Yes. You do.
That was very nearly the most concise blog post in the history of blog posts. Until I decided it might be more helpful to elucidate a little…
If you aim to self-publish then absolutely yes, you should maintain a blog or a website. To be frank, even if you’re heading down the traditional publishing route, you’d be well-advised to set one up. Major publishers no longer spend the time and money promoting poor starving authors like they used to and you’ll find yourself doing much of your own audience-building. Or else standing on street corners with a sandwich board.
Now, I know many of you reading this have already carpe’d the diem and set up highly successful blogs, so please bear with me (or toddle off and entertain yourselves for a bit). If you’re amongst those, however, who are still pondering “but why do I need a blog?” I shall endeavour to explain.
Why Can’t I Just Use Facebook?
Your blog is your online home, your hub, your Moon Base Alpha if you will. It is where your content lives, where your audience will find you, where you can showcase your writing and, Heavens above, one day maybe even sell your books. It is the single destination to which you can direct anyone who may be in any way interested in what you have to offer.
All the other platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, take your pick – are the spokes which lead back to your hub. The first rungs upon your marketing ladder. They serve as vehicles to disseminate snippets, teasers, snatches of information… all of which in turn will lead people back to your blog. If you attempt to build an audience without a central focus point (that’s your blog, in case I haven’t tortured this point quite barbarously enough yet) you will end up with a loose, fragmented raggle-taggle of followers spread out across the web with no cohesion.
Of course, you could rely on a Facebook or Google+ page as your focal point. The problem here though is that they’re just not flexible enough. They each have their good points but you’ll rapidly outgrow them as places to maintain an evolving body of work, not to mention your historical archive of articles. At first, you may be perfectly content with popping up the odd status update about your work-in-progress or polling for votes on potential cover images. But have you tried to read a lengthy post on either site? It’s not the most comfortable of tasks. And the distractions… your lovingly-crafted content will instantly be vying for attention with everyone else’s status updates and posts and kitten pictures.
And you can never win against a kitten picture; it’s a law of nature.
Whereas, a short, snappy, to-the-point update or tweet can be used far more effectively to drive readers to your very own blog, where they can soak up your genius at leisure and without interruption. It’s the hub-and-spoke model again; using the spokes to drive your audience back to your hub. A tried-and-tested marketing technique that is pretty much ubiquitous in the digital era.
And It Doesn’t Stop There…
Another seismic advantage with a blog is that you have a vastly wider range of formatting, styling and presentation options to play around with in order to keep your audience engaged. Your blog is a living, evolving organism; it needs to be kept fresh, it needs to grow, it needs to change with the times and the trends.
Above all, it needs to reflect you, your personality and your writing style.
Try doing all that on a Facebook page! Not that I have anything against FB, you understand, it’s just not a blog.
As if any further motivation were needed – which, quite frankly, it shouldn’t be but here goes anyway – most blogging platforms can easily (OK, relatively easily then) be updated with eCommerce functionality. More commonly known as “being able to sell stuff“. When you’ve developed a large enough following, there’s a good chance you may want to entice them to purchase your books directly from your blog, rather than sending them off to an online retailer who’ll charge you commissions and taxes and all kinds of other bits-and-bobs which nibble away at your income like a horde of ravenous gerbils.
OK, I’m Convinced, Where Do I Sign?
Amongst the plethora of splendid reasons to crack on and build a blog, I’d say those make for a pretty compelling starting point. And if you’re now thinking “but I don’t know where to start and I’m not technical and I can’t do design and I hate computers and I wish I’d never started and I need a very stiff gin, HELP HELP!!!!” then don’t panic. Everyone thinks that before they start, it’s an entirely natural part of the process. A bit like teething pain. It seems bad at first, but once you gain the ability to eat biscuits, you understand it was all worth while.
Setting up your first blog is vastly easier than you think it’s going to be, believe me. And just like a chocolate digestive, it’s worth the small amount of effort involved.
That, however, is a post for another day…