To Blog or not to Blog?

If someone had asked me a few years year ago if I blogged, I’d have looked blankly at them and asked, What’s a blog?’

Yet here I am venturing into unknown territory, writing my first blog post.

Nervous?

Eh, understatement! It feels much the same as it did when I pushed Amazon’s publishing button. Gut twisting, heart pounding and feeling sick at the very thought.

Of course, it would be much easier just to shrink back into my comfy little corner and leave blogging to the seasoned professionals.

So why stick my neck out?

I guess because you’ll never know if you’re any good at something unless you try, and I’ve a habit of making life harder for myself. All I can do is give it my best shot and be myself.

When I first stepped into the self-publishing arena last year I felt as though I’d been transported to an alien planet, (much like my heroine, Josie) unable to understand the language or know how to navigate my way around. I was bombarded with scary and unfamiliar words like platform, blogging, hashtags, bitly links.

What’s so scary about that you might well ask?

Absolutely nothing, if you grew up as part of the digital age. But as a Gen-X’er it’s taken me a while to catch up with all you Net-savvy millenials. Navigating my way through the murky waters of social media, converting files for publishing and even building a website has not come easy. I’ve had to learn on my feet – and fast. In fact, I’ve probably been exposed to more technological challenges this last year than the whole of the last decade. On a positive note, at least nobody can see the grey hairs that have been sprouting from my wayward locks at an alarming rate.

My first encounter of the web wasn’t until the late 90s, which I considered only for techies and not for the likes of me, thank you very much. Even to this day, I perceive computers with a certain wariness and suspicion, waiting for the moment my laptop decides to assert itself. You think you’re in control, do you? *Cue sinister laugh*.

Instead of fearing technology, I’ve had to roll up the sleeves of my big girl’s blouse, grab it with both hands and hit it repeatedly with a blunt instrument show it who’s boss. And it’s not just HTML, website and book cover design that I’ve had to get my head around. As a self-published writer, I quickly discovered I also have to embrace social media and become part of its world-wide community if I want to promote my work and build a name for myself in the publishing industry.

I’m not simply a writer anymore. Now I have to learn how to become a publisher, marketing expert, blogger and all round social media guru. It seems one hat is no longer adequate. In the space of a year, I’ve found myself swapping my beloved black writing cap for an array of new and uncomfortable headpieces that are far too big for my wee noggin. And the weight of all those hats can quickly become a real pain in the neck.

After all, what do I know about marketing – or blogging for that matter?

The truth is, not a lot. Mostly, I’ve been fumbling around in the dark, learning as I go and making plenty newbie mistakes. But I’ll get better. No one is going to get my name out there or promote my work unless I do. There’s no backing from a big publishing house. It’s just me. And readers won’t find my books unless I force myself out of my isolated writer’s bubble and stick my neck out over the publishing parapet.

Okay, but then what?

The articles I’ve read all seem to indicate that the most effective way for a new author to gain visibility and build a successful readership is to have a profile on all the major social media sites, their own website and a blog.

Message understood. Ticking off the list as we speak. But when, pray tell, will I find time to write?

My writing time is already squeezed between the demands of bringing up my family and preventing the dust bunnies from turning sentient. Surely, engaging in social media will only serve to steal time away from my main priority – to write.

It’s all too easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of social media. Before you know it, you’re hopping around like a hyperactive Duracell bunny between Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Instagram or Tumblr. The list goes on. It can soon become overwhelming, if you let it.

So, what’s the answer?

Focus

I can only say what works for me and fits with my life. But I think the key is to research where your target audience hangs out. Focus your attention on those social media sites rather than spreading yourself too thinly across all of them. Better to add more valuable content on one or two sites than dipping in and out of too many, as this will help to build a stronger connection with your readers in the longer term.

Discipline

Set time limits each day for social media engagement or you’ll soon find a whole morning has gone with little to show for it. Find a time that suits you best. I try to spend half an hour before I start writing in the morning and slightly longer in the evening. I plan to adopt a similar attitude to blogging to ensure this doesn’t become yet another thing to eat into my valuable writing time.

Be original

Bloggers all seem to reitirate the importance of having regular content available on your blog/website in order to both draw in new readers and gain a wider audience. While that’s true, I’d rather blog when I have something new and interesting to share. If you feel pressurised to write a new blog post every week just for the sake of it, the content could end up a bit bland or just a regurgitation of information that’s already been heard before. When you’re passionate about a subject and providing something informative or original, readers are more likely to come back for more.

Which takes me back to my original question: What do I have to blog about?

I see a blog rather like a journal – a written and visual expression of my thoughts, experiences, interests and subjects I feel passionate about.

As a new author, I’m hardly an authority on the technical skills of writing. There are already a plethora of knowledgeable authors, editors and proofreaders out there, sharing great content on the mechanics of writing.

What I hope to offer is my own experience of writing and self-publishing, specific topics I care about, things that inspire me to write and books I love. I must admit, it feels liberating having my own space to share my views and ideas – and somewhere I can use more than 140 characters!

I’m also keen to give readers the opportunity to find out more about my writing, my books and my fantasy world of Galidom.

So, if my first attempt at blogging hasn’t put you off, welcome to my world(s). 🙂

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