to highlight it so that you act upon it: Decide whether to open an author blog/ author website after properly analyzing whether it suits you or not. Then, if you decide to open the website/blog, stick with it. It is better to decide not to open a blog, or do an experiment and leave it, rather than sticking with a wrong decision.

The author blog/ website can drag you down if you do not care about the following: 

  • Opening a writer blog or website is a one-time affair but maintaining it needs time and patience. If you are short of time or do not have the discipline to keep giving it some time every week, the blog does not work. 
  • Blogging, or writing for the web, means you have to write extra - and this writing is not exactly the same as your core writing. Like any other form of writing, this also needs time and energy in collecting thoughts, spending creative energy, composing the post and editing it, adding an image and so on.
  • Author website may promote books but it does not sell many books directly unless you are an established blogger. Some new authors think that by selling books through blog or website, they will be able to make big profit as they won’t have to pay commission to agents and intermediaries. But that rarely happens because not many books get sold through the blog/ website. In addition, the blogger-author has to set up e-commerce facility on the website/ blog, and that costs money.
  • An independent (= not free) website or blog needs many types of maintenance (web hosting, updating, security, etc). The blogger also has to incur yearly expenditure on web hosting and domain name registration. 

Author blog is useful if maintained well.
     

Should an author open a blog or website? 

An author blog or author website may mean the same or different things. The options are like this: 

  • A ‘static’ blog or website. Such websites have a traditional look. They usually have a beautiful home page on which the author or his books are branded. There are other sections too, that give author’s biography, book excerpts, upcoming book events, new releases, awards and accolades, reviews, book purchase and payment page, etc.
  • A proper blog. Blog will suit you more than a static website if you are a budding writer yet. You can open a free blog on a blogging platform or open a self-hosted blog; both have their advantages and disadvantages. In short, blogging on free platforms is totally free and you do not have to bother about technical maintenance and security of the blog; on the other hand, self-hosted blog costs a lot but you can set up ecommerce facility on it. Unlike the author website, which need not be updated regularly, the author blog needs to be very regularly updated.
  • A website, which has a blog section. This option suits authors who make good money from writing. They can hire people to maintain a website with many sections. Blog is one of the sections - the one regularly updated.   
  • A blog or page on literary/ book platforms. You can also open a page on a platform of publishers/ printers (e.g. Amazon Kindle self publishing or a print publisher's portal), book sellers (e.g. Amazon), book author-reader platforms (e.g. Goodreads, Reedsy). Major book and ebook aggregators (e.g. Smashwords, Draft2Digital) also have pages for author promotion. When you open a page on these platforms, you do not have to bother about the design, technical maintenance, etc. You become a member of the author-reader community of that platform. I suggest that if you are not a too busy and well established author (that’s why you are reading this article!), you should open an author account and be at least be slightly active on one of these platforms, whether you open a blog/ website or not. 
  • A blog or page on social networks. You can also think of this option, and it goes well with other modes of promotion. What I am referring to here is opening a page on Facebook, LinkedIn (for non-fiction), Instagram, etc where you display, promote and talk about your books. If you write scholarly articles, you should register on Google Scholars.
Authors can make good use of Goodreads..
Related: India's best literary blogs