Thursday, August 10, 2006

Can you write books and blog at the same time?

The other day I insisted that writing romance novels isn't as easy as many people seem to believe. Well, keeping up a successful blog is nearly as difficult, and nobody knows that better than M.J. Rose of Buzz, Balls & Hype. What she posted this morning should be required reading for any author or publisher who believes blogging to be a quick, easy, effective form of book promotion:

Holtzbrinck is starting a blog initiative

The program will launch in October, and they are now looking for ten authors from each of the trade companies (Holt, SMP, FSG, Tor, and Picador) to be part of the launch of the pilot program this autumn.

The company's email to potential blogging authors who they have invited to be part of the beta launch says:

"And of course the blog will act as promotion for them and their books (in addition to any kind of press we get when we unveil the program)."

With over 50 million blogs in existence, this should be a widely noticed effort. But sarcasm aside.

While I really do admire every publisher who is looking for new ways to market books, I don't believe that putting yet more pressure on the author is the right way. This request is really no different than to suggest every writer get a gig writing a column for a newspaper - except in this case you won't get paid.

Nor do I believe that blogs sell books for the average blogger in any way that justifies the time it takes to keep the blog going.

First - and I quote from that email invitation again:

"In terms of effort on the author's part, a successful blog needs to have at least three posts a week, and it only takes a few minutes post a new message, so it won't take them much time."

I don't know any successful blogger in the world who takes a few minutes a post. And it's not just simply a "post" anyway.

For a blog to be successful it has to have passion, voice, commitment, creativity. It takes a lot for the writer to bring fresh ideas to a blog on a continuing basis.
I don't usually quote such large chunks from other blogs (sue me for copyright infringement, M.J.--I could use the publicity), but that post contains many excellent points and I wanted to tempt you to click over there and read the rest of it. About the only place I disagree with M.J. is where she writes, "And we do not need to market ourselves to other writers but rather to readers."

I didn't stop reading when I became a writer. In fact, since I began writing fiction, I've been reading more fiction than ever before--and most of my writing friends will tell you it's been the same for them. So M.J.'s assumption that writers don't read other writers' blogs and then buy their books is way off base. Writers who read my blog quite often tell me they became curious enough to buy one of my books. And I've been known to check out other writers' blogs and buy their books for the same reason.

Still, as M.J. suggests, selling a handful of books is a poor return on the investment of time and creative energy required to run a successful blog. If selling books is a writer's primary reason for blogging, I firmly believe she's wasting her time.

If you have anything to do with the writing/publishing business, please check out M.J.'s post.

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Julie Carobini said...

MJ makes some good points, or at least some to think about, but they won't stop me from blogging. Mainly because I think blogging has a long way to go in terms of growth. While you and I may have plenty of compadres out there, many of my frinds still have never set foot (or should I say fingers?) in a blog. Who knows how big this could get?

Besides, it's FUN!

Mirtika said...

I agree. People should blog if they WANT to and ENJOY it and have something they want to say to whomever their specific audience is.

I like blogging. I've never been able to keep a journal--though Lord knows I've tried and have several with only the first few pages done. So, I thought: I like being online. I like browsing. I like commenting on blogs. Why not blog? And I like it. It's fun for me. I can do it every day (or almost) or several times a day cause I now have regulars and it's like an ongoing conversation with some folks I "imagine" out there as I blog.

It's like chatting up pals, but others get to eavesdrop.

But it's hardly just a couple minutes per post. Granted, some are just passing info, and those are five minutes of time. But when I have to write something. If it's my opinion. Or a review. That can easily take an hour or two, depending on how many links I've got and pics I upload, etc.

So, while I love blogging and reading blogs (it's a way a hermit like me gets to "chat"), it's an investment in time to blog religiously.

I think as long as it's voluntary, cool. I love when authors I enjoy blog. But I'd hate to have this be a sort of trend where editors EXPECT it.


Gina Burgess said...

Here Here! Pass the Baton to Brenda! Blogging is a serious commitment and let's face it, not all writers have that kind of gift. Some writers take four or five pages to make a point LOL

Shelley said...

Yup...I bought your book "A Family Forever" AFTER I read your blog :o) and what an awesome book it is!

Brenda Coulter said...

Julie, M.J. wasn't advising writers not to blog. (One of her sentences was worded a little awkwardly, and that caused a couple of her commenters to think she was saying that.) Rather, she's insisting that authors shouldn't be made to feel that they must blog in order to sell books. Her point was that since blogging requires an enormous amount of time and creative effort, even a fairly successful blogger (in terms of traffic) is unlikely to see a commensurate return on her investment. There are much more efficient methods of promoting books.

Mir and Gina, thanks for chiming in.

Shelley, thanks for underscoring one of my points. And thanks for calling my book "awesome."