8.01.2011

3 Reasons Why Novelists Should Blog: A Rebuttal

This morning, Galleycat posted an article entitled 3 Reasons Novelists Shouldn't Blog, based on an article by Livia Blackburn about why novelists should consider why they're blogging.. While I contributed a comment, I thought the more natural thing would be to (waste considerable time not writing a novel) come over to my corner of the blogosphere and elaborate further.

First, I want to say that Blackburn makes some cogent points about the pitfalls many novelists fall into while blogging. Namely that they spend way too much damn time talking about writing. I've written a number of blog posts about writing. It's a natural tendency for many career writers, because it's our trade, and we want to write what we know. But ultimately, that's only going to net you a few readers. And VERY few buyers. I know this from personal experience, just looking at Google Analytics. My most popular posts are not about the craft. Well, not exactly. The most popular post on my blog is a review I wrote for a portable word processor, the Alphasmart NEO. So it's about writing equipment, not necessarily about writing itself.

But the next most popular blog post on this site was an open letter I wrote to the First Lady, Michelle Obama, about her plan of attack against obese kids. In fact, I'd say that even though it hasn't had quite as many hits as the NEO post, it's more popular because of its rate of growth. The former has had two years to build up steam. I wrote to Mrs. Obama back in March, and it's had nearly as many hits. The third most popular blog post was about my attempt to make Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken. Go figure.

So there you have it. Three top blog posts from a relatively active blog, two of which have nothing at all to do with writing. What does this tell me? If I want to have readers, I'm better off not spending all my time talking about my work. It bores most people, and writers are a very small niche. And with the variety of blogs out there already devoted specifically to the craft, my stuff becomes invisible. That, and well, if you spend too much time tooting your own horn, you look like a self-absorbed douchecanoe.

So why blog?

1. I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been putting my thoughts to the web since 2005. After that long, it's become a reflex. While my sites have undergone some major changes and rebirths since then, I'm still here, and I'm not going anywhere. I get a respectable number of hits a day, even if I don't get a lot of commenters, but that's okay. I'm a pretty prolific thinker, and I have a lot of interests that I like to discuss openly, such as movies and politics and cooking and parenting and random general stuff. I recently took up a swimming hobby, so I've been talking about that too. Writing is not all I'm about. If it were, I'd be pretty goddamn boring. This site has my name on it. It's meant to encompass all of me, not just my authoring career. If this sounds like you, keep blogging.

2. Some days, writing anything at all is a victory. I disagree that time spent blogging is time spent away from working on my latest and greatest book or story. If I'm ready and willing to delve into my make-believe, I damn well do, and very little will stop me. If I'm gonna procrastinate, I'm gonna procrastinate. For me, time spent blogging is usually time spent away from watching TV or doing housework or napping. I'm not going to talk to you like you're misdirected little children. You know yourself better than anybody else. If you truly would rather be working on your book than anything else, you will. Trust me. In the meantime, don't feel guilty about blogging or doing anything else not related to your writing project. Guilt is not conducive to higher productivity.

3. I've said this before in other articles, and I'll say it again. In this brave new world of publishing where we must market our own work, people make the mistake of only marketing the work. They forget about themselves. If I think you're a total bore, I probably won't buy your book. The best way for me to know you're not a total bore, at least if you're not already my friend on Facebook or Twitter? Your blog. People talk so much about platform, platform, platform. Well, in my opinion, when you're trying to sell your own fiction, a huge plank in that platform is you. Use your blog to tell us who you are and what you're about. Your own life is a story. You might think it's boring, but trust me, the most successful websites are often about people who are doing nothing more than being themselves. The same goes for salespeople.

If your blog isn't accomplishing those three things, then it might not be the most successful venture for you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't keep doing it. Just don't expect to get a whole lot in return other than your personal enjoyment. In the meantime, I will hold on to blogging as a viable way to not only interact with a potential audience, but also one of the many ways to have FUN in life. I've found that to be one of the most essential ingredients for writing the other stuff.

2 comments:

  1. Great thoughts, Allison. I think we agree more than you think. You're absolutely right that there's many reasons for blogging, and as long as the author is clear headed about the reasons, she should do what she feels is best. The point is not that authors shouldn't blog. Its that they should know why they blog, and *if* they're doing it to sell books , they should be doing it with their target audience in mind.(And just a minor clarification. The headline "3 reasons why novelists should not blog" was written by the Galleycat blogger. I actually don't agree w/ the across-the-board rule that novelists shouldn't blog.)

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  2. Sorry for the delayed response, Livia! I'm glad we agree! And thank you for pointing out the correction I need to make. I'll do that now. :)

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