Almost everyone says you need a blog as part of your author platform. It’s a great way to connect with readers, and the core of it is writing, which is what we authors are good at. It’s pretty easy to find out how to do the technical stuff to start a blog, but you set up your blog and then… what? How do you actually use it to attract readers and build a platform? What do you write about? You actually have quite a few options.
The most important thing for readers to connect to in a book is the characters. If they don’t connect with the characters, chances are they won’t be wowed by the book. With a blog, you have the perfect opportunity to get your readers engaged with your characters early with character interviews. I have a default list of questions for mine, but honestly that gets a bit boring after a while, even when my characters go and run off with extra explanation and the “interviewer” can ask follow-up questions. If you want a bit more variety and want to get your readers even more engaged, you could consider giving brief summaries of the character in advance and letting your blog readers send in questions. Then they’re invested in that question and answer and they’re more interested in the interview and character as a whole, plus you’re giving them the information they want about the character.
You could also have a longer list of questions that you rotate through, if you want something preset, somewhat varied, and less involved than collecting questions for every individual interview.
You can also share actual snippets of your writing. This gets your readers familiar with your writing tone, and they can decide whether or not it’s a style they’re going to enjoy a full book’s worth of. (For some of them it won’t be. That’s okay.) They also get to know some of your characters, world, and writing all at once.
You can make these a regular thing or a more rare thing. (I’ve found I’m more excited about bloggers posting story snippets when they’re not something they usually share, but if you have a lot of stories and people are responding really well to your snippets it can also be effective more frequently.)
Once you’re further along in the writing process and have books published or about to be published, you can use snippets to heighten interest and drive sales, either with snippets directly from the published book or from related stories. For instance, I’ve used snippets from various stories set in Concordia as an opportunity to share my short story collection, because they’re related.
(As a side note, I apologize that I haven’t gotten snippets up the past couple of weeks. Snippet Sunday will be back next week.)
Chances are, if you’re a writer you’re also a reader. Which is great, because so are your potential readers! Through your blog, you can review books in your genre and connect with your readers over common likes and dislikes, rant together about hated tropes, and fangirl (or fanboy) over amazing books. If people enjoy books similar to yours, chances are they’ll enjoy yours once it’s published, and you can use that to your advantage in marketing (using comp titles and similar methods). You can also use book reviews as an opportunity to show that you know what makes a story work or not with more detailed critique.
Writing Status Updates
You can also keep your readers up-to-date on what you’re working on currently. Are you struggling through a first draft? Moving steadily through edits? Breezing through a short story? Readers like knowing how far along their favorite authors are in their books, especially if you establish excitement early on (not too early, or you could end up putting too much pressure on yourself) for that specific book. It might also surprise your readers how long a book can take. (Or how little time it takes, if you’re one of those magic speed-writers. I applaud you.)
Honesty and vulnerability is also going to get you a long way with readers. If you’re struggling with some part of the writing process, don’t hide that from your update. You might be able to make it an encouragement for someone else or share a lesson learned. Even if you can’t, you’re going to earn points with your readers for your honesty. We like seeing that the people who have it all together are human too, and chances are you’ll also get some much-needed support and encouragement. (To clarify, I’m not saying to be mopey to elicit sympathy, but sharing your weaknesses can benefit both parties.)
This is a bit different from the others, because it’s not likely to attract a whole lot of readers, it’s going to attract writers. Which is still good, because the writer community is awesome, and we’ve already established that writers are also readers, but these are people who are going to keep coming back for writing advice rather than in anticipation of your next book. Still, if you mix writing tips with book-related posts, chances are your writer followers are going to be almost as excited for your book as your reader followers (assuming your book is in their genre, and sometimes even when it’s not).
In addition, writing advice posts can be great learning opportunities for you. Putting your process and your thoughts on various aspects of writing into an orderly post can be great for revealing tidbits you hadn’t even consciously realized before, or shifting your thoughts to see things from a different angle.
Do you have another big interest that you can tie in with writing and reading? Are you a history buff who often ties history into her stories? Do you love music and find that becomes a big part of your writing as well? Or even if you don’t naturally tie the two (or more) together, is there a way you can bring them together for your blog? I have multiple posts here about music, because music is another thing I’m really passionate about, and I try to tie those in with writing. I also wrote a short story centered around music.