Blogging and A Poll

Lately on the interwebz there’s been a lot of conversation among and by writers and people who are not writers but who like to talk about what the rules are for writers. This last category includes editors and agents, but also people who used to be those things or who were never those things.

The latest bit of advice to fly about is this: Blogging is dead. It’s a waste of time. Authors should stop blogging.

This “advice” seems to be sourced mainly from this conversation by L.L Barkat at Jane Friedman’s blog. You notice there’s no data there– no analytics at all to support the opinion. There’s no discussion of fiction. And no discussion about the benefits of blogging on your visibility. The underlying assumption that you’d only blog to create a platform big enough to get a book deal has merit for some people. But most of those people are not authors of fiction.

ETA: corrected the spelling of LL Barkat’s last name. (thanks for letting me know!)

Don’t Do it If …

If you’re an author of fiction, here’s reasons NOT to blog.

  • You don’t like it
  • blogging stresses you out
  • You have a tendency to say unfortunate things AND don’t want to deal with the consequences of that in a public forum.
  • You can’t think of anything to say

These are all good reasons not to blog. If any of them are true, then don’t blog. End of story. Every author has different likes and dislikes in the part of authoring that has to do with being public and social. Do the ones you like.

Do it because …

  • You like it
  • You can deal with the consequences of stating strong opinions without being a total douche to others who disagree
  • It makes your website more visible. Incoming and outgoing links mean Google (and other search engines) like you better.
  • When readers, the curious, and the media, land at your website there’s content there that makes you seem interesting, readable, and interviewable.
  • You can post short-lived content that brings new eyes (polls, quizzes, author interviews, etc) or is just fun
  • It’s a place where readers can “talk” to you (via comments)
  • A blog post makes it easy to run a contest or giveaway. WordPress (and blogger by now I imagine) have plugins that make this a snap
  • A blog is not walled off behind Facebook.

Caveat Emptor!

If you have a blog, then YOU are the one who knows what your traffic is like. No third party, be they an agent, editor, or publishing pundit, has any idea if your blog brings traffic to your website.

When I look at the top thirty URLS to my website, #2 is my wordpress feed. (I self-host my wordpress blog. If you blog, so should you.)

When I look at the top 10 entry pages to my website (you’re profoundly wrong if you think it’s your home page) #2-10 are my wordpress feed and specific wordpress posts.

Among the top 25 pages at my website:
My wordpress feed is #1. My home page is #2, then it’s a mix of my book pages, specific blog posts, my section on craft.

I’ve been blogging since 2001. Not as long as Scalzi, but longer than just about everyone else. That means there’s a LOT of content there that gets spidered, searched, and ranked.

Your likely Biggest Mistake About Blogging?

IF you blog, your biggest mistake is not self-hosting. Self-hosting means it’s all on my site — all of it. Including analytics that are integrated with all the rest of my website pages. That’s why I can tell you that blogging is a major component of my web traffic. I can see which posts are popular and where they fit in relation to my other web content.

Does it sell Books?

In a way, the answer is, that’s the wrong question. Blogging is a way for me to remind others that I’m around, especially in between books. It’s part of my web presence, and my analytics tell me it’s a big part.

If you’re only blogging to sell books, then I think it’s likely your blog posts in general, aren’t all that interesting to the general fiction reader. Most of us are extremely sensitive to content that’s intended to sell something, particularly when the content is trying to pretend otherwise. We smell it a mile away and often avoid the hell out of it. If that’s the ethos behind your blog, the impact on your web presence is different. Not necessarily wrong, just different.

I enjoy having a forum for some of my strong opinions. I don’t stress much about going a few days or longer between posts. I’ve found that blogging on certain non-writing related subjects can generate a lot of interest. Cooking and Baking. Photographs. Bollywood movies. Content that I am comfortable sharing with anyone who happens by.

There’s a lot I don’t blog about: personal stuff. Family (other than the occasional mention that I have one). Things I don’t think are anyone’s business.

The message is mine to craft, and that ability is a very good reason to blog.

The Poll

(You should now be able to select more than one answer.)

What Do you Like About Author Blogs?

View Results

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11 Responses to “Blogging and A Poll”

  1. I like them all except for fashion tips unless it is about period or other genre clothing *grin*

    • No fashion tips here! My style is: oh hey, you can hardly see that rip/stain/tattered hem.

      It’s kind of unfortunate. Don’t take fashion tips from me, that’s for sure.

  2. Sunita says:

    So glad you wrote this. I read that original post and was scratching my head in confusion. “I stopped blogging and you should too” followed by … nothing.

    One criticism of the poll: I wanted to vote for two options but it wouldn’t let me. So I went with “what the author is like.” But I also LOVE Carolyn’s blog!

  3. Liz Mc2 says:

    I would say author blogs have sold me books: sometimes if I hear about a book, I go to the author’s website, see she has a blog, check it out, and think, “yes, this person writes well and has interesting things to say; this book will probably work for me.” It’s not usually a discovery point, but a tipping point. (I wouldn’t say “forget it, not gonna try her” if I writer didn’t blog). It’s one way I figure out if an author’s voice and sensibility are likely to be to my taste. And, of course, a blog can tip me the other way. But that was probably a book I wasn’t going to enjoy, which is isn’t a benefit for me or the author.

  4. Ah, thank you for this! I saw all that too, and I felt like, noooo! I really love author blogs. Maybe as an author I don’t count on that, but yeah.

    Now, with all your self-hosting metrics, I trust you have triangulated the coordinates and determined the identities of the seven people who did NOT check the ‘I love Carolyn’s Blog’ box.

  5. willaful says:

    Courtney Milan’s blog sold me a book, after I hadn’t liked a previous book. And I’ve bought pretty much every book of hers since.

    • I can say I, too, have bought an author’s books at least in part because I liked their blog. For one thing, it helps me remember their names, if it’s a blog I visit often.

      I’ve bought plenty of books by authors where I have no idea if they blog or not. But for me, blogs have definitely influenced my buying decisions, for and against.

  6. Philip Weiss says:

    If an author has interesting opinions and posts them on a blog in such as fashion that they are well explained, I often will buy at least one book of their to see if their fiction is worth reading.

    I’m still surprised that 3 years after starting to read your blog that I’ve agreed 100% with everything you’ve posted in that time.

  7. Anna says:

    I prefer author blogs, which are saved to My Favorites, to bloggers. Reading alternate POVs, deleted scenes, inside info, upcoming books, snippets, potential stories for favorite characters, writing industry info (even though I’m not a writer – tired of high prices), and whatever. Each author offers something unique, whether it’s their humor (Carolyn Crane is funny), their book reviews (one author is not afraid to give 2 stars), and silly/interesting stuff.

    It’s also nice when authors spotlight other author’s they sincerely like. Nalini Singh’s blog led me to Lois McMaster Bujold, an author I would have never tried because she’s outside my usuall sub-genre.

    Contests are nice, but not the reason why I follow. Anyway, I enjoy your blog! :o)