Blog posts represent your talent and marketing abilities to large, established agents and publishers, who are more risk averse because generally they’re going to make a bigger investment in your career than a smaller publisher. If you’re set on fame and fortune and the bright lights of HarperCollins or its ilk . . . having a blog is a huge plus.
Well-known authors don’t really need a blog. New authors seeking attention from the big guys, really do. We at FAB read some websites regularly, and guess what, we’d probably publish those people if they sent us a query and a work that fit our parameters. Large publishers do the same. As do agents.
We recommend WordPress for a variety of reasons, but not least because it’s so versatile. There’s a loads of themes to choose from and for a little extra money ($30 a year) you can really go to town and make it your own — which we highly, highly recommend. Easy to use, easy to set up and integrate with other social media, easy to switch around until you find your “it look” that drives up more traffic, WP is “da bomb” as one of our less trendy associate’s (Oz!) likes to say.
Blogs are good for other reasons too. Even if you’re having an awful writing day when it comes to your book, you can look at your blog and remind yourself that every time you blog (or tweet, or facebook), you’re adding to your book’s marketing campaign and your showing potential agents/publishers that you will put out the effort it takes to make sales.
Some things you may need to keep in mind with your blog, is your book’s target buyers. You should be writing in a style that they can expect to read more of if they buy the book. If that swearing is part and parcel of your style, and in your book, stick with it on the blog. The worst thing you can do to a reader is give them something the didn’t expect — in a bad way. As long as your honest about your writing, it’s ok.
Ditto the content. Think more critically about your blog/tweet/facebook posting because at certain point, particularly with blogs, you can end up spending time and effort just giving away future saleable content. Every author has to decide, based on what’s actually going into her/his book, where that point is but publishers aren’t interested in trying to sell content you’ve already given away.
When we at FAB, as publishers, look at posts we really enjoy, we tend to think:
“OK, proven writing ability, strong marketer, good concept! But what’s going into the book that isn’t on the blog? Will it be more great stuff like this, woven together to make a great magic carpet ride for the reader? Or are we reading all the best stuff? Is there more better stuff? Will webe thinking “the best stuff on earth just keeps getting better” when we see the manuscript? Or will we be thinking, we’ve already read this stuff, or, worse, this wasn’t at all the stuff we were expecting based on the marketing campaign (ie, the blog).”
All these might be questions to ask before hitting “publish” on a blog. On a WordPress blog.
And ok, for pete’s sake, use a blog publishers can actually read, something like Manifest, or Twenty-Ten. Nothing turns off people who are there to read faster than black/grey/grungy overdone blogs. We mean it. They’re hard to read, clunky, depressing, ugly and in general tell people who love to read “don’t read this.” If we see a big black header, on drab blog, with little non-serif thin grey type, on a blue grey background, we get eyestrain in 1 post, and guess what? We won’t read anymore and you loose your opportunity.
Koi is a nice theme, it’s just not professional unless you write about something Asian themed. But the overall type and layout are good and if you change the background, it can work. Twenty-eleven is a good theme, but it has a hard to read (ie, non serif) font (which you could customize into serif with an upgrade). Chateau could work, but not if you choose black as the background and load it with widgets. Matala is readable, but screams childrens books, comedy, or travel writer. Whimsy is good, silly is bad. Matala is whimsy.
We use Quentin for this blog, but it has been retired. For something like it, see Elegant Grunge (if you choose this, customize it!). The things you want in a blog theme are easy to read font (usually black type in a serif font in a point size, say 10+), on a white or light background (that isn’t in a grey hue), where the posts are to the left (if you opt for 2 columns or more). The first thing people who read left to right want to see, is the posts you want them to read. If we see a bunch of left-side widgets . . . click, we go to the next blog.
You are showcasing your writing. If the thing you see first when the page come us is something other than clear, clean, easy to read dark text on a pale neutral or white background, some readers (read publishers) don’t bother. We’re one of them. But we also want to see your personality, so get the upgrade and personalize the theme even if it’s just in some minor way such as changing the color of your type or its style.