Blogs are websites that look like journals, with entries displayed in reverse chronological order. The first ones began as personal online diaries, but the approach took off, and blogs have expanded into business, marketing, and promotional tools. The two biggest blog providers are WordPress (wordpress.org) and Google’s Blogger (http://www.blogger.com/).
Blogs require a commitment because they are, by their very nature, meant to be updated regularly. Nobody is interested in visiting a “dead” blog. Before you let that deter you, blogging is an excellent way to reach the public -- if you write about something interesting, people will follow or subscribe to your updates. And if your subscriber base gets large enough, you’ve started to develop a platform — name recognition. Platforms are increasingly important in the competitive publishing arena, even for fiction writers.
How To: One of the best things about blogs is how easy they are to set up and use. Just visit WordPress or Blogger, create an account, choose a template, and start blogging!
You have a number of options to help you update regularly. Here are a few ideas.
1. You can write about whatever strikes your fancy and relate it back to writing. Example: Elana Johnson’s blog is fun, funky, and a fantabulous example of great writing.
2. Use memes that catch your interest. A meme is a concept that catches on and is imitated by people who encounter it. Example: Work In Progress Wednesdays, started by Kate Karyus Quinn.
3. Work with a small group of colleagues or friends, taking turns updating the blog. Obviously, this is what we do here at QueryTracker Blog. Both Blogger and WordPress allow you to set up blogs with multiple contributors. If you don’t feel up to starting your own blog or website but are interested in getting involved in one, consider contacting the owner of a blog or site you admire and asking if you can be a guest contributor.
Cost: Around $8-10/month (and up)
Websites can be as small or as large as you’d like them to be, and they can be more static than blogs, though they do need to be updated from time to time to keep people coming back. The benefit of a website is that you can veer away from the journal-like presentation of a blog.
If you’re trying to decide between a website and a blog, start with the blog -- it’s the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get started online. WordPress even allows you to add different “pages” to your blog to make it more like a traditional website.
How To: To set up a website, you will need to purchase space on a host server (unless you already have free server space, for example through a university or your employer). GoDaddy (godaddy.com) is a popular choice, and includes free site layout templates so you don’t need to be able to use a site-building program or speak HTML (the “language” of the web). You can also hire a company to build your website; a few companies cater to authors. For example, purplesquirrelwebdesign.com and americanauthor.com.
You will also need to buy a domain name. For example, Mary Lindsey’s website is http://www.marylindsey.com/. You can purchase your domain name through godaddy.com as well. Most writers buy the name under which they intend to be published, and it’s a good idea to reserve your name sooner rather than later so someone else doesn't snatch it up…especially since it’s so inexpensive to do so.
According to QueryTracker.net and RallyStorm.com creator Patrick McDonald,
GoDaddy.com is about $10/year for a domain name. At that price I recommend grabbing a few extra while you're at it. [yourname].com is the most important, but [yourname].net is also good to get. At godaddy, you can forward names for free, which means if anyone types in your .net name, it will automatically bring up your .com site. The extensions .name and .info, which are usually used in conjunction with someone's name, are also available, but they are not very popular and you probably don't need to worry about them.Have questions or comments about sites or domain names that I haven't answered here? Or maybe you have ideas about ways to keep your blog fresh! Hit the comment button below and let us know what you're thinking!
Also, if your name has a common misspelling, you might want to get that too, just because people might spell it wrong and end up nowhere, or worse, in the wrong place. For instance, if I were to register my name as a URL I would want McDonald and MacDonald.