Monday, January 15, 2018

Why Should Fiction Writers Blog?

By Anne R. Allen, @annerallen

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: When I sold my first novel (back in 2008), everyone told me I needed to start a blog. All the authors were doing it, and if I wanted to be successful, I had to jump in. As a teen fantasy author, I had no idea what to blog about (or why anyone would care that I was blogging at all), so I fell back on what I knew--writing. For me, it worked out great, but not all writers have been as lucky. For those facing the "to blog or not to blog?" question, the delightful Anne R. Allen visits the lecture hall today to share her expertise on blogging as a fiction writer.

Anne R. Allen is the author of 12 books, including her new release from Kotu Beach Press: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors. Her award-winning blog, Anne R. Allen's Blog…with Ruth Harris was named one of Writer's Digest's Best 101 Websites for Writers. She's also the co-author of How to Be a Writer in the E-Age, with NYT bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde.

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The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors is available in ebook for $2.99 for a limited time at Nook, Kobo, Apple, and Amazon. The paper version launches in February 2018.

Take it away Anne...

People don't read novels on blogs—so why should a fiction writer have a blog?

It's true that readers seem to shy away from fiction on blogs. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's because readers prefer fiction that's formatted like a book, without the block paragraphing and lack of indents we use on blogs.

But I do know readers don't like it. I have a friend who's a mega-selling novelist who put some of her short stories on her blog absolutely free. They never got more than a handful of hits.

She put the same stories on Amazon for $2.99 each and they sold like crazy.

So, yeah, you don't want to blog your fiction. You need to blog about the subject matter, setting, or something else related to your novels, but not the novels themselves.

Blogging is also not a particularly good way to attract an agent (agents will glance at your blog if they're considering your query, but mostly to make sure you're relatively sane and don't look impossible to work with.)

So what is blogging good for if you're a novelist?

It's good for getting to know people and letting them get to know you. With a blog, you can meet people in the publishing industry as well as readers who will buy your books someday, even if you haven't written any yet.

The networking you do online is the key to establishing a writing career these days. I'm amazed at how many new writers still think a book launch is just something that happens at your local bookstore or a nearby book fair.

Today, a writer's market is global. Do you know the country where people read the most? India. Or where the second biggest population of English speakers lives? India. Followed by Pakistan and Nigeria.

So how can you get known by readers all over the planet?

With your blog.

You can reach more readers with one blogpost than with months of those painfully ill-attended "signings" or those $1000-a-pop book fair booths.

You don't have to go on an expensive blog tour, either. An informal series of guest posts and interviews with other writer-bloggers in your genre can get your book in front of just as many potential readers.

It certainly has worked for me. And I'm not the only author who's found blogging the key to career success. Listen to what bestselling fantasy author Nat Russo said after an expensive launch that failed to make any book sales.

"I slashed the number of book ads…and went back to blogging…sales rocketed…they leaped from 3/day to over 70/day, where they've remained ever since."

Yeah. He stopped buying advertising and went back to blogging. That took him from a negative bottom line to making a nice living from his books.

Not only does blogging generate sales, it also gives you emotional support that you need as you're starting your career. Ours is a lonely profession. Connecting with people on the Web can give you moral support as well as information.

It also provides valuable contacts. You know how they always say you need to know somebody to break into publishing?

Blogging is a great way to get to know somebodies.

They don't have to be famous somebodies. Although who knows—maybe they'll be bigshots someday. Several of the bloggers I met early on became literary agents. Others write book reviews. Some are bestselling authors.

But most of all, blogging can reach readers. Blog about subjects related to your books that will draw in your target reader, and they'll start visiting.

I realize this doesn't happen right away. You need to get out into the blogosphere so people know your name and your "brand." I spent almost a year blogging for crickets until I won a contest run by then Curtis Brown agent, Nathan Bransford. The prize was a guest spot on his blog.

That taught me the power of guest blogging and networking. I started getting regular readers and making friends with them. That's all "networking is" —making friends.

And networking pays off.

How? Well, a year after I started my blog, I got offers from two publishers and an agent because they discovered me in the blogosphere.

A few years later, Ruth Harris, a New York Times million-selling author,was my blog partner, the blog was getting 100,000 hits a month and it was named to Writers Digest's Best 101 Websites.

Our guests have included movie stars, Golden Globe winners, mega-sellers, literary agents, and even Nathan Bransford himself.

And as far as marketing, while other authors are desperately trying to get their books into bargain newsletters where they pay a huge amount of money to give some books away, I've had big, slick magazines, writer's conferences, and major websites come to me offering me free publicity.

I've been interviewed for the fashion magazine More about "Fear of Homelessness in Older Women" (the subject of my mystery No Place Like Home) and for the American Bar Association Journal on "Amazon Customer Reviews" (which I satirize in my comic mystery So Much for Buckingham.)

I've been invited to write for Author magazine on "How to Deal with the Time-Suck of Social Media," and I've been asked to write articles on writing craft for major magazines and books on the publishing industry, including Writer's Digest and Writer's Market.

I was even interviewed for the American Bar Association Journal about Amazon reviews and they photographed me reading So Much for Buckingham—a nice piece of product placement.

Some of the books and magazines paid me nice money. Others gave me major publicity that would have cost me thousands of dollars.

All this happened because of my blog. Even though I write fiction.

I'm not guaranteeing this will happen to every author. And I'm not promising immediate results.

But a blog is the best way to build your brand and get your name out there so people have a chance of finding your book-needle in the vast bookselling haystack.

About The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors

An easy-does-it guide to simple, low-tech blogging for authors who want to build a platform, but not let it take over their lives.

An author blog doesn't have to follow the rules that monetized business blogs do. This book teaches the secrets that made Anne R. Allen a multi-award-winning blogger and one of the top author-bloggers in the industry.

And you'll learn why having a successful author blog is easier than you think.

Here are some things you'll learn in this book:
  • How an author blog is different—and easier to maintain—than a business blog
  • What authors should blog about at different stages of their careers
  • Choosing the right blog topics for your genre and audience
  • How one type of blogpost can build your platform quickly
  • Basic SEO tips that don't make your eyes glaze over with tech jargon
  • How to write headers that will grab the attention of Web surfers
  • How to keep your audience by learning the tricks of content writing
  • Essential blog and social media etiquette rules
  • What happens to your blog when you die?
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound | Kobo |


  1. Yay for the new book, Anne! Buying... :-D

    1. Nicole--Thanks a bunch! I hope you find the book helpful!

  2. I agree--out of all the social media forms out there, blogging is definitely the best way to really get to know the author.

  3. Southpaw--I'm glad you agree. A blog is the one social medium where the author is in control and can interact with readers on a regular basis.

  4. Thanks, Anne, for tackling this. It's difficult to know how to use the little time we have to benefit us the most. Especially with all the things we're "supposed" to do and all the online places we're "supposed" to be. Too much. I've held on to my blog though I've been told not to. Look forward to reading your book. Congrats!

    P.S. I love that you've addressed this: "An author blog doesn't have to follow the rules that monetized business blogs do." I'm tired of people telling me what I MUST do to be successful when I don't want the same things they do. ;-) Spot on!

    1. Sarah--You'll find lots of examples in the book of blogging "rules" you can break with happy abandon. Enjoy the read. I think you'll find it helps you save lots of time. Thanks!

  5. Brava! Thanks Anne, & thanks to Fiction University. Always great to read advice from a expert.

  6. Looks like a good one . . . Just what I needed!

    1. Jarm--You'll see the WP gremlins played some games with my response. It's below. Thanks!

  7. I'd like to purchase this title and I prefer the paper version, so how can I get information about when it is to be released, please.

    1. Foster's--I left a note for you below when the gremlins were playing games with WP. Do send me an email if you want a personal notice (address below.)

  8. Jarm--I replied to your comment earlier, but the blog elves seem to have eaten it. :-) I hope you enjoy the book! Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Note to Foster's Little Bookshop:

    I got a notice of your comment, but the elves have eaten it on this blog for the time being. As Janice says above, there's some tech crankiness going on.

    I'll be happy to send you a notice when the book is available in paper in Australia. Should be there at least by mid-February. So email me at annerallen dot allen at gmail dot com. Or you can just follow my blog or friend me on social media. (Links above.) Thanks for your interest!

  10. I have a morning quiet time - 6:00 to 6:55 in case you're wondering. I use that time to read blogs. Sometimes I learn things, sometimes I laugh and so on.

    As a writer most of the blogs teach me and with the crazies in my house I need quiet to learn. This post of yours came at the perfect time. My editor and I finished up my first novel. I've been told to create a blog, I've been hesitant and so on.

    Thank you for this. Your post will be book marked and your book will be bought. I am now understanding why blogs are so valuable. I am now going to venture over to your blog and check it out.

    1. Bryan--I did the same thing when I was getting to know the ins and outs of the new world of Digital Publishing. Mornings started with tea and blogs. I learned an awful lot. Thanks much for buying the book and welcome to our blog! (We only post once a week, on Sundays, so it's not hard to keep up.)

  11. I learned a lot from Anne's book over the Xmas break.

    In particular, her core message of being genuine reminded me of why I first began blogging in late 2007. The intertubes were less crowded and easier to navigate back in them there golden years (ha!) but the idea of having a 'creative beacon' that the writer is in direct control of remains the same, in my opinion.

    I guess the 'visibility trick' these days is in helping others to locate your blog's wee light shining (dimly, in my case!) out there among the vast web of online choices many busy people/readers find themselves dazzled by.

    However, like tracers in the dark, I suspect that social media and (guest) blogging can assist those interested to find your 'writing hub'. At least, in addition to writing books, that's a plan I am working on this year, with Twitter being my Blogging sidekick!

    Thanks, Anne, for the much-needed reminder of blogging's outreach potential to budding writers.

    1. Mark--Thanks much for the endorsement of my book! Guest blogging and social media are essential for getting a blog on the radar at this point. Unless your blog really takes off, Google won't be much of a source of traffic, so social media is your most valuable partner. Twitter works really well for me. And every so often a Facebook share gets a ton of traffic. Even if you're not on FB, your readers can help with those handy "share" buttons.

  12. Thanks Anne to clear my mind about fiction writers blog