I’ve got an Author’s Website—Do I Need a Blog, Too?

By Posted in - Social Media for Writers on December 21st, 2010 18 Comments

I hear this all the time! Whether published or unpublished, writers all over the world tell me they’ve got a beautiful, slick author’s website that took time and money to put together and they don’t see why they need a blog as well.

In a word, the answer is… conversation.

Can you have a two-way conversation with fans, librarians, teachers, or friends on your website? No. It doesn’t have a comment function.

All you’re doing is saying “Look at me! Aren’t I great?” and maybe you are great, but imagine you’re at a party. Because that’s what the internet is. It’s the biggest party ever invented.  All around you people are chatting animatedly to each other but you’ve somehow got yourself in a corner with someone who’s not interested in letting you say anything. Let’s call him Humphrey. Humphrey just wants to tell you all about himself. He’s not talking about his hobbies, fascinations or opinions about the world at large. He’s just telling you all about his accomplishments. And no matter how wonderful they are, there’s a point at which your eyes glaze over and you start wishing you had never come.

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You manage to slip away, claiming a need to refresh your drink or get something to eat and meet a girl who’s tucking into the food with gusto, piling everything that looks interesting onto her plate. You laugh and ask if she’s gathering food for the winter and a conversation begins. “Doesn’t it all look just wonderful?” she enthuses. “I couldn’t possibly neglect a single thing! Did you know that chocolate is…”

Her conversation is peppered with interesting facts I didn’t know, and every time she asks me a question I feel she cares about the answer. And she responds to my opinions with enthusiasm and more questions. She’s a lover of life, a magpie gatherer of its universal fascinations, and I like her enormously. Then she introduces me to her friends, and I like them too. When it’s time to reluctantly take my leave I wish there was a way to stay in touch, but she’s one step ahead of me and gives me her number.

“I’m going to see a play next week with some friends – want to come?”

Yes. Yes, I do. She was fun and informative and curious about all sorts of things. Hanging out with her and her friends made me feel like one of the cool kids. Later, as I walked home, I reflected on the difference between the bore who droned on about himself and Lizzie, with her enquiring mind and appealing way of making me feel like I was the most interesting person in the room.

And that’s why you’d do better to have a blog than a website. So you can be Lizzie, not Humphrey.

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Other reasons to blog:

  • Website pages don’t appear on search engine bots as easily as blog posts do. If you write about what inspired your romance set in wine country, no one will ever find it by doing a Google search on wine if it’s on your website, but if they will if it’s in a blog post.
  • Blog posts can be easily shared. They can even go viral. If you’re part of a blog network, like Tumblr, something you post can be reblogged thousands of times if you hit the sweet spot and have something to share that appeals to a lot of people.
  • A blog can be set up in minutes and managed by yourself. The same is not necessarily true of a website, unless you’re technologically savvy.
  • RSS feeds which automatically “ping” various sites around the world announce each new post the moment you press “publish”. This blogging and RSS combo creates a powerful presence on the internet, virtually overnight.
  • You can’t post updates to your website across social media sites. It just sounds like you’re doing a Humphrey. But if you post a blog update on something you’ve recently found interesting (not necessarily related to you except that you’re sharing your slant on it) then you bring yourself to people’s attention organically, by association, by talking about something they’re interested in.

(18) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Rashda/SpiceBites - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 7:21 am

    But what if you're new to blogging? And you put in all the effort to create posts that are interesting, but 0 comments…how do you turn the blog into a party?

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Hi, Rashda! On my blog I use a WordPress plug-in called "CommentLuv", which at the very least will link back to your site. At best, it shows the linked title of the commenter's latest post. It didn't do that for your blog, not sure why. Anyway, so I used that to find your blog and take a look. How gorgeous it is!!! You made me want to get in the kitchen and try out your recipes!

    It is true that you could be as interesting as Lizzie and no-one would know it if you stand in a corner and don't reach out. Lizzie would introduce herself to people. Get connected by introducing yourself on social networks that you can maintain and update regularly.

    Use e-mail lists, blog directories and catalogs to list your blog, so people who are interested in your kind of blog can find you by doing a general search. It's kind of like getting a friend to introduce you to others at a party.

    Follow others who blog in your chosen field, and post interesting comments on their blogs. Not just "This was great" or "Thanks" but something that keeps the conversation going. Then people will follow you back to your website.

    Develop a posting schedule if you can keep to it. Or at least publish once a week on the same day if possible. You can set an electronic calendar alert to remind you.

    If you're doing more than one post a week, consider sticking to a theme for different days of the week. Chocolate recipes on Fridays, for instance. Or great party food for Saturdays. Let people know about your schedule by referring to it in your title and your updates on social media. ("Chocolate Friday: Decadent Cup Cakes to Feed a Writer's Soul" or whatever… )

    Hope that helps a bit – I'll be doing another blog post on this very subject next, so I'll go into more detail then.

  • LM Preston - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Great wealth of information! It does make a difference and its fun 😀

  • Eric - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Great information, Lia! You've inspired me.

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I can be fun, LM, in fact it SHOULD be fun! We tend to do best the things that we find fun. So if you're not having fun with it, chances are you're blogging about the wrong thing or haven't found your blogging 'voice' yet. It takes a little time to find that. Analyze your posts to see which ones got the most response, and why, then try to write more in that vein.

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Eric, are you going to have a go at blogging? Fun! You're practically blogging already with the way you use your Facebook page. If you're short of time, consider a micro-blog. It's less of a time-suck and takes the pressure off finding something to say. Something like Tumblr is great for taking a message out into the world and making it viral, but I think owning your own content and having control of your own site is best. Just commit to short posts with a mixture of video, favorite quotes, links to posts by others that you found interesting, and photos. So it's like a prettier, branded version of a Facebook update, complete with the all-important links to all the other places you hang out online.

  • Nanette Purcigliotti - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Hi Lia:
    Informative post. I had a Blog or should say when I get it back together, do have a Blog on my Mac Web Site. But no one ever visited. Basically it's about the Visual Arts and plugged some people. But never got response. So got discouraged.
    Maybe got to go with WordPress or whatever is out there.
    See what happens.
    As always, you're my inspiration.
    N

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    I tried the blog option on my iWeb for Mac website, too, but found it too annoying to update and very poorly set up to be found by search engines. The secret to getting noticed is to have a blog on a platform that's easily found by search engines, then to use something called "keywords" in your title. Blogger or Blogspot is one of the easiest to use as far as SEO (search engine optimization) is concerned. Google will find its own sites, after all… It doesn't offer the creativity of a WordPress blog, but many people just want to get the post done and move on, not tinker with the blog's bells and whistles.

    It takes time for a blog to get noticed. That's why it's a mistake to wait until you have a book published to get started. Unless you garner an attention-grabbing deal at auction, of course, and then you can just sit back and watch people come to you! 🙂

    I'll write a post about how to get people to visit your blog next.

  • Manon Eileen - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    I love blogging! Ever since I started writing about interesting topics (in my case it's what I know most of – philosophy and psychology) I've gotten way more visitors to my site. Blogging really helps to get your name out there…!

    Thanks for the interesting post, Lia!

    • Lia Keyes - Reply

      December 21, 2010 at 8:44 pm

      Gosh, I'm going to have to follow your blog, Manon. You've got some really interesting posts up there. Perfect for writers to get insight into the minds of their characters. I also like the plug-in you have that floats the social media links to the right of the page. What's the name of it? I'd like to try it out! 🙂

      • Manon Eileen - Reply

        January 5, 2011 at 2:16 am

        Sorry for the late reply, Lia! I forgot to subscribe to replies >_>

        Anyway, thanks a bunch! 😀 I hope I'll be able to inspire people to write some solid characters.

        As for the plugin… It's called Share and Follow and you can find it here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/share-and-fol

        😀

        • LiaKeyes - Reply

          January 5, 2011 at 8:49 pm

          Ooh, thank you! I'll toodle off and try it out. 🙂

  • Kim Koning - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Great post Lia! I agree that a Blog Post is very necessary and I love your analogy of likening it to a conversation at a party…very true.

  • Jennifer - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    A valuable post, Lia.

    I love blogs, and I wouldn't be who I am today without them (truly!) — I've met more great real-life friends, not to mention business associates, through my blog than anything ever. Hearts, big-time.

    THAT SAID, I totally disagree that anyone *needs* a blog — I think some people just really aren't good at and don't enjoy this kind of conversation. They get a blog because somebody told them they Have To Have One. So they have it but they don't update it enough, or they only update it with ads for themselves, or complainy rants about how they don't even like blogging, or whatever.

    For these folks, it is a time-suck and not a pleasurable one. And it totally shows. I would 100 times rather my authors be happily writing new books rather than struggling to create terrible blog content because they feel obligated to.

    And as hard as it is to know it when one is IN the blogosphere, most of your audience in fact is NOT in the blogosphere. I would just keep in mind that most of peoples blogversations, especially when they are unpublished, are with other writers who blog. This is AMAZING, and fun, and a great way to build community with other like-minded individuals who are possibly going through the same stuff you are… but it isn't quite the same as reaching actual real-life kids, or the 95% of librarians and teachers and booksellers who are clueless about what goes on in our small, insular blogging&twittering community.

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    December 21, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    You're right, Jennifer, and this goes for all forms of social media. If you don't enjoy it, don't bother. It's worse to have a bad blog than not to have one at all.

    THAT SAID, this post is aimed at the writer who has made the decision to have an online presence, but doesn't know the difference between a website and a blog. Do they need both? Is one better than the other? Why?

    I'll be doing a series of posts on blogging to follow this one.
    Next up will be which platform to choose.
    Then how to optimize it.
    And how to invite people to participate.
    And how to get them to come back for more.

    I'll also be talking about micro-blogging, which is a great alternative for those who don't have the time or energy for a full on blog but want to have a presence online.

    I think your comment is the one truly useful bit of information anyone can hear on the subject of social media—if you don't enjoy it, it will show, so don't go there. I'd rather you find another way to connect to readers.

    I'm not sure I agree that librarians and teachers don't visit blogs, however. They are born researchers, and when they want to investigate a new writer, or find out where they're going to be next, they go to http://www.[insertauthorsname].com to find out.

    And then there are book reviewers. Authors want their books reviewed, right? When I first tweeted that this post was up, the question in the title provoked this response from a book reviewer:

    Laura
    @LiaKeyes "because we want to know everything there is about you! And the website gives us nothing!" 🙂

    And let's not forget that other writers are also readers…

  • Judith van Praag - Reply

    December 22, 2010 at 1:29 am

    Hi Lia,
    Excellent post and what a wonderful find, to use Lizzie and Humphrey as examples, the art of blogging is dialogue.

    I started a blog at the same time that I launched my website in 2005, and agree that having a blog is important for all the reasons you mention. Except for this one "Website pages don’t appear on search engine bots as easily as blog posts do"
    This may be true if a website is completely static and if the author doesn't use SEO language. From the get go I've made it a habit to re-publish material that was previously published in print, on my website and I still hear from people that my website keeps coming up at the top of Google searches. Using SEO in your content, and the right tags/ tag lines is crucial and can make a tremendous difference.
    Really appreciate your posts.
    Happy holidays,
    Judith

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    December 22, 2010 at 1:42 am

    You're absolutely right, Judith. Using tags and keywords and other SEO techniques makes all the difference, but most people don't understand how to do that, or even what those things are. So having a blog that takes care of that for them is the way to go. I notice that your own blog is with Blogger, which is the Google blogging platform. Built-in SEO there. Smart choice!

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