Planning Your Author Blog

If you’re using your author website to attract new readers, then it’s a good idea to start a blog.

Writing a blog will give your site fresh content that will keep you afloat in the search engine rankings and provide extra opportunities for people to find you.

It’s a bit like writing books: the best way to sell your backlist is to keep writing books, and giving readers more ways to find you. If you’ve written four static pages for your website, then there’ll be four pages that search engines could pick up on. But if you’ve written forty blog posts, then you have ten times as much content for search engines to show to people.

But keeping a blog can seem like a daunting task. After all, you’ve got books to write!

It’s true. Keeping on top of your blog will take up time. But if you want your website to attract new readers and get people signing up to your mailing list, a blog is really the only way to attract traffic.

Here’s a chart that shows you the traffic to my site over the last few weeks.

You’ll notice two things:

  • The traffic is steadily increasing.
  • There are days when traffic spikes.

The spikes are on days when I published a new blog post. All of those posts are automatically shared to social media using the Jetpack plugin, and they drive traffic to my site. The most effective posts for this are my author interviews, because the authors I interviewed also shared the posts, driving their fans to my site too.

Without fresh, new content, my visitor numbers would be at the level they are to the left of that chart. And if I stopped blogging, they’d drop back to that level.

So if you want to get new eyeballs on your website, it makes a lot of sense to run a blog.

So you now need to answer two questions:

  • How often will you blog?
  • What will you blog about?

Let’s take each of those in turn.

How Frequently Should I Blog?

I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer to this. But I can tell you what works for me.

Right now, this blog is very new. I’ve been running it for a couple of months, and want to add plenty of content to it. I’m running three series of posts: my author interviews, my #WideWednesdays posts about my experience of taking my books wide, and my advice and tips on websites, which also go to my newsletter subscribers.

So right now, I’m posting three times a week. Sometimes more, if an interesting topic occurs to me.

But long term, I don’t imagine that will continue. Once the blog is established and getting plenty of traffic, I’ll probably reduce that to one or two times a week. One of those posts might be a guest post, meaning I don’t have to take the time out to write it (although I will need to edit it). That will reduce my workload a lot, and I’ll get the SEO (search engine optimization) benefits of the new posts and the older posts (the backlist, if you will).

But right now I’m full of ideas, and want to build a body of content, so three times a week works for me.

Three times a week might be too much for you. Once a week might be too much! If you can’t sustain it, don’t do it.

My advice would be to find a balance between what will keep visitors coming to your site, and what you can sustain in the long run. Avoid the temptation to write every day in the early days if you can’t continue with that; you might disappoint your readers once things slow down. (Although if you slow down gradually and strategically, it could work.)

My other advice would be that if you’re a nonfiction author, you need to blog more frequently than a fiction author. I blog three times as often here as I do on my fiction site. And that’s for SEO reasons.

People are much more likely to search for something related to a nonfiction book in Google. A search term like ‘how to build an author website’ will be used much more than ‘psychological thriller’. People often want advice on practical topics from blogs and websites, and if they need more, they’ll go on to buy the book. There will be many who don’t, but there will also be plenty who will.

So, the TL;DR version: work out how frequently you can find half an hour to write a blog post. If you’re a nonfiction author, go with that. If you write fiction, reduce it a bit. The reality is that you probably won’t be able to blog as often as you think you will. That’s life!

So, the next question:

What Should I Blog About?

The answer to this is very different for fiction and nonfiction authors, so let’s take each in turn.

Fiction authors are often stumped as to what they can find to blog about. I know I find it harder to find topics for my fiction blog than my nonfiction one. But there are subjects which will interest your readers:

  • News about book releases and plans for future books (my January post about the books I plan to write this year went down very well)
  • Character bios
  • Photos and notes from your research (e.g. if you write historical fiction, readers will love learning about the period your books are set in)
  • Information about the worlds in your stories (especially if you write fantasy or sci-fi and can give background about your world building: think how much Harry Potter fans love hearing about the wizarding world)
  • Musings on your writing process and routines (readers are fascinated by the writing process)
  • Short stories
  • Excerpts from your novels

Does that give you enough to start with? If you wrote something from one of those topics each week, that gives you six weeks’ worth of content before you have to start again. And if your books have lots of characters, you could write every week for two months just about those.

For nonfiction authors, finding topics can be easier:

  • Tutorials and how-tos (like my posts on how to set up your website)
  • Interviews with experts in your field (it won’t harm your reputation to admit that you’re not the only one)
  • Quick tips to help people quickly take an action
  • Video guides and tutorials
  • Case studies
  • Opinion pieces or analysis of the issues in your subject area.

The specifics will depend on your subject area. But this is something you know all about: I’m sure you won’t struggle to find 500 words to fill a blog post every week.

You may have ideas I haven’t included here. Your readers might have asked you questions that prompt other ideas. Be open to anything, and let your imagination run wild.

And if you have some great ideas for blog posts, or example of posts you or another author has written that have been really successful, please share them in the comments. I always love examples!

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