Monday, September 10, 2007

But Do You Have to Blog?

Let’s face it, blogging takes time out of your day that you could spend writing your next manuscript. For some it is a stressor as they try to think up something witty to write about, and for others it’s a nagging task required by the publisher and the apathy that the writer feels comes through in the content.

We’ve all seen it, and some of you have even been in that position, so allow me to say something that might sound radical and totally contradictory to what I’ve previously stated here on Bookseller Chick:

You don’t have to blog.

You don’t have to do it daily.

You don’t have to do it weekly.

You don’t have to blog at all, at least not in the same way everyone else is doing it.

I’m a big fan of author blogging mostly because I’m a big fan of blogging software* that makes it possible for even the more techno-phobic author to update their fans without waiting for their webmaster to update their site. By importing blogging software into the website design or incorporating it under the news link, the author can control how the blogging software is perceived.

Instead of using it as a place to record what you feel you have to, you can use it to update readers about book news, post excerpts and answer reader questions. By enabling RSS feed, your readers can keep up on your updates without having to consistently visit your site.

If you decide to blog, I’m a big fan (but not exactly a practitioner) of the idea that your blog have sort of mission or plan: What do you plan to use this space (to cover book news, life news, writing advice, all of the above)? What do you not want to cover in this space (politics, religion, fights with friends and family, or the current state of your bathroom)? How often do you plan to update?

If you’re a planner this can help make the whole blogging experience less stressful as well as help outline what to post next. If you created your blog specifically to help promote your book as well as to let your readers know who else to check out, then write about books you like, who influences your writing, what little quirks you notice in your writing process, and your research. Think about interviewing other authors (you can use the same general set of questions if you want), or guest blogging at other sites (while never forgetting to link from your own).

Your blog is a marketing tool to sell your book to readers and to sell yourself as an author. That doesn’t mean that it has to be so blatant that “buy my book” appears in each post. Buyers are savvy people and they don’t like to feel like they’re being played. Give them something for their time and energy. Don’t be afraid to let them read excerpts before the book is released.

Do a quick survey of author blogs that you like, or blogs by authors whose books you buy, and see what they are doing. What works and what doesn’t? What could you borrow, bend, or meld into something you can use at your own blog?

Whether or not you blog, you do need a web presence to help direct your readers to where they can buy your books, and inform new readers who you are and what you right.

A good website is key, a great blog is just a bonus.

*I don’t mean just Blogger when I talk about blogging software; Livejournal, Wordpress, Typepad and others provide a great opportunity for an author looking to update quickly.


Julia Phillips Smith said...

Yes, not everyone is a blogger at heart. It's a shame to look at it as a grievous task, but if it does feel that way, I would consider giving it a miss. Great blogs have the giddy energy of the writer and that never fails to attract readers.

Christine Fletcher said...

Great series of posts!

I agree, if a writer would rather clean the cat litter than blog, the blog is more likely to hurt than help.

At the same time, I don't think writers should blow it off just because it's difficult or doesn't come naturally.

To me it's like the query letter situation. A good query letter is hell to write, because it takes radically different skills than writing the actual book. Some writers don't want to put the time and effort into it. Others resent having to write a query in the first place. In any case, we all moan about it. But we write the damn thing anyway, because we have to, and with luck we learn a few things.

Query letters are essential, and blogs aren't. But blogging skills are writing skills, after all. I figure stretching my abilities outside my comfort zone can only make me a better writer. I don't think I'll ever be a world-class blogger, but I'm pretty sure I'll keep improving...and anyway, keeping that door open to the reader is still most important.

Gail Gauthier said...

I think a good website is a necessity, a blog isn't. Readers who are new to your work really need and want to know about your books and something about you. They may not have time to get to know you through your blog, but they'll have time to browse a write-up on your books. If you really aren't up for a blog, just make sure you have a good website that you update periodically.

Anonymous said...

gail's points were partly why I initially raised the question (oh, so many long blog entries ago...) :o) I have a website, on which I post updates in a news section on the front page. They aren't chatty, nor do they attempt to make a personal connection with readers, the way BSC's and other successful blogs do. But I keep it reasonably up to date with news about what's happening with me, my books, or my artwork.

Regardless, there is a lot of peer pressure to do the blogging thing, and of course one always worries that you're "missing out" on the next great thing that will bring in legions of new readers. One aspect of it that BSC pointed out in her last blog here is a rather good one, regarding the RSS feeds - one can't expect readers to keep hopping back to your site all the time just to see if you've updated something, but establishing an RSS feed is something that alerts those receiving it that there is new content available. I like that idea!