In one brief prohibition: If you have written a book, don’t create a blog to market your book. Now an explanation:
I’ve been consulted by a bundle of authors and publishers to ask “How did you build your blog?” The follow-up question is usually: “We have a new author and we want her/him to have a blog to market the book. How did you do it?”
My answer: “My blog didn’t come into existence to market my books — from Jesus Creed to A Community called Atonement. I blog because I have scribbler’s itch.”
Commentary: What I’m saying is that that I didn’t start blogging to promote my books. Yes, I do mention my books; and sometimes we market the books on this blog. It’s part of what I do. But, if I never mentioned my books, I’d still be blogging. And that just might be the best place to be for you, if you are a future author and want to know how to “build” a blog for your new book. Here’s the big question: Would you blog if you didn’t have a book? If the answer is “Yes,” I’ve got some suggestions. If your answer is “No,” then I suggest not blogging — you’ll wear out in a week or two.
I can begin a long list of authors who started blogging to market a book and ran out of things to say quickly and now rarely even post on the blog. A blog about a book runs out of steam in about two weeks. Blog only if you just have to write things out on a constant basis.
Now some advice for those who are authors (or who are not) and who want to blog:
1. Blog daily or at least five times per week if you want to get readers.
2. Variety: if you want to blog all the time about one topic — say eschatology — you will have trouble getting many readers. If you vary your topics, you stimulate different readers and create a learning environment.
3. Think outside your box: a good thing I learned about blogging was to blog about things I wasn’t a specialist about. I could talk all day long about the letter of James or the Synoptic Gospels or 1 Peter or historical Jesus studies. Blogging about the Song of Songs or about spiritual formation books leads me to ask questions that I genuinely want to answer and usually don’t have answers to. I try to read books that I think you — my blog community — are interested in. If I didn’t have a blog, I’d be reading classical literature. But I think Bible professors and theologians have a sacred task of communicating with the Church; those who don’t have turned the Bible into an academic artifact. So, lots of what I read is for you — and I get to enter into the conversation and education as I listen to you.
4. Let others create ideas for you: read through books — esp those that have lots of topics in them — and let the books create a conversation. Or read a magazine and cull out some ideas. Sometimes the newspaper can create stories for you. Frequently you folks write me with a topic … and sometimes it can turn into a series and sometimes it’s just not interesting enough to me to blog about.
5. Perhaps the best thing I learned about blogging was from watching Steve McCoy: ask a good question that you (the blogger) don’t answer. Let others answer. Did you see what happened to this blog the day I asked “Why is this [women in ministry] an issue?” Did you see the difference when I answered it two days later? The first day was totally open-ended; the second time there was some feet dug in.
6. Bad sign: white knuckles. If there are 10 comments and five of them are by you (the blog’s author), then you are too close to the action. Write out an idea, ask a good question or two, and then just sit back and watch. Enter the conversation if you need to. If everything is about “you say” and “I say” then it is not a community conversation but a question-and-answer session. That’s my view — others may disagree.
Well, at any rate, I advise not blogging in order to market a book. Blog if you have that sense that you have to write.