So You Want to Start a Blog...

Jodi Meadows (and Mary Kole before her) talked about writers and social media -- specifically blogs and whether unpublished authors should have them. Both posts are worth reading, and I pretty much liked all of their points, but it really got me thinking. Why do I blog? It takes up a significant percentage of my available work time. Is it worth it? What have I gained?

So, as I often do, I broke it down into lists. Here we go:

GOOD REASONS TO BLOG
  1. Make friends. A blog is a place for people to get to know you, to connect with you. The writing friends I've met outside of blogging can be counted on one hand (one finger actually, and he's blogging now too, so...). You don't need a blog to make online friends, but it can help.
  2. Learn how to be interesting. Both Mary and Jodi make the point that blogs shouldn't be boring. I agree, but I think it takes time to figure out how to do that (it took me like a year and a half, and I still struggle with being interesting 3x a week).
  3. Find your blogging voice/your brand. This is related to the previous one. If you've never blogged, and you suddenly get a book deal and your publisher says, "You should really start a blog, like that Kiersten White girl," it may be difficult to just jump in and try to be funny or informative or whatever it is you're supposed to be.
  4. See if blogging is something you want to do. While it can be good to start a blog early to find your voice, it's a terrible idea to keep blogging if it's something you don't enjoy doing. There are plenty of other ways to sell books, many of which you'll probably enjoy more. It might help to learn that sooner rather than later.
  5. Practice summarizing. One common complaint about the query process is that writing a query or synopsis is so much different than writing a novel. That's true, but if you're serious about this business, summarizing your story is something you have to learn how to do. Talking about that story online is a good way to practice.

BAD REASONS TO BLOG
  1. Sell books. Blogs don't sell books. Blogs CAN BE used to make friends, and friends SOMETIMES buy books. And when you're still unpublished, they can't even do that.
  2. Impress an agent/editor. There's a myth that if you have a blog and a following, it'll make getting a book deal easier. Thing is, everyone has a blog and anyone can get a couple hundred followers if they're willing to hand out books to followers. But followers aren't always readers. Readers aren't always friends. And, as above, even friends don't always buy books.
  3. Impress your wisdom upon the world. I'm thoroughly guilty of this one. I like to tell people what I'm learning, which is fine, but it often comes out as, "I've totally got this thing figured out, you guys. It's so easy." I, uh... I don't have the authority to say that.
  4. Rant. I mean, of course you can rant a little. About angry retail customers. About whitewashed covers. About adults acting like children. But rant with class. And DON'T rant about those commercial whore sell-outs (or whatever) who are rejecting your novel.
  5. Because everyone else is doing it. This is a bad reason to do anything. Blogging's no different.


Conclusion? I think unpublished writers can benefit from blogging if their goal is to make friends and practice blogging. I don't think it's a good idea to blog in order to build a platform for books you haven't sold yet (how do I know? Oh, I know).

Blogging takes a lot of time. The skills you learn don't always translate into fiction, and may never translate into book sales. But as long as you're intentional about what you're doing, and careful to keep your priorities straight, I think blogging can be beneficial to some.

8 comments:

aspiring_x said...

great post as usual adam! one of the wonderful benefits i've received from my short time in the blogosphere is: an education! there are so many people out there posting such insightful posts, i feel like i've learned bunches from all the people i follow!

Myrna Foster said...

I started reading author blogs because I liked their books, and then I started reading their other readers' blogs (most of whom were writing). Last fall I decided it was time to jump in. It's easier to make friends as another blogger.

I don't see much point in the whole platform thing until I actually have a book to sell. And even then, it'll have to be about the friends and the fun, or it won't be fun anymore.

Adam Heine said...

aspiring: I feel the same way. It's a shame I can't follow more (so much time in the, and all that).

Myrna: Exactly. I can't see how anyone could do this if they didn't enjoy it.

fairyhedgehog said...

I love reading your posts. You come across as saying, "here's what I've just figured out" rather than as assuming any kind of authority. When your posts arrive in my google reader, I always click through to read more easily.

Oh, and I blog as an art form, like painting or crochet. I never knew how many wonderful friends I'd meet through doing it!

Adam Heine said...

Well I'm glad to know I cover my arrogance so well, fairy ;-) I like the idea of blogging as an art form. Makes a lot of sense.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Adam I think you have covered this very well. Thought provoking, as usual. I think the only person one needs to impress, when Blogging is your year 4 class teacher.

Michael LaRocca said...

Thanks for identifying the platform myth as the myth that it is. Every publisher I've dealt with doesn't ask about my platform, and they really aren't even impressed with my previous writing credits after a certain point. What really impresses them is the same thing a reader's gonna see... my latest manuscript. Well, I hope it impresses them. If not, they're gonna reject it, no matter how many Facebook friends and blog readers I've got.

Michael LaRocca said...

P.S. Thanks for making me NOT feel guilty about pulling the plug on my blog. :-)