Q. Do I need to start a weblog to promote my work?

A. No.

If you're an unpublished writer, do not expect blogging to get you published. Put your effort into submitting finished manuscripts to publishers.

Moving on to published writers --

Some authors already have weblogs. They'd be bloggers whether or not they were doing other writing. That's fine. It's their natural behavior. Sometimes their blogs benefit other areas of their writing careers. Sometimes they don't.

But if blogging isn't something you'd be doing anyway, you should not feel obliged to start. It's a low-yield activity that eats up work time. If you don't naturally have bloggy things to say, the strain and lifelessness will show, and the entries intended to promote your writing will not be camouflaged by the wilting vegetation around them. Apply your reader mind: do you find it attractive when other writers do that? I can't imagine you do. You should assume that other readers won't find it attractive either.

Also, bear in mind that a lackluster weblog that only nets you a couple of hundred irregular readers can still get you into trouble. If you inadvertently say something that makes you sound bad in an amusingly quotable way, and a few of your readers mention it in their Live Journals while linking to your site, other LJs and weblogs can pick up the story. It can spread. If you're really unlucky, it can become your top-linked Google result.

Weblogs require maintenance. If you allow comments, which you probably should if want your weblog to have any life of its own, you will at minimum get comment spam. This must be cleaned out promptly and regularly.

You can also find your comment threads invaded by combative trolls, not-very-bright literary theorists, resentful unpublished writers, drive-by creeps and vandals, and other timewasters. It's entirely within your rights to delete their more obnoxious comments, and ban them from your site if they don't get the message and start behaving. If they complain, tell them that "freedom of speech" means they're free to start their own website, and the sooner they do so the happier you'll be.

Having some web presence is nevertheless a good idea. Put together a simple static website where you can post your bibliography, pictures of your covers, your author photo, a small selection of your best review quotes, announcements of forthcoming books and/or public appearances, information on how to contact you for interviews, and (if you feel like it) some interesting longish excerpts from your books.

Keep it short. Keep it simple. Do not have it play mood music.