death by blogging

Danger! Blogging in ProgressThe main objection I get whenever I suggest someone starts a blog is: “how on earth will I find the time?”. It’s a fair question. In our always-on culture, with a constant demand for information – and free information, at that – some bloggers are reportedly working themselves to death in digital sweat shops, under the non-stop strain of keeping up with the Internet information cycle.
Death by blogging is a phenomenon identified by the New York Times recently, and much talked about in the blogosphere since. Two people have died in the last few months – though that hardly constitutes an epidemic, and it would be hard to pin it to down to blogging.
Most people don’t make money from blogging. But even those who do are feeling the strain:

“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”
“This is not sustainable,” he said.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Admittedly, this article is really talking about paid bloggers – journalists doing piece work for as little as $10 per post. Many more people blog for free, because they’re passionate about a topic, or are using it as a marketing channel for their book, business or other project. Unless you get a very large number of visitors, you’re unlikely to make much from advertising. The real benefit, from a publisher/author point of view, is marketing. Starting a conversation, having a personal connection with readers, and making your book easy to find and buy online (don’t forget an ordering link!).
But you still need regular postings to feel the benefit. So what strategies can you use to make sure your blog stays fun, fresh and interesting, and doesn’t become a chore?

  1. First of all, if you’re a publisher, and your author has the foresight and enthusiasm to have their own blog already, link to it! Go on – link NOW.
  2. Blogging isn’t for everyone – find those authors who are willing, able, and have something to say. For many authors, blogging is an obvious social media tool, since it involves the written word.
  3. Consider a blog tied to an author, or a book, and branded to match the cover(s). Create this yourself, and then all your author has to do is log on to the admin interface and start writing.
  4. Spread the workload with a multi-author blog. You may have a subject, topic or list that would make a good blog, and encourage discussion in the blogosphere. This works well in academic/non-fiction publishing. Multiple contributors writing in a discrete topic area provide a variety of voices and a lighter workload.
  5. Publisher blogs seem to be proliferating; and there’s no reason why not. Just remember that no-one really cares who the publisher is. To make the most of a publisher blog, you need to think of it as more than a press release delivery mechanism. That said, there are some interesting examples out there: Simon & Schuster’s offers a more engaging video blog that’s well tagged and has good social media optimization.
  6. You don’t have to write original posts all the time. Scour blogs in your subject area, using an RSS feed reader, and publish short extracts of relevant blogs and link to them. Ideally, provide your own commentary.
  7. Encourage some guest postings if you can – but think about what you can offer your guest blogger in return. PR? A future guest posting on their blog? Access to your online community? Cash?
  8. Yes, you need to be regular; but you don’t need to post daily. At least weekly is ideal – but don’t panic if a couple of weeks or more go by. We’re all busy, and your blog will bounce back with few ill effects. Give yourself a little blog holiday. When you first start a blog, however, you should post daily for the first week or so if you can, to quickly build up some content for search engines to find.
  9. Integrate blogging into your daily life. If you go to an interesting event that’s relevant to your blog, write about it. Topicality also helps with search engines.
  10. You don’t have to write 2,000 word essays. Short, bite-sized chunks work well.

Whatever your approach, any blog helps search engine rankings, findability, and encourages content sharing. But as with any social media marketing tool, don’t just consider which tool is appropriate to your market – think also about what you or your author feels comfortable with and has the time for. Social media is a commitment – but it’s one you should have fun with. And please: don’t die blogging.
image by plerophoria

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...