For authors who have the time to post regularly, blogging can be a wonderful way to build a following and engage with readers. One question authors often ask us is “What should I blog about?” While every author is different, these are the key factors we think authors should take into account when deciding what to include in their blogs.
1. Blog about your passion
The most important thing about blog content is that it feels true and authentic to the reader. If you are passionate and truly interested in your topic, that feeling will come across. Plus, that passion will carry you through to deliver content even on your least motivated days. We usually recommend that authors post at least three times per week (although posts can be short).
2. Think about your goals
Authors start blogs for different reasons. Often their goal is to attract an audience in the run-up to publication of a title. Other authors find blogging a useful way to flex their writing muscles and prevent writer’s block. Blogs can also be useful to build credibility in a different field, if you are planning to write about something completely new to you. Be clear with yourself and others exactly what you are hoping to get out of it—this could change your whole approach to content.
3. Think about your audience
This is particularly important if one of your primary goals is to build audience and traffic. Who is your target audience? What types of things are they interested in? Where do they hang out? Are they currently reading other blogs? And, possibly most important, how will your blog be different?
4. Make a traffic-building plan
There are three main ways your blog is likely to get traffic:
-You may have a following already on social or other sorts of media. In this case, regular linking to your posts from those platforms may be all you need.
-You might attract some quality traffic from search engines (more on this in future posts).
-You may need to have an “outreach” strategy for your posts to make sure they get mentioned and linked to from other places. If links are going to be your main way to attract traffic, you’ll need to be confident that you can generate the types of content that will be good “linkbait.” You’ll also need to spend time researching and building relationships with other sites and blogs so your content gets read and linked to by other bloggers and web publishers.
If this seems daunting, one alternative is to become a regular contributor to someone else’s platform rather than develop your own. A good example of this is the Freakonomics blog, which has become a vehicle for other writers/academics in addition to original authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. This is a time-efficient strategy for all.
5. Be yourself!
Don’t be afraid to show your personality, through what you write and how you write it.
6. Look at what others are doing
Looking at what other authors or bloggers are doing can be a great way to get inspiration for blog topics, design, and posts.
For nonfiction authors, the challenge of what to write about can stem from trying to find an over-arching theme that can tie together different subjects. It can also be tricky to write on a subject if there is a risk of repeating too much content from the book. However, nonfiction content does have the advantage of being easy to link to.
Here are some examples of how nonfiction authors have tied their work to their blogs:
Chris Guillebeau: Chris’s Art of Non-Conformity blog hosts thought pieces and travel diaries. Chris is most notable for creating and distributing (for free) substantial pieces of content that generate substantial link traffic, like “279 Days to Overnight Success”.
Jon Katz: On his Bedlam Farm blog, Jon writes about everyday life on the farm, using photography, language, and personal stories in powerful ways to evoke an emotional response from the reader.
Robert Reich: Robert’s blog reinforces his status as an important and interesting political commentator. A simple text-based layout complements the content, and Robert has fun with formats, such as memos to public figures.
Fiction authors have a different challenge, as it may be more difficult for them to find relevant external topics to blog about. As a result, fiction authors are more likely to blog about the writing process itself. The secret to success is often the special spin that a writer can bring to their blog, perhaps focusing on additional content, their research process, or advice to other aspiring writers. (There are more content ideas in our “Starting a Blog” document on the Author Portal.) Here are some examples of blogs by fiction authors:
Erin Morgenstern: Erin combines details of her writing life with her “flax-golden tales”—mini stories of magical happenings in the midst of everyday life.
Alexander McCall Smith: Alexander uses his Facebook page as his blog, posting long-form content that includes anecdotes, poems, and passages from books he is currently writing.
Lauren Kate: YA author Lauren incorporates a wide variety of content into her blog, including interviews with other authors, photos that remind her of scenes in her books, exclusive short stories, and giveaways.
And, as always, remember that your Random House editor or marketing contact is here to help.