The advice recurs on forums all the time: authors must blog to accumulate "platform." I've heard newly agented authors say "my agent says I should blog."
But is it good advice?
Setting aside for a moment the fact that I'm writing this on, erm, a blog, the answer is that blogging is not for everyone. It depends on your goals, your life and your style.
Some authors receive fierce sustenance from blogging. These are the happy people who blog like they breathe--easily and without angst. And don't get me wrong--a personal blog can be a super way to build your audience. When I think of blogging success stories, I think of authors such as Elana Johnson and Hilary Smith. These two lovely ladies have for years thrilled their readers with a lively discussion of the writing life. Examples of blogging success abound.
But it would be a mistake to say that every author and prospective author should aspire to become a blogger too. Before you drink that particular glass of kool aid, ask yourself a couple of tough questions.
Can I Spare the Time?
To blog well means to spend quite a few of your precious authorial hours working on something which is not a manuscript. Not only must you spend time writing blog posts, it takes time as well to build up your following. That means time spent reading others' blogs, commenting on them, and becoming part of the greater blogging community. If the very idea of spending time on those pursuits makes you quiver with anxiety, you are not insane. Blogging is a commitment. And if you approach it halfheartedly, your readers will notice.
Also, a blog is like a pet, providing companionship and entertainment. But pet owners are often slow to realize that it also needs frequent walks, and special food. And if you want to fritter off and neglect your blog for awhile, its liveliness and readership will soon flag. (Blogs, at least, do not poop on the floor in anger. They merely wither, like neglected houseplants.)
Am I a Becoming a Feedback Junkie?
To blog is to receive quick feedback. Warning: those blog stats and that comments section can be come an addiction. If you write a successful blog post, and twice as many people read and comment than you usually attract, that feels great. It even feels productive. For an aspiring blogger, it is. But if your number one goal is to write and sell books, this can become a trap. It's easier to brainstorm blog posts than to try one more time to fix the things wrong with your pesky chapter 27. If your goal is to write books, don't give yourself new and pretty excuses to set that goal aside. A little self knowledge can go a long way toward answering this question.
Should I Guest Blog Instead?
When you launch a book, guest blogging is a must. When you guest blog, you are making an exchange: you provide free and interesting content to another blog in exchange for fresh eyeballs. For many authors, this is a terrific compromise--you build audience without the distraction of an ongoing blogging project. If you would like to try your hand at blogging, consider offering a post or two to bloggers you admire. It's a great way to experiment.