How Authors Can Blog - Even If They Have No Free Time
Blogging is a subject for which there are many different opinions among writers. Some say you absolutely have to have a blog, others say it’s a waste of time. Some see great success with their blog, while others only hear crickets in response to their posts.
It’s also a question I’m asked at least once a week - do authors need a blog?
My short answer - yes. But more on that in just a minute. We need to discuss a very important element of blogging before we can get into the “how to” of this post.
The biggest misconception that many authors (and agents, and publishers…) have about blogging is that it is all about the author. I’m here to release you from that misconception. Your blog, just like your social media, is not about you - it’s about your reader.
Much like your social media outlets, when a reader comes across your content they are going to ask themselves, “What am I going to get out of this? What’s in it for me?”
If the blog is all about you, readers will lose interest very quickly. If it’s a personal blog to express your interests or share your personal thoughts, that’s totally fine. But when it comes to business and trying to sell your book, it has to be about your reader. Unless you’re a huge celebrity or are selling millions of books, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but readers won’t be interested in only reading about you and your life. They need to gain something or get something out of the content you’re sharing - even if it is just being entertained.
Whether that be inspiration, insight, or a connection point - they need to find value in what you have to share.
There are five important reasons for putting time and effort into a blog:
- It drives traffic to your website. A blog is one of the only sources of consistent fresh content that your website sees. You don’t want your relationship with readers to begin and end on social media. You need to drive them from social media to your website. And driving them to your blog is a fantastic way to do that on a regular basis.
- Your blog is shareable. It gives your readers something to share with their friends and family, which is a free way to help you grow your audience.
- It helps you stand out online. There is no shortage of options out there for readers - on Amazon alone there are over 800,000 books on Kindle. When you write blog posts that speak to your ideal reader regarding topics they are interested in, it will also make your content searchable for search engines. When you have consistent content available for your ideal reader, when they search for certain topics, your blog will pop up in the results.
- It creates a deeper connection and conversation with your readers. Even more so than on social media. You can go into more detail and give incredible value to your readers through you blog content.
- You own your blog. You don’t own your social media accounts. If we’ve learned anything from MySpace we know that we have no control over what happens with social media. Vine is likely to be next. Any of your favorite social media platforms could some day go away and then you’d be up a creek. You DO have control over two things: your blog and your newsletter. I'll have more on your newsletter in another post.
So now that you can see the importance of having a blog, it still begs the question: How do I blog when I have no extra time?
I know many of you have full time jobs and write on the side. Many have kids to look after and a few precious moments during nap time to get a few words down. Others are struggling just to focus on completing their novel.
I get it and I understand - it’s overwhelming. And this isn’t intended to add more stress to your life. But I do want to offer you some insight, ideas, and timesavers that will make blogging easier for you to do.
A few important details to keep in mind to save time with your blog
- Your blog doesn't have to be long - 500 words max. People are more likely to stop and read something that’s quick and to the point.
- If you don't have time to sit down and write something, consider doing a video blog, a podcast, or even using pictures. Images are a powerful way to tell a story and connect with readers.
- Focus on the quality of your blog, not the quantity. You don't write a blog just to fill a quota - there is a purpose behind it. I would much rather you do one high quality blog post a month than poor quality blog posts once a week.
- You can CURATE content. Sharing a great article, image, or video that speaks to your ideal reader and writing a short caption about why this is important, interesting or humorous is a fantastic way to create consistent content without adding more to your to-do list.
Now that we have those important details in mind, let's talk about ...
How you can put these blogging ideas into practice
The first step is to take a look at your calendar and pick one day a week you will dedicate to your blog. Maybe it’s Monday at 4PM, maybe it’s Friday at 9AM - whatever it is, pick a day and a specific time and write it in your calendar.
Because you are tight on time, I’m going to challenge you to just set aside 15 minutes a week to your blog. That’s it. 15 minutes. Maybe it will be just getting a few ideas down on paper or flushing out what you’re going to write about. Set a timer and do what you can.
The idea here is to create a habit within your schedule where you can dedicate a short amount of time to your blog. This is how you create new habits and new processes - just take a little bit at a time. As you get used to it and get a flow going, maybe add another 5 minutes if you can.
The trick here is that your blog doesn’t need to take up a huge chunk of your writing time. Setting aside a little bit of time for a short blogging assignment is very doable.
The biggest hurdle when you start to blog is actually coming up with what you want to write about. Here’s the secret to knowing exactly what to post: think of your ideal reader. When you know exactly who you are trying to reach you will find topics to discuss and write about in your blog. Everything hinges around your ideal reader. In my next Facebook Live session, I’m going to talk you through this and how to nail down topics that you can blog about.
With your ideal reader in mind, brainstorm a list of topics that you can discuss on the blog. I actually have a list of 50 ideas for fiction writers to get you started! I’m going to challenge you to come up with 20 for your blog topic list.
Once you come up with your list, pick the top 12 that you feel your ideal reader will respond to. If some of your topics feel like they would make for longer blog posts, break them up into a series. If your goal is to write one blog post a month, BAM! You’ve come up with a years worth of topics to write about.
The Important Details
Once your blog post is written, it’s very important to come up with an eye-catching title for your blog. CoScheduler has a very handy tool that rates and grades your headlines/blog titles.
Another important detail is to create an image that will go along with your blog post which you can also use in your social media posts (see my next point below). You can very easily (and quickly!) create an image on Adobe Spark for free! Here’s a tutorial on how to use and access it.
Once you have your blog post written, you need to share it on your social media outlets. Think of your social media outlets as a modern day newsstand - as people skim through their news feed, you will need an eye-catching headline to make them want to click on your post to read your blog. Don’t simply say, “I have a new blog post!” Make it more intriguing and “clickable” with more detail of what the blog post is about and why they should read it.
And make sure you promote it several times throughout the week. Tweak the headline a bit to sound fresh and so you can post about it multiple times throughout the week without being repetitive. This way your post will be seen by more people. If you only post it once, you will miss out on a much wider audience.
When we break down the blog writing process into smaller chunks and know exactly who we are talking to, it makes the process much easier and, believe it or not, FASTER!
As you get more accustomed to writing blog posts and get to where the process becomes a habit, consider going to two posts a month. No one says that you have to go all in right away and do a blog post every week - that’s the best way to burn out. Ease into it and you’ll find it’s much easier than you ever anticipated.
If you’re struggling with identifying your ideal reader or if you need help digging deeper into the specifics, you’re in luck! We will be sharing a free online training in the coming weeks that will help you do just that. Sign up for Answers for Authors: 5 Actionable Steps to Intentionally Grow Your Audience.