Q&A: Do you need a blog?

I just returned from teaching at the Speak Up Conference in Grand Rapids. It was a wonderful event, and I hope to be back next year. This conference started as one for speakers, but because speakers often need to write and writers often need to speak, they’ve added a writing track to the conference. I was invited to teach Editing Nonfiction, and I think it went very well. I had some clever and engaged folks there who asked plenty of insightful questions. I’ll continue my series of blog posts based on that class next time.

question answer
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Today, I wanted to address a question I was asked by one of the writers who came to see me during a one-on-one appointment, because I hear this one a lot.

Q: Do I need to have both a website and a blog?

A: No.

That sounds like a simple answer, but there’s more to it than that.

The first thing to understand is that a blog is just a type of website. In other words, the set “blogs” is a subset of the set “websites.”

Agents, editors, and social media experts often say writers must blog. But blogging doesn’t suit everyone. If you’re not going to be able to keep it up on a fairly regular basis, don’t bother.

I will say that if you are a writer trying to sell a book, even if you are only at the stage of pitching your book to editors and agents, you must have a website. When editors and agents Google your name, they should be able to find you online. But that website doesn’t have to be a blog.

Three Models

There are three main ways to set up a website.

  1. Just a blog

When you are just starting out, you can get a blog at Blogger or WordPress.com and use that as your site, if you can commit to posting on a regular basis. This is a good option to get you started. Fantasy novelist John Otte began this way at his Least Read Blog on the Web. You’ll notice that it hasn’t been updated in over a year. That’s because now that Otte is a multipublished author, he’s upgraded to the option you’ll see at No. 3 below.

  1. Website with no blog

Many business websites use this model, including the conference linked above. Since authors are also businesspeople, this can work for you, too. CJ Lyons bucks the “you must blog” advice, and yet gets best-seller results. Lyons produces a newsletter that goes out to her subscribers on a regular basis. So she’s doing a newsletter instead of a blog. Notice that she has newsletter sign-up links at the top, middle and bottom of her home page.

  1. Website with a blog

That’s what you see right here, as well as at John Otte’s new site. My posts appear on the home page, and then the sidebar menu gives you links to the other pages of my site. On Otte’s site, his home page has photos and links and a newsletter sign-up, similar to Lyons’s site, with the addition that Otte’s top-line menu includes a link to his blog page.

And a Fourth

You can use a site at Blogger or WordPress to host a plain website, but then you need to change the site setup so it looks like a website instead of a neglected blog. Jane Friedman describes that procedure on her site.

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    Plain and simple: a website is a website (pages hosted on a server for viewing at a domain [URL]) whether it contains a blog or not and whether one chooses to use WordPress, Blogger, or any other platform to create it.

    The question you pose (Do I need to have both a website and a blog?) is moot when you understand that basic terminology (which you obfuscated with your overly complicated explanation/

    If you want to address the question of whether or not someone should blog, that’s a whole other thing. You didn’t address that at all in your post.

    1. I’ve addressed the question of whether to blog — and how — elsewhere. I know to people who already understand the terminology, it seems obvious, but I’ve heard this question often enough to know that not everyone sees it as obviously as you do.

      Since many websites include a page called “blog,” I felt that practice needed some explanation for the uninitiated. I’m sorry you felt this post was too much, but I have to address the questions I hear raised. I know that if there’s one person for whom the light didn’t go on until I explained it this way, there are probably many others.

  2. I think your “explanation” is way too complicated. And sorta wrong.

    Your number 1 option: “Just a blog.” My dear, you can’t have a blog without having a website!!!

  3. There really are only two OPTIONS.

    1) A website with a blog.
    2) A website without a blog.

    The option you list first is not possible.
    Your fourth “option” is a discussion about platforms. (An orange among the apples.)

    Just saying, I think you confused the issue more than you clarified it.

  4. I have recently gotten into writing. So many things came with it, like a class on do social media now, being part of a critique group, learning how to write, on and on. I started to do all that and found there was little time left to write especially if you are a very part time writer.

    So it is comforting to know for at least right now I don’t need to blog, latter maybe. It seems what I need to do now is get the first draft out no matter how bad it is.

  5. And one more thing. You’re also wrong abou C.J. Lyons. She does employ a blog on her site. She just doesn’t call it a blog, she calls it “news.” But she is using the blog feature on her website.

    1. Thanks for the correction.

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