Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Blogging to Build Readership: Does It Work? Your Thoughts

Kevin Radthorne emailed me the other day to suggest we discuss the topic of blogging, specifically whether or not blogging authors out there have developed readers through their blogs. In his email he asked:

“for authors, are they able to see any measurable sales results from having started blogging? I ask this because blogging is the hot topic of the moment, and everybody's jumping on that bandwagon. However, most of the authors I've talked to about it primarily cite the connections to other authors' blogs. That, to me, does not seem to be their target audience, which should be readers. I don't get much sense that readers are spending a lot of time at writer's blogs.”

To me this topic covers a lot of different sub-topics that relate to why an author should even have a website and some sort of forum (be it a blog or a message board or a newsletter) to discuss their work and writing process at all. As this is something I want to discuss in depth, I’ll open up the discussion to your first and work from our comments.

How many of you—as authors—have noticed measurable sales results from your blog? Do you believe that this information is quantifiable (so you see hits through your Amazon link, etc)?

How many of you—as readers—have bought books by authors you have discovered through their blogs? What made you decide to pick up their book?

Given that the onus is on authors these days to do as much promotion as they can, and that most blog programs provide a free format that allows for easy updates without waiting for your webmaster do it for you, have you found blogging to be a worthwhile experience in the promotion of your books?

I want to get as many opinions on this as possible, so please ask your author friends and neighbors. The results of marketing and publicity, and the impact they actually have on book sales, can be hard to quantify especially in the online realm. While reader (and author) testimonials can’t stand for facts, they can highlight why people read blogs and what drives them to buy.

I look forward to reading your thoughts.


Robin Lemke said...

Aren't authors also readers? I'm an unpublished author with a blog and I love the connections I've made with other authors - I've also bought most of their books. So I think it's a win win. :)

Anna said...

As a fan, I like having a connection to authors I like, a way to know what they're up to and when I can expect their next book. I think it makes authors seem less like strangers and more like people I know, so I'm more likely to want to buy their books instead of borrowing them from a friend or the library. In short, I don't know if you gain new readers with a blog, but I think the blog help keep the readers you already have and that seems pretty important to me.

Princess Allie said...

I like what kalika said. Sadly, I do have a myspace and went on one of my favorite authors myspace and saw a bunch of up and comming authors who had there covers of there books up. It got me wanting to investigate what they were all about. I end up reading there blogs and there adventures as an up and comming author. Makes me want to read there book even more when it comes out. Specially, if they seem personable. To me the blogging works.

RandomRanter said...

I have bought books from authors I discovered in blogland.
Blogs give me a chance to get to know a person's writing style before I plunk down my bucks. I read a lot, so I am always looking for new authors.
Also for authors I already love, I agree with Kalika that it helps me keep up with that they are doing, and when stuff is out, and to feel closer to them. It doesn't mean I don't read people without blogs, but it sure can help.

Keilexandra said...

I rarely buy books that I haven't already read and adored, but I've certainly picked up at least one book from the library because I stumbled upon her blog (ALL THE FISHES COME HOME TO ROOST, by Rachel Manija Brown--rachelmanija on LiveJournal).

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I've ever bought a book based on an author's blog, but I've definitely been introduced to magazines and anthologies that included bloggers' work. There are relatively few established authors whose day-to-day life and ramblings are that interesting to me, but I've definitely found some quality short story writers this way.

Anonymous said...

I've only ever had one purchase come out of my having a blog. But I'm also a self-published author/full-time student, so my blog is basically the only way to maintain interest.

Shanna Swendson said...

I only have anecdotal evidence rather than actual sales results, but I have heard from a number of readers who read my blog first, and then bought my books. Some came for writing-related topics, others found me through various LiveJournal communities where I also post or were referred by friends.

I think the primary benefit of my blog is for keeping the existing readers fired up to go spread word of mouth. They feel like they know me, so they're more emotionally invested in getting people to read my books.

I don't know that I've read a blog of an author I hadn't already read, but oddly, I find a lot of good book recommendations from other authors' blogs when they talk about the books they love. Maybe the key isn't so much to use your own blog to promote your own books, but to hope that other authors will talk about your books on their blogs.

Christine Fletcher said...

I started blogging because my agent and editor said all authors need to blog, and also because I thought it would be fun to try. But I was hazy on what the blog was really FOR. Pushing my own book? Bleah. Rambling on about my day? Please. Not even my dog is interested in my day, most days. (“She sat and make the clicky noises with her fingers…I fell asleep…woke up… still making clicky noises. Isn’t it dinnertime yet?”)

So I mostly post on topics that interest me and that I think will interest other people. I doubt I’ve sold any books as a direct result. But if it takes time, and isn't selling books, is it worthwhile continuing? Yes, because it's an open door, a way for people to connect, and that's important to me. Plus I'm still learning about tone, and focus, and voice, and that makes it fun.

Thinking about this has made me realize that my own favorite blogs are either snarkily funny -- a voice I could never pull off myself, btw (barista brat, Go Fug Yourself) or are great sources of information (Booksquare, here). Interestingly, I haven’t stuck much with other authors’ blogs. More food for thought...

Anonymous said...

I personally have purchased my last six books based upon either the author's blog (because I was a subscriber to it) or another blog that did a review of the book OR interview with the author as part of a "virtual book tour."

The 4-hour Work Week best seller completely built a marketing plan around the author's blog and others to build the promotion needed for the book.

Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist has significantly added sales through her own blog as well as virtual book tours at other blogs.

I would also point to The Long Tail as another book that published because of a blog.

The key to promoting your book on your blog is to consistently write articles on your blog about the topic of the book, not promoting the book itself.

So, yup, technology can help market your work. But you have to use it the right way.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments, all. Scott, I note that some of your success examples are non-fiction, and I could see blogging working in that realm when the focus of the blog is on the subject of the book. But do you think the same truism would hold true for fiction? (Just tossing out questions for discussion/debate here...).

I think as well that Christine makes a very good point, and it's one I've made to BSC as well, that the successful bloggers also have a particular talent for writing blogs (such as BSC displays). They can take the mundane or the complicated and make it interesting, funny, and readable. But that in itself is a particular writing talent, and not every writer will be good at doing that as opposed to their normal mode of writing.

I certainly agree with BSC that every writer needs an online presence, whether that be a website, blog, message boards, or some combination. It's that combination part that is the question of the moment. As Christine noted, "everyone" is saying you have to blog. But there are a lot of demands on the writer's available marketing time, and is trying to maintain a daily or near-daily blog that's entertaining and informative the best use of that time? Or would participation in message boards, attendance at conventions (both, perhaps, best suited for genre folks) be more direct to your potential readers? Or is keeping frequent updates of "latest news" on one's own website just as good as the blog?

One cannot deny the whole interconnectedness thing (if that's really a word...) as outlined by Shanna. But I can also see one ending up spending vast amounts of time clicking and interacting with a lot of people's sites to try and maintain the connections and visibility. You might want to do that anyway because it's fun, but is it time effective from the standpoint of your own marketing efforts, versus other online or offline activities?

And one question I will also be interested in seeing, is how many people continue to respond to this day's blog, now that BSC has posted a more recent one. If one wants to have an ongoing dialog with readers or others on a topic, does the structure of blogging (with the emphasis on the most recent entry) work against that (as opposed to a message board, for instance, where the thread stays active as long as people have things to say about it). Just another thought to toss in her to make this entry as long as possible, lol! :o)

lili said...

as an antipodean author (australia), i find my blog is a great way of making contacts overseas.

and i don't know if reading or seeing my blog makes people buy my books, but i certainly think that it raises awareness of them, and that's worth a lot in itself.

i've absolutely bought books after reading the author's blog. and i've stopped reading some authors' books after reading their blogs.

but the one thing no one has mentioned yet is: blogging is great writing practice! as a writer, it's great to have something a bit casual to exercise your ideas and writing muscles on.

Stacia said...

I know a few of my blog readers have bought my books, when they might not have had they not "met" me through the blog.

For me, I love blogs. I love reading a favorite author's thoughts on things, especially when they take time to reply or otherwise indicate that they're reading.
It gives me a reason to invest personally in that author, which is always nice.

Anonymous said...

I actually learnt about Lynn Viehl through blogland and it lead to buying one of her books.

I am an author myself, but my blog still attracts a very modest amount of traffic.

However, it has helped to make a few readers turn into fans, actually. I know for sure that I sold some sixty more copies of my first book, just by having the blog.

It's not much, I know, but it is about 5% of the total sales, so far, last year.


Angie said...

I agree with everything Kalika said. I have bought books as a result of enjoying an author's blog and I have also maintained connections to a favorite author by being subscribed to her blog. I find a lot of books that I look for at the library through virtual book tours and mentions by authors I like. I wish more of my favorite authors had blogs I could enjoy.

Kathleen said...

I'll comment as a reader.

I have absolutely purchased books because of the author's blog, and I have also purchased books because of that author's agent's blog. Further, I would not have bought them, had it not been for the blogs.

On the other hand, we are talking about maybe 6 books in total here, so I can't say that blogging is worth it for the author *just* to get book sales.

(I have also purchased books based on blog recommendations, but that seems like a different topic than you are raising here.)

TechieGirl said...

I've never bought a book just because of a blog, but I like reading authors' blogs. It helps me stay up to date with when the next book in a series is coming out, or any projects they happen to be working on. I wouldn't say that blogs improve book sales, but they keep the reader informed and that keeps sales up. I also just like knowing that the author isn't someone who's full of themselves, but that they relate to me and are as down to earth as some of the characters in their books. =)