A week or so ago I wrote a post – To blog or not to blog about writing. I left off that post wondering if it really matters what we blog about. How effective are blogs?
DGLM posted: Is blogging worth it? In it they reference Livia Blackburne ‘s posts where she compliments John Locke on his system. That more of us should be reaching our readers like that. Truly, his methods are genius. (But I don’t think genius can be copied and have the same outcomes.) So…
I say yes. Blogging is effective.
And no. Blogging is not effective.
Because, well, we have to know why we started blogging in the first place. You can only judge the success and failure of something based on pre-set measurable goals.
Possible reasons to blog:
- We are extremely passionate about, let’s say, making snowmen out of marshmallows. Or about writing.
- We want to appear professional to the publishing industry when they Google us, maybe, possibly, at some point in our journey. Hopefully, right?
- All writers do it so we should too. (Okay, probably not the best reason.)
- We want to tap in and connect to the writing community.
- We want to support our fellow authors by promoting their books.
- We want to reach our potential readers and sell zillions of books.
Okay, blogging is much bigger and about a lot more than just reaching potential readers outside of the writing world. (Feel free to disagree.)
And I heard to be effective in reaching readers and making a real impact in sales, then thousands of people should be reading your blog. Or a blog post needs to go viral and reach thousands of people who then buy your book. But will an active blog help show an acquisitions editor that you have a platform? Yes. That you are willing to promote your book and put yourself out there? Yes. And that might make a difference – if they love your writing.
Have I ever bought a book based on someone’s blog? (Outside of friendship.)
Yes and no. In most cases I “knew” the blogger first or just loved the premise and cover of their book.
Have I bought a book based on buzz through the blogosphere but not necessarily because of the author’s blog or website?
Yes. Almost every book I purchase is from online buzz – usually through friends of the author. But it is almost always something I would want to read anyways.
Have non-writers bought books because of an author’s website or super-emotionally charged blog post?
Probably. But I’m going to say that’s more likely to happen in the world of adult literature.
So, what should you do? Should you even be blogging?
That’s totally up to you. I’ve connected to other writers. Found beta readers. Learned about agents and editors and the industry. Processed what I’m learning through blogging. Found encouragement and inspiration. And the list goes on. It has been an extremely beneficial experience for me.
Blogging is not a guarantee that you will connect with an agent or sell lots of books.
Blogging is not a guarantee that you will connect with zillions of readers – no matter what you blog about.
Writing a page-turning fantastic story full of depth and heart will sell lots of books. And that magic thing called word of mouth? We can’t control. And that, my friends, has nothing to do with blogging.
So all I can say for sure is that you should be spending the majority of your time writing and learning the craft of writing – not blogging or on Twitter.
Has blogging been effective for you? Any thoughts?
(I’m not an expert nor claim to be. The opinions in this blog post are based on my observations. I see writers hit the bestseller list because they got a huge promotional push from their publishers, because they had a great high concept idea that hit the market at the right time. And they knew how to write. And not all of them started with a butt-kicking blog first. You do the math.)
Blogging, for me, was more about connecting to other writers. I never realized I would meet authors with best selling books. With that I’ve found: support, advice, made friends and a daily writing exercise to keep my brain in gear. Yep, daily writing exercise. I’ve learned a ton about writing from those way more expierenced than me.
With that being said, I’ve had to slow down because it is addictive and the writing that needed to be done, lacked. So to me it comes down to balance. Use it for what you need. I do like to support other authors and find out about books (like you mentioned) so that is another reason I’ve used blogging, but like I said, comes down to balance.
Laura, you present a very fair argument for both pros and cons. It is definitely a question many of us seem to be asking ourselves lately. And I think Christine’s comment above, about connecting with other writers, is also a huge benefit of blogging about writing.
One thing I would question — whereas I agree with you that word of mouth is mostly outside our control, it’s not completely. And from what you said, I’m sure this is what you mean — the quality of the book that can generate word of mouth is definitely within our control. And you’re totally right, that needs to be our first and strongest aim.
Thanks for getting me thinking this morning! 🙂
Christine – yes, I found many benefits only after I started blogging.
Susan – I do think that blogging and connections through blogging can help with the initial push of a book and if the book is great can get the word of mouth started. But I don’t think that blogging will create that magic. If the book is just okay, or even just really good, then the push will help but I think the word of mouth sales will then stop when the push is over. And yes, the quality of the book is in our control but no one knows what is going to go viral through word of mouth, even with top quality writing. If it was a matter of just excellent writing then many more writers would be bestsellers. Agree? Disagree?
I think you can do it effectively or ineffectively, and it depends on 1) what your metric for effectiveness is and 2) how you manage it. I’ve read blogs that really turned me off, and those are usually the ones where the blogger is focused totally on him/herself and assumes everyone else is, too. That seems truly ineffective. And then I’ve read blogs that made me want to read WHATEVER the blogger writes, whether 300-word post or 300-page novel. Those blogs are engaging and give me something to think about along with a taste of the blogger’s personality. Writer blogs may not sell tons of books, but they are a landing place and a chance to be part of a community. Great post, Laura!
Sarah – And then there are the blogs that don’t blog about anything I’m interested in and their writing doesn’t pull me in so… I do think it comes down to the writing in the post not the subject matter. Once we have books out and readers have a reason to visit – yes we should focus on them too. I love how Roni Loren has set up her blog to appeal to both but not forgetting about the writing posts that helped her gain her followers.
Honestly if it weren’t for blogging, I’m not sure I’d still be plunging head first into the query trenches for a fourth time. The blogging community makes me feel like I’m a part of something- they are a great support system for someone like me who is far from home and who’s immediate family doesn’t really understand how hard this is. It’s also an effective way of networking. I’ve made some author and agent connections through blogging, learned about trends and yes, bought books based on blog buzz. For me, it’s totally worth it.
I love this post, Laura. I’ve learned a great deal and met a lot of cyber friends through blogging.
Blogging is very effective for making connections. I think it’s important to have a website of some sort, and I like blogging.
But, blogging is NOT a tool for selling books. I’ve gone from blogging 5 times a week to 3 times a week down to once a week over the past couple of months, and my book sales are growing enormously every week. I’m selling 10x what I was two months ago.
I do think blogging is great, and I plan to keep doing it. I have decided, though, to focus my posts more on readers than other writers. (Of course I say this when just last week I posted something aimed at aspiring writers. To be fair, though, it was my first ‘writerly’ post in a couple of months.)
What DOES help: Being accessable, being friendly, replying to tweets, FB messages, emails, and treating every reader like they’re important. (They are!)
But honestly, IMO, blogging about writing doesn’t sell books, unless you publish books about writing, then you have the perfect platform. One thing that John Locke did that made a LOT of sense to me was to figure out who his ideal READER was, and then write blog posts as though he was talking directly to THAT PERSON.
That works for me too, so I avoid writing more than an occasional post aimed at the industry. My typical reader is smart, funny, and has a great imagination. That’s a great crowd to blog to.
Katie – I agree. The writing/blogging community is tremendously supportive!
Donna – I’ve learned a lot too.
India – Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree. John Locke’s system made complete sense. But I still think it’s the writing that sells books – not the blog. Congrats on your growing success! That’s awesome! I just don’t see a direct connection between great sales and a blog – though I think blogging/website is needed and helps draw in readers once they find you. But the book has to be their first.
I don’t know where me or my craft would be without blogging. I’ve learned so much by putting myself out there. And I’m not sure that those connections will sell the books, but they are connections which will (hopefully) spread the word.
And putting myself out there is a type of practice that for the marketing that I will have to do to sell my books–so I think it is beneficial in that way as well.
That being said, I have to take a little break now, as I have more time to write, so I can write. So I have a product to sell.
Lots of good, thought-provoking ideas in this post. For me, one of the main reasons I started blogging was to connect to other people. We move – a lot – due to the nature of my husband’s goals, and so it is really hard for me to build meaningful relationships in person, when we only end up in a place for a year or so. Blogging allows me to build friendships that are not dependent on location, and that has been HUGE. It’s also allowed me to get to know other writers, because, let’s face it, we’re kind of a rare breed. I meet, in real life, very few people who share this passion for writing. Blogging, and Twitter, has given me a chance to connect with others who love writing as much as I do, and are on varying stages of this writing-to-be-published journey, and it’s a tremendous encouragement.
So for me, blogging is totally worth it. I don’t think I’d be relying on my blog to sell my books, should things ever progress that far, though!
Blogging has been a fab way for me to build some buzz about my books when they launch. But mainly, I think blogging has been effective because I’ve been able to meet loads of great authors who ‘get’ writing and can understand all the issues we face. 🙂
It’s effective for me. I’ve made hundreds of contacts I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve stretched as a writer. I’ve taught myself all kinds of technological things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
All of this depends on how you define effective. But I’m going with yes for my answer (according to how I define it).
Laura, I’ve got to say that blogging for me is a way of being connected with fellow writers. For that reason alone I enjoy it. When I have to take breaks I do, but what’s great is that I always know those friends are out there to reconnect with.
I think, as you’ve said, that blogging’s not a guarantee of anything — so it’s important not to do it with just one end result in mind.
For me, it’s a way to connect to the writing community and enjoy the support I find there (and share it myself, of course), to learn about great books going by, and to improve my craft. In time if I’m lucky and I sell, I know my blogging friends will celebrate and promote my book with me, but that’s definitely not the end goal. That’s just one small outcome. For me, the biggest benefit by far is that feeling of belonging, and of having made great writing friends through my blog — including you, of course!
I initially started a blog to try to start building some kind of platform, but it’s become a lot more than that. It turns out I really like blogging. I love building my blog, I love connecting with other people and I love the confidence it’s given me over the course of a few months.
I think like anything you have to do it for the right reasons. If it’s to make tons of money or get a million readers, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and you probably won’t get either (lots of money or lots of readers).
blogging has surpassed my expectations. I started my blog because as a writer hoping to become published, I was “supposed” to have an online presence. I expected it to be a weekly exercise that perhaps my mom and close friends might read…
I’ve found betas, critters, friends, my agent, and almost 400 followers through blogging. Oh, and I also find lots of great book recs as a result!
blogging FTW! 😀
All I know is that I’ve been able to connect to so many wonderful writers that I wouldn’t have had to chance to without the blog, seeing as I’m in Greece. Really, I could not live without it.
You raise some really great points. I’ve thought along these lines off and on, especially when I am tired and have a lot on my plate. I sometimes wonder if we are all running around, just keeping up and being social, or trying to get followers, or if we are really giving or gaining anything through the experience. I think it’s a matter of intent and goals. Bottom line for me? Yes, I think it’s worth it. 🙂
When someone googles my name, my blog and website come up. It is a place for people to find me who might be looking for me. People have contacted me through my blog and paid for me to go across the country for appearances. Thus, even though children (my intended audience) don’t read my blog per se, having a blog has helped me connect with young readers in this way.
I really did start blogging because I saw that’s what other writers were doing.
And of course I would love that it will help sell my books one day (but generally it won’t), but I truly do love all the supportive writing friends because of it. And that’s why I keep going. I love the comradrie; I love congratulating others on their writing successes. I love how much I do learn (or am entertained) on other blogs. Oh, and I love posting pictures of rock stars. 🙂
This is a great post, and I think about this A LOT… and I question why I’m blogging A LOT, and it helps to read how other writers think about it. I would say that why I started (to build the platform) and why I continue (the connections I’ve made and to get my writing read somewhere) are pretty vastly different. So, while I agree that I should be spending the majority of time on writing (non blog,non twitter) and developing my craft, I also think that making those friendships and connections, so I don’t feel alone and unread, have truly made me a better and more productive writer.
Thank you everyone! You’ve all made such wonderful comments that mirror the way I feel about blogging. It has only been beneficial. I’m sure once we have a book coming out that our style, our focus will change a bit – that’s to be expected. But I love knowing my friends – all of you – are with me on the way. And I’m there for you too! 🙂
Excellent post! Blogging is as effective as you make it, hows that for a random generality? I know writers who are much more comfortable getting out there and talking face to face and promoting that way, so for them blogging isn’t as effective. It’s a matter of finding what works for you and then doing the very best with that vehicle.
You’re so right, Laura, that it depends on why you’re blogging in the first place. I do think blogging is a great way to meet fellow writers. Is it a great way to sell books? Mmmm…I’m not sure.
For me, it’s mostly about the camaraderie. When I’ve taking blogging breaks, that’s what I miss the most–communicating with other writers, many of whom I now consider friends. I also find blogging a good writing tool.
I do know that agents and editors — not necessarily all of them — are still asking new authors to blog, if they aren’t doing so already. Not that they’re requiring it, but as a way of exploring building an online presence with the writer. I blog because it just seemed like the most natural way to ME to start networking. Though I don’t expect it to have a tremendous direct effect on sales, those who visit my blog will hear about my books, and it’s one way of building word of mouth. I am so NOT a natural word-of-mouth person; I need all the help I can get that fits within the time I can spend. 🙂 I use blogging as an adjunct to my website (big blog link on it), like an extra page of the site, and that’s where the updating is done, so the site doesn’t seem too static. The blog adds a personal dimension; a site itself can seem rather distant.
I’ve never been much of a blogger and I’m inconsistent with following other blogs (except yours, Laura!) I do know though, that my blog is there for me, that connection to everyone else out there who is writing and reading, and I like that.
Laura – I absolutely LOVE this post. I want to hug it. I’m weighing in (not nearly as in depth or well as you though) on my Thursday post. You just put it so very well. 😀
I struggle with this too – so much of what I reap from blogging has very little to do with reaching readers. A lot of it is just me … being me. Part of me being me is I like to share and interact, so it makes sense for me to blog (I think). But I’m very aware that there are many, many successful writers with 30 followers on their blog and little in the way of online presence. I think we each have to find their own way.
(p.s. I was afraid you were hanging up your spurs! Glad to see that’s not the case.)
I started blogging because I’d just returned home from a conference where we were told every writer should have one. I did it reluctantly seeing it as another chore.
But, that’s not what it turned out to be at all. I found it to be a wonderful way to connect with other writers, find my non-fiction voice, my author persona, and it provides a somewhat static place for people to find me if they’re looking. And now that I’m about to publish, it’s a place for me to locate my “store”.
I already know I don’t reach thousands, and that my blog alone isn’t enough to generate loads of sales, but despite that, it’s been so worth it. At the end of the day, sales aren’t everything. (though some my beg to differ :))
I don’t even remember why I started blogging, but now I do it to make sure I write something every day and also for connecting, etc etc. I’ve been doing it for so long now it just seems natural.
I’m still not convinced blogging will make a difference in book sales. Only a great book with good word of mouth will do that. Yes, it’s part of an online platform. I want people to know the real me, to an extent, and that’s who I show in my blog. But is it worth the time? I’m not sure. Writing the book has to be the first priority. And I know some people say that blogging doesn’t have to take much time, but I disagree. Some of my posts – like Thriller Thursdays – require a lot of research and time. I’m not going to put something out there with my name on it that’s rushed through, and I’m pretty sure most other bloggers feel the same way. So it DOES take time. It’s a question of balance.
What I do know is that blogging has helped my writing, helped with deadlines, helped in writing more concise pieces, and provided a network of people I’m learning a lot from.
I find it narrow thinking when people tout that writing blogs or blogs that contain a writer audience are ineffective because they do not ‘target the reading audience’. Bunk!
My fiction is Middle Grade. My target readers are not reading my blog. Teachers and Librarians are however, and they are often the gatekeepers to this market. 🙂 But let’s forget that for a moment. Let’s also forget the fact that writers are readers, and are themselves a buying audience. I do not, and never will, look at blog readers as cash cows.
My blog has connected me to thousands of writers all over the world who I have learned from and who have learned from me.
I have built personal relationships with hundreds of writers who are as passionate about seeing me succeed as I am about seeing them succeed. They can come to me for help when they need it, and I know I can turn to them for advice and help down the road when I am launching my debut novel.
Through blogging, I have accessed a wealth of information and experience far greater than what any workshop, how to book or single degree program could have given me. I believe this 100 %.
I have been asked to run workshops and speak at conferences. Did I mention I’m unpublished? How could this even happen? Oh yes…my blog.
Becca and I have been approached by a publisher about turning blog content into a book.
I have found strength, support and friendship by the bucket loads. Without this, I likely would not be on the writing path today. I am in debt to everyone who has ever spared me a kind word, an ear of support and offered me a fantastic attitude to emulate (like you, Laura!)
So, for me, the “What has you blog done for you?” is a no brainer. it’s single-handedly changed my career by allowing me to grow and learn, interact with passionate people, and allow me to become known to the world-at-large in ways I could never have imagined.
Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
Good post. I’ve frequently wondered about this myself. But I think you at least need to have a stake in the ground on the web.
Great thoughts everyone. I don’t think anyone really knows the direct impact of sales from blogging. But I think that when a reader looks you up and finds an interactive blog where they can contact you via email and twitter and you have updated posts – it means they will like you even more. And yes, Stacy, it does take time. We just have to budget well and know when to stop. But I do think the days are gone where all you have to do is write in your cave until you have a finished product. HOnestly? I wouldn’t want to go back to it. I’ve met too many great people. And I don’t think I grasp the extent to which other unpublished and published writers’ opinions on writing and publishing and life have helped my writing.
It’s just good to evaluate your goals. Why do you blog? Are you reaching your goals? Do you enjoy it? Could anything be changed or improved?
This is one of those six of one and half a dozen of the other things. Blogging is something I went into kicking and screaming. I surprised myself by liking it.
I’ve learned how to have confidence in my writing. I’ve met some fantastic people. I would be hard-pressed to go back to my writing solitude. I’ve met a critique partner. I’ve gotten valuable feedback on my fiction–and I think that’s integral to a writer’s growth. I’m now searchable by any agents or editors I query. I do think that’s a plus.
However, as Stacy says, putting on a blog with quality material guzzles time. I suspect I will soon go to blogging two days a week in order to keep my quality. I do think that’s a choice many of us eventually have to make–quality vs. quantity. And, if you can’t get any work-in-progress writing done because of the blogging…then what is it all for?
Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing right. I clicked over here from your tweet and see you have a highly engaged audience. I’ll follow you now. I have no idea whether that will ever make you a dime, but there you have it.
Social media drives people nuts because it cannot be measured with metrics. But, just because it cannot be measured, doesn’t mean it isn’t am important part of our profession.
No, writers should never, ever blog at the expense of the WIP, but these days when everyone can be published???? We must up our game to stand apart.
Writing a quality book has a 93% failure rate according to BEA statistics. If we write an excellent book, even with a traditional contract and gatekeeper approval, the statistics are still dismal. Only one in ten published authors will see a second book in print. Over 90% of books published sell less than 100 copies.
Writers, historically, have had no control over their futures and we were at the mercy of the Fates. Now we have social media.
There are only two ways to sell books. Good book and word of mouth. Period. We always had control over writing a good book, but word of mouth was impossible to generate.
Finally writers have a way to get in the mix and control word of mouth. I would say that fortune favors the bold. Those who can write great books and blogs and authentically connect and network via social media will rise to the top. And those who want to feel this stuff is optional? I hate to say it, but Vegas has better odds.
There might be authors who are successful on a book alone, but they are steadily shrinking and will go extinct as society becomes increasingly addicted to technology.
The digital age author has more challenges and more work than any author in human history, BUT we also have the most opportunity IF we are willing to put in the work.
Great post and thanks for sharing.
I’m glad we have a bit more influence over word of mouth but that only goes so far if a book doesn’t match up to expectations. At some point the book takes over in a magical awesome way – or in the way of not many sales. Buzz is buzz. I think it only goes so far. So yes, we can get the ball rolling and for that, I’m glad.
I’ve really enjoyed reading these comments.
I think if you’re blogging b/c that’s what you think is going to “break you out” or “find you an agent” or “” then yes, it could be a waste of your time.
I think most people blog for the community of it. At least that’s why I blog.
The only thing that is going to get you to where you really want to go is finish a great book.
Blogging for me is about connecting with other people, not about book sales. I am hoping book promotions will eventuate as a happy coincidence when I get to that point. I expect they will also be a whole lot easier since I’ve spent the time to build up online friendships through blogging.
I do agree we should spend more time writing and learning the craft of writing than we should in social media. I’m starting to see in my habits a tip in the balance because I’ve got a bigger following and it takes time to try to stay connected with a greater number of people. I will have to do something to cut back my social media time, but I’m not sure yet what that might be–maybe in my responses to people’s comments, maybe have set days to visit people rather than every day except the weekend… I’m not sure. I don’t want anyone to feel snubbed because those connections matter to me.
I think if you’re blogging for the right reasons, it’ll be worthwhile whether it helps you in the business sense or not — though that’s definitely an important aspect. For me, the worst part is finding the balance between blogging and writing. Interesting post!
But I don’t think genius can be copied and have the same outcomes.
I absolutely agree with this. Business-wise, genius usually occurs when someone knows their product, themselves, and their audience, and tailors their efforts to uniquely meet all of those needs. The hard part is figuring all of that out. That’s why I don’t worry too much about it. I blog in an effort to share knowledge I’ve learned and to offer ideas that other writers can use. You reap what you sow, and I’ve reaped so much knowledge and encouragement from the other writers in this community. The give and take is the payoff for me. And if that results in more (eventual) book sales through friendships I’ve made and online buzz through those relationships, all the better.
Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse
At the moment, I’m fully invested in my writing, so blogging has definitely taken a backseat. It’s just the way it is. Do I sometimes miss having a more constant role in the blogging/Twitter/Facebook universe? Sure. But it’s such a huge distraction from my writing, and for me, that’s the number one objective. I’ve found blogging only once or twice a week helps me to catch up on some other blogs and reply to comments left on mine, though. So for now, that’s all I’ll do. I’m hopeful that it won’t be problematic.
This is such an interesting post, Laura. And I’ve read with interest through the comments.
As Kristen Lamb says, if you want to get your book out there, you do have to put yourself in the spotlight–unless you don’t really care about selling many copies.
But trying to balance promotion, which does involve a certain amount of immersion in social media, and also have time to write a second book–that is the problem. At least that’s what *I’m* discovering.
Right now I’m trying to “clean up” my blog roll, deleting those who never reciprocate with a comment at least occasionally, and those with whom I don’t feel connected.
I’m one who started a blog because my publisher told me to–and I’m glad I did. I love the friendships I’ve made, friendships I don’t want to lose even if I never write another book. And of course if you have a lot of followers, it’s impossible to keep up with comments and do everything else in a day that you have to do.
I like what Becca says above: “You reap what you sow, and I’ve reaped so much knowledge and encouragement from the other writers in this community.” That’s exactly how *I* feel!!
Very interesting, Laura! Sorry it took a couple of days for me to get over here. I agree with the poster who said–“depends on how you define effective?”
For me, the connection to the writing community, and (as Alicia also said) forcing myself to write content–as well as giving myself a forum to build my platform–were the reasons for building my blog. I started it to document my journey, just for myself. But it’s grown with me over time.
What is my platform? Well, that’s still evolving. I love being able to interview other authors, share news, write book reviews, and join in blog series.
It’s been totally worth it. Will it sell books? No idea. It certainly won’t be my only marketing strategy. But it will play a role in my marketing plan.
I’ve been struggling with the answer to this for a while. I’ve gained so much by blogging, learned about writing and the publishing industry and made some great friends. But I wonder if it’s time to step back, reassess my needs, the point of my blog for where I am now, and figure out how to change and grow with it. It’s a lot to think about.
Thanks everyone! I think we’re all in agreement that it’s important to read and write, read craft books and actively try to get better. I don’t think it just happens.
I way behind in reading everyone’s posts. It’s been a heck of a week. I love blogging, love the supportive community, feel like I’m getting an on-going education I couldn’t get anywhere else, and am meeting some wonderful people that I think will turn out to be life-long friends. I’m becoming very invested in many other bloggers, and I’m hoping for success for all of them. I’m not counting on my blogging to sell books. At least not in this economy when buying a book is a luxury to many people right now. Blogging is great therapy and very fulfilling, but once a week is enough for now. I’m overwhelmed with all the irons I have in the fire.