Writers Talk About Writing
Why You Should Blog BEFORE Writing Your Book
I blogged for two entire years before I wrote my first book, 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. At the time, I was highly self-critical of my lack of “productivity” and my apparent inability to make any money from my blog.
“Why are you doing so much work for so little reward?” friends and colleagues asked me, all the time. But, in retrospect, I recognize my work as really smart and strategic (even if not deliberate.)
Here are seven reasons why it makes sense to blog before you try to write a book, or, at the very least, while you are writing it:
1. Blogging helps build your writing muscles. When I started my blog, I was very worried about being able to meet a weekly deadline. “What if I get a really big project and I just don’t have the time to write a blog?” I worried. Worse, what if some family disaster occurred and I found myself totally unable to write, for perfectly defensible reasons? As a result, I made myself write 18 blog entries before I published the first one — yes, 18! What happened then may make you laugh. I spent the next 18 weeks running each of my “prepared” blog posts, never writing another one in advance. Those 18 weeks just whizzed by and before I knew it, I was in the situation I had most feared: an inexorable weekly deadline. But, guess what? I coped. And I became a better writer as a result.
I learned all sorts of tricks to make the job easier. The most valuable one to me was the concept of dividing up my writing work over all the days of the week. So, I identify the topic on one day. I do the research and mindmap on another. I write the post on a third day. I edit it on a fourth. And find a photo and schedule it in my software on the fifth. The concept — of dividing a big job into much smaller parts — is infinitely helpful for writing a book as well.
2. Blogging helps increase your own bank of knowledge. I was a professional editor at a large daily newspaper for many years, so I thought I didn’t have too much more to learn about writing. I was wrong! We all develop areas of expertise throughout our working lives, but we can always deepen that expertise with more study, reading and practice. I have read dozens of books on writing and editing in the last 15 years and hundreds — maybe even thousands — of blog posts on the topic. Plus I've written hundreds of thousands of words in that time. What I knew 15 years ago is a drop in the bucket compared to what I know now. Further, I can call this knowledge to mind with much greater ease than I used to be able to, because I use this information in my blogging all the time.
3. Blogging allows you to respond faster than books. If there is an important development in your work or subject area then a blog will allow you to write about it immediately. Most books are a minimum of 12 months in the making and a great many of them require two to five years. If you want to stay current and connected, a blog will serve you better than a book.
4. Blogging will help develop an audience for your book. If you want to sell your book, then you need a relationship with audiences. Why do you think Katie Couric is able to get a bunch of press for her new book Going There? It’s not because she’s a great writer! It’s because she’s developed a relationship with thousands of people after years of being a successful TV host. Yes, it’s harder for writers to build that kind of relationship than it is for TV hosts, but you can try. My own latest book is not in any bookstores and is not even available via Amazon. I sell it exclusively through my website and I never advertise it. My blog is what sells it. How do I know this? Sales always peak on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, right after my blog has gone out.
5. Blogging will let you know what your readers are most interested in. If you begin by writing a book, you will be stuck guessing about what your readers want to learn. If you have a blog, however, readers will tell you what they want to know. Each week, my thousands of readers ask fascinating questions and make useful, informative remarks. Some arrive on my computer via email and others are in the comments section, below. Many of these comments/questions not only lead to future blog posts, but they also give me ideas about what topics to address in my next book.
6. Blogging will give you a leg up in book promotion. Whether you intend to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher, having a blog audience will be invaluable to you. Just be sure to collect your readers’ email addresses. In order to do this, you’ll need to provide some sort of incentive. What’s mine? I offer a booklet on mindmapping to anyone who subscribes. Traditional publishers will want to know the exact size of your email list, as well as how many Twitter and Facebook followers you have. This will give them (or you, if you’re self-publishing) a much better shot at promoting your book.
7. Blogging will help you write a better book. I know that writing a blog might feel like an onerous distraction but, instead, view it as an opportunity to improve your book. Your writing will be stronger, you’ll be better informed and you’ll have a closer relationship with your readers. There is no downside to having a blog, unless you’re one of those people who starts one and then lets it peter out.
Look at it this way: If you can commit to consistent blogging, then that’s a very good sign that you’ll also be able to stick with writing a book.