I’ve had a question from Tina L McWilliams: Besides Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc, a website is obviously essential. But what type? Some writers have simple ones, with their books, an author biography and so forth. Others – you and Joanna Penn included – have ‘education’ sites. Which I love, and return to regularly. (Thanks! Ed) So, could you discuss the importance and the time involved with both?
Oh my, do I have websites – here, here, here and of course right here. That’s four web homes. (I’ll explain why later, but first:)
Why have them at all?
If you’ve got Twitter, Facebook, G+, you’re certainly making good connections. But you’re fitting a limited format with little room to customise. You need a place to invite folks to when they want to know more.
Also, you control your website’s destiny. A social medium might disappear – or your crowd might (MySpace, anyone?). But your site is yours.
Quick detour – should your site be self-hosted? I’ve blogged about this here and here, including the importance of your own URL. (I’ll be talking about that later.)
How extensive does the site have to be?
If the site’s raison d’etre is to tell people who you are, you don’t need more than a few static pages – about you, your books, contact details. Perhaps a page of upcoming events if you do a lot of these (I don’t so I use social media for this). And voila: a website.
If you add a blog, you get noticed more. Search engines favour sites that are frequently updated. Human visitors like to see they’re on the blog of a person who regularly shows up, and notices when new folks call. There are a lot of dead, forgotten sites out there, so you need to make your site look alive.
Should you blog about writing and publishing?
Honestly? The ether is choked with sites about writing and publishing.
Here’s a reason not to: being distinctive If you write straightforward posts about ‘show not tell’ you might find it hard to be noticed – and that’s one of our goals, right? So your posts need to be individual. A lot of writers blog about their lessons and mishaps on their writing journey, so you might find it hard to reach further than immediate friends.
Here’s a reason to: getting your material shared If the content is useful or strikes a chord, it’s more likely to be shared. Certainly a lot of people want to learn about writing and publishing. And you might win fans for your gloriously whacky voice (like Chuck Wendig).
But consider this:
Who do you want your content shared with?
Most authors who blog about writing will only reach other writers. That’s fine for me because writing tuition is part of what I do (but it’s not everything – see below). If you’re blogging to help people develop a taste for your fiction? You might be better choosing something else:
- your issues, if your fiction is issues based
- your historical period if appropriate
- other books in your niche
- host other authors (like Jane Davis), campaign for better recognition for indie authors (like Paul Sean Grieve), start a blog series like David Abrams on The Quivering Pen with My First Time or me with The Undercover Soundtrack.
Blogging to promote your fiction? The dilemma for literary authors
I still haven’t sussed this myself. Partly this is because my kind of fiction doesn’t suggest bloggable ‘topics’. One book might deal with, say, musicians, reincarnation and despair (My Memories of a Future Life). Another might feature repressive regimes and ruined country houses (Lifeform Three).
Even so, those aren’t really my ‘subjects’. I can write the odd guest post about them, but not regular blogs. Ever Rest and my embryonic ideas are different again. My signature, if I have one, is thematic: ideas of the soul and memory, conditions of haunting. I have only realised this as I roam about in Novel 3. I could blog about those themes, but it might discharge my need to explore them in the books.
So subject and issues blogging isn’t going to work for me. But it might be good for you.
Make it regular
Your blog needs to look current. So make blogging a regular appointment. Include a calendar so visitors can see the pattern. A list of previous or popular posts will tempt them to stay longer. The longer people stay on your site, the better.
How frequently should you blog?
As often as you find manageable. Experts say that for SEO significance it should be several times a week, but that might exhaust most of us. And think of it from the reader’s perspective. How much time do you have to read blogs, even the ones you love? Once a week is probably plenty to keep you on the radar.
Which brings me to… what I do and how much time I spend.
Why do I have so many sites?
It was an accident, but it seems to work. Each site has a distinct purpose, and they’re all connected to one hub and to each other.
Nail Your Novel
This one you’re reading is my original site. More here about how it started, where you can also see charming screenshots of how my blogs looked in 2011 (eek!).
Post frequency: I put up a writing/publishing post once a week plus a trailer for The Undercover Soundtrack. Plus signposts if I’ve got a guest spot or devilishly exciting news like a launch. Overall, at least 2 posts a week.
Time taken: I can’t just slap a post out. I spend at least 5 hours of cogitating, checking examples to make sure I’m not making idiotic assumptions, finding pics. You don’t have to spend as long if that’s not your style. Later there are comments to answer, shares to acknowledge and other networking to do. Every few months I might tweak the sidebar icons, so that’s another occasional hour or two. I reckon my blog swallows a full day a week – at least. (Is that shocking?)
My Memories of a Future Life and The Undercover Soundtrack
Post frequency: twice a week. One trailer to introduce my guest, written by me. One Soundtrack post. Although I don’t write these, they take time behind the scenes. I book guests well in advance (as you’ll know if you’ve featured!). When posts come in, I read them, write back with praise (of course!) and quite often ask for tweaks if I think this would make them fit the format better.
Time taken: about 2 hours per week, depending on resubmissions.
How it started: I’d built a blog for writers, but it wasn’t designed for introducing my fiction. When I launched my novel, I worked out a separate profile-building strategy and wrote this post full of bold plans. I reread it just now and added updates for what lasted and what proved daft or impossible to sustain. Mostly the latter. You might find it amusing.
Another reason to have a separate site was to claim the URL. There are several reasons:
- Easier for readers to find in a Google search
- A handy and sensible URL to put on business cards
- Allowed me to create a separate site with artwork in the novel’s livery (if I went self-hosted again I could have done this without making a separate site, but that would have been too disruptive)
- I can transfer it if I want
Roz Morris, author
I got this by accident. I broke the original Nail Your Novel site, so tried WordPress hosting. I found I’d been given a blog called RozMorris, which sat idle before I realised it even existed. Then I decided to use it as a hub for the others.
Time taken: a few hours to set up introductory pages. I’ve added other material gradually as I write it for other purposes – perhaps 20-30 minutes at a time.
Updating when a new book launches I set aside a few hours to add a new page, update pics and the main header, then all the versions of it on my newsletter head, FB page, blog head and sidebar, G+, Twitter biography… I’ve got a master list in my production schedule so I don’t miss anything.
This is a separate site with its own URL, knitted into the others.
Time taken: like the main author site above.
So many sites!
I did warn you. If I was starting now, I’d have one blog and one author site for everything else. But The Undercover Soundtrack became its own entity, and I couldn’t graft Lifeform Three on without breaking it. I also couldn’t leave Lifeform Three as a poor cousin with no presence of its own.
So my web-web is like a house that’s been extended and extended as times change and the family grows. I don’t doubt it looks messy to purists, and especially when explained here. I’m anticipating comments of horror. However, I don’t think readers mind if the navigation is clear. I doubt they notice the different URLs. But they would certainly baulk if they had to learn a different visual grammar each time. Even though the artwork on each site is different, it follows the same core design so they find what they want quickly.
And yes, apologies. This post is a tad late. Because sometimes life gets in the way of blogging.
Thanks for the blogging pic, Mike Licht of Notions Capital.com
NEWS I’m thrilled to announce I’m teaching a Guardian Masterclass in advanced self-editing techniques for fiction writers. Of course, London might not be a manageable distance for you, but if it is, here’s where to find out more. And … psst … it’s one of the many good things that have happened because once upon a time, I started a blog.
Do you have a blog, a website or both? How much time do you spend on them? Do you want to suggest a way for me to streamline mine? Tell me in the comments!
20 thoughts on “How much time should writers spend blogging and building websites?”
What a practical post! I used to have a separate website and blog, but have combined them.in order to cut time and to bring overlapping things under one roof. There’s a lot of background information to my novels (plus photos!) in the static pages, and I blog twice a week, sometimes with guest posts, Roman historical content, updates on the novels, self-publishing, opinions, alternative history and writing. I think it’s important to decide on your main topics and keep to them so that readers know what to expect.
Hi Alison! You’ve got a good spread of topics there, and you seem to have managed to keep blog and site under control. I think I’m a bit guilty of website-spread…
I’ve considered combining my blog, putting it on my author website. Still pondering that. It IS just tailored to writing tips…and I’m running out of material (how many times can I write posts on that Show Not Tell theme? LOL) I only blog twice a month now. I honestly don’t think people are blogging–visiting others’ blogs–as much as they used to.
I think you’re right about the frequency of blog visits, Carol. The other forms of socialising seem to be proliferating and we only have so much time. Also, I find people leave comments scattered all over the place – Facebook, Twitter, G+. I’ve encountered a few writers who blog only twice a month, so perhaps that’s becoming a trend.
Thanks Roz,, It’s always good to know what actually works. I’m developing a website for the books, and since they are a series could certainly write some topic related posts as you suggest.
My books so far are all non-fiction, IT related and have passed their sell by date. (like me) Now that I’m working on fiction, should I abandon my author site, add the fiction to it or build another site for fiction? I’d be grateful for your advice.
Hi Lesley! Good question about combining your sites. Yours are so different I can’t imagine there would be a crossover that would allow them to mesh well. Certainly you could put signposts from one to the other, saying ‘I write fiction too!’ and ‘I have a secret identity as hacker’ (forgive the assumption!), but I can’t see how they would go together. However, if the fiction drew from the IT experiences, that would be a different matter. Does that help?
You’re an admirable whirlwind, Roz, and I always enjoy your posts. Congratulations to your Guardian Masterclasses, I’m certain they’ll be inspiring.
I’ve one blog, Course of Mirrors,’ the theme of my musings, and also indirectly relating to three novels, the first hopefully to be published this year. Occasionally I post excerpts.
Still working to keep my roof in place, I can’t afford to subscribe to blogs that post several times a week, it’s too manic, too much to absorb.
I sporadically frequent blogs that sparked my interest, but will always follow up on likes and comments that appear on my site.
Then there are my pages for Facebook, Linked in, Twitter and Good-reads. I don’t know why, but I chose not to link them up automatically, preferring to do so manually.
Now I’m going to watch Citizen Cane on iplayer, brilliant movie 🙂
Hello Ashen! I have often seen you appear here and have wondered about the name of your blog. It will be intriguing to learn more about the novels that fly under its banner. Thanks for allocating me a spot in your limited social media time!
It’s my pleasure, Roz. I enjoy writing the occasional review on Good reads etc. and plan to do so more frequently. Your books are on my PC Kindle, but I reckon I’ve to buy the paperbacks to fit my ritual of reading fragrant and tactile books in the hour before bedtime.
My wife and I recently “cleaned house” on our web sites. At the high point two years ago, we had more than 60 domain names and more than 40 web sites. Our business evolved over the course of 20 years and left a lot of Internet detritus in its wake.
With the impetus of an imminent server crash, we re-evaluated our business needs and decided to chuck everything except six core sites: my two blogs, my wife’s blog, our company web site, our online store site, and the Magic Appreciation Tour site. We moved our blogs as well as a dozen other article sites to WordPress–a process that we are still working on. Hundreds of pages were moved and hundreds more were simply discarded. We used to have individual web sites for each book or book series, but we moved all of them under our company site with URL redirects.
Life is easier now.
After all that, I have a new philosophy: keep it simple. My advice is to authors is to put everything you can under a single blog so you can easily make changes. If you want to create “mini sites” or “landing pages” for your books, create a blog page for them and point a domain name to it. (If you go to vaetra.com, you land on the Vaetra Chronicles page of our company web site–a simple GoDaddy redirect takes care of that.)
I strongly echo your advice, Roz: get your own domain name(s). Don’t let the Internet world link to you as YourName.wordpress.com or YourName.blogger.com. If you ever leave the hosting service, none of the links to your site will work any more. Bye, bye, search engine love. Most blog services let you use your own domain name, so go get YourName.com and make sure that’s how people find you.
Hi Daniel! My, it sounds like your web kingdom grew like a mythical beast! I’m glad to see that you’d come to the same conclusion as I did about landing pages and mini-sites – in other words, that I’m not barmy to have done that. Hope you’re enjoying the new streamlined empire.
How funny to see this today, Roz – becasue I’ve just spent part of today trying to tidy up and cut back my individual ‘book’ websites (thesecretlake.com, eeekthealien.com and ferdinandfox.co.uk) which I set up before I created my author site kareninglisauthor.com last year. I created that site as I realised that I needed to be able to point readers and booksellers/book buyers to a catch-all site with all the books in one place instead of bouncing folk around between the individual sites. If starting out again I’d not recommend indvidual book sites, but now they are there – and do still get visits – I will probably retain them to use occasionally for specific marketing purposes (eg I do need to have thesecretlake.com for when the children’s film makers come calling, don’t I?! LOL!) .
Separate from all of the above is my selfpub site selfpublishingadventures.com – also reached via kareninglis.com – which was my original blog set up to write about self-publishing. Interestingly, from the outset with my selfpub blog I decided (and stated on the home page) that I wouldn’t be blogging regularly – rather I would update relevant pages from time to time as necessary when things changed. In essence I wanted it work like a website with clear navigation and all key pages/articles accessible from the top level. So it’s basically a series of static pages – but with one ‘blog posts’ page where I have recently started to post occasionally to report on significant milestones or how I’ve been progressing as a self-published children’s author. These posts are very different in nature to the static ‘how to’ pages – and relatively few and far between. And they are pages that my readers can choose to enjoy or not.
The author site is similarly a series of static pages (one per book and some others aimed at schools etc) + one page for blog posts. My aim is to post on the blog section more regularly to try to encorage more engagement with readers – be those parents or teachers or pupils.. and hopefully spread awareness of me as an author….
You may (or may not ) have seen me asking on our FB page yesterday how to link from the main top navigation page links in WordPress direct to the other WordPress sites. This was part of the tidy up process I had started to try to draw these sites together more seamlessly…. and finally got it to work.
Oh and then of course there’s twitter accounts – me, the books, the dog the cat and kitchen sink! Actually it’s just me and the book accounts – wih the latter useful to raise brand awareness with hashtags. If I’m honest I’m rather sporadic about when I use them as there really are so many hours in a day – but they do work well for ‘campaigns’ – for example, @eeekthealien is coming into its own during the World Cup . I’m rambling here – a bit like my sites! But good to know I’m not the only one with ‘website creep!’ Late here – advance apologies for any typos and/or going off topic!
Hi Karen! How interesting to see an x-ray of your online world. You’ve done a clever thing in posting static pages for the FAQs of selfpublishing, so you can keep pointing people to them when you’re out and about on Facebook or Twitter – which is where I usually see you.
I briefly glimpsed your question about linking to other sites yesterday – while I was firefighting some other problem, which meant I didn’t have time to weigh in with an answer. You probably got more than enough advice, but as I’ve solved this problem myself, I’ll say it here.
The first solution I tried was a custom link in the sidebar, but that was so complicated I couldn’t remember how to replicate it (one of my newsletter links is a custom link). Then I decided to just use an image, which I far prefer as the web is a visual medium. The custom links looked very boring,
I shall have to peek at yours and see what you’ve done!
That’s right, Roz – I just update those static pages when things change – eg when Ingram Spark came about. (Or I leave a note on the page in red to flag a change and say that I’ll be back when time to update.) I’m also tending to leave a date at the start or end of the page to say when I last updated it. Updates to pages don’t end up as posts to readers’ RSS feeds etc, which is fine too. If anything really significant changes I would aim to make a blog post of it (well that’s the theory anyway – I’m the world’s worst blogger but trying to change that!) Re custom links you will see it’s just a menu item at the top that I’ve put in caps – boring I know but in some ways I feel it’s nice and simple – and simply alerts readers that I have another site. I saw some fab horse pics yesterday and thought of you – must try to find and send you the link! K
Dates are a great idea. I often find useful posts that I want to act on or share but I don’t know how current the information is. You can always tweet that you’ve updated posts, then readers will know everything is up to date.
Looking forward to the horse pics! (Aargh, I’m meant to be settling to work!)
I’ve just updated my page where I talk about Audio books and have linked to your and Joanna’s posts 🙂 See here http://kareninglis.wordpress.com/self-publishing-at-a-glance/ (and have a laugh at my early high-speed audio of The Secret Lake! at the end. It was Nov 2012 though and I was playing around. It’s on my list to do the ‘proper’ audio next as TSL is still selling consistently… )
I’ll now let you get on – I have books to take to a school and to Wimbledon Bookshop 🙂
This is a great and confusing topic, especially for screenwriters turning their scripts into books. We’ve been told emphatically we should not blog; it’s a waste of precious time and creative energy. Well, great. What do we do with the books we now write? I’m using Facebook more and more as my hub and testing ground, posting about everything from the comic buffoonery of my existence to the semi-tragic memoir writer with a story to tell. Which posts draw the greatest response from the widest diversity of non-writing friends? I’m finding my audience. If I’m not getting the results I want, I’ve got to change something (it’s usually voice). Now that Facebook posts can be embedded in blog posts, comments and all, blogging will become less of a chore and contain that “the gangs all here” trigger for others to join the conversation. That’s becoming more important by the day. Google my name, click on images (more people are doing that to see what we look like, who we hang with, etc.) and there’s quite a surprise. Those whose blogs I’ve responded to show up in images, giving those bloggers easy and extra exposure. Engagement may soon eclipse SEO. I’m also finding that the top images are increasingly my Pinterest pins.It’s like dancing on hot coals and ice cubes. I do know that for my sanity, I will be switching to the host site I used in ’03 where everything is streamlined. Good luck to all of us. The game changes by the day.
Hi Cyd! You screenwriters have your own rules, but I’m trying to fathom what’s under that funny maxim that blogging is a waste. Why don’t prose writers think this? Is it because we don’t work in teams, we’re control freaks and we do it all alone? So when editors jump all over our manuscripts and molest them with pen and worse, it’s a rude surprise? Whatever.
You make some great points about engagement. Perhaps the machines are catching up with human impulses after all. Also, we need to evaluate what engagement should be. As I started social media for work, it took me a long time to give myself permission to bother people with FB posts that weren’t about my books or publishing life, because I thought nobody wanted the mundane stuff about breakfast, getting wet in the rain, etc. I like the balance you’ve struck, with everyday mishaps and pictures from your archives. Like venturing into our first parties as adults rather than children, we’re finding what works.