books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Should we forget our book dreams and just blog instead?

On January 21, agent Jessica Papin posted a must-read piece about rejection on the Dystel and Goderich blog

She gives a sobering reality check, reminding us how much the book business has changed in the past couple of decades

She suggests we “dispense with the illusion that books represent the optimal way to ‘share a story with the world.’” And adds “A writer’s conviction that his is a book that ‘people need to read’ is better served in the blogosphere.”

She also says the general public needs to know it’s no longer true that “being an author represents a reasonable path to fame and fortune. These days, fame and fortune are a reasonable path being an author.”
That’s the sound of a million aspiring authors weeping.

OK. Let’s pull ourselves together. Yeah, she’s saying you have to run for vice president FIRST, then you get your book deal. Sounds unfair, but really, how many people would have bought Mrs. Palin’s book when she was a small-town mayor?

I’m pretty sure Jessica is mostly talking nonfiction here—she mentions memoirs in a later paragraph—and I hope she isn’t talking to professional writers who have worked long and hard to perfect our craft.

I think she’s mainly referring to the thousands of earnest amateurs who write down their personal stories—often about surviving a life-threatening disease or terrible tragedy—and expect to get a major book deal. She’s sad to have to reject them, but she wants them to understand that treeware is no longer the optimal information delivery device for their stories.

And she’s not alone. Funds For Writers’ Hope C. Clark wrote in a similar vein in her blog “In selling a book, you touch that person once. In posting a blog, you subscribe with that person, entering a more long-term relationship. Frankly, it's more prestigious to develop a following online than selling a few thousand books.”

And: “People have misconstrued the meaning of a book in recent times. Publication doesn't make you wealthy. Those days are long gone….You find more readers online than in a bookstore… and it's way cooler to be a master blogger these days. Just ask those who've landed book contracts as a result.”

In her Funds for Writers newsletter on February 14th, Hope again tells readers to hold off trying to publish that (nonfiction) book. “Write and submit smaller pieces, blog, find a niche, become an expert, create a reason for people to want to read your work” BEFORE you submit.

I got pretty sad after reading these posts and several others like them, but after a bit of cogitation, I realized how freeing this information is: if you have something to say, you can say it—right now. Right here on the Web. No queries, no agents, no three years lead time before the book comes out.

Are you going to make a bunch of money telling your story this way? Not super-likely. But most books don’t make money anyway. We have to be writing for the love of it. And you’re more likely to be that one writer in thousands who finds a publisher if you’ve made yourself a name first.

Blogging is publishing in its most immediate form. It’s the best way to find out if you have a readership. Yes, it’s hard to explain to your less-than-computer-literate friends and families that social networking has the same—or more—value than a real, solid paper book they can show around to their friends. (And no, Grandpa, I’m NOT frittering away my life!) This is 21st century reality. We all have to get used to it.

So keep blogging already!


  1. Love the post, Anne. Good job. And yes, I re-emphasize that too many people want a book in their hands only to learn sadly that few people want to read it. The way people read in snippets and shorts these days, you grab them more readily with a blog. Welcome to the reading habits of the 21st Century homo sapien.

  2. Once again, the issue comes to money. Local newspapers aren't making money so they stop paying for commentaries, columns, guest essays, poems, anything but barely hidden free "advertorials" by the businesses submitting them. Then people stop buying newspapers altogether because they're now bereft of rich content (because the paper can't afford to pay for "rich content" because people have stopped buying the paper, & etc.) and have turned into one big advertorial, and then they likely go out of business. And, so far, very few blogs have figured out how to get advertisers, so people writing a blog are, once again, writing for love alone. Sigh.

  3. Great advice. I love the finding our own niche because we are all talented at something and that "writing because we must" is a very good thing.

  4. Okay, so I love this post. Why have I not held this perspective on blogging before? Or rather, I've thought of it, but not of the comparison. "In selling a book, you touch that person once. In posting a blog, you subscribe with that person..." Pure brilliance. Once again I'm thrilled to be reader of your work. Thanks for subscribing with us, Anne. Over and over and...

  5. I consider blogging not just having a web presence, but an essential part of my writing now. I didn't think that way when I first began, but have developed the philosophy along the way.

    Thanks for the encouragement Anne.


  6. Informative, though disheartening post.

    I love my blog, but my blog is nonfiction - unlike my MG and YA fantasy manuscripts. I don't know if one will help the other. I'm going to a children's writing conference in May, and one of the workshops I'm taking is about building a writing platform. I hope this will help me.

  7. Theresa--

    This advice is just for nonfiction writers--especially memoir writers. I don't think novels are going anywhere. Whether published as ebooks or treeware, long fiction can't be replaced by easily-browsed Web bytes.

  8. This post was both... sobering and exciting. I do like the instant gratification of the online world, but the reality is that eventually... getting paid for writing is the recognition that most of us want. It's tangible. I think the hope for something tangible that says "you don't suck... we're not just being nice" is what keeps me sending out queries.

  9. Here's a little realism for us. It's good to keep it in mind as we dream.

  10. Blogging is a good way to develop your voice as a writer and to discipline yourself to write regularly.

  11. Good advice, that. :)

    By the way, you've got a blog award: