Part 5: Starting an author’s blog

It’s not news that even the largest publishing houses expect authors to participate in and, to some extent, be responsible for their book publicity campaigns. In fact, authors with established professional reputations and audiences in other media or fields of endeavor are much more appealing to book publishers large and small. Popular personalities’ books are easier to market and more inclined to be profitable.

Like it or not, authors are being urged to blog, and some are discovering it can be more fun than book signings and radio interviews. After all, blogging is writing, which is what authors do best. Felicia Sullivan, the host of the online show Writers Revealed, recently told the New York Times, “You can reach at least a few hundred people on a blog, and save time, money and the fear of being a loser when no one shows up to your reading.”

Most writers sincerely want to connect with readers through their work. A blog is a medium specifically designed to engage the reader in a conversation with the writer. In a quest for the genuine, it’s an ideal way for the reader to assess the author’s integrity, honesty, candor, skill, and style.

Les Roberts, a veteran television writer and producer whose mystery novels are published by St. Martin’s Press, told an Ohio audience earlier this month, “When people ask about your books, they really want to know about you.

Bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank now writes for Publishers Weekly. The title of her sassy online column, Ain’t Too Proud to Blog, says it all.

Going from zero to 60 in the blogosphere

There are plenty of good online resources for beginning bloggers. Some of the best are listed on this blog’s page devoted to advice about starting a blog. It doesn’t take a tech nerd to understand blog software, which is why blogging has become such a phenomenally popular form of self-publishing. In April 2007, Technorati was tracking over 70 million blogs.

Choosing a blog hosting service is a matter of personal preference, as well as practical considerations about software compatibility. It’s crucial to note that some free, developer-hosted blog services either prohibit advertising by the blogger or charge a fee to upgrade to a commercial account. Adding a blog to an existing website requires that the web hosting company have compatible software modules installed, which is not always possible.

Design matters

The website of an author or a periodical can incorporate (or simply link to) a blog, or a blog itself can have multiple fixed pages that resemble the pages of a website. Designers like Brian Azer of Morphosis Stoltze Design, who discussed books’ websites here last week, and Alister Cameron, who calls himself a “blogologist,” create visually enticing sites that are consistent with the authors’ brand images.

Here are a few examples of authors’ blogs on several currently popular blogging platforms:

Cheryl K. Tardif
on

Blogger


Mad Woman in the Forest, Laurie Halse Anderson,
on

LiveJournal


Seth Godin
on

TypePad


Christopher Barzak’s Meditations in an Emergency
on

WordPress


Sara Ryan‘s charming blog is built on open-source software from WordPress.org.

Xanga is also used by bloggers, though it may be a little less popular with book authors. Another choice is Tumblr. [Updated on March 13, 2008]

Blog options that make life easier

Social networking sites usually include blogs as an optional feature, though often not the most prominent one. A more traditional blog’s RSS feed can be added to the author’s social networking site, keeping them effortlessly in sync.

The use of a spam blocker will prevent annoying comments from being posted on a blog for the sole purpose of linking readers to disreputable online marketers. Akismet, for example, is a free feature of developer-hosted WordPress.com.

Some blog hosting services also provide authors with site statistics, or web analytics, showing the number of times the author’s blog is viewed, the most popular posts, and the search terms used to find the blog. Occasionally, bloggers make this information public with tools like Site Meter.

Videos, photos, and podcasts can be embedded in blogs when text is not enough.

Authors whose schedules are too busy to permit consistent blogging can consider co-blogging with a group of three or four associates. Co-blogging works best when each blogger’s posts are identified at the top with a distinctive avatar or byline. Otherwise, readers can easily become confused about who is speaking.

This post is only meant to provide authors with a two-minute tour of blogging. Comments and questions are welcome here. Check the links and blogroll in the column to the right for more excellent resources.

Previously Posted
Part 1: Online social networking for authors
Part 2: Special online social networks for authors
Part 3: Managing your online identities
Part 4: Launching a book’s website

Next in the Series
Part 6: Book reviewers on the Web
Part 7: Free publicity for book authors
Part 8: Book video trailers

2 Replies to “Part 5: Starting an author’s blog”

  1. Robin said:

    Videos, photos, and podcasts can be embedded in blogs when text is not enough.

    Yer killin’ me! I just (barely) got slideshows down (with your help)… and now I have to master videos and podcasts to generate sales for the book I’m writing??? Guess so, huh.

    Fabulous post, Robin—great series, actually. I checked out those sites and noticed that one authoress put her entire book on serial podcasts. Wow… may it happen to me! Thanks for the wonderful aggregating of “what” for those of us who… just need to learn “how.”

  2. T.T.:

    Fascinating stuff has turned up during the research for this series of blogposts—which you demanded, as I recall. Now, you can preview a new page of this blog titled “Book Reviewers,” which provides the supporting evidence for Part 6 in the series.

    I’d suggest quickly going beyond slideshows and podcasts to video. Current TV’s free video production training series is well worth watching. Authors are now hiring film producers to to create their book trailers. All of this innovation is incredibly fun to watch.

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