An author recently wrote me asking about ways to promote their book. I’m no expert on marketing, by any stretch. However, I’ve learned from experience that blogging can be an effective marketing tool. That’s no revelation, to be sure. But pulling it off can be dreadfully hard for writers.
What makes that hard is typically two-fold: One is the time involved. It’s hard enough getting the stories in my head onto paper. Consistently cranking out compelling blog content is a whole other challenge. The second difficulty is coming up with ideas. I mean, what do we write about?
One author recently commented on this dilemma here:
“I don’t see the point to blogging. The only people who follow my blog are other writers. It isn’t that I don’t want to engage my readers. I want to. I just don’t know how to be relevant to them in a non-fiction forum… [I]f you have to spend inordinate amounts of time coming up with blog posts, then you’ve taken time away from another, potentially more productive [marketing] effort, that could have worked just as well or possibly even better for you. As yet, no one has proven to me that online presence activities are an absolute necessity. “
This author is expressing what many of us feel.
So how do writers resolve this conundrum? Well, some of us don’t. Which leads to “reactive blogger” syndrome. The reactive blogger works harder than they need to because they’re always looking for topics to blog about at the last minute. They know they should blog but, for the life of them, can’t seem to consistently find engaging material. It’s all been said better elsewhere, they reason. Who cares about my two cents?
That’s the dilemma. On the one hand, we’re told by all the experts that we need an online presence, a blog being one of them. On the other hand, we’re pressed by time and pressed for ideas.
The way I’ve resolved this is to break the rules. Okay, one rule in particular. This one:
Find your niche.
Bloggers are consistently encouraged to find a niche and then mine that audience. Finding your niche means narrowing your subject matter in order to target specific readers. Whether it’s
And the list goes on. The idea is that blogging randomly is antithetical to building a fan base. People want to know what they’re going to get when they come to your site. Will they get the latest publishing scoop? Will they get searing political commentary? Will they get up-to-the-minute gossip? But trying to do all three — publishing, politics, and gossip — is just wrong.
I dunno. I’ve just never been sold on that strategy. Sure, it might be good for attracting readers, but what about maintaining my sanity? I mean, my life isn’t about one thing, so why should my blogging be?
I’ve summarized my approach in my ABOUT page. It goes like this:
I blog about what interests me, and tend to jump around within topics. My subheader specifies Faith, Culture and Composition, three topics that inspire the bulk of my blogging… Because I’m a novelist, I talk a lot about writing-related issues. Because I’m a Christian writer, I blog about things related to theology, Christian fiction, faith-based stories, and the Christian publishing industry. Above all, I approach Decompose as a creative outlet, a laboratory, a record of interests, a ministry tool, a confessional, and a platform to engage readers, writers, and spiritual seekers.
I usually post three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is not a set-in-stone schedule, as I work full-time, write professionally, and value my mental health. Nevertheless, I do try to keep content rolling, even if it’s just lame posts about my Netflix queue or pics of my dogs.
I haven’t posted a lame pic of my dog lately. So maybe I’m due.
The point is, I just couldn’t keep sane if I had to blog about the same topic over and over and over. Sure, I like to dig into heavy subjects here. But, man, I’d go bonkers if those were the only subjects I covered.
All that to say: If I had to give advice to a blogger about how to have staying power, it would be this: Write about what interests you, when it interest you. If what interests you is all over the map, so be it.
Ultimately, it is more important that you blog regularly, than that you define a niche. People will read your blog long-term because they like your voice, appreciate your spin, and the community of commenters, not because you are an expert on any one given subject.