If writers need to blog in order to make connections with their audience, what should they blog about? It’s a tricky question for many of us — especially if you write fiction. But even a non-fiction author needs to fine-tune the overall blog topic. These are my tips for finding the way forward that is particularly suited to YOU. And there is ONE key thing that really matters!
A recap: Why we need to blog
Last week we talked about whether or not authors really need to blog. Since I know you’re probably as busy as I am, I would have loved to say we don’t need to do it. But then I heard a bunch of publishers saying that the first thing they do is google a hopeful author’s name… Dang. We must have an online presence.
Even if you don’t want to reach a traditional publisher, all indicators are that if you are an emerging author, blogging is something to consider seriously.
- If you plan to self-publish globally, your blog or website will form the centrepiece of your marketing.
- If you are seeking a publisher, and writing anything other than literary fiction, you need an online presence to help boost your reputation in the eyes of agents and publishers. And the best way to control your online presence is via a blog or website that you own.
Read that previous article for more information, and ideas on how to get started.
So, how do we choose the topic?
If you’ve been searching this question on the web, you’ll have a mishmash of interesting/puzzling/conflicting/just-plain-scary ideas to try to sift through.
“Write about writing.”
“DON’T write about writing.”
“Write about your life.”
“DON’T write about your life.”
“Make sure you pay attention to SEO (search engine optimisation).”
“Oh no! They’ve changed all the rules for SEO!”
“You must think like a marketer.”
“You must think like an artist and forget icky marketing.”
Aaagh! How do you decide?
The ONE thing that really matters
I’m going to boldly bring all that conflicting information down to just ONE thing that really matters.
Some people will disagree with me, and quote science and statistics to support their case, but I maintain that all the cleverness in the world won’t help you without this one thing.
This one key thing is vitally important because:
- You’re human.
- Your readers are human.
You can be a marketing genius and an SEO ninja, but you still need this one. Marketing and SEO are the servants of humans, not the other way round!
Are you ready?
Here it is. *drumroll*
Choose a topic you LOVE.
Choose a topic that motivates you. That you want to write about, month after month, year after year. Something that fires you up inside. Something that excites you. Something that you are always thinking about. Something you could talk about all day.
What will sell, what google loves, and EVEN what readers want to read are secondary to this one key thing. Yes, even what readers want is secondary! (I told you I was bold.) This is why:
- Your blog is a showcase for your writing. From 18 years as a book editor, I can assure you that impassioned writers are better writers, no matter what level of technical skill they began with. If you really love what you’re writing about, it flows through your words into the reader’s mind and heart and they are inspired. Passion releases that right-brain creativity and shoves the niggly nagging Not Good Enough fairy into a box. You forget to be self-conscious and awkward, and you just communicate!
- Your blog is a meeting point for you to connect with other people who share (at least some of) your interests and passions. What better way to find them than by expressing who you really are, and what really matters to you? There’s no value in somehow “tricking” readers into coming to your blog via SEO tomfoolery, because they won’t stay, and they won’t love you. (Note: I am NOT saying that SEO is completely useless, in fact it can be very powerful when used wisely, but it MUST have a lower priority than this primary issue of human engagement.)
- Your blog is a long-term commitment. It’s going to be much more sustainable if you choose a theme or topic that you love. Writing smart is OK as far as it goes, but writing impassioned will go a lot further. 😉
- Your blog needs to be future proof (as far as possible). Google is going to keep on changing its algorithms and limiting our ability to optimise for search engines. Reader preferences will go through phases — this year it’s mommy-porn and vampires, next year might be garden gnomes and books set in the Outer Hebrides! If you focus on “playing” either area at the expense of your own dreams and passions, you’ll end up tired and disillusioned.
Your blog is going to have to compete with all those other things you have to do or love to do, and survive your own busyness and even exhaustion.
- We all encounter social media fatigue eventually. We will all think at times, “Why am I blogging when I could be writing my next book / working / feeding the family / sleeping?” Your blog needs to be compelling and interesting to you (if no one else!) or you simply won’t do it. It’s too hard. Give yourself a fighting chance.
OK, so how do we find our way through all those possibilities of things you love, to the topics that can form a workable basis for your blog theme?
Here as my gift to you is a downloadable worksheet. Use it to work through all your possible blog topics, and find a solution that fits YOU.
Choosing-the-best-topic-for-your-author-blog (PDF, 63KB)
This is what it looks like:
I won’t repeat all the information on it here, but it steps you through brainstorming about the things you love, the concepts behind your books, the topics you might like to blog about, and how everything fits together.
You can use it if you’re just starting. And you can use it if you’ve been blogging a while and you feel the need to refocus.
Allow yourself to reshape and refine your blog as the years go by. It’s OK to develop and change.
And allow yourself to “just get started” and work out the details as you go. That’s OK too. You will eventually find your community of readers, the ones who are genuinely interested in the things you long to say.
Talk to me. What is your blog theme, and how did you choose it? Is it working well? What thoughts do you have for others? If you are just starting, how are you deciding about your topic or theme?
Confused woman image via Bigstock/Maridav. Snoozing koala image is my own! 😉