Your Blog Is Your Business, A Rant On The Effective Use of Tools

April 10th, 2005 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

Or, as we like to think of it, an extremely long post on why you need to think about your blog and what can do for your career. We wrote this for our local RWA chapter after reading one too many posts that said (essentially) “I couldn’t resist the urge. I’ve started my own blog. Now what?”

Needless to say, the original version was much longer and crankier. We have since calmed down. Yes, in other words, we could have gone on for days on this topic.

For those with short attention spans, we have divided the article into three parts: blogs and goals and professionalism, a brief lowdown on popular blogging systems (this is not meant to be exhaustive, just a starting point), and some blogs that we believe effectively fulfill their mission of remaining focused on a particular topic.

To Blog Or Not To Blog…Shouldn’t Really Be The Question

But it is. If you follow various writers’ lists closely, you’ll come away with the impression that everyone has a blog. This is not true. I know at least four people who don’t have blogs. I still talk to them. Sometimes.

Blog is short for weblog. Weblogs started life as online journals, but, with the advent of free, easy-to-use blogging software, now run the gamut from cheese sandwich sites to serious business venues. These personal publishing systems make it easy to put content on the web. Possibly too easy. Despite the hype, blogs aren’t trendy accessories — they’re tools.

Though this should go without saying, your website is your primary marketing vehicle. It reaches more people than signings. It’s available while you’re sleeping. It holds more information than a bookmark. It has more depth than your one paragraph bio in the back of your latest release. It gives more insight into your writing than a query letter. It reaches new readers through the magic of Google. Never underestimate the power of Google.

This is why to blog or not to blog shouldn’t be the question. You should be asking, “How can I use my website to maximize my exposure to new readers and existing fans?” People turn to blogging tools because, let’s face it, we’re a lazy species. When given the choice between goofing off or learning HTML, most of us choose goofing off (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything).

Blogging software allows non-technical people to quickly add content to their websites. This is critical. You should never be at the mercy of someone else to update your website. Blogging software also feature RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds that push articles to readers. Most people don’t have the time or inclination to visit a dozen or so different sites in a day. RSS makes it easy to keep up with favorite sites.

But, you say (and with appropriate trepidation), what would I do with a blog? Remembering that blogs are tools, you start with your goals. Presumably, you want to publicize yourself and/or your work. Today’s editors, agents, and other readers are as likely to Google you as not, and when they find your blog, what impression do you want to create? I mentioned cheese sandwich blogs (cheese sandwich blog: a blog where you record the minutiae of your life in excruciating [and I mean excruciating] detail). Having a place to play on the web is a great tool for creativity, but I would caution authors about sharing too much, too soon, if only due to privacy issues. In many respects, your blog is an online resume (note the number of bloggers who get book deals). If you want to write about cheese sandwiches, that’s great, but you might consider having multiple blogs or identities.

Now you ask, what would I blog about? Good question, class. The vast majority of personal bloggers talk about their lives. If your blog is representing you from a professional perspective, I’d strongly advise having some sort of focus. If you write Regencies, maybe you could write daily/weekly/monthly posts on this era. If you write suspense, you could update the world on your specialty. Maybe you want to post regular items on the writer’s life. If you want to keep in touch with your readers, that’s your focus.

You don’t have to post hourly or daily, but if you want to build your name, frequent content is the key. More-frequent-than-frequent content is better. However, you probably have a life and will settle for “regular” content. If you have to post announcements to mailing lists when you update your website, let’s face it, you seem desperate. Sorry to be blunt, but that’s the truth. You want to create a situation where the readers are coming to you to see what’s new.

Based on my not-scientific research, people visit blogs regularly because: a) the blog provides relevant information; b) it’s my best friend and I have to make her feel good about her life; or, c) I like this person’s perspective or voice or topic. Before you leap into the world of blogs (and many do, only to post twice and abandon the experiment…if you think this is you, don’t publicize your failure. It’s okay to keep little secrets between you and yourself), think about your goals. A blog is a tool – use it wisely.

The Lowdown on Popular Blogging Systems

LiveJournal ( LiveJournal is geared toward community and is great for informal blogging. Features include the ability to restrict viewing of posts and create “friends” pages. LiveJournal is free (though additional features can be accessed by opting for the paid service at $25/year) and easy-to-use. LiveJournal was recently acquired by SixApart.

Blogger ( To set up a blog with Blogger, you follow a simple three-step process. They have great templates and are owned by Google. Blogger sites can be integrated with your existing website or domain. The service is free, and offers a fun “next/previous” option on every page. Note: in this case, fun can mean the perfect tool for procrastination.

Publisher’s Marketplace ( As part of your monthly subscription, PM offers simple blogging tools. Given the monthly traffic to this site (and the bonus of Michael Cader’s frequent mention of the site’s blogs in Publisher’s Lunch), this is great service for writers, agents, publishers, bookstore owners, and general ranters.

WordPress ( Full disclosure: I’m a WordPress girl. The software is free and requires some technical knowledge to install (though many service providers, such as DreamHost, offer it as a feature). WordPress has a strong development community and a lot of designers creating very cool templates (read the fine print carefully before grabbing a template and modifying it). WordPress can be easily integrated within an existing website. The current version expands the software’s ability to incorporate static pages and other features.

InkNoise ( InkNoise blogs are geared toward multimedia bloggers. If you’re doing video or audio, InkNoise is a great choice. This hosted service has a free option and a $10/month option.

Movable Type/TypePad ( Movable Type started the current personal publishing revolution, and it’s a blogging power tool. There are also some licensing costs associated with the software (they vary based on the use of the software and number of users). It also requires a higher level of technical expertise to install. However, you can harness the power of MT without actually knowing diddly about the technical side by using TypePad, which is MT’s hosted solution. Prices for TypePad range from $50/year to $150/year.

Blogs With Focus

Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind ( – This blog is (almost) entirely focused on crime fiction. Owner Sarah Weinman has established herself as a subject expert in this areas.

Backstory ( – Author M.J. Rose uses this blog to publicize the “story behind the story” for new releases. Different authors tell their stories.

BookAngst 101 ( – An anonymous New York editor discusses the industry from his perspective.

Fresh Eyes: A Booksellers Journal ( – A bookseller talks about his work.

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs · Tools and Craft

2 responses so far ↓

  • Ray Rhamey // Apr 11, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    Good post. A note on the Publishers Marketplace venue for blogging: I started there, but soon had to open a “mirror” blog (on Typepad) because of PM’s limit on posts–you can have only 5 current and 2 archived posts. After that, you have to delete something if you want to post.

    Since I thought archived articles were vital for the business-building aspect of my blog (Flogging the Quill, another blog with focus: storytelling from an author/editor’s point of view), I made the move to acquiring a domain name and starting a secondary blog that would hold all my posts.

    But PM is still my base for the reason you mention–high traffic by writers, editors, and agents. And I’ve been mentioned in Michael Cader’s newsletter, too–primarily, I suspect, because I put up a post on how to use PM to dig for the right agents to query, and he stood to gain $$ for everyone who tried it. He is, however, a friendly guy who is responsive to emails, and doing a heckuva job with PM.



  • Booksquare // Apr 11, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    Yes, Ray’s blog is excellent ( — I’m sorry I only had room for a few examples (in the print article). And you make a good point regarding the limited number of posts allowed on PM. A mirror blog is critical, especially when your archives are vital to your business, however you define it.