Professional writers blog: that is my short and emphatic answer to the implied question in a guest post by Larry Brooks on the Problogger blog. His cryptic title, as he described it was, Why Professional Writers Need a Blog. Or Not. His article raised some interesting questions and on some of these I profoundly disagree with what he said.
What Is A Professional Writer?
To avoid any unnecessary debate over terms, we should clarify what we mean by a professional writer. In my book it is someone who writes for an audience and enjoys a success in so doing. Success can be measured in monetary terms or perhaps merely in the number of readers that the writer draws to his writings. Some successful professional writers are so well known that anything they write will attract a large audience. For them is the luxury of doing what ever comes naturally and the audience will be there.
Should Professional Writers Blog?
Leaving aside the highly visible and well-known writers, what is the answer to our question for the average professional writer who may be unknown to his first time readers. Larry Brooks divided such writers into two groups and felt different rules applied. His groups were
- Non-Fiction Professional Writers
- Fiction Writers
If we examine what a blog really does, I think you will see that really the same answer applies to both.
Blogs Versus Websites
A blog is really one type of website so in fact the comparison here is between blogs and websites which are not blogs. Non-blog websites contain static web pages and normally little new content is added from one period to another.
A blog on the other hand has continuing new content added on a time sequence basis. Very often it has an associated news feed, which is a file that automatically alerts aggregators of news that a new item has been added. This double-up visibility is one of the key reasons why blogs are much more effective in bringing in visitors to the online property.
Blogs Have Heightened Online Visibility
An even bigger leveraging factor on blog visibility is that Google, the dominant search engine, in some ways overvalues blog post web pages relative to static web pages. Google does not make public why its behavior should be like this, but one element in this is that the Google search engine values recent new web pages above more established and older web pages, at least for a few days.
This means that if someone wishes to have an online presence, a blog is far superior to a regular non-blog website.
Who Should Blog?
Given this heightened visibility for blogs, who then should be blogging? A better way of opening up this topic is to ask, Who should not be blogging? If you are aiming to communicate with the world via an online presence, then this online presence should be a blog. It may be appropriate to add other more static website components such as a forum or a wiki, but their content will be slightly less visible through the search engines.
Some will question whether they have sufficient ongoing content to be able to create new blog posts with some regularity. The answer to that is perhaps best illustrated by discussing the group that Larry Brooks suggested should have a static website.
Should Fiction Writers Blog?
Larry Brooks had the following advice for fiction writers:
Why doesn’t a blog work to promote a novel?
Because you can only blog about your book for so long. And blog readers are almost completely intolerant of self-serving, thinly disguised promotional agendas.
You have to earn every single moment of personal mindshare from a prospective buyer through the delivery of content they can put to work in their lives.
Blogging also comes with another type of risk.
Even if you have valid to offer.
Blogging can be addictive and hungry, it can eat up energy, time and mindspace like no other intellectual pursuit you’ve ever been tempted to give in to.
If you dive in, you need to be all in. And that’s a huge commitment.
Given that line of thinking, Larry Brooks pushed for a static website for each novel. However he ignores the fact that blogs are several times more visible than static websites in search engine results. The blog can be very effective during the buildup to the book launch and following the launch.
Indeed even thereafter, devout readers may be interested in whatever further developments have occurred about the novel and any sequels. Such content may be less hot with human readers but it serves to maintain visibility among those search engines. The importance of this is such that a blog is always worth the effort even though these blogs will require only limited extra content as time passes. Nevertheless they create a much larger impression on the search engine radar screen around the static website that is specifically for the novel. In this way, the visitor traffic to the novel website will be maximized on an ongoing basis. That should lead to higher book sales, which is after all the key objective.