As a writer, your main goal is to write, right? The good news is that you can write whatever you want, whenever you want. The bad news is that if you want to be a prolific writer who actually sells books, you also need readers. One of the best ways to get more readers as a new author or indie author is to start a blog. In this post, I’ll explain exactly how I started a blog and how you can start one, too.
*This post contains affiliate links to help me keep my blog up and running. Check out my disclosure policy for more details.
First, a little backstory: When I finished graduate school with my shiny new creative writing degree, I landed a job in finance. Yep, finance. And as an English major, I think it goes without saying that I am NOT a numbers girl. (I specifically remember crying in fourth grade when we learned how to count money because I just didn’t get it.)
I was thankful for my job and kept it for nearly four years, but as time went on I became increasingly aware that finance was not the field for me. I wanted to write, so that’s what I did in my spare time. Some people manage to write bestselling novels in their spare time, and that’s how I wrote my first novel. But I didn’t just want to write in the spare moments I had. They were too few and far between. I wanted to do it for a living.
So I started a blog. I’d already been blogging for years, but not seriously. I knew if I wanted to get real about my career as a writer, I needed to start writing more regularly. Blogging is one of the best ways to do that, because if you want to succeed at all as a blogger, you have to write and post regularly, not just when you feel like it. It’s the same if you want to write books for a living: You have to do it every single day. You have to write, edit, and promote like your paycheck depends on it. (And hey, maybe it does.)
Even though your goal may be to write books for a living, you’ll have to supplement that income if you aren’t published yet, or if you don’t have a large enough portfolio of books to make a regular, livable income. Blogging is a great way to do that. Not only do you get to do what you love, but you also get to build a community of readers, connect with fellow writers, and (eventually) make an income without keeping a job you hate.
The Writer’s Guide to Starting a Blog (and Getting More Readers)
*Note: There are tons of posts out there about starting blogs. I’m not very technology-minded, so I’ll make this as simple and easy-to-follow as possible. I’ve also included links to other authors and bloggers who have started highly successful blogs, too.
1) Choose your hosting company and domain name
If you want to blog seriously (i.e. gain readers and make money), then self-hosting is the way to go. When I started this blog, I already had a Bluehost account from my previous blog. I knew I loved using them and had absolutely no reason to switch. They are trusted, helpful, and more than affordable enough for my starving-artist self. 😉
To start a new blog, go to Bluehost.com and click the “Get Started Now” button.
Choose your plan. The basic plan is perfect for starters. You can always upgrade later, if necessary.
Choose your domain name. Think about who you are as an author. You could go with something classic, like YourNameBooks.com or YourNameAuthor.com. Or you could go with something more specific, like SheWritesThrillers.com. It’s totally up to you!
(Tip: Check to see if the domain name you want is available first!)
Create your account. This is where you’ll enter your name, address, plan preferences, and payment information. Again, you can always update your plan in the future, so don’t stress about this part too much.
Finally, you’ll choose a password. Then you can log in to your new Bluehost account:
Since I already had an account, I simply purchased a new domain (theladyinread.com). Then I assigned that new domain as an add-on to my existing account. Then when I installed WordPress, theladyinread.com was one of my domain options. This was the ONLY tricky step that I didn’t quite get at first. Everything else was very simple and straightforward.
Here’s what I did:
On the main page of your Bluehost account, choose the Domains tab. Look in your domains list. If the one you want to use to set up your new blog is unassigned, simply assign it and it will show up in your account as one of your domains. Then you can install WordPress and launch your ShinyNewBlog.com.
(Tip: Bluehost has TONS of helpful resources and excellent customer service, so don’t hesitate to contact them if you have trouble setting everything up!)
2) Install WordPress
I’ve been blogging since the days of MySpace, so I’ve tried a few different platforms. In my experience, WordPress is the only way to go. It has allowed me, a writer with little to no knowledge of coding or design, to set up my own blog. At this point, I don’t think I’ll ever use anything else.
From your Bluehost account home, click “Install WordPress.”
Select the domain name you want to install. (It’s the one you just purchased. You knew that.) Write down your login credentials so you don’t forget them.
Once installed, you can visit your new blog’s dashboard by visiting www.YourNewSite.com/wp-admin. Log in with those credentials you wrote down a couple of minutes ago.
YAY! Welcome to your new home on the Internet. You’ll get very comfortable here because this is where you’ll be creating your pages, writing your posts, and sharing your work with the world.
(Tip: Don’t worry about the thousands of plug-ins and widgets yet. Customization can come after you’ve chosen your perfect theme.)
3) Choose a theme for your blog
This part is fun, but it also took a while for me because I was so indecisive about my overall brand and the image I wanted to convey when I got started blogging.
(Tip: Figure out your goals, brand, and overall image first. Then set up your blog. It will be much easier to make decisions when you have a solid vision for your blog.)
Here’s how to choose your blog’s theme: On the menu to the left, choose Appearance -> Themes -> browse until you find something you like. There are also tons of theme designers out there, so have fun!
I ended up going with Solstice from Bottomless Themes, and I’m really happy with it. It came with helpful documentation, and I’ve been able to customize basically everything.
If you need some extra help installing your theme and setting up your blog, this article is an excellent resource.
4) Make a schedule and plan your posts
Now that your blog is set up, it’s time to start writing. Making a schedule for your blog and planning your posts is optional, but it has helped me tremendously. In fact, I have an entirely separate planner just for scheduling my posts and guest posts. Writing is not something you do only when you feel inspired, and neither is blogging. Especially not if you want to grow a substantial readership and make an income.
5) Strategize your social media
Again, this is optional, but having a social media strategy in place will simplify your blogging life. For more help on choosing your platforms, simplifying your strategy, and combatting distraction and discouragement, read this.
(Tip: Download this FREE Social Media Cheat Sheet for Novelists for tons of groups, chats, boards, and hashtags to help you target your ideal audience and grow your influence!)
6) Cover yourself legally
This part isn’t optional. You might be able to fly under the radar right now, but the goal is to become a prolific writer who sells lots of books, right? If part of that goal is growing a helpful, potentially profitable blog, then you want to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal. I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about this because there’s just so much to cover, so I’ll point you to some helpful resources for blogging legally instead.
Here are some articles and books that will be good investments of your time and money if you want to cover all of your legal blogging bases:
- The Legal Side of Blogging by Ruth Carter
- Blogging for Writers: How Authors & Writers Build Successful Blogs by Robin Houghton
- Blogging All-In-One for Dummies by Susan Gunelius
- Blogging: The Ultimate Guide on How to Replace Your Job with a Blog by Efron Hirsch
- Legal Guide for Bloggers via Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Blogging Legally 101 via Jade & Oak
- Blogging and the Law: Five Issues You Need to Know via LitReactor
- Top 5 Legal Issues for Bloggers and Self-Publishers via The Book Designer
- 6 Laws Every Blogger Needs to Obey So They Don’t Get Sued via ProBlogger
7) Grow your email list
Unless your blog is truly just a hobby that you’re only writing for your mom, best friend, and cat, then there’s no reason NOT to build your email list.
For instance: Say your main goal is to make your readers aware of your novels. You can post excerpts from your books or offer a free chapter (or prequel, novella, etc.) to anyone who signs up for your email list. Those who are truly interested will sign up. When it comes time to promote your new book release, you’ll have a list of interested readers who actually want to buy your book. Even if your strategy is a bit different and you want to monetize your blog instead of using it to blog your book, the money is still in the list (#realtalk).
By far the best way — maybe the only way — to grow your email list effectively is to offer your readers something for free. An incentive for signing up. When I finally offered a freebie I got subscribers without even trying. Seriously, I took two weeks off around Christmas, and even though I wasn’t checking in, posting, and promoting every day, my page views and subscribers were increasing daily. People love free stuff.
8) Check your expectations
Alright, so you set up your blog and you’ve started posting consistently and growing your readership. You’re ultimately hoping to get more readers for your novels and sell more books. Maybe you’ve even considered monetizing your blog for some extra income. You’re on the right track.
But before you get discouraged because you haven’t hit the New York Times bestseller list yet, check your expectations. Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s not something that happens automatically, and only the persistent succeed. It takes a LOT of dedicated, hard work. Much like when writing books, you’ll need to be consistent, have clear goals, and work through the discouraging days. (They will come, I promise.) If your only reason for blogging is to make tons of money or get millions of followers, you’ll probably get discouraged and give up too soon.
To stay motivated, keep your writing goals and your readers in mind. Focus on the good connections you’re making with your readers and with fellow writers. Don’t focus on the critics or naysayers who tell you it’s impossible to succeed as a blogger or author. It’s not impossible. But it’s also not necessarily easy.
Yes, there are loads of blogs and authors out there. And you know what? The ones that stuck with it are succeeding.
You know the cliche “there are plenty of fish in the sea”? Well, here’s the good news: One patch of seaweed isn’t meant to feed the whole ocean. Same goes for you. While your work may be prolific in the future (let’s hope!), for now, just focus on your spot in the ocean. There will be people who never see your blog or read your books. Then again, you may end up with dedicated, involved readers who love what you do. Be you, in your place, for your people right now. Your message — and your blog — are just right for the people who are meant to receive it.
Need more blogging tools?
Check out this list of blogging and writing resources. It’s chock full of helpful guides, books, courses, and anything else you need to get your blogging and writing career on the right track.
Before you go, don’t forget your FREE copy of The Complete Social Media Cheat Sheet for Novelists.
Happy writing, lady!
Have you started a blog to connect with other authors and readers? What advice do you have for authors who want to start a blog but don’t know where to start? Let me know in the comments below, and join the Ladies in Read community for more writing tips and inspiration!