Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Should you blog for writers?

Before I get down to the meat and potatoes of this post...

Huge congratulations are in order for bloggy bud, Natalie Whipple. She sold her first book! I don't usually announce sales, but I had had had to announce this one. Natalie's is either the first or second writer blog I started reading, about 2 years ago. (The other one in the top two is Marsha's.) So I'm rather attached to Natalie. (No I don't stalk her. But only since I live in the wrong hemisphere! Joking. Sorta.) Plus, she's been at this writing thing really long, and she's had some crazy ups and downs, so I can't think of another writer who deserves it more!

I first saw this on Natalie's blog. I decided to do it to bring back the love for writing. I penciled it into my blog schedule - yes, I have one- and it just happens to coincide with Natalie's book deal.

Here's how it works. You give me 5 words (1 per commenter), I write a story, employing those 5 and 500 to 1000 others. When Natalie did it, the words got stranger and stranger every week. So I'm implementing 2 rules.

1. 10 letters or less.
2. 4 syllables or less.

I will not be writing stories about myxomatosis. Also if I get less than 5 words, I'll choose random some at random from the dictionary.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming, should you blog for writers?

I keep hearing you shouldn't blog for writers. I imagine that the reasoning behind this claim is that you should be aiming your blog towards the audience of your book- your readers. That's a sensible assertion, especially if the main purpose of your blog is a. to connect with your readers, or b. to sell books.

For me, the problem is not as simple as it seems, especially pre-publication.

There are two reasons readers come to writer blogs.
1. The name. If you're not J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman or Stephenie Meyer (or at least a published writer), noone cares about what you had for breakfast if they don't already care about you. (If you ARE J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman or Stephenie Meyer, thanks for passing through my blog!)

2. A non-writing platform. If you build a platform in something completely un-related, then readers will find you on that platform. If you write and sell a book, then your blog readers can become your book's readers. We see this happen all the time in non-fiction and humour. But it's also possible in other realms. Like if I had a Black Hair blog, and then wrote an urban romance, there's a large likelihood that the demographic for my blog and my book are the same (Black females), and I can convert at least some of my followers into buyers.

But if you aren't building a non-writing platform and you don't already have a name, then potential readers aren't going to just stumble in.

Even the most read-aholic of my non-writer friends isn't on the bloggosphere. Most people who read more than a handful of blogs every day are themselves bloggers. Reading blogs is a serious time investment. The average reader just doesn't have that time to put in.

You'll find average readers on Facebook or Twitter; the easy 5-10 second type of social media. The type that tends to give updates in 420 or 140 characters respectively.

The average reader is looking for a book. As an unpublished writer, you don't have a book. And the average reader isn't going to sit around anxiously rubbing their hands together for the next two years while publishing slowly grinds its gears to make it happen.

(Book bloggers don't fall into this category. They're an seperate- and awesome- species.)

I really don't know how people started assuming that the two activities are mutally exclusive. I've been told the average number of books read per person in America in a year is 1. I'm told it's 7 in Canada. My writer friends on Goodreads have read between 30 and 98 books already this year. Not only do writers read, they read more than all but the most well-read of readers.

Even though I'm not in the same league as many of my awesome bloggy-buds who've been published or sold or are agented, a lot of what they say really strikes a cord with me. And if I fall in love with your blog, I am going to buy your book. And chances are, I will probably do a review/interview and give away a copy of your book.

I can't imagine I'm the only one who latches onto wrters in the trenches and ends up buying their books years down the road.

Also, writers are supportive in a way readers aren't. If they can, they'll buy your book. If they blog or tweet, they'll tell others. They may give your book as a Christmas present. In terms of sales, one writer-follower can be worth 3 or 4 average-reader followers.

(I totally learned how to use that structure in Japanese yesterday *grins*)

Actually, I don't think that is the question. Yes, your blog need a focus. And you need to know who your audience is. But the most important thing on any blog (in my opinion) is not where you direct it, or what you write, but HOW.

Your blog needs to capture who you are. The essence of your voice. Things you're passionate about. A boring blog following all the rules and written specifically for writers/readers will probably have less followers/regular readers than a passionate one written for sheep farmers.

Blog for who you feel like, but most importantly, blog for you. If people enjoy it, they'll read.


Clarissa Draper said...

Great points. I often blog about things that interest me and one of those things were essays by Addison. Recently I had a commenter visit my blog in a search to do research for a school project. Cool!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I think you're right that most readers are not going to read an author's blog unless you're JK Rowling. I think we blog to connect to other authors and it's good to have a platform. For me it's interviewing other authors, mainly debut and middle grade, to spotlight them and giveaway a copy of their book, and interview kids about how they find out about books.

And I'm excited for Natalie. She deserves it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Blogging was easier for me when I just started talking about the things I enjoy, which often have nothing to do with writing. (As a result, my followers are an eclectic group, which is really awesome.) Many have read my book as well. Don't ask me the secret, because I have no idea!

Marsha Sigman said...

I am honored to be have been one of the first blogs you followed!

For me blogging was a way of finding my particular voice and making friends who understood what I was going through. It still is actually. As usual we are totally on the same page here.lol

Sana Castellano said...

I like the 5 things.
Also, you are absolutely right, blog about anything you feel like - it is your blog and people will read if they like it.

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