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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Is it Really Time for Authors to Stop Blogging?


In a guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog on March 15th, L.L. Barkat said “blogging is a waste of time” for experienced authors. She feels blogging is only helpful for beginning authors who need “to find expression, discipline, and experience.”

Her piece suggests blogging is for farm-leaguers only. Once writers make the pros, she says, “they might want to give it up and begin writing for larger platforms that don’t require reciprocity (an exhausting aspect to blogging and a big drain on the writer’s energy and time).”

She’s not wrong about the exhaustion. And I gotta admit, if a larger, non-interactive platform like the New Yorker or the Daily Beast came calling, I might bail on you guys for a bit.

But as a long-term career move? It doesn’t strike me as a great idea.

We live in an interactive age. Sealing yourself up in an ivory tower (assuming the tower wants you) is likely to annoy readers these days.

And the truth is, most authors who aren’t named J.D. Salinger have always had to engage in some pretty exhausting, time-draining "reciprocity" to sell their books.

In the days before blogs, there were book tours.

Back in those dear dead days, most authors interacted with their readership through exhausting, time-sucking (and expensive) traveling. Ask a career author who has been in this business for a few decades whether they’d like to give up blogging and go back to the book tour, and you’d better cover your ears before the high-decibel “H*** NO!” erupts.

Nowdays only the superstar class goes on real-life book tours; the midlist blogs.

I think marketers at the Big 5/6 have probably been too heavy-handed in their fiat that every author must have a blog, and Barkat represents a backlash to that. She said: “the director of Marketing and Promotion from Simon & Schuster…told me flatly, ‘We ask all our authors to start blogs’.

Anybody that dictatorial would get my hackles up, too.

But most Big 5/6-ers have softened that requirement.  As I reported in January, agent Rachelle Gardner has changed her hard-line stance on blogs. She said “A few years ago, the standard wisdom was that authors, both fiction and non-fiction, should have blogs in order to gather an audience and build relationships with readers. Now, not so much. As social media and online marketing have evolved, my thoughts on blogging have changed. I think each author needs to carefully consider whether blogging is an appropriate vehicle for them.”

But later in the piece, Gardner makes it clear an author still has to be on social media. She’s not saying it’s OK to do the J.D. Salinger thing.

Jane Friedman herself doesn't tell us to drop our blogs. But in a post at Writer Unboxed this week, she does tell beginning writers who don't have blogs to let go of the pressure to start one. "If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform."

Friedman says it's best for beginners to concentrate on learning their craft and getting credits by publishing the fiction they want to be known for. (For opportunities to get your fiction better known, check our "Opportunity Alerts" below.)

But she adds a caveat: "Exception to the rule: Nonfiction/non-narrative authors and entrepreneurial authors who are self-publishing. Sorry, but you should probably focus on platform as much as the writing."

I agree. I don't think every beginning writer should be starting a blog. (On the other hand, reading blogs is something that can help from the beginning—and commenting on blogs is a great way to get your name out there.) I've been telling my workshop students that the time to think about a blog is after you've finished at least one polished novel, have another in the works and you're getting ready to query—or you've got a good backlog of short fiction you're sending to contests and journals.

In other words, give yourself time to build some inventory and learn your craft before you start thinking about marketing.

I also don't recommend blogging frantically simply for the sake of piling up blogposts to get the attention of search engines. I'm a big advocate of SLOW BLOGGING—once a week or less, preferably on a regular schedule. You can check out my post on the Slow Blog Manifesto here.

But I do think a blog is helpful, even for fiction authors. This blog doesn't sell books directly, but without my presence here, I'm not sure anybody would even know about them. And blogs are useful for so many other things—networking with other authors and people in the business, polishing your nonfiction writing skills (which are necessary, no matter how "experienced" you are at fiction.) Plus you can learn to write faster and...for fun. Yes. Blogging is fun for a lot of us.

Recently social media Jedi master Kristen Lamb devoted a whole week of blogposts to explaining the reasons why “blogs are probably THE BEST use of an author’s time when it comes to building an author platform using social media.” I wrote more on the subject in my own post that week.

And then there’s Hugh Howey, current media darling and author of the literary phenomenon Wool (and generally phenomenal guy.)

In an interview on Reddit, Mr. Howey said his primary promotion tools were, “After FB, I would say: having my own blog.

Yup. Not expensive ads at BookBub. Not give-aways on Goodreads. Not Kindleboard ads (although he does mention interacting at the Writer’s Café forum on the Kindleboards, which is where I first met him.) Not vlogs or podcasts or book trailers or webinars.

Just his plain old blog and Facebook rocketed him to fame and fortune. (Well, that and a clever serial-format sales plan and a stupendous book.)

The Reddit interviewer followed up by asking him to name “a single most valuable tool for an author to promote himself” aside from “Amazon's inscrutable algos.”

Howey replied, “I'm guessing 90% of my sales are from reader recommendations and Amazon algorithms.”

Well, we all know the “inscrutable algos” are out of our control. (More on algorithms in a future post) but “reader recommendations”—where do they come from?

Howey said, “I don't concentrate my self-promotion on people who haven't read my work; I interact with those who have.”

And in a post on his own blog, he said very much the same thing: “The best promotion, I’ve found, is to interact with existing readers (which is enjoyable) rather than browbeat new people into reading (which nobody likes).”  

Interacting with readers. Reciprocity. His number one self-promotion tool.

And where’s the best place to interact with readers?

Your blog.

So if you’re thinking of taking up L.L. Barkat’s suggestion to drop your blog to concentrate on pure art, do keep in mind that a lot of successful authors like Mr. Howey find their blogs have been a huge help.

Even experienced authors who aren’t blogging simply to practice the art of keeping their butts in their typing chairs.

I should be fair and mention that L.L Barkat and Hugh Howey’s genres couldn’t be more different. Barkat writes literary memoir and Howey writes blockbuster science fiction. Different genre readers expect different things from their authors. Literary readers tend to be conservative about technology, so they may not be on social media much themselves, whereas scifi-ers are in their native habitat on the Interwebz.

And it's important to consider that literary writers often make their livings teaching, and they may have to arrange for time away from anything "social" in order to stay sane. Most writers are introverts, so being around people too much—whether online or off—can drain your energies to the point where you can’t create.

If blogging does that to you, you might indeed feel you have to drop your blog as Barkat suggests. Maybe you can reach people via RedRoom or Google+ hangouts, or by occasionally interacting on Goodreads. Or write a monthly newsletter.

But I don’t think refusing to interact with your readers entirely is a smart move. No matter how experienced you are.

Not if you hope to follow in the footsteps of Hugh Howey, who still blogs regularly, even on his superstar book tour. He even took time to give this blog a shout-out in January. He is certainly a poster boy for the new era of publishing. It would appear that his accessibility via his blog and his reciprocity with readers has contributed to his phenomenal success.

So think long and hard before you give up that blog.

What about you, scriveners? Have you given up your blog? Will you give it up when you're more experienced? As a reader, do you like to interact with your favorite authors on a blog?

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS:

1) Inspirational anthology accepting submissions: A "Chicken Soup for the Soul" author is looking for heartwarming inspirational nonfiction pieces. Do You Have a Story on Staying Sane in the Chaotic 24/7 World? If you have a great story and would like to be considered for the anthology, 30 Days to Sanity, Send submissions to: 30 Days to Sanity at Box 31453, Santa Fe, NM 87594-1453. Or e-mail stories to stephanie@30daystosanity.com The maximum word count is 1200 words. For each story selected for the program a permission fee of $100 will be offered for one-time rights. There are no limits on the number of submissions. Deadline is May 1, 2013.

2) POISONED PEN DISCOVER MYSTERY CONTEST Enter your mystery manuscript of 60,000-90,000 words in an effort to win a $1,000 prize, the Discover Mystery title, and a publishing contract from Poisoned Pen Press. Open to all authors writing original works in English for adult readers who reside in the United States and Canada. $20 entry fee. Well worth it. Poisoned Pen is a widely respected small press. Deadline March 30, 2013.

3) Cash prizes for flash fiction. The San Luis Obispo NIGHTWRITERS are holding their annual 500-word story contest. Anybody from anywhere in the world is welcome to enter. Prizes are $200, $150 and $75. This is a fantastic organization that boasts a number of bestselling authors among their members, including Jay Asher, Jeff Carlson, and moi. (Well, some sell better than others :-) ) Deadline is March 31st.

4) Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest. The prestigious literary journal Ploughshares runs a number of contests during the year. Winning or placing looks really good in a query. Plus there's a cash prize of $1000 in each category. This one is limited to writers who have not yet published. They're looking for poems and literary stories of up to 6000 words. Deadline is April 2.

5) The Saturday Evening Post’s Second Annual Great American Fiction Contest—yes, THAT Saturday Evening Post is holding a short fiction contest. Could you join the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald; William Faulkner; Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Ray Bradbury; Louis L’Amour; Sinclair Lewis; Jack London; and Edgar Allan Poe? $10 entry fee Deadline July 1, 2013

6) New Literary Journal, The Puffin Review is looking for submissions of short fiction, (up to 3000 words) poetry and essays. They welcome new writers.


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49 Comments:

Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

With my third and possibly last book coming out this fall, I'm not ready to give up my blog. Since I'm not on Facebook, blogging has been the key for me.
I also wouldn't have discovered a wider audience beyond science fiction fans, either.
Reciprocity - that one word says a lot about why I blog.

March 24, 2013 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

To be or not to be isn't even the question these days. It's to blog or not to blog. To FB or not to FB. To Google+ or not Google+. To tweet or not tweet.
Then there's Goodreads, Shelfari, watt pad, red room, Writers' Cafe.

Enough to drive a writer (or anyone else) batty plus if you pay attention to all the advice, you'll hear one (at least) of everything. Bottom line: do what feels comfortable to you and be sure to feel free to change your approach as time goes on and you learn from experience.

March 24, 2013 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Christine Monson said...

I was just talking to a friend the other day about this exact same thing.

While I agree established authors don't need to blog as much as they do (they put so little time in their posts they aren't worth reading), new writers do. Reading your blog actually gave me the courage to start my own. It's morphed a couple of times since I started it, but it has given me an outlet to do something fun, like you said, and to help me establish discipline in my writing. Blogs help (especially yours). Although, if I didn't have the time and energy to it, I would quit. I wouldn't want my posts to feel forced. And if I was an established author, I would most likely fall on FB and Twitter as my outlet.

Thank you Anne for being here and I have to say, I'd be upset if you stopped blogging but I would completely understand.

March 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Ranae Rose said...

I've had my blog for a couple years and don't plan to give it up anytime soon. I use it to share info on my writing, projects and everything related. There's no real value to the information for anyone who's not interested in my books, but that's okay because all my posts are written for any of my existing readers who may want more information, detail and perspective on my work than they can get on my site or the shorter posts I make on FB or Twitter.

So, my blog is basically a combination of a news outlet and journal about my writing life. I'm sure some people don't care what's going on inside my head or exactly where I am with my latest project(LOL), but some must since my 'blog' links are among the most-clicked on my site.

Plus, I generally enjoy blogging. :)

March 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

As a newbie writer with no experience what-so-ever with social media when I first started writing, a blog was a great first step. I learned so much, met so many fabulous people, I know I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't started one.

That being said, with so many options available to us for social media, it's hard to keep it all straight. I agree with Ruth. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

However, now that I am a "professional author" (if one can call me that), blogging is getting harder and harder to do. I've taken breaks when I needed to, but my overwhelming desire these days is to quit altogether. Then I flip-flop, knowing I would lose such valuable connections.

I think, for me, after another much needed break, I'm going to join the 'slow blog' manifesto. I feel I need to keep my online presence, and not doing FB or any of those others, it just makes sense.

March 24, 2013 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--Your last book?? I hope not. But avoiding Facebook might be the smartest move ever. I deal with so many trolls there. People making fake pages for my blog, reporting me for spam, getting me blocked. It's crazy-town.

Ruth--You're right that everybody has a set of "rules" that contradict everybody else's. The thing i like best about blogging is you have more control. Unlike FB which has blocked me today because some troll reported me for spam.

Christine--I can't tell you how much it helps to hear you find this blog useful and that it's inspired you to start your own blog. Since I've been reported as a "spammer" on FB just for posting a link to the blog on my FB page this morning, I've been wondering if I should give it all up. Your encouraging words help me keep on keeping on. Thanks so much!

Ranae--The current advice is not to blog about our writing and talk about other stuff--but you're right. Our readers want to know about the books. Ruth and I have discussed putting more stuff about our books on this blog. We'll have some more variety here soon.

Anne-You sure jumped into blogging with both feet (and two blogs--or is it three?) I certainly think you've earned the right to step back and slow blog with one consolidated blog or just a monthly update on each one. But keeping a blog where people can comment--even if you only post once a month--seems very important to me.

March 24, 2013 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Mel Kinnel said...

I'm not published yet but I do blog and I take the slow route, usually once a week to every ten days. I try to mix my posts up, some about writing and some about everyday life. I find it a great way to network with other writers, especially those who are striving to get published like myself.

I'm not sure if I agree that an established author has to blog but they should at least be on Twitter, FB or some other social media outlet. Readers want to feel connected. A lot of authors are to readers like what rock stars are to music lovers.

March 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I've been blogging for almost five years and I originally started blogging to get away from wonky censorship issues on other websites.

Blogging for me has been a great catalyst for my writing. It allows me to practice my writing, hone my craft and connect with other writers.

I've gotten loads of writing tips, writing leads that have joyfully panned out (two published short stories and one published novel), and I've made tons of friends/connections with my blogging.

I do agree that sometimes you have to cut down in order to keep your sanity, but if blogging is your main way of bringing in new readers and/or expanding your audience, and you dabble in other social media (I do FB but not Twitter, LinkdIn or Gooble+), then by all means don't completely abandon it.

I go through cycles with my blogging (at the moment, down to 2-3 posts a week) but I owe my readers so much for sticking with me since 2008 that I probably will never give it up.

I've simply worked too hard to get where I am with my blogging (now I use it to advertise myself on FB) to treat it with anything else but respect.

March 24, 2013 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger a2editor said...

I saw Jane Friedman's article and thought it was just full of holes. Your take on the subject is very well thought out and takes more factors into consideration. And yes, some of us enjoy interacting with people on our blogs! Nobody wants to read your blog if you don't even enjoy writing it, obvs.

March 24, 2013 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Kim (YA Asylum) said...

This is an interesting debate. Personally, even if I became a pro author with a steady reader base, I don't think I'd give up my blog. I know that it can be exhausting to go around and comment on other posts and stay up to date with blogs -- the whole reciprocity aspect of it -- but at the same time, I learn so much doing that. I learn about books I might not have otherwise heard of. I get to read about things I didn't know were going on in the publishing world or about a writing technique I might not have considered myself.

Most of the time, I don't comment for reciprocity -- in the hopes that they come to my blog and comment and follow and all that good stuff -- but because I'm genuinely interested in what the post was about. I think it's fun, like you said. I enjoy writing posts as much as I enjoy reading them. It might not be the best use of my time, but not everything I do has to be a fabulous use to time (most of the time ... it's not anyway).

That said, I didn't really start to blog until I had a polished manuscript and felt like I had better control of my craft. But I've learned so, so, so much from blogging and I doubt that'll change in the future.

Great post, and thanks for all the links!

March 24, 2013 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mel--I agree that readers want to be able to connect with authors these days. I think if you don't do that, readers might move on.

G. B.--I feel the same about abandoning the blog I've put so much energy into. It may be that Barkat didn't have a very successful blog.

a2--I'm glad you agree. But you're absolutely right that if somebody doesn't enjoy blogging, it's going to show.

Kim--I didn't take Barkat's comment to mean visiting other blogs. I think she meant responding to comments and dealing with readers.

It's true that it's very hard to visit every blog of all your followers. If that's what she meant, then I'd cut her some more slack. As a blog gets successful, and you take more time with the comments on your own blog, you simply don't have time to visit 1400 other blogs too. But I think she was talking about not wanting to "reciprocate" by interacting with readers on her own blog. I could be wrong. I've been wrong before. :-)

March 24, 2013 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Tracy Campbell said...

I don't know what more I can add other than I enjoyed reading this post and reading all of the comments, and I like the slow blogger approach.

March 24, 2013 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks so much for the great post, Anne. I've been thinking about this a lot as I see aspiring authors going through blogger fatigue.

Of course, people have to do what they feel comfortable with. But I think blogging is such an important part of a writer's platform. And it's not just having a blog, it's visiting others and commenting so we all feel supported and inspired to continue blogging.

Alex is so right when he says it's reciprocity. It's a time suck but you can connect so much easier and say so much more with blogging. And if you offer something of service and are a good friend, people will come.

My focus is promoting books and authors, mostly debut middle grade and YA authors. And I really still love it. Though I do need to spend more time writing.

March 24, 2013 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger ccpietri said...

Blogging isn't just for "building your platform", "gaining exposure" or other killer PR moves.

When you need to put your thoughts in order, I think it's better to waste some time blogging than hit the bottle or do something equally overrated.


March 24, 2013 at 2:34 PM  
OpenID pruebatten said...

Anne, for heaven's sake keep blogging! You are one of the few 'advice for writers' blogs that matter to me.

I love my blog. It morphs, depending on my mood and how busy I am with a novel, but I love engaging with people and just lately, as the northern hemisphere loses sight of sun and summer and as we have the hottest and longest summer on record, I have put up plenty of images so that my followers can get relief from SADS. In addition, as my website is currently being rebuilt, it IS my vehicle for branding.

I don't care if on any one day I have one or 1000 views (ha!) ... my blog is fun. I think JF is wrong to be frank! Thank you for a great post. Will share and FB be damned!

March 24, 2013 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Tamara Marnell said...

I've largely given up on blogs--both writing mine and reading others'--with the occasional exception of posts like this one :D I spent a lot of time in the writerly blogosphere in the past couple of years, and I found it very useful for learning the ropes. But it didn't generate any new readers, really. My blog was mostly for me, for reflecting and sorting out the pieces and learning how to construct a good novel...and for my family, who like to check in on me now and again.

In addition to the genre consideration, I would suggest another caveat: to write a successful blog, you have to be a likeable person. I am not a likeable person. I say unpopular things--things that make people uncomfortable and angry. I don't blog about how lovely my life is; I don't chime in on other blogs to say "OMG you're so right!"

The whole concept of a platform is to sell yourself, and to sell anything you have to have a product people like. If you're the curmudgeonly sort, like me, you might as well put the effort into your books instead (unless you want to construct a friendlier personality for the public, but that's difficult and duplicitous).

March 24, 2013 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tracy--I'm so glad you're enjoying slow blogging! I always appreciate your comments.

Natalie--Your blog Literary Rambles is such a service to writers! I'm so glad you enjoy doing it.

But blogger fatigue is real. Blogging when you're burned out is dangerous, so sometimes a hiatus is a great idea. But I agree 100% on the value of networking and being "out there" on the Interwebz in order to build platform.

cc--LOL. But there's a serious point you're making, too. Blogging helps you gather your thoughts and make sense of things for a moment. Not an exercise to be underrated.

Prue--I love your blog too. I don't always comment, but I'm always fascinated on the window it gives to the other side of the world--all your photos and comments give a picture of Australian country life I'd never know about otherwise.

Tamara--You bring up a valid point. The premise of blogging to build platform is that you will make friends. But if you're a person who doesn't play well with others, the blog might have the opposite effect. Unless maybe you can drop entertaining Dorothy Parker like barbs on a weekly basis.

And of course, in the end, it's all about the books. If you don't have time to write the books, an author blog is pretty pointless.

March 24, 2013 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger M. A. McRae said...

I still hate the term 'blog' which rings so ugly on the ear, but I do enjoy having my say on my web-page - about whatever I choose. I hardly ever go into the boring details of my own life, but usually opinion pieces, seldom about writing, and an announcement when I do have a new book out. I have no idea whether it helps sell any books.

March 24, 2013 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Christy Farmer said...

Food for thought today, Anne!

Out of all social media, I think of my blog as my virtual "home" and where I put most of my energy into slow blogging. ;-)

What concerns me about social media is if one of the venues ceases to remain relevant than we must move our body of work and look into other areas.

Myspace anyone?

That's why I nurture my blog as my online home. ;)

March 24, 2013 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Anne, I read that post by Jane Friedman and thought about all the pros and cons. I started the blog almost four years ago and I still love it. I go to Facebook to check up on the grandchildren and I avoid "tweeting."

Blogs are very individual and each person, writer or not, needs to find their comfort zone. For me, it's comfortable and fun :):)

March 24, 2013 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

M.A.--You're not wrong about the sound of the word "blog". Somebody noted in a Tweet to me today that is was as unalluring as the word "moist" Which stopped a few of us dead in our tweet-tracks. Oh, dear. I't short for weblog. Maybe we should try to resurrect the term? AS you can see, Ruth and I don't go into personal details here either, although sometimes I wonder if maybe we should. What makes people visit blogs may be very different from what makes people buy books. It's all a realm of luck and magic. And inscrutable algorithms.

Christy--You have a very good point, which was illustrated to me today when I got shut out of Facebook. Whatever the reason, I realized how much my time on there has been wasted, since I can't use it any more because just one troll decided to make an attack on me. I don't think that can happen on a blog, although I may be wrong on that.

Florence Fois--You have such a fabulous blog. Just what a blog should be. It's YOU. And it's New York. It's welcoming and creative and I always learn something. Even if you never published a book, you would have enriched the culture with that blog. Keep it up!

March 24, 2013 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger D.C.Gallin said...

As a fiction writer I came to these conclusions:

1) Maintaining a professional blog is a huge responsibility and not only that: blogging is the opposite of fiction writing so it doesn't really hone your skills as a fiction writer.

2)Writers' blogs about writing are read by other writers. So you're mostly talking to fellow writers and that won't necessarily create word of mouth for your fiction.

3)The bigger the platform to maintain the less time for quality writing and most writers don't get paid for their writing, so why blog and do more work for free?

4) We have to concentrate on our art which is a big challenge in itself and a huge social media platforms by an un-kown authors is off-putting:.
How much time do they really put into their fiction?

5) Blogs are great interactive tools once you've sold oodles of books and connect with readers and not just writers and people are actually interested in what you have to say because you're successful.


March 25, 2013 at 1:03 AM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

This might be a slightly odd opinion, but I'm going to come in with it anyway: I blog just as much for my own benefit as anyone else's. To be fair, I don't think I've got a lot of sales off my blog - I do it mostly for networking and talking to other bloggers.

I'm still a new author, and a very young one. That said, though, I think blogs are just as important for letting the reader know about YOU, as they are about your book. After all, what better way to persuade them to stick around and read more books?

John Green has his YouTube channel, I have my blog. Because making videos is not my strong point, heh heh.

March 25, 2013 at 1:30 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

I'm with D.C. on the value of a blog at this point in my writing career.

I was a frequent blogger 5-6 years ago, having started one hyperlocal blog and a photography blog. Over the course of several years, I was amazed at the number of people who contacted me offline/in-person to say how much they enjoyed my posts but never interacted online. So the engagement factor is very much dependent on type of content and audience.

During my first year pursuing a serious writing career, I spent a great deal of time on platform only to realize, okay – now what do I market? So I'm in complete agreement with Jane Friedman about concentrating on building a body of work and honing skills. There are far too many beginning writers that I know worrying about the window dressing and having no merchandise.

Now that I have an inventory of shorter pieces and am working on a novel, I'm more inclined to start blogging again to attract early interest in the novel.

One last point regarding beginning writers: with everyone telling them to blog, blog, blog, many of them are putting their best work on their blogs only to find later that many publishers consider their work previously published. That's a real blow to someone already facing an uphill struggle.

Contrary to much of the hype out there, one size most definitely does not fit all. To her credit, L.L. Barcat doused the author blogging frenzy with a much needed dose of cold water. She may have been overreacting but it's helped to make the discussion more pragmatic.

March 25, 2013 at 5:46 AM  
Blogger J.B. Chicoine said...

I've been thinking a lot about my blogging--to blog or not to blog. I'm a slow and steady blogger--been doing it for 5 years now. For me, it's a place to post about what I'm up to with my writing in case someone comes looking, and to interact with a few of my readers. I don't have a long-term plan for it; I'll just keep posting as long as I have updates to post, no matter how small. Since my blog is already set up, adding a post a couple times a month seems like a small investment of time for whatever good it accomplishes.

March 25, 2013 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Claude Nougat said...

Anne, as always, I enjoy reading you, don't you ever give up blogging!

To blog or not to blog has never been a question for me, I enjoy it too much. It's a great way to get things off your chest, especially stuff concerning politics. Yes, I know, for many fiction writers, to delve into politics is a no-no. Maybe so. But I enjoy it!

Besides, I see absolutely NO connection whatsoever between my sales and the success of my blog. I'm getting more and more visits (now well over 20,000/month) which for me is fantastic, when you consider that just 3 years ago when I started I had only 5 page views/day!But book sales? No. I have absolutely no idea how one sells books with a blog, I suspect one doesn't. The two things are distinct and if I'm wrong on that, I'd love to hear evidence to the contrary.

Which I assume is why publishers no longer insist on their authors running a blog - they must have realized the disconnect. And that's fine. But for us who enjoy blogging, there's no reason to stop, is there? The networking is fun, I love meeting new people on the Net, and if I hadn't gotten used to this kind of interaction (I mean highly virtual, very little physical) I don't think I'd have had the courage back in October to start the Goodreads Group to discuss Boomer lit. Now we're 300 members in that Group, I get the sense people enjoy visiting it and discussing boomer books, and all that makes me happy.

In short, without my blogging experience, I would never have had either the courage to launch the Group or the stamina to keep responding to everyone in the Group, so many demands that need to be satisfied...It's much more work than a blog!

March 25, 2013 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I love blogging and blog tours. On my own blog, I give writing tips, host authors on tours, post book reviews, and write about anything I feel like that's going on in my life.
On a blog tour right now for my latest book, Dangerous Impulses. This time I'm getting more unique visitors than ever before. My blog is http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

March 25, 2013 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

DC—I’ve come to many of the same conclusions. Writers who blog only about writing (like me) don’t reach the target audience for their fiction. Since I have a writing book to sell too, I keep up with the writing tips, but we may branch out into talking more about our books.

Your last point is just the one I’m trying to make here. Rather than drop a blog once you get a big readership, you should concentrate on interacting with those readers on your blog. If Hugh Howey is right and concentrating on interacting with existing readers is the best way to build buzz, then a blog is MORE important once you’ve become an “experienced” writer.

Charley—That’s the point L.L. Barkat is making, obliquely. I think Barkat thinks only beginning writers should blog because blogging teaches them the discipline of writing—in other words, it’s for their own benefit, not the general public. I think it does help beginning writers in a lot of ways—but I also think it helps experienced writers.

Keith—It sounds as if you’re exactly the kind of person Jane Friedman is speaking to. You got caught up in the “platform” thing too early and put up a shop window before you had any merchandise to display. (I like that analogy.)

Where I differ from Barkat is she says beginning writers should blog and then drop the blog when they have readers. I think it’s better to do it the other way around.

JB—You’re doing it exactly right IMO. You blogged to network with other writers and met the people who introduced you to your publisher. Now you’re blogging for your readers. Your blog has evolved very nicely. And because you slow blog, it hasn’t taken too much time from your creative work.

Claude—Thanks! It’s true that there’s no correlation between blog hits and sales. The blog just makes you accessible and gives you some traction with search engines.

But as you say, it provides intangibles as well. Like professional confidence. My blogging has been confidence-booster, too. And congrats on the success of the Boomer Lit Goodreads group!

Marilyn—Blog tours definitely give you exposure. I’m glad to hear yours is also spiking the readership on your own blog. A blog is really simply your “home” on the Interwebz—a place where people can come and visit. If you’re the kind of person who likes visitors, this is a real plus. If you really only “vant to be alone,” not so much.

March 25, 2013 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

Last week I posted on this and I am still up in the air on it. Bottom line: you can write the most sizzling book ever written, and if no one hears of it, you will be forgotten. Social Media and a clever concept as Mr. Howey proved is a good path to success. :-)

March 25, 2013 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger JeriWB said...

I know my blog will evolve as I grow as a writer. I don't ever want to give it up because it allows me to satisfy so many creative outlets that writing does not. That's not to say I'm satisfied with where I'm headed yet, but the key to blogging, just like writing, is not giving up and finding what suites your strengths.

March 25, 2013 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Debra Eve | Later Bloomer said...

As a nonfiction self-publishing author, I'm in for the long haul, but I wouldn't have it any other way :)

But I don't know if you'd want to leave us even for The New Yorker or The Daily Beast, Anne. Have you been following The Atlantic vs. Nate Thayer brouhaha? (In fact, would love to hear your take on it.) Here's The Atlantic's side: http://bit.ly/YNAEkG

March 25, 2013 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Keith--I forgot to say that you are absolutely right about people putting their best work on blogs: that does make it worthless to an agent. Blogging is publishing, so you've given away first rights. Blog about your book, but don't actually put your book up there if you hope to get an agent interested.

Roland--I saw your post and I sympathize. It's so hard to know what the right road is. I think at this point, you have to figure 99% of writers aren't going to make a living at it any more, so we should &*%! well do what we enjoy.

Jeri--I feel the same way. My blog develops different skills from my fiction writing. It's helped me write much better blurbs, queries and synopses.

Debra--You're right. I don't really want to blog for the big guys. Blogging for the big names like the Daily Beast is kind of like selling yourself into slavery (except they don't feed you.) Thanks for that link. It's even more horrific than I realized. I think I'll be blogging about this next month. The way journalists are treated these days is shocking. Write for free AND they own all your stuff. Sick. I sometimes see us slipping into a neofeudal system, where the corporate robber barons own everything and we are all serfs who work endless hours just for the privilege of maybe not being killed today.

March 25, 2013 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Henry Hallan said...

Anne, I don't really 'blog. I used to five years ago but I gave it up when I wanted to be serious about a writer. I know that is the very opposite of what people say I should do, but I have a full-time job and only a certain number of hours available for writing.
It's not just the business decision about building a back-catalogue for me, either. When I sit down in the evening and think what I would like to write, I don't want to write 'blog posts about my normal life. I want to write about the far more interesting things happening in the worlds in my head.
And, it seems, my readers would prefer to read these things too. If you take away my writing, I'm a rather ordinary person. I can't see why anyone would be interested.

March 26, 2013 at 5:57 AM  
Blogger Jessica Schley said...

I'm still in the "querying writer" stage of things, but Anne, your Slow Blog Manifesto was like a shot of calm to my blogging. I think it's still a useful exercise, and if nothing else, it helps me reach out to other writers in the same or similar stages of their careers.

I love Hugh Howey's quote about reaching out to readers. Every time I encounter his statements about his own success, he just seems like he's very genuine.

March 26, 2013 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Henry--Some people are just not cut out to blog, so there's no reason to do it if you're building a readership without it. If you have a web page and maintain a presence somewhere on the Web (so you're Googleable) you probably don't need to change a thing.

Jessica--I love your expression "a shot of calm." I'm so glad to hear you're embracing the Slow Blog Movement. No way could I have published 7 books in less than two years and maintained a Web presence without slow blogging.

Hugh seems like an all-around good guy. When people like him "make it" it encourages all of us.

March 26, 2013 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Jesse Daggett said...

Thank you Anne for this great article and everyone who have left comments. All this advice is helping me in my journey as a writer and "getting my feet wet" in the blogging world.

March 26, 2013 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Roni Loren said...

I don't think there is one right answer for every writer because I'm a believer in not forcing yourself to do it if you dread it. But I blogged before I was published. I still blog now that I have published books out in the world. And I do it because I still enjoy it. But it morphs as you move through your career. What your blog looks like at the newbie writer stage is probably going to be different from what it looks like once you're an established author. That's okay. Be willing to ride the ebb and flow and the bends in the river.

But regardless of whether blogs are no longer the "hot thing", I think they do provide an accessibility to an author that can be very important in building a tribe of friends and fans. If a reader loves Book A and Book B equally and they go online to find out more about that author, who is going to leave a more welcoming impression? The author who has the glossy but static website where it says please contact them through this form or email their agent or publicist? Or is it going to be the author that has a regularly updated blog where she seems friendly and open to discussion and like a real person?

I know that I'm more likely to support authors I feel some bit of personal connection with. The blog doesn't have to be groundbreaking. I just like hearing an author's voice and getting a glimpse of who they are behind the words. And if they respond to a comment or a tweet or whatever, all the better. It can create the difference between giving off an ivory tower vibe and a "hey, come sit down and have some iced tea" vibe. Just my take. :)

March 27, 2013 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jesse--Good luck in the blogosphere. It really is fun. And you'll meet some great people!

Roni--Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. You're right that not everybody can blog. If it's a miserable chore foryou, that will show and you won't get the good will that's the point of a blog.

You're an example of somebody who started with a writing blog, then got your agent through blogging and now you have a fabulous career. I'm glad you agree that blogging keeps you in touch with your fans and that helps your image and keeps your fans loyal. I don't think you can get away with doing the ivory tower thing these days.

March 27, 2013 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger Kittie Howard said...

I think blogging's an individual decision influenced by life's demands/responsibilities beyond writing. I've always been a slow blogger (about once every two weeks) and am not the least bit interested in FB or Twitter. Having said that, publishing houses are a bottom-line business that one should be aware of before entering an arena that's not for everyone.

March 29, 2013 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kittie--Thanks for weighing in. You have a great slow blog. And it makes you part of a blogging community that is supportive and friendly. I don't think the value of the blogging community should be underestimated. And you're right that if you enter the Big 5/6 world, you have to follow their rules, whether they make any sense or not. They are run by algorithms and number people, not creatives or people who think outside any corporate boxes.

March 29, 2013 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Kittie Howard said...

Thanks, Anne! You brought a smile to my face. Another smile appeared when I read your comment. What a wonderful experience you had. Oh, but I'd love to participate in a dig. Oh! Oh! Oh!

I've enclosed a link to a post I found by accident the other day. Algorithms! I guess my head's been in the clouds because I put the worst path possible for "Rings of Trust" (Historical Fiction . . . nothing else). Even though it hit Amazon's Top Ranking list for a bit during the launch, I couldn't sustain it.

So, okay, lesson learned. Question is: How does one break the path down? Amazon won't let me go beyond what's in the sub-categories. I'd be most appreciative of anything that pointed me in a more pointed direction. Many thanks, Kittie (kittiehoward@gmail.com)

http://mlouisalocke.com/2011/10/24/categories-key-words-and-tags-oh-my-why-should-an-author-care/

March 30, 2013 at 4:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kittie--Actually, my archaeology college program didn't involve any digging. Just a tour led by well known archaeologists through Italy and Greece. A fantastic experience, though.

I'm going to be writing next month about algorithms. You can make yourself crazy trying to game them. Nobody can, because they change all the time. "Tags" ar on their way out and have already been eliminated on most US buy pages. Yes, you do want to use as many categories as allowed, but you can't be sure Amazon won't change those, too. The truth is, indies are having a harder time now (both small press pubbed and self-pubbed) because books in Select and "white glove" agent-assisted books get better treatment from the algos. There's nothing much we can do but concentrate on marketing outside of Amazon.

March 30, 2013 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

Anne, I read this post with great interest. Before starting my blog, I spent way too much time pondering the "to blog or not to blog" question. Now that I have a blog, I can't imagine ever letting it go. It's too much fun!

Your post made me reflect on my biggest newbie-blogger mistake: Not spending enough time visiting and interacting with OTHER bloggers.

In the beginning, I spent so much time trying to figure out which buttons to push on my own blog - there wasn't time to "get out there" like I should have. Now that I'm comfortable with blogging, I do it much faster, and now have more free time to "get out of the house" and visit other bloggers. Wish I'd figured that out earlier.

Great post, great blog, as always. Thanks, Anne!

April 3, 2013 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--You have such a great blog. Book review blogs are a fantastic way to get your name out there.

And yes, the best way to get known is to move around and comment on other blogs. It's time-consuming, but it really pays off--in followers and friendships.

April 3, 2013 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

I agree with Roni that each writer has to decide for herself what is right for her. If you don't like blogging, you shouldn't do it because you're not going to be good at it. If blogging is taking too much time away from your writing, you should either stop or cut down. I must confess that most of my published author friends do not blog, and I can't help wondering if there's a correlation between the time they spend on not-blogging and their literary success. For fiction writers, I would definitely put more energy into getting stories published than on blogging.

April 9, 2013 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meghan--I agree that blogging is not for everybody. For several years, agents have been saying that every single aspiring author had to have a blog (and some demanded a ridiculous number of followers, which made me wonder if they ever got any new clients.) I'm glad that's over.

But I was speaking mainly to authors who have blogs and are enjoying them. I don't think they should give them up just because they're published and "above all that" now, which was the implication of the post on Jane's blog.

April 9, 2013 at 6:44 PM  
Blogger Laura Pauling said...

I've moved to the slow blogging approach. I'm not sure I totally agree that just because you self publish means you have to be a blogging fiend. Slow blogging works. And my focus and content has changed to reflect readers that might visit my blog, with the occasional post that is for writers.

I don't believe that blogs sell books so being there in case readers drop by is good for me. :)

April 26, 2013 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Laura--I hope I haven't said anything to suggest slow blogging is only for trad-pubbed authors. I'm in favor of slow blogging for any author who would rather spend time on their book writing.

You've got it right: a blog is a place to be for your fans and fellow authors to visit you, not a direct sales tool.

April 27, 2013 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Kathryn Lilley said...

I'm late to this discussion (story of my life), but I'd like to put in a positive word about blogging. I founded The Kill Zone blog a number of years ago with a group of other mystery and thriller writers. The publishing landscape has shifted radically since our beginning, but as other blogs have come and gone (mostly gone), our readership has increased steadily with time. What I like about the blog is the sense that we have created our own little community there, where we have actual conversations and discussions. Other online venues, by comparison, seem to provide one-way, more limited interactions. Yes, group blogging takes a lot of time --usually there are a couple of people who do most of the grunt work--and it isn't for everyone. If you don't like interacting with others online, blogging won't be right for you. Some people just seem to enjoy the type of interaction one can get on a blog better than the alternatives.

http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/

August 28, 2013 at 9:27 AM  

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