Today we’re excited to have Robin Houghton with us! She has over two decades of experience in marketing and communications, formerly with Nike, then running her own business Eggbox Marketing since 2002 specializing in online. She now works primarily with writers and publishing industry professionals to help them make the best use of social media. Robin writes blogs on social media and poetry and has been a guest blogger for a number of sites including Social Media Today and MarketingProfs. She is a published poet and a commercial copywriter for web and print, and an experienced trainer and conference speaker. Her first book, Blogging for Creatives was a best-seller and resulted in two more commissions, Blogging for Writers (2014) and The Rules of Blogging (and How to Break Them) (2015), both published by Ilex in the UK and HOW / Writers Digest Books in the US.
Allena Tapia on About.com has this to say:
The availability of information is just remarkable. Not only does Houghton walk you through with a whole lot of hand-holding from conception to execution, but she also addresses just about every aspect of blogging a new (or even veteran blogger) can think of.
Should You Be Blogging? Eight Searching Questions to Help You Decide
It’s a thorny issue. If there were a one-size-fits-all answer then we wouldn’t need to even ask the question, but there’s not. You only have to look at the lively discussion on Writer Unboxed in recent months to know that it’s complicated.
So rather than asking, “Should writers blog?,” let’s make it personal. You’re a writer. Should you be blogging? Let’s say you have doubts about it; that’s understandable. A blog takes time and effort to get going, time and effort to maintain. There is a payback. You just need to decide if it’s enough of a payback for you.
Here are some of the questions I ask writers who are thinking of blogging. It’s a diagnostic tool—I can’t claim it’s scientific, but it helps people understand whether blogging is for them, or not. It also gets you thinking about where the challenges lie for you personally. Answer the questions honestly to get the most benefit from it.
Q1: Is blogging ultimately about generating sales of your books?
yes / no / maybe
Q2: Here are some more reasons writers blog. How compelling do they seem to you?
For each, choose your answer from
very compelling / interesting but not compelling / I can achieve this without a blog / not one of my goals
- Reaching readers/potential new audiences
- Allowing readers to connect with me and know more about me and my work
- Camaraderie & peer support with other writers in my niche/ genre
- Generating (or testing) ideas for new books
- Showcasing my work to potential publishers, agents or editors
- As a route to guest blogging on bigger sites to reach wider audiences
- Making money from advertising, affiliate programs, or related products
Your answers should reveal your priorities. You may even now have a few new ideas about why you might wish to blog. It’s worth thinking about this: Can you achieve your goals without a blog? If you don’t really have good reasons to be blogging, it’s unlikely to be the best use of your time, or even a fun experience.
Q3: How much do you enjoy getting out and about, meeting readers, peers or industry professionals face to face at readings or conventions?
love it / OK – it’s part of the job / a necessary evil / avoid it
Q4: Do you enjoy sharing aspects of your daily life on Facebook or other social networks? yes / no
Blogging is as much a social activity as a platform for you and your writing. If you are the sort of writer who relishes the chance to connect with readers, enjoys meeting industry professionals, and collaborating with others, then it’s likely you’ll enjoy blogging. On the other hand, if you’re naturally wary of social media (or even of technology generally) and value your privacy, if you prefer to maintain a mystique around your work and aren’t really interested in collaboration, some aspects of blogging may not come easily or happily to you.
Q5: How different, do you think, is your own creative or paid writing, and writing for a blog?
very / a little / not at all different
Q6: Do you have time to blog?
yes, I will find the time / I think so but I’m concerned it may eat into ‘real’ writing time / not really, it will be tough
Q7 : How good are you at advance planning and sticking to deadlines, without external reminders?
excellent / usually OK / not the greatest
Writers who blog often report unexpected benefits—they become more fluent writers, they find keeping to a blogging schedule does wonders for their sense of discipline (which crosses over into their professional writing). They become more adept at editing their own work, more practiced at writing for the web, or at short-form writing generally.
There’s often also a satisfaction to be derived from the reciprocity involved in blogging. Yes, having to respond to comments or taking part in the odd trivial exchange can be a bind, but it creates community. Even in real life, not every conversation is goal-oriented. Sometimes, with the emphasis on the economic value of blogging, its the community value gets overlooked.
Blogs that exist in a vacuum don’t last very long. Deciding to blog is one thing. But if you don’t read blogs, or if you never comment on other blogs, or if you’re not out there on day one seeking out likeminded blogging buddies and making connections, it could be you’re not really convinced of the value of the blogosphere. If that’s the case, then keeping your own blog going over the long term will be hard.
A very common worry is lack of time. The thing is: if you have a good enough reason to do something (you believe it will help you achieve your goals) and if you enjoy it, you will find the time—in the same way that you find time to write. So in a way question 6 is again about your motivation. There’s no question that blogging can become a time-suck—but there are myriad tools and tricks to help manage that.
Q8: How strongly do you believe the following statements?
- A blog will detract from the real work of writing.
- Publishers and agents expect writers to have a blog.
- Top authors don’t blog, which proves there’s no advantage to it.
- If I don’t blog I won’t get noticed or picked up by a publisher.
- A blog is the basis of my author platform.
- There are so many blogs I can’t see how mine can possibly stand out.
- A blog will help me connect with readers.
- My readers aren’t interested in reading blog posts, they just want to read my books.
- I’m an established writer with an already strong web presence.
- It’s important for me to get direct feedback from readers.
You’ll find plenty of arguments for and against the above statements. They will resonate differently for each individual.
Only you can know all the variables, such as where you are in your writing journey or career, your attitude to technology and to risk, whether you’re more or less disciplined or organized, whether you’re a sociable person, your writing style, how blogging might fit with your current online presence.
Being armed with self-awareness means you can better make your own decisions. Blogging is an opportunity to try new things, to challenge yourself, and to have a huge amount of fun doing it. Oh, and it may even help you sell books!
I know this about myself—the part of blogging I find the hardest is discipline—planning and sticking to a posting schedule, being consistent about assigning Tags and Categories, that sort of detail. I’m easily distracted and am too quick to change Themes or even start new blogs…
Over to you—are you a blogger? What made you start blogging–was it an easy decision, and have you ever regretted it? What aspects of blogging did you find the most challenging at first? I’d love to know!