How Novelists Can Blog

There are mixed opinions about whether blogging is any good for novelists. As Caprice Hokstad noted on my post “Why You Should Be Blogging,” this kind of writing is nonfiction and doesn’t come easily to fiction writers. I myself struggled to blog consistently over at my other blog before I got serious, got a purpose, and started serving writers by producing this blog.

I have no delusions that my efforts here or there will help me promote my novels when they’re released.

novelist blog

Nevertheless, some novelists do make a go of blogging, usually by writing about topics or themes that occur in their books. Articles about the kinds of things their target readers would be interested in. So if blogging suits you, here are some novelist blogs you can look to for inspiration.

Lynn Coleman writes historical fiction and blogs about her research at 19th Century Historical Tidbits. The same kind of readers who enjoy reading books with 19th-century settings will also enjoy reading the recipes, fashion plates, and magazine articles from the period that Coleman shares.

David Brin, a science fiction writer, blogs about science and society. He spotlights other writers’ books and isn’t afraid to go off on a political rant. Here is a writer focused on serving his target readers and not trying to please everyone.

Angela Hunt pulls of the rare feat of writing both fiction and nonfiction in multiple genres, so she has a diverse blog.

Wanda Brunstetter, by contrast, has a blog tightly focused on the subject of her novels—Amish culture.

Danielle Steel blogs in a way that makes each post seem like a letter to her readers. She blogs about fashion and other topics that appeal to her readership.

Brandon Sanderson, who writes epic fantasy, tends to blog about his work, including promoting the writing podcast he’s part of, but he also covers news relating to the genre and promotes other authors’ books.

For more ideas, listen to the Novel Marketing Podcast episode “What Should Novelists Blog About?”

If blogging’s not for you, don’t bother

Having started this discussion with an affirmation of blogging, I will nevertheless close it by admitting that you don’t have to blog. Plenty of writers succeed without a blog. You should still have a website, though, so people can find you online. If you can stock that website with a few articles related to the themes and topics in your fiction, so much the better. C.J. Lyons, who writes medical thrillers, has a website with a small collection of related articles. You need a web presence, but that presence doesn’t have to include a blog.

UPDATE: Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn posted a blog the same day as this one on the same topic, and she has some excellent observations about what your author website should contain. She, too, advises against blogging if your heart’s not in it:

If you have to ask what to blog about, then probably don’t bother. It’s only worth doing if you just can’t help but share what you’re passionate about.—Joanna Penn

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

8 thoughts on “How Novelists Can Blog

  1. That is so funny, Kristen! I went to bed last night after sending Tyndale Publishers a rant about why I hate my blog at my website. It’s just a pathetic excuse for a blog! But this morning I woke with NEW determination to DO SOMETHING with this dark cloud hanging over my head. Guess what! I think that cloud may have a silver lining now. I don’t have to blog LONG … I can blog SHORT.

    Unlike this comment …

    So, (ahem) if anyone is interested in seeing what I finally posted (and just how easy it was), go to http://www.EvaMarieEversonAuthor.com and click on BLOG.

    You’ll notice how pathetic my posts were previously, but the newest is taking on something different. I like it!

    • Yes! Short blog posts are fine. Seth Godin is one of the best bloggers around, and sometimes his posts are one paragraph. I loved how you used a graphic on your wedding cake post. Great idea!

  2. “I have no delusions that my efforts here or there will help me promote my novels when they’re released.”

    ^^THIS. SO MUCH.

    I was deluded. Or perhaps that isn’t the right way to put it. “The Industry” was deluded. I was constantly prodded to blog because it was tantamount to a sin not to. It was THE way to get a “platform” and if one didn’t have a platform or an audience, then one had no right to call oneself a serious author.

    I was skeptical of this theory from the get-go. JK Rowling doesn’t have a blog. Hugh Howey has one now, but he had MAJOR commercial success as an indie BEFORE he ever started it. In fact, almost every example I could think of, when considering authors who had the kind of success I wanted, NONE of them ever had any kind of blog following BEFORE they became successful through their fiction FIRST.

    The examples you gave above make sense. If one writes historical fiction, those readers would indeed be interested in history and since those types of fiction writers have to do tons of research anyway, how great is it to kill two birds with one stone and just throw out mini-info-dumps as blog posts?

    I actually did try the “let’s blog real science to attract sci-fi readers” route because I wrote 5 sci-fi novels under a pen name. I really love science. But what could I possibly say about space that would be more interesting than what a real astronaut could say? And the bigger problem to overcome was to weed out the people who watch sci-fi movies and TV, but don’t actually care about READING whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. They want video, preferably narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

    Yeah, that blog (and accompanying FB “fan” page) didn’t work for me. But of course, my idea of “working for me” was “attract readers who would buy my fiction” because that was my main/only reason for blogging in the first place. It’s part of “marketing”–that ugly word that we fiction writers know is a necessary evil.

    So it all comes back to Kristin’s statement, which I believe is so right-on: Do NOT be deluded that blogging is going to help a fiction career. It MIGHT. But that’s the same “might” as the football coach uses when he tells an average high school player to practice hard because he might play in the pros one day. Yeah, he MIGHT, but don’t count on it. The odds are very much against it.

    Since my only real reason to blog was a misguided attempt to gain that all-important platform, once the evidence finally proved what I suspected all along (that blogging mostly does NOT help novelists) then I quit doing it. Yet, I still have this nearly irresistible urge to justify this “blasphemous” decision to the naysayers (of whom there are many).

    I wish it worked. I wish it was merely a case of “if you build it, they will come.” But that most certainly is NOT the case. I know many fiction writers who blog so faithfully and wonder what they are doing wrong because no one will follow them except their mom or their writing buddies who probably either pity them or hope their follow will earn a reciprocate to boost THEIR numbers.

    Actually, I take that back. I’m pretty glad blogging does NOT work, because if it was a proven help, then I would still be wracking my brains to find a non-fiction “in” to the fantasy audience as I still have a marketing duty to the three books published under my own name. Thanks, but I have enough mental self-chastisement without that again.

    • I think a big part of the problem with agents and editors pushing writers to blog was that they were not distinguishing between novelists and nonfiction writers. Blogging is a great way for nonfiction writers to build platform. But it’s completely different for novelists. That’s one of the things I love about the Novel Marketing Podcast. They are keenly aware that what works for nonfiction writers _usually won’t work_ for novelists. Which is probably why they’ve only ever done one episode that was specifically about blogging.

  3. Anita says:

    I have a devotional blog that I set up just for myself. I needed something to help keep me disciplined and focused. I was totally surprised at how many hits I got. Even though I only post once a month it’s been a blessing. However, my writing has progressed to a point where I will be “upgrading” to a website. What do I do with this devotional blog? Just saying, things change…

    • Yeah, the same thing happened to me with my other blog. I keep it around for posterity’s sake. And if I ever come up with something that’s not appropriate to put here or on the group blog I contribute to (newauthors.wordpress.com), I can put it over there.

      And once a month posting is fine, especially for a novelist. For businesspeople who are using a blogsite to generate revenue, I recommend 2-4 times a week. But there’s no hard and fast rule about how often to post.

  4. Daniele says:

    Hello Kristen,
    I’m writing short tales and a novel and I’ve a blog since 2011.
    I blog about writing, publishing, blogging, books and reading.

    I don’t blog about topics or themes that occur in my stories, because I don’t write about only one literary genre and I like to write different kinds of stories, like horror, sci-fi, fantasy, crime stories, adventure, historical stories, YA stories and so on. I don’t write (and I don’t like) romance 🙂

    So, it’s very difficult – it’s impossible, in my opinion – blogging about themes and topics of my stories.

    Have you some advices for me?

    • The trick is to blog about the kinds of things your readers enjoy. Since you write across a variety of genres, your readers probably have equally eclectic tastes. So you can blog about the things you’re researching for your stories. If you’re researching folklore for a horror story, high-tech weaponry for sci-fi, or magic for fantasy, all of that is good material for a blog. Writing about writing is good, but then your blog readers will be other writers. Which isn’t a bad thing. But you may want to try appealing to a broader demographic.

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