Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Blog?

Oh, I know. I am preaching to the choir in here—all of YOU get it! You are among the Blogosphere ROCK STARS, practicing this divine art day in and day out, but I've recently had a couple reminders that not everybody gets it: one courtesy of READING the THINGS, the OTHER courtesy of me fumbling around in a social network that I have not yet mastered.

Confusion Defined

I saw several blogs, maybe three weeks ago on whether authors needed blogs to sell books. There was some decent advice mixed in, but I think, frankly, they were addressing the wrong question, because the relationship is not as direct as that sentence would lead us to believe.

The second case was me fumbling around on Goodreads, stumbling into a forum to have a conversation about books... who did I seek out? Writers, of course. But... not knowing the system, I 'searched' for writers and stumbled into a group that I THINK is younger, and REMINDED me of talking to the ABNA folks about blogging, only more so. There was a conversation about 'how to go about publishing' with the usual 'well there is this and that self publishing' and a couple—blah blah blah 'publisher' and a single suggestion of 'I think you need an agent'. I was singularly IMPRESSED with how GOLL DARNED MUCH I HAVE LEARNED in the last year... thanks to you.

Running With It

(not the scissors this time)

The Missing the Point Point: *cough*  If you are blogging to reach readers and convince them to buy your book, you are either ALREADY FAMOUS or delusional. No, I don't mind either one, but I just need to be REALLY CLEAR. Readers do NOT LOOK for blogs of DEBUT AUTHORS. People who WRITE may FIND AUTHORS and then become curious to read their books (it's happened to me--I've read some of YOUR books) but non-writing readers are not going to go about it that way. DO NOT BLOG TO REACH READERS.

You can blog to CONNECT with ALREADY readers... this is a very good plan, I'd say... very nice for an author website to include a blog. I've seen suggestions of telling where book ideas came from, telling some little bit that is more PERSONAL (though warnings not to overshare—especially to consider your genre and how compatible YOU and your GENRE are in the reader's brain) that readers might not find elsewhere, giving a little process on where you are on the NEXT books... Go for it. Just know the only people reading are either there because they ALREADY read you, or because they are ALSO social networking.

The way you increase book sales by blogging is by expanding that 'on the ground' force... the BUZZ creators, the people who get to know you over months or years, who end up LIKING you well enough to follow through on such things as: “if you go into your local book store, will you make sure my book is there and email me if not?” or “Here is my book tour schedule, if you are in the area can you please show up so I don't sit there looking like an idiot?” or “My book is coming out Saturday, will you please Tweet, facebook share, and include on your blog?” The more people willing to answer YES to those questions, the better your chance of not flopping. You are NOT finding BUYERS, you are finding Co-Marketers.

And I would argue you SHOULD blog for your karma. This blogosphere will help YOU, so when you succeed, you should blog to help the writers who come behind you. They really could USE your wealth of knowledge.

The Not Getting It Point

I don't know HOW MANY blogs I've seen with three or four posts, all about the book. HELLO—you are shouting into NOTHINGNESS. I saw the MOST FABULOUS post yesterday—it is a few weeks old, but you need to see what Maureen Johnson has to say on the matter. It is a FALL DOWN funny read, but her main point is that all of YOU are people. You heard me. You are NOT a figment of my imagination, no matter HOW MANY times you tell yourself you are. What that means for ME, is I can't just talk AT you, I have to talk TO YOU. I need to listen to what you say and respond. I need to visit your blog and comment on what YOU have to say. Bloggers who fail to see this will not get their loyal following.

Now I know people who blog for DEEP relationships and don't go searching down lots of followers—and I totally RESPECT that—they STILL follow, comment, and interact with the dozen or so blogs they ARE connected with. They GET that it is two way, and are making a decision (usually about TIME) that they will only do what they can do well... Not everybody can keep track of 400 blogs and still be a superstar *cough*Elizabeth*cough*

But no matter WHAT you need to get that this process is interactive. Sure, Nathan Bransford has never once responded to me. You know what... You look like that and let me picture you naked, I will probably read you anyway... erm... actually... I read Pub Rants, Janet Reid, Editorial Ass and the Rejectionist too (all women)—NONE of whom to I expect responses from. I also read Nicola Morgan, who just manages to say helpful things pretty often, but I don't comment... as one of 700, I don't feel obliged... but for those of us with followers under... maybe 500, definitely those under 200... the comments keep us going. You want comments... you comment.


And I can't emphasize this enough—by reading, (feeling obliged to comment, feeling compelled to share) I have managed to LEARN A TON about this publishing industry, the world of BOTH WRITING and GETTING PUBLISHED that I never would have gotten from a book. I probably couldn't have gotten it from an individual, even though there are masters at it. It just HELPS to see things a dozen different ways. There are freaks (and I include myself here) who even learn better by TEACHING. If I have to articulate something (like today) I manage to grind it into my head far enough that I never forget it.

(and the MAIN reason I personally blog). I LIKE IT. We should do this because we enjoy it. Otherwise it SHOWS and it is hard to sustain.Listen to Maureen...  HAVE MORE FUN!!!

I blogged once before about HOW to blog, and I don't think THAT has changed, but I think there was the piece missing on WHY to blog... so now you know.


Jessica Bell said...

You are so right! Blogging is in no way a tool to market your books. People don't want to read about when your next book is out and where you'll be giving readings, (well they might - but only after they have GOTTEN TO KNOW YOU).

I definitely know that the blogs I'm drawn to offer me little personal windows to look through. Blogs where I can get to know the blogger on a personal level; get to know who they are deep down (to a certain degree - I mean it's not necessary to blurt out one's deepest darkest secret).

The blogs I go back to every day do this for me. And you're one of them. Mind you, I have to admit, I sometimes (well mostly) skim the guest author's posts. I'm much more entertained when you are speaking - like now :o)

Cruella Collett said...

I agree, I agree (times two since I also agree with Jessica up there)! "Co-marketers" is such a good term (you should BRAND it! :p). Even if a blog can theoretically sell one, or even two, books for you, it's not going to be what puts the food on the table.

Whenever I ask myself the same question - why do I blog? - (often because I wonder whether I should try to be more consistent in the choice of topics I write about) I end up replying "I like this! I like it this way!". So I definitely blog because it is fun. The networking is actually the bonus, not the target, in my case.

Hart Johnson said...

Jessica-I confess to the same thing--far more interested in writing and the BLOG author that most guests--depends on the topic--I have been paying more attention to mystery authors of late, for instance, since I'm writing one and want to know what's OUT there, but I like the 'getting to know' and 'learning pieces' best.

Mari-I's LOVE to brand co-marketing, but I think it's probably taken. I couldn't keep this up though, either, if I didn't love it. There are pieces I just don't do very often... like the blogfests--while I think they are great ideas and grow audiences, I don't read deeply enough here to really reciprocate. I skim for the 'hey I love that' moments. So I only do the blogfests that can be sort of READ that way.

Jan Morrison said...

I also blog because I find that if I set a goal publically I will usually follow up on it. Blog readers as carrots or sticks I suppose.
In my days as an entrepreneurship navigator we had a phrase called complementition. That might also work here - we spur each other on - we're all on the same road going in the same direction although some have travelled it many times and for some it is the first time. We are at different spots along our route and we can cheer those on behind us and hear the cheers of those that go before.

CA Heaven said...

I follow your blog because you're walking around nude, not because of your books >:)))

To be serious; I blog just because I like it too, no big ambitions. I often comment on blogs to tell the author that I've been there and read it. I tend to stay away from these big famous blogs with thousands of followers and hundreds of comments. Blogs are like music clubs; the small and intimate ones are often the most interesting >:)

Cold As Heaven

Powdered Toast Man said...

good thing I'm not trying to write a book. That is some good advice you got there. It is tough trying to comment and read all the blogs you follow, it's tough work. I love blogging. I was doing it for 4 months before I had any followers. I'm not sure of my point but I'm sure I have one.

Hart Johnson said...

Jan-GREAT point on accountability and the mutual cheerleading. Those are definitely things I try to use, benefit from and contribute to!

CaH- HA! Then my nefarious plan is WORKING! I figure there will always be some subset of the population that stops in for nakedness... And I would agree that the really big ones can feel rather cold... Even bloggers I really LIKE, I get intimidated if there are 50 comments before mine.

Powdered Toast Man- WELCOME! I haven't seen you around here before--and it DOES look like you have a point (or at least some fun) at your blog! I had followers faster because I am rather shameless in pestering my friends... READERS on the other hand? Yeah, you blog into the void for a while...

Unknown said...

very interesting post. I've been asking myself this same question. For me, it is more of a networking tool. I also use the blog to clear some mind space especially if there is a pressing issue that I just can't resolve.

Excellent post Tart!

LTM said...

oh, Tart. You so smart. (Hey! Look what I did!) This is a most excellent post and explains so well the point of reading and interacting with blogs. Plus you get to meet cool funny long lost twins like me! Good stuff~

Old Kitty said...

Thanks for sharing your candid thoughts on why you blog and what blogging means to you!! They're all fab! :-)

Have a fun blogging time!

Take care

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is a great post, Hart. I've seen so many people start blogs for the wrong reasons and really become just major spammers!

Creepy Query Girl said...

*Here! Here!* I completely agree. It was a big decision for me to start up CreepyQueryGirl just for that reason- I didn't want to be in it for the wrong things. It wasn't until I'd stalked the bigwigs for a while and found this great community that I knew the importance of joining in and getting to know all of you. ITs been such a great learning experience and I don't feel so much like a solitary writer in a foreign country anymore:)

Deb and Barbara said...

Everyone has said it, but I have to agree: I love this post. You are so bang on. And I love this blog. Especially when it's your unique, gutsy voice.

I wish there were more hours in the day for me to read and comment on even more blogs than I do. There are so many wonderful gems out there. I love that the internet has pulled so many interesting voices together like a giant cat's-cradle of creativity.


Hart Johnson said...

Chary--totally with you on clearing mind-space... it may be a public place, but somehow throwing the processing out into the universe is helpful!

Leigh--YAY for long lost twins! Thank you!

OK: Thank you to you, too!

Elizabeth-- TONS of people not quite getting it! I particularly noticed it among the self-publishing ABNA folks... thinking the blog is going to get their book bought, but I think it rarely works that way.

CQG-I can totally see you did your research first--you are doing it ALL RIGHT!

Barbara-I hear you on not enough time! There is a ton of fabulous stuff out there if I just had a little more of that!

Natasha said...

You don't need me to add my voice to the refrain, but I so hear you on this.

Blogging has been a strange journey for me- for almost a year, I blogged without even knowing if anyone was reading it. To me, blogging daily was something I had committed myself too, and I was going to go ahead with it, come what may.

But now, it is the two way interaction that is so enriching. I have met some really wonderful people here, and would not want it any other way.

BUT, whatever option you choose, blogging solely to sell books seems a dumb idea.

erica_henry said...

Thanks for the post. It was very refreshing. I find it hard to blog at times. I don't want to just post about my one-day-will-be-published book but also the things that I learn along the way. To me, topics seem to be the hardest to come up with at times.

Also, bums me royally when I finally find a, what I think, great article to write and no one comments :( It makes it hard to write another one that week.

Maybe I'm just suffering from blogs not gaining visitor stage right now.

Erica Mitchell said...

You were one of the first five people I followed and you followed back when I started blogging (<3 you for that) but I remember telling you in some fashion I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy it, or if I even had anything worthwhile to say or whatever my complex was at the moment but I LOVE it now and the interaction is the absolute best.
I have gotten sound advice along the way and the variations in how to approach the goal most of us writers are lookin' for...published, but the fun part is the journey and getting to know people individually in the sphere. It's a process for sure and I didn't know quite what I was getting into but I'm glad I did. It's not about getting my work out there, it's about connecting to people and not so much thier work (even if you are connected to their work) it's really about the commitment we all make to each other when you boil it all down to comment and read and learn and laugh :) And I have to add a big Thank You for being so supportive and fun and providing me with endless laughs

Talli Roland said...

What a great post, Hart! You're so right - blogging cannot be solely a platform to sell your book. I think it can help a bit if you have interesting content relevant to your book, but I agree - mostly you're not connecting with your target audience, you're connecting with other writers!

Hart Johnson said...

Natasha-in a lot of ways, I think you did it really SMART--getting your bearings before you started flashing about it. Far less likely to embarrass yourself that way, though I'm sure you know, flashing is sort of a specialty of mine... embarrassing or not.

Hey look! Two Ericas!

Erica H: WELCOME! If you are relatively new to this, or at that early, not many followers stage, I have a couple suggestions. 1) find someone who seems to be EVERYWHERE and stalk them. Seriously--follow who they follow, comment on the blogs they comment on... and then 2) just venture out there--like coming here today--I am headed over to follow you right NOW!--a couple more visits and interesting content gets blogs in my side bar (at least I really try) THEN I become a regular...

EricaMS--I think you're doing GREAT! You've got a great mix of interactive and reflective, and I think that is really key--your marketing skills show, as does your willingness to just dive in. I have no doubt you will have hundreds of followers soon!

Talli-you're right that content RELATED to book content can be GREAT--I think ALSO, how you go about FINDING stuff related to your book (if you do SciFi--where are the ideas from, if you do historical, how do you authenticate)-- but I definitely think we really ARE mostly connecting to other writers.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent points today, Hart.

One thing I've noticed is some bloggers who post news or book announcements, but they never interact or comment on anyone else's blogs. Some go to a lot of trouble writing posts, too. But why do all that work just to put it on the internet? It's like a tree falling in the forest - does it make a sound? Not if no one hears it...

Helen Ginger said...

Very good post! If you use your blog (or your newsletter or Facepage or Tweets or even your website) to do nothing but sell, sell, sell, you won't have many people paying attention to you after a while. Do it to connect with others, for fun, for your own enlightenment, or to become part of a group of co-promoters, but remember you're one in a group. They're not your personal army of promoters.

Hart Johnson said...

Alex-so true- makes it frustrating to read someone's post after a while if nobody seems to care that you're there (or reciprocate the visit).

Helen-you mean followers isn't synonymous with minions?! I was so sure I was honing minions! *snort* Yeah... I can sort of take over if I don't keep myself in check... need to keep running with the big kids to remind myself I'm not all that...

Anonymous said...

hehehe Ive sat here for ages trying to think of an intelligent comment to make like everyone else :o) I'll just say "Hi, and what a great post" XX

RaShelle Workman said...

Hi Hart - Great post! When I first started blogging I didn't know what the hell I was doing (still learning). I came into wanting to learn more about writing. Meet other writers. I agree, I've learned so much in the past few months and have even made friends. =D

Hart Johnson said...

Niki-you KNOW there is no need for intelligence around here! (but you did FINE!

RaShelle-I was going on the 'authors need a platform' and all that branding stuff, PLUS, it seemed like there was helpful stuff on querying and the like, so I could see that I could LEARN, but I've learned things I never expected to.

Anonymous said...

So glad you said blogging is good karma. You would come up with that! I have learned such a lot from you about reciprocating. Just you carry on with your World Domination Tour... such a great role model (nudity and male rears notwithstanding).
@Natasha: I hadn't realized you & I are around the same one-year mark with our blogs... thanks to her experienced Tartness. My 'other' blog just hit the 20,000 mark in hit stats, tho hardly any commentary; so where does THAT figure?!
Agree, Alyse, we do it 'cos it's FUN.

Hart Johnson said...

Marian- *hugs* thank you, my friend! I need to make a better point of commenting on your blog. I just always feel so packed full of new stuff I'm not really sure what to say, but that's no excuse... *note to self: DO BETTER!*

Arlee Bird said...

I take my blogging far too seriously and for the life of me no longer know why.

Tossing It Out