In today’s platform-driven publishing world, that indeed is the question of the day. Of course, our focus at The Author Toolbox is on the practical tools an author needs so I’ll keep this introduction to blogging brief since there are a gazillion other articles out there about whether you should blog, what to blog about, how often, the best platforms, and mistakes to avoid.
Blogging, while originally an online journal entry of sorts, is essentially an article you write online about a topic that is hosted in a single place where faithful readers can find it. The purpose of a blog is to build an audience around a common topic or theme (which could be your non-fiction area of expertise, a particular historical time period you set novels in, or even book reviews.) Whether you blog solo or as a contributor to a group blog, it is important to consistently write about a somewhat narrow subject and then interact in the comments to build a relationship with the readers.
Let me say that again. The main keys to blogging—if you chose to blog—are content creation, consistency, and comments.
(If decide to blog and don’t already have a website, click here to download step-by-step instructions to set up a website and then click here for instructions on how to navigate the WordPress dashboard.)
Tool #1 – A content calendar. Brainstorm a long list of potential posts including seasonal variations and create a folder to stash your notes about new ideas when they occur in order to avoid potential writer’s block. Then fit a month’s worth of posts into a calendar or list so you have a plan with naturally occurring deadlines. Next, set aside a chunk of time to batch-write several posts at once while the muse is hot, then schedule each article to “publish” on a specific date and time. Both Blogger and WordPress have the ability to schedule blog posts ahead so take advantage of that feature. If you set aside blog writing time once a week to keep the queue filled weeks in advance, you’ll soon automatically have that necessary consistency without having to set your alarm clock to write a new post on Monday morning. And you’ll have the peace of mind to know that if life throws a curveball one week, your blog audience won’t suffer.
My favorite tool for planning my blog content as part of my overall social media strategy is CoSchedule. (While you get a 14-day risk free trial, this is a paid program. However, you can reduce your fee by referring friends or writing a review.) What I love about this program when it comes to blogging specifically is being able to create pieces of content or notes about potential posts on an actual calendar filled with events in order to get a birds-eye view and then I can click-and-drag to shift those posts around. Each blog can then be edited directly in WordPress or if you upgrade to a more expensive plan, content created in the calendar is automatically converted to a blog post for you. Since evergreen blog posts should continue to drive traffic to your website for months to come, CoSchedule lets you easily promote past posts on a variety of platforms.
Tool #2 – A comment spam filter. Every blogger wants readers to comment, but not all comments contribute to the conversation—especially the ones linking back to sunglasses or boots or some other unrelated website. In fact, comments like those can easily turn off an audience and make it seem like you’re not as professional as you’d hope. Like I mentioned in the post on building a website and installing free plug-ins, a quality filter like Akismet or even Captcha is essential to weed out the computers from the humans and keep the spam from cluttering the comment feed. Once the filter is in place, change your settings to receive notifications of new comments. If you check your email regularly, you should be able to approve, delete, and reply to comments by following the link in the notification email. Or, speaking of mobile devices, I have a WordPress app on my iPad and can conveniently moderate comments there.
What’s next? Now that you have a home base website, with or without a blog, the next thing you need is to start building your email list.