Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blog Philosophy and that kinda thing

I'm bringing this up from the comment trail, because it's a sizable piece of writing and, after all, why not?

This is about the use of a blog, for a writer:

I hate to say this, but I don't think you attract readers by posting a blog. 

Once you HAVE readers you can remind them about your new books.  You can make the reading more fun. You can lay down content that doesn't fit into the books but you're still in love with. 

You can do the whole self-expression thing about how you feel, which is liberating and useful to other writers who are going through the same trials and a great relief to your family who don't have to listen to you whinge and I suspect everybody reading the blog skips this part anyhow.

But I don't see a blog as a way to garner new readers. 
I may be alone in this.
And I am not what you might call a promotion maven.
So you should not necessarily listen to me.

All that said,
I love blogging.

What it is . . .
We depend upon the immense generosity of the internet.  Our research on-line depends on information posted by thousands of people who work without any expectation of return.
When we blog, it's payback.

If you're going to blog anyway, my advice would be to pick a theme you're passionate about and make your blog a creature of your love.

It's nice if you're interested in some topic vaguely related to the kind of books you write.  You could get synchronicity.  It might be that folks who come to read your postings on pirates or the labor movement in 1930 will pick up your 1760 pirate book or your labor-leader love story.

If your bliss is knitting or raising koi, I think you gotta blog about that for its own sake.

Life is too short to spend your time promoting.
Write about something important.
If you make your blog an advertisement for your books, nobody's going to come anyway.


  1. Well, you might attract new readers because your old ones post links to your blog.

    And lovely post!

  2. Anonymous3:24 AM

    From HJ - There are a couple of ways in which an author's blog can generate sales:
    - a new reader who has seen a review of a book will check your blog, like it, and feel more inclined to buy the book (I do this)
    - an established reader will follow your blog after reading one book and be aware when you publish new books, and buy them (again, I do this).
    So, while a blog might not of itself attract readers, it can be influential in snaring and keeping them.

  3. What I love about the Internet is the way it makes you feel less alone in your obsessions. If you are still sad because your favorite 1960s television show was cancelled after one season, all you have to do is Google the name to discover there are 5 websites devoted to discussions of the 24 episodes that saw the light of day. Inevitably, one of the blog posts or a comment will remind you of other shows you'd forgotten, which will lead you to other blogs. (I leave aside the question of whether one's time might be put to better use.)

    Jo, I can't say whether an author's blog attracts readers, but I can say that an author's blog often leads readers to other authors. I started reading romance novels 3 years ago because someone recommended Mary Balogh. I raced through her books and asked for other suggestions. I started reading Julia Quinn, visited her blog (yes, reading came first), where I found a glowing review of The Spymaster's Lady. I'm now hooked on your books and your blog, and when I'm casting about for a new writer, I often look to your list of the 100 best romance novels. That's how I found Jo Beverley and Loretta Chase and Word Wenches -- you get the idea.

    Then pretty soon, you find yourself feeling like part of a community, because these authors have websites, and they talk to each other, and they invite readers to comment, and once again, you are feeling less alone in your obsessions.

    I keep returning to your blog, not just because I want to hear more about Adrian and Justine, though I do, but because I know there will be fascinating posts on the writing process. And I recommend those to other aspiring writers.

  4. Hi Phylis --

    You are so right about this.

    I do not have any way of knowing, but I suspect most of the books I sell get picked up because somebody else has been kind enough to say, "Try this one," to a friend.

    I know that's why I read most books from new authors. Word of mouth.
    Or, talking on this subject, word of blog.

  5. Hi HJ --

    You have put your finger on the great utility of blogs -- and websites too. Somebody who's heard your books mentioned can drop by the blog and look at your content and maybe be intrigued.

    There's this also.

    I do like to think folks who enjoy the books can come and enjoy the blog.

    I do a lot of historical research. Only a fraction of it, (that tip of the iceberg stuff,) ever shows up in the books.
    So I . . . I have this overwhelming desire to grab passersby in the streets and -- like the Ancient Mariner -- fix them with a beady eye and say, "Let me tell you about flint glass."

    The blog gives me a socially acceptable outlet for all this pent up scholarship. I am no longer a hazard in the streets.

  6. Hi Annie --

    "makes you feel less alone in your obsessions

    Yes! This!

    Writing is a weird, solitary life. You spend time with people who do not exist in landscapes you create under your feet as you walk forward. You mutter to yourself. You become iffy in the field of personal grooming. You wear bunny slippers. And you really care about the floorplan of the Tuileries Palace that burned down a century and a half ago.

    You get odd. Or odder.

    So it's nice to talk to other folks who make you feel mainstream.

    And i will admit without reservation that I take the recommendation of other authors on what books to try. They are good judges, I've found.

  7. Whatever the reason, I'm so glad you blog!!

    And I second or third or fourth (or wherever in the process we are) the idea that the larger web of blogs does help readers learn of new authors they might like.

    Also, do you follow your analytics? It can be amazing just how many people read blogs but don't comment. You never know what reference words in your post will bring new eyes to your posts.

  8. Hi Elisa --

    I have not actually looked into the analytics of blogging much. I do notice that anytime I start talking about underclothing I get just a huge increase in hits . . .

  9. very interesting. i did not check out any authors blogs or websites until after i'd picked up one of their books. though as a librarian I use them at times, though not always helpful. But it's the graphics you have about cats that I love most about this blog post. If I am on computer for too long, 1 or 2 of my "active" cats will jump up and wander about, blocking the screen. looking at me expectantly.

  10. I see writers getting more and more involved in promoting their own works.

    It's not that the publishers aren't doing it. I don't know that the publishers have ever done any significant promotion of genre Romance, for instance.

    It's that the patterns of book distribution are slowly and, I think, irrevocably changing.

    At one time, the publisher's marketing team got books onto physical shelves and that was where sales happened. But how much longer will an author be able to count on the brick-and-mortar stores to sell her books. More and more, books are going to be bought on-line.

    The author is now stuck with the responsibility of drawing in readers.

    Somewhat related -- I do not envy acquisition librarians in the decade to come. Small press and e-press are going to give us more and more excellent genre works. How is the librarian going to find them in that shouting, jostling crowd that is self-pub?

    I do hope there will be trusted sites like 'Regency Reads' to offer high-quality, vetted works in a small specialized field.

  11. And then there are cats :-) One thing I haven't yet figured out is where the links come in - I see a gazillion links to my own blog posts at the bottom of this page, and I didn't put them there! Does Google randomly add links?
    Many other things feel like a waste of time when I ought to be editing but blogging always feels like fun - it's nice to connect with other writers and readers!