The Art of the Blog

Building an author platform is helpful both before and after publication. While you’re trying to get an agent, or get a publishing house interested, a large platform could make the difference from them being interested to needing your book immediately. After publication, having a platform in place will let you share information and reach out to readers. While having a blog is obviously not a get published quick scheme (I mean look at how many authors are published without a huge online presence) it can’t hurt to push your name and your writing out to potential readers.

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Why you should have a platform before publication

  1. Become visible: your blog gives you a place to be seen. You can let followers know about your upcoming book and start a buzz around your writing and your books. You’ll have to do less work after the book because the buzz will be around your book from the start and others will start to do the marketing for you.
  2. It takes time: quality platforms take time to create. It’s not an overnight process. Starting a platform takes time if you want to build real relationships with readers and expect them to purchase your book in the future.
  3. More agents and editors will be interested: I’d love to tell you that having a really well-written book will get you an agent and editor every time, but sometimes that’s not the case. Agents and editors think numbers. They need to make money and will pick a book that will sell. Having an audience in place will give you a leg up.

 

Why you need one after publication

  1. Continue sales: most books fail not because they’re poorly written, but because no one knows about them. Publishing houses put less time and resources into marketing than is necessary for most books to reach their full potential. That’s where you come in. Having a platform in place while you’re in the process of publishing gives you a leg up on the writer who has no following. Your books should sell better because they’re visible to more people.
  2. A place for readers to go: when your book comes out your new readers will have a place to go and will be pleasantly surprised to find that you already have an online presence.  They can read more of your writing and interact with long-time readers in an already established community.

 

Starting your platform

  1. Define who you are: what do you want to be known for.
  2. What do you want to write?: You can write about writing, which is a popular topic for many writers. Or, you can choose a different topic, like travel, or lifestyle blogging. It might sometimes be good to have your niche mesh with your primary writing to help with continuity. But having a different niche can widen your scope and get your name out to different crowds.
  3. Make your site professional: The more professional you look online, the more seriously people will take you. In this case, fake it until you make it.
  4. Get business cards: Like making your site professional, having business cards will further your credibility and show that you’re serious about both your writing and your career. Include your website, social media handles, email, and any other information relevant to future partners.
  5. Regularly post on your website: The less consistently you post the less people will remember you. It doesn’t matter if it’s once a day or once a week, just post consistently and regularly.
  6. Promote your posts on social media: Get your writing out there for people to see.
  7. Promote others: No one wants to see a blogger constantly sharing his or her own things without any break. That gets annoying. Share other posts you liked or think your audience would like.
  8. Talk to others: Both in person and online, engage with people to show that you are a real human and not just a site that wants their pageviews.
  9. Write useful articles that people want to read: While it’s sometimes nice to write about your day or publishing dilemma, that’s not always going to grab reader’s attention. Write posts that bring something to the table, a post that people need to click on. Once they see you know your stuff, they’ll stick around to learn about you, the writer.
  10. Be unforgettable: Find something that makes you stand out. Be more than just the novel writer or publishing blogger. Give them something to remember you by. Maybe it’s your voice, tone, or writing style.

 

I’ve reached out to a few MFA alums who currently run a blog.

Drema Drudge

How long have you been running your blog?
My blog has been up for about four years now.

What do you write about on your blog?
That has changed over time. I started out posting only about art writing, because that’s a great passion of mine. Then I began blogging about writing in general, but that still felt too confining. My theory is that I am who I am because of all of my interests, so while I usually post about writing or reading, I sometimes also write about great podcasts I’ve stumbled across or a recipe I’ve just written.

What is your favorite part about running your blog?
It’s that moment where I think I’ve said what I want to say, just before I hit “publish.” Then publishing it and wondering who might be influenced to write something, read something, or just be more free because of the words I wrote. As long as I’ve had my say, tried to express my worldview, I’m proud of myself, however imperfectly I may have written it.

What has your blog done for your writing career?
One thing that has been a real honor is what I’ve been able to do for others. I am proud to review or showcase a book by someone whose work I love and respect on my blog.
As for myself, sometimes when I’m asking for a freelance writing gig I’ve pointed editors to my blog as an example of my writing skills and my personality, two important things they consider in choosing writers. Of course I also announce any forthcoming publications of my own.

What kinds of relationships have you established through your blog?
Probably the number one thing it’s done is connect me with writers I wouldn’t have known otherwise, people who have read and commented on my blog who have become my friends. But it’s also helped me reveal more of myself to those who know me in real life. As an introvert, I value that.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a blog?
There are so many blogs out there. While you may write on a topic that thousands are interested in, it’s difficult for them to even find you. Write your posts for the same reason you write everything else: because you must; because you have something unique to say. Then be happy you’ve accomplished that. Whatever else happens is out of your hands.

 

Angela Elson

How long have you been running your blog?
I’ve had a boring, aimless, half-dead blog for about a year and a half, but in the past month it has finally crystalized into something I’m truly passionate about: my quest to become Internet famous.

I’ve spent a ludicrous amount of time tinkering with my memoir about the year I spent coming of age, falling in love, and making an ass of myself while teaching English in Japan—so much time that I neglected to build the “platform” needed to actually market the damn thing. So when I was finally ready to send it to agents, I was disappointed to realize few would consider me without a public and a marketing strategy. I needed to go viral.

This was daunting—especially since I had no fan base because I’d been unwilling to own the title “WRITER” in public. (I made a writer Facebook page in 2012 and told no one about it.) So after a few half-hearted attempts at unrelated blog articles that no one read, I broke down on Facebook, confessed to needing LIKES, got drunk, and then posted it. Within 24 hours, I had 53 “Likes,” a bunch of shares, and many kind words of support. I knew then that I had an audience of people willing to help me achieve the cheap, soulless Internet fame I needed to pursue my dreams. And they seemed to think it was funny, so I decided to make the blog about that.

What do you write about on your blog?
I’m coming up with all kinds of ridiculous schemes to become Internet famous! My most recent post was about my quest for the perfect Instagram selfie (the selfie ended up getting promoted on a shopping website—hooray!) Future posts will include my attempts to infiltrate the Mommy blog circuit and creating my own memes. In addition, I plan on learning what a Tumblr is. I also offer humorous Grammar Tips to tie in with the English-teaching aspect of the memoir. It’s all very droll and self-deprecating, but there’s a heart in there as well.

What is your favorite part about running your blog?
I’m chasing the dragon of analytics. When I post, I obsessively check to see how many impressions it gets. I look at Google analytics every morning: a low traffic day only stiffens my resolve for online glory.

Also, I like that I’ve been able to involve my friends in what is usually a solitary undertaking. My husband has been especially supportive in helping me come up with idiotic memes. It’s been fun collaborating with him.

What has your blog done for your writing career?
Nothing yet besides give me confidence. I have a shitck and a will (and a tolerable manuscript): I’m choosing to believe it’s only a matter of time before I make it.

What kinds of relationships have you established through your blog?
Besides a greater love for fellow humans seeking online validation? None.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a blog?
If you’re trying to market yourself, it helps to have a theme—especially an entertaining one. Make it as engaging as possible: get people to vote for things, foster opinions, ask for submissions, beg for shares. I’m sure I should tell you to promote the hell out of it, but I have yet to crack the code on which social media outlets are the best for that. If you follow the blog (angelaelson.com—Like me on Facebook!) you’ll know the moment I figure it out!

 

Emily Van Der Ark

How long have you been running your blog?
About three years.

What do you write about on your blog?
Lots of book reviews and recommendation lists, sometimes I muse on issues that provoke me to deep thought. Mostly I write about writing.

What is your favorite part about running your blog?
I love that having a blog keeps me accountable to writing and allows me to make something and put it out there right away. Recently I’ve been incorporating videos about different aspects of the writing journey, and that has been really fun, too.

What has your blog done for you career?
I haven’t had any big breaks because of my blog, but it does keep me writing when I might otherwise drop out of the habit. It is also a great place to send people when they are interested in working with me. I give them my blog so they can see what I’m all about.

What kinds of relationships have you established through your blog?
It has certainly helped me in building professional (or side hustle) relationships, but it also helps me connect with people in my everyday life as a writer instead of just as somebody they know. People who aren’t part of the writing world tend to understand what I do much better after checking out my blog. Or if not understand, at least become interested enough to ask questions and engage with me about writing or books.

What advice would you give someone wanting to start a blog?
Be consistent in the creation of content, but use it as a springboard for creating your “real” content – your essays or poems or novels. It’s a way to keep your toes in the wet sand so it’s easier to dive in when you have time for the real work. Be careful that your blog doesn’t become so important that the two switch positions.
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Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, and puppy. She has way too many books, more cameras than she knows how to properly use, and a never ending need to keep moving. She write about her life and adventures at home and around the world at A Wandering Scribbler.

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