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Author Blogs vs. Author Forums

I was asked a question by a client yesterday that I thought was worth answering in a blog post. After all, if one person has this question, the odds are more people do, too.

We are in the process of building her author website, and she knows she wants to interact with readers on the site. She’d heard about blogs. She’d heard about forums. But she wasn’t quite sure what the difference was or which one she should go with.

First, it’s important to explain that blogs and forums are very different things. Yes, they both involve interactivity, but in a completely different way.

A blog is about the author. Each blog post is written by the author. Site visitors can read the blog posts and comment on the blog posts (and the author can respond to those comments), but the author is really the one prompting the conversations in a blog. Site visitors can only post comments on the author’s entries (and the comments only appear with the author’s approval).

A forum is much more about the readers. Basically, it’s a free-for-all, where site visitors can start conversations and chat with one another, whether or not the author is participating in the conversation. Here’s an example of an author forum: http://www.jimbutcheronline.com/bb/

Now which one should an author have: a blog or a forum? Well, that depends. But I must confess that I’m much more likely to recommend a blog over a forum.

The benefits of a forum lie in the fact that the author doesn’t need to participate in it. It’s a place where readers can chat on their own. Discuss the book. Share their ideas. It’s much more of an open conversation.

But I’ve created forums for authors before, and each of them have hit a wall. There are two big reasons for this.

  1. It can be challenging to get a conversation started on a forum. And there’s nothing worse than a dead forum. Without a lot of traffic right off the bat, your forum will die a slow death.
  2. You have no control over the forum. Unlike a blog, you don’t get to review any posts before they appear on the site. Which means less responsibility for you, but also less control. I have honestly spent hours cleaning out author forums of pornography, inappropriate comments, etc…

So, in short, I personally favor the blog. Would I still build a forum for an author who wants one? Absolutely. But hopefully this entry helps clear things up a bit for authors who aren’t sure which way to go.

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