Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Blogging for fun and profit

Today at Romancing the Blog, author Karen Templeton is questioning the efficacy of authors' blogs. Karen's been blogging for a year, is averaging 65 visitors a day, and doesn't appear to think blogging is a productive use of her time. She has asked RTB readers to post comments, but I have quite a lot to say on this subject, and why should I post my opinions over there when I can turn them into today's entry for my own blog?

I hope everyone will click over and read Karen's post before continuing with mine, because while I plan to quote all six of her points and answer them, some will be edited for length.

1. Blogging really is as time-consuming as I feared it would be. A decent entry takes me a good hour or more to compose and edit. Oddly, readers expect me to be funny. Funny ain’t easy. If I blog at least three times a week, that’s three hours I’m not writing.

Sounds like blogging is a waste of Karen's time. I spend way more than an hour a day (and I'm blogging six days a week), but unlike Karen, I'm getting something in return for my effort: an education (I learn a lot while searching for interesting things to blog about) and a creative outlet that isn't provided by my fiction writing. For me, blogging is brain exercise, writing practice...and fun. If I happen to sell a few books while I'm at it, that's icing.

2. After a year, I’ve kind of run out of things to say. New stuff, anyway. Really, there’s very little happening on the industry front that warrants daily commentary, let alone in my personal life.

That's why I look outside of myself and my own experience and even outside of the publishing industry for topics to blog about. Mixing it up keeps things more interesting for me and for my readers.

3. I could say my stats are up by 200%, which sounds impressive. Until you take into account how pathetic they were before. We’re talking 65 or so visitors a day — now, not then.... My web addy has been published in my books for years; I sell a fair number of copies of each title. And yet, readers are not exactly stampeding my website. Or my blog.

Karen seems disappointed that her fans aren't flocking to her blog. But why does she want them to do that? Aren't those people already buying her books? Wouldn't it be smarter to make some new friends in the blogisphere and then make them curious enough (by blogging often and well) to check out her books?

4. But then, this ties in with what I’m reading all over Cyber Romanceland, which is that – contrary to current Marketing wisdom – most readers are not interested in getting to know the author and hence do not seek out their blogs. They don’t want to be our friends, they just want to read our books.

Again, instead of trying to hold court for her fans, maybe it's a better idea for an author to build an interesting blog, and then from that platform, encourage visitors to try her books. I can name any number of No rules readers who have bought my books because they enjoy the blog. In fact, every time I mention this, two or three of them jump into the Comments and say, "Yes, you're talking about me."

5. Except for Big Name Authors, writers’ blogs generally seem to attract other writers more than readers. Many readers, if they visit blogs at all, are more interested in other readers’ musings than authors’.

But writers are readers, too. I'm a writer, and I buy tons of books. I have even bought one of Karen's. So why does she sound so disappointed that people like me are the most likely to visit her blog? Maybe it's because this business has conditioned her to believe that fans are more desirable than casual readers--and fellow writers are less apt to get all giddy over authors as "personalities."

6. Blogs are like booksignings: The more books you already sell, the more people come to your signings. If you’re a peon, fuggedaboutit.

The assumption here is that if you're not a wildly popular author, you'll never see much traffic on your blog. Yes, a well-known author can count on a built-in audience when she starts blogging--but a savvy blogger can build an audience out of nothing. Case in point: Karen is a better author, a better-known author, and a more prolific author than I am, yet my blog gets more than twice as many daily visitors, with frequent spikes (big-name bloggers often link here) in the high hundreds (my best traffic day so far was 1,400 unique visitors). I'm not doing anything Karen couldn't do, and do better. The difference between us lies in our expectations; I'm getting what I want out of blogging while Karen is scratching her head and wondering how she ever allowed herself to be talked into this.

I've said before that I don't think every author should have a blog. If Karen Templeton wanted my advice, I'd say she ought to move on to some other kind of promotion--something she could feel good about investing her time in.

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johnny ray said...

I think you did a very good job in answering her concerns and giving me an education on blogs. As a relatively new writer I am wondering how much I can get out of this in relation to the time involved. In any case, I have started my first blog and we will see. Thanks for the information and advice in you blog.

Mirtika said...

I've bought books because I've liked a blogger's "voice." Most recent example: I purchased a HARDCOVER edition of the sci-fi novel ORPHANS OF CHAOS because I found the guy's blog via a link on another blog, and I enjoyed his particular "voice."

This is not unique. I always check out new authors now for blogs, excerpts, etc.

I would say that just in 2006, I've probably bought three dozen books I might not otherwise have bought because they were blogged about or I serendipitously found someone's blog and liked THEM (their personality, their tone) enough to try their work.

Karen's not taking into consideration how building a blogging network can benefit her when someone who likes another blogger (say, i drop by here to read YOU) and that blogger plugs a particular book enthusiastically and that convinces ME to try THAT BOOK.

It's a bit more complex than "I just get 66 hits a day."

I just get about 55 to 65 hits per day, and I'm not published, and I'm not anybody famous. But I also plug other books and authors, so that's 55 to 60 folks who are being exposed on my wee blog to someone I enthusiastically recommend. And maybe if you get a network of even 20 blogs that plug you, and each blog gets 50 hits, well, that's 1000 people who may hear about you and want to try your novel. That's not nothing, because that's how word of mouth can heat up. One never knows.

I'm convinced that a book like A BRIDE MOST BEGRUDGING got a lot of blog buzz and that helped with sales and getting the new author and book noticed, and that author go to prove she's got writing chops to more than just her editor. :)


Mirtika said...

Oh, and I agree on your last point. Only blog if you actually get something out of blogging.

I enjoy it. It's my hobby. :) Even if I never get more than, say, a hundred folks a day, that's still a hundred folks with whom I can share whatever is on my mind or coffee table, and that suits me fine.

I've met some really wonderful people from blogging, and some very INTERESTING people. I count that the reward, beyond any possible future networking or promotional tool it might become.


Laura Vivanco said...

I'm not a writer of fiction, and I'm contributing to a joint blog, but I've found that writing a blog post can take me hours, what with thinking up ideas, reading the books, copying out comments, doing background research etc. I think it's worth it, because it gets me thinking, and some of the things readers have said in the comments have sparked ideas for future lines of research. Also it's my tiny contribution to the effort to change the negative stereotypes about the romance genre.

Admittedly I probably have been spending more time on writing blog posts (and checking out other people's blogs) than I have on my non-blog writing recently, but as one feeds the other that's not a problem.

I've noticed that we seem to have built up numbers of readers quite quickly, but I suppose that's because we're doing something unusual, and so we're in a tiny little niche all on our own. The numbers aren't that high, but from what I can tell there are some regulars.

And I like your blog, Brenda, because it's an interesting place to be. I never know what you're going to blog about, but I do know that it won't be boring, and quite often it's 'breaking news'. Oh yes, and singing mathematicians. I loved that.

TrudyJ said...

I think blogging is like any other kind of writing -- don't do it if you don't love it. I get even fewer hits than Karen Templeton apparently does, but I don't see any point in getting bent out of shape about it. I wouldn't do it if I weren't enjoying it for its own sake, not for the possible promotional value.

I check out the blogs of writers whose books I like, and read them if they're interesting and regularly updated. But there's no definite correlation between being a good fiction writer and a good blog-writer -- some of the best bloggers around will probably never publish a word of fiction.

The only writer whose book I've ever bought specifically because of her blog was Joshilyn Jackson, but I don't think that's going to happen all the time for every writer/blogger. It really has to be worth doing for its intrinsic value.

Brenda Coulter said...

Sir John, I'm glad I was able to help you a little. I wish you all the best with your writing and with your new blog.

Friends, how about popping over to Sir John's Blog and wishing him well?

Mir--good points, especially about networking. I didn't touch on any of that because as you know, this is a subject that can be discussed endlessly. The trouble is, many people are looking for Six Quick Steps to Building a Successful Blog. But there aren't six quick steps. Things are way more complicated than that. People who don't enjoy blogging and who don't have the time and the interest in doing some real digging and experimenting on their own are never going to be satisfied with how their blogs are doing.

Laura, thanks for reading my blog. You are always so very kind, and your comments are always interesting.

But there's no definite correlation between being a good fiction writer and a good blog-writer

Trudy, I couldn't agree more. Some good novelists write blogs that bore me silly, while some of the cleverest and most articulate bloggers out there don't even consider themselves writers.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to add one thing: I bought TWO of your books, Brenda, because I read your blog. And I bought two of Joshilyn's as well (who TrudyJ mentioned).

Sure, that's just two books. But then I blogged about them, and I know for certain people bought them because I blogged.

What's that worth? *shrug* I dunno. But I know it's worth something.

Brenda Coulter said...

I think it's worth my undying gratitude. Thank you!