Should You Blog Before Publication? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

How much time do you spend online?

Last week, I ran a poll asking readers how many hours they spent doing online “platform-building” activities each week.

h.koppdelaney-5 Photo Credit

The (currently) winning choice on this poll?

Are you kidding? I don’t track my time online! I don’t even want to know.

It prompted an interesting discussion in the comments, where you all raised a lot of excellent questions about the social media versus rest-of-writing-life balance. Readers asked questions such as

  • Does my blog reach my target audience (that is, the people who will purchase my products or services) or only my peers?
  • Am I spending so much time platform-building that it’s taking time from book writing?
  • Should I set a timer for my online activities?
  • Or should I set online-free zones?
  • Do blog challenges sap too much of my creative energy?

Have you ever been plagued by these sorts of questions? I know I have!

How do you benefit?

I went through a soul-searching phase in my blogging life a bit over a year ago. Was it worth it? It was taking away time from writing, and probably not getting me any closer to a book sale. I ended up deciding that I found enough value in blogging—connections, the sense of satisfaction I get from giving back to the writing community, for starters—that I would keep at it.

I’m glad I did. I found that I use the blog now to figure out things I’m working through as a writer (like how much time to spend online!). I would be journaling about many of the topics I blog about, if I wasn’t blogging; by blogging instead, my questions can prompt conversations and provide new insights. Plus it’s nice to know that others benefit from my meanderings :).

Another blogging benefit, which I didn’t consider until recently, is that it’s taught me a tremendous amount about platform-building. This blog, targeted to writers, will probably not end up being a good way to market my children’s and YA novels. However, this blog has led me to a host of ideas of how I CAN market those books.

No one but you can decide the “right” amount of time to spend online—but if you, too, are soul-searching about this topic, here are some questions to help you gain perspective:

  1. Do you know how much time you spend online? If not, consider tracking it with free software such as:
    • Rescue Time: This program doesn’t require any data entry; it runs in the background on your computer and tracks how much time you spend on different websites or in different applications. It has both free and pro versions.
    • Manic Time: Similar to Rescue Time, this program automatically tracks hours spent on different websites and using different applications. Free, downloadable program.
    • Toggl: In this program, you have to enter what you’re working on and click the timer (or enter hours manually). Free plan with basic features, simple timer interface, web-based with mobile apps.
    • Harvest: Free for 1 user with up to 2 projects and 4 clients (I define “Cheryl Reifsnyder” as one of my clients, and “website/blog” as one of my projects), web-based with mobile apps. Has the capacity to generate invoices.
    • Slimtimer: Free, web interface. You enter projects and click to start/stop the timer.
  2. Why are you blogging? Is the time you spend on social media accomplishing what you hope to accomplish? Some possibilities might include:
    • Accountability
    • Feedback
    • Interaction with other writers
    • Platform-building
    • Learning to build a platform for your future audience
  3. Does your time online provide you with relationships, encouragement, accountability, or contact with peers that you might not have otherwise?
  4. Does time online take away from time spent on face-to-face relationships?
  5. When you’re online, are you connecting with your target audience (readers) or with your peers (other writers)? If the latter, are you okay with that right now?
  6. Does blogging motivate you to write more, or merely subtract time from other types of writing? Do you perform better under a deadline, such as a blog can offer?
  7. Does time spent blogging or interacting on Twitter or Facebook (and here I’m talking only about writing-related interactions, not time spent connecting with friends and family) outweigh the time you spend on your work-in-progress?
  8. After you blog, how do you feel? If you have the warm fuzzies, that’s a good sign; if you’re habitually stressed and overwhelmed by blogging, it might be time to rethink your strategy.
  9. If you have been blogging for a while, has it helped to improve your writing in any way? Increased your writing speed? Your craft?
  10. Does blogging encourage you to explore topics important to your field—but which you might not otherwise explore?

I’d love this discussion to continue. Please chime in with your thoughts on how blogging and social media have a positive or negative influence on you as a writer!

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  1. Jarm Del Boccio says

    This is soo good…such a thorough treatment of the time we spend online. Thanks, I will be bookmarking this to share with others!


    • says

      Thank you! Keeping time online under control is a challenge, isn’t it? Especially for those of you doing that A to Z challenge! I admire your discipline.

  2. says

    What a great post! I’m blogging before publication. Yes, it does take away some of my writing time, but I’m platform building and I’ve learned a lot about various aspects of being a writer. It’s helped me focus on what I want to do with my writing and where I want to go with it. The writing community is fabulous! :)

  3. says

    A year ago I did not have a blog and was not on any social media–not even FB. The most surprising thing–other than the amount of time it takes–is how much I really enjoy it. The community is amazing. I started blogging last summer because I realized it was something I needed to do whether I decide to go the traditional route for publishing or not. And I think peers are just as important as “target audience,” b/c peers buy books too. Whether for themselves, their kids or as gifts. I like to buy books from friends, peers and fellow bloggers. :)
    Great topic Cheryl!

    • Fancy Morgan says

      Great topic Cheryl, and I agree 100% with Coleen. I’m just a beginner, and I love reading what other writers have to say since so many of my online “friends” are published. And I too buy a lot of books :)

    • says

      That’s true, I’ve bought many a book from a blogger’s recommendation. I had to chuckle re Facebook, because my husband wasn’t on Facebook until a year ago–when (tired of all his friends sending him messages through me!) I signed him up :). I use FB more for personal connections, altho I’m sure that will need to change someday….

  4. says

    I’ve been thinking a lot about just this very topic, particularly as I have just started another blog in relation to my about to be self-published novel. As I set it up I wondered who I wanted to reach. Like you I already blog for my peers on both my personal blog and an Irish national writing website. It all takes a lot of time. I’ve also got a literary novel to submit and another novel (or several) waiting to be written. There’s got to be a balance. Certainly through social media in general and through connecting I get a great sense of satisfaction and I guess, importantly in the lonely path of a writer, I get affirmation that people are with me along the path, especially when taking a leap like self-publishing. However it’s necessary to dive right in to writing in order to produce. Your tips were very informative. I’ve been offered a writing residency for 9 days in July. It’s going to be such an interesting experience to have the time to dedicate to writing and – since it’s remote – with much less of the internet. I’m really looking forward to what others suggest. I am thinking of splitting my writing and internet time completely by doing most of my writing in the very early morn and more interactive stuff later on. I think it might work. But as you say, blogging and internet presence in general has a huge plus factor so shouldn’t be ditched altogether.

    • says

      This strategy–splitting my time between working on my WIP in the morning and limiting social networking to the afternoon–seems to be working for me. It makes me feel less connected on Twitter, especially with my East Coast Twitter friends, but I’ve definitely improved my productivity!

  5. says

    I’m so stuck right now. I do love blogging. However, I feel I spend so much time online trying to connect with other bloggers, networking, social media, etc. that I feel like most weeks the only productive work I get done is 2-3 blog posts. I really want to rethink my whole online presence because right now I don’t feel like I can juggle it all and what I really want is to get my bigger (non-blog) projects moving faster. Thanks for all of this to think about.

    • says

      I know EXACTLY what you mean. When I feel that way, it’s definitely a sign that I need to bump blogging down a notch on my priority list. It’s sooo easy for it to expand into all available time. The best strategy I’ve found is simply to do my other writing first during my day (I say, not having yet worked on my WIP today…) It’s hard to do, though. Blogging–and answering comments, checking out others’ posts, etc.–always seems like it will take “just a minute.” And each individual action does take only a minute. The problem is one thing tends to lead to another, and next thing I know an hour or so has disappeared. You’ve reminded me to follow my own advice–I’m logging off to write now!

  6. says

    Very practical post, Cheryl. I have actually been reflecting a lot on this and , yes, even blogged about it a little last week! I am reassessing things as while I love the relationships and even the art of blogging, the more I build my platform the less I write in my WIPs… I shall be passing this post on.

  7. says

    I think you have to tame your online social media time with a whip and a chair. It can be a real time sucker. I started blogging to learn about the writing community. It’s been a super education.

  8. says

    You’re right, these are great questions to ask ourselves. I started a blog because I thought I should, but now it’s so much more than that to me. It’s like a ginormous writing water cooler, and I totally love chatting with all of you and learning from everyone. Plus, it teaches me discipline and focus!

  9. says

    I am spending way too much time blogging at the moment but I signed up for the A-Z Challenge and it is helping me build my platform, so that is good. After this challenge I am going to cut back on the blogging and actually start some writing again. But I do love blogging. It’s fun, I’ve learnt tons, met loads of interesting, funny, people, won quite a lot of free books and even a cd. Totally worth it.

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