Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Does every writer need a blog?

Via The Internet Writing Journal, here's a strong hint for authors from publishing veteran Jonathan Karp as quoted in Business Week:

"Writers have to be promoters if they believe in their work. Blogs are a way for authors to communicate directly with readers and establish a personal connection. It's a way to reach readers who may not attend bookstore events, and it's more convenient for authors, too. I haven't met too many writers who were eager to fly to Houston for a day -- though I'm sure Houston is lovely this time of year."
First of all, as someone who grew up in Houston and who has been back in August of almost every year since (this particular August having been one of the notable exceptions), I had to snort at Mr. Karp's remark about Houston being "lovely" this time of year. He must not be talking about the Houston that's snuggled down there in the nation's armpit, which is otherwise known as the Texas Gulf coast. I've got nothing against Houstonians, but even they don't call their sweltering, traffic-clogged city "lovely" in August.

But back to that stuff about authors needing blogs. Do they really?

I don't believe so. Blogs may indeed be "a way for authors to communicate directly with readers and establish a personal connection," but the jury's been out for quite some time on whether--apart from a very few notable exceptions--the typical author's blog has any appreciable impact on book sales. It's easy to believe that they must, especially if the blogs in question get good traffic, but there's actually no way to determine how many people read a blog and then rush out to buy the author's next book.

Why do it, then?

I do it because it's good writing practice. And it's fun. And hey, it might sell six or seven more books next spring; who knows? But I wouldn't blog if I didn't enjoy it. Frankly, this would be an awful lot of work just to sell an extra handful of books. So I can't help but think most authors would do better spending their time writing more books rather than jumping on the blog bandwagon. If they don't really have time and their hearts aren't in blogging and they aren't going to learn how to promote their blogs and get good traffic, what's the point?

When I started blogging eight months ago, I encouraged many of my author friends to try it. Now I wish I hadn't. Blogging takes so much time and effort, I'm not surprised that so many authors who begin blogs allow them to fizzle out. Even the authors who have continued posting regularly don't seem to have the time or energy to go through all the hoops required to entice new visitors to their blogs. And I hate it that my friends feel guilty for not doing something they "should" be doing.

So I'm going to disagree with Mr. Karp. Authors don't need blogs. Or even websites. An internet presence is not the only promotional tool in the box. And rather than use tools that feel clumsy in her hands, each author should consider her own abilities and desires and then promote her books in the way that works best for her.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

? what is this thing word verification thingly

TS said...

Brenda,

You are right. i don't think that blogs are a good way to spend time if you are trying to increase your readership. I think you blog if you just love to write, and not everything you want to write fits in a novel.

Blessings
marvin

Pirate said...

We writer there for we exist.

Brenda Coulter said...

Sorry about the "word verification" hoop you now have to jump through before posting a comment, everyone. I've turned that feature on because I'm sick of deleting comment spam, which is usually automated. It takes a real, live human to copy the letters in that little box, and that should keep things a lot tidier around here.

A pox on all comment spammers!

Mantooth said...

Lots of people use their blog as a journal or diary. However there are a large group of people who blog their novels as well. Have you ever heard of NANOWRIMO? (you can google it)

I think that whole concept is hilarious and fascinating (writing a book in a month that is). I bet you would be great at it seeing as you having experience writing romance novels. I find blogging is a convenient way to keep writing everyday. If something is good enough to publish, just cut and paste!!

Your blog is very attractive. It's nice to accidentally come across someone with pride enough to make it look good. Enjoy your day :-)

Heather Diane Tipton said...

I think blogging is just a good way to keep your writing skills sharp. At least it did mine when I was having such a difficult time writing on my wip. (which I finished the rough a couple weeks ago...incase you didn't hear. ;-) )

Does it help authors sale more books? I don't know. I will read on ocassion a wide range of blogs from different authors... and have talked to a bunch of authors regarding their traffic, I (a nobody LOL) gets more traffic on my blog then they do. Granted, I make sure I am linked to a bunch of different places so that I get the traffic.

(I'm teaching a class next June about the benefits of blogging... so this has given me something to think about.)

Julana said...

Those spammers hit me, too. Fourteen at one time, yesterday.

Brenda Coulter said...

Your blog is very attractive.

Aw, Mantooth, I bet you say that to all the bloggers. But thank you very much.

Yes, I'm familiar with NANOWRIMO. It's a nice idea, and I believe it has encouraged a lot of people to start (and often, finish, which is a much greater accomplishment) the novels they've always meant to write. For myself, though, that kind of encouragement has never been necessary. I'm an oddball who enjoys the process of writing even more than I enjoy having written.

Heather, babe, congratulations on finishing that WIP. That's definitely an event to celebrate! <3<3<3

Julana, the word-verification box seems to be working wonders. Try it.

Angie Poole said...

Don't know about readership and all (If I could be so lucky to concern myself with all that) but I do know it's fun to blog with all those little tidbits that haven't yet fictionalized themselves and are too good to let pass.

Of course, I could be deluding myself. After all, I do have a dream about that whole open tryouts for SNL.

Sigh.

Karen Scott said...

Brenda wrote:
"So I'm going to disagree with Mr. Karp. Authors don't need blogs. Or even websites."

You don't think having an internet presence is necessary Brenda?

Are you kidding me?

I live in England, and 100% of the books that I've bought this year have all been influenced by the internet, via blogs, and author sites.

I recently purchased Kate Rothwell's Somebody to love, and let me tell you, prior to discovering her blog, I didn't even know she existed, so I think it's a little myopic of you to say that you don't need a website/blog to sell books.

It's true that it's not the only way to sell books, but it sure is important, plus, it also enables you to reach people that you wouldn't have.

Book signings and appearances are great and all, but when was the last time you appeared at a bookstore in Manchester in England?

Anonymous said...

Karens,

I agree with you. I've tried alot of authors based on the internet via blogs, etc. I think over 90% of the new authors that I tried came via recommendations or information via the internet. To be honest, I haven't heard of Brenda Coulter before until lately, courtesy of the internet and blogs. And I think that's not only me. I've been to another writer's forum lately (one who has over 5000 plus registered members and where members post quite alot per day and not a trickle of 0-10 people and does not include the author herself responding) and her name was mentioned. A lot of responses where actually "Who's Brenda Coulter? I've never heard of her before" or "I've heard of Catherine Coulter, but not Brenda Coulter."

I guess after that, some people know she exists. Whether they buy her book is a question mark but at least the "who" questioned is lessened a bit.

LauraB

Brenda Coulter said...

No, Karen, I'm not kidding you. There's simply no evidence that the average author website has any appreciable effect on book sales. If there was, every publisher would be all over its authors to set up websites--or the publishers would do it themselves. But all we're hearing from publishers is that websites might be a good idea, they might help sales.

Might. So I don't see any reason to drag authors kicking and screaming to the internet when they'd rather spend that time on other promotional activities or writing more books. That you and a handful of other people (like me) have bought books after discovering authors' blogs and websites is anecdotal evidence because we're regular blog readers. Try asking the general public if the internet has a strong influence on their bookbuying habits.

The line I write for sells hugely at WalMart, probably most often as impulse buys. So if I wanted to sell lots of books, the thing to do would be to get offline and write more so I could have a book out more often. I am quite serious.

LauraB, I've published one book. It's not exactly big news that my name is not a household word.

Anonymous said...

It is in this household, and no I'm not your sis.
;-D

Anonymous said...

It is in THIS household as well. And yes, I am your sister. True, I only read your book because I love you. But it was really good, so THEN I passed it along to others...even bought about 25 copies to share. Trust me, your name is in all of those households. (although, now I am tired of them asking when they will be able to get your next book...what about ME?...what about MY needs?)

LYM!

-yfs

Small Blue Thing said...

Paul Auster said that we write just for need, as we breath. Maybe a blog is, for us writers, a sort of oxygen ball between "working" writings.

Blue Thing

Anonymous said...

KarenS & LauraB,

I just wanted to chip in and say I agree with you both. Evidence might not indicate it, but for me that is the case. Since I started browsing the internet 12 years back, almost all of the new authors that I have read were courtesy of the net. I've discovered SEP, Crusie, Robb/Roberts, Balogh, Beverley, Kleypas, Loretta Chase, Evanovich, Gabaldon and others through blogs, messageboards and review sites. And what fun it was to know that this or that author has a long backlist that I can get my hand on, again courtesy of used books being sold on the net. Pretty expensive habit though - like bidding US$25.00 each for a worn paperback copy of Jo Beverley's book only to have it reprinted 3 years later - but who cares. I'm particularly thankful to the extremely talented writer Jo Beverley for suggesting to her readers to try another extremely talented writer, Mary Balogh. I can't thank her enough.

Not only that, but the author's blogs have helped me buy their new releases right away even though it's on that dreaded and clunky hardback. Normally, I would wait for the paperback. But when a new hardback book comes out and I read the comments about it and get caught up in the current excitement, I just have to get my hands on it right away. I usually end up buying both versions because I really like to keep rereading my favorite book and bringing it with me. A paperback is just easier and lighter.


Angel

Heather Diane Tipton said...

LOL Brenda, I soooo love coming and reading the comments you get. (your reaction to them is also a fav ;-) )

And as to your name being a household word... it is in mine. And you will get more than one book out there... and everyone will be saying Catherine who? ;-)

Brenda Coulter said...

Heather, I've long said that the comments are way more interesting than the posts around here. You people make blogging a real hoot.

My sister bought 25 books? Wow. I probably should be a lot nicer to her.