Tuesday, April 22, 2008

author blogging

I had lunch with one of my favorite authors today (okay, you got me... I have 25 favorite authors. Maybe 35.). We talked about some of the marketing plans for her book and she asked what my thoughts were about blogging. Should she set up a web page and start a blog? She wasn't sure what she would say, for example. What interest would people have in her?

I'm not a scientist, but I do have some thought about this from my experience. Coincidentally, I got back from lunch to find this post on Joe Wikert's blog, which links back to this post about 14 rules for an author blog/web site. Both good posts that I fundamentally agree with. Here are my personal further thoughts.

Of course, most people who are reading this are bloggers already. But maybe this will be some incentive to keep blogging even as writing and other things take over your life.

My author's excellent questions and my answers, in a nifty and informative Q&A format:

Should an author get a web page?
Yes. No question. People will google you, and it's better if the first hit is your web page than, say, an Amazon page with your book on it (since you can't control that content).

Should an author blog?
Yes! It's like an author tour that never ends. It's free publicity.

When should s/he get the blog up and running (ideally)?
If you can, start about a year before your pub date (for those of you who are ahead of that, congratulations! You'll have a nice strong backlist and even more friends.). Basically, get it up and running asap.

How often should an author post?
I think once a week is a great guideline. This doesn't have to be every Monday at 2 pm; I just mean that there should be fairly regular posts so there is new, fresh content periodically to keep people checking in. You don't have to let your blog run your life (as some of us, erm, them have been known to do). If you want to post more (google seems to think my post average is 17.7 a week!! That can't be right, can it?), go for it. Blogging shouldn't be daunting.

What kinds of stuff can an author write about on a blog?
You name it. Obviously, your publishing and writing experience are interesting to wannabe authors, and posts about your book content are interesting to your book fans (once you're published) and any specialty market that might be related. Posts about your kids are interesting to other people with kids, and posts about Ello's kids are interesting to everyone in the entire world (as, incidentally, are fart jokes, apparently). People who come to my supposedly industry-relevant blog tend to be interested in my mother and her conditions. You'll find your comfort zone and what you're good at talking about.

That said, remember to only say things you can believe in and stand by, and try to be as nice as possible. Things that are released on the internet are potentially available for ever--web publishing is, after all, a form of publishing. What you say on the internet becomes part of your author platform. Just, generally, you make more friends (and fewer enemies) if you keep it nice.

Would people be interested?
Well, yeah. As an author with an agent and/or a book contract (or one who will have one shortly), your experience and trajectory are naturally interesting to all the people who want to be authors some day. They'll come for advice and for inspiration.

Also, I'm not even an author with ANY kind of book deal, and, let's face it, a lot of the crap I post here is totally uninformative. And yet people keep reading.

How can an author drive traffic and make e-friends?
Again, this is a no-brainer to most people who traffic blogs, but in case a neophyte stumbles across this list... I remember those (not so distant) days that I was trying desperately to drive traffic (because I like attention and for no other productive reason). It was pretty easy to find people who might be interested in me--I did google searches for related blogs and set up subscriptions and started commenting on them. I set up google search subscriptions on certain keywords to see when other people posted on those topics and what they had to say. That way, I had a better chance of finding people on the internet who'd be interested in what I had to say. I made myself an expert on my topic (in theory). Then people started linking to me.

I like to think my personal experience is applicable. Although I haven't written a book, I like to believe that if I had (and you knew who I was) a lot of you would be more likely to buy it than you would if, say, we'd never e-met. ;) I know I've bought a lot of books by or recommended by people I've met on the internet.

My humble thoughts.


Natalie said...

All great advice. I think networking through the internet is an aspiring author's best friend. What better, cheaper way to reach a lot of people? A lot of people who could eventually buy your book.

Of course, making friends and learning about the business are good things too. I've learned a lot about publishing by cruising the blogs.

Julie Weathers said...

Good job. I have been quite amazed at some of the stuff I learn on these blogs.

And, yes, I confess, I love Momrat and Dadrat.


Lisa said...

Speaking not as a blogger, but more as someone who reads author blogs, I agree with everything you've said. The thing that keeps me going back to most writer and newbie author blogs is that my favorites are interesting, nice people.

I've run across author blogs I didn't enjoy as much, mainly because the author's purpose was blatant self-promotion only and it was transparent.

As much as I do love to hear about a pubbed or nearly pubbed author's experiences in the publishing world, I want to get a feel for who they are, not just see a schedule of upcoming signings.

Sarahlynn said...

Very refreshing! Most agent and editor blogs I've read reccommend keeping the blog professional. In other words, you don't want to turn off potential book buyers by revealing your politics, and no one wants to hear about the fight you had with your husband or your kid's potty nightmare, etc.

I don't find that true of myself - well, with the exception of now knowing that I hate Orson Scott Card's politics and will read his books from the library only from now on -

Oh, never mind. I do like the idea that I might not have to make my current blog anonymous and start a second, professional one if/when I finish a book to my satisfaction and actually sell it.

(I started my blog before I tried writing a novel, and I started my website between draft 1 of my first novel (now in draft 2) and draft 1 of my second novel.)

Kalynne Pudner said...

What's your take on the rule (from the "14 Rules" link) about blog-publishing your book in its entirety? If the whole thing is available online, wouldn't that discourage an editor from picking it up?

Thanks for the rest of your advice. I've found I like my blog voice better than I like my novel voice. Now to figure out how to capitalize on that preference...

Brian said...

The odd thing is that I have mixed feelings on this. I always encourage my authors to blog, even when it feels like they're blogging in a vacuum. If they're a newbie author, I encourage them also to visit the blogs of writers they like (and whose audience might be similar to their own) and leave comments in order to attract attention back to their blog. (But nothing like, "Oh, and please check out my blog..." I tell them to just be pithy and succint and you'll be found.)

On the other hand, there's the argument that a writer should channel all their creative energy into their next book. I know several midlist authors (does the midlist exist anymore?) who openly admit that blogging is a WONDERFUL form of procrastination (they can rationalize that it's still writing, just not what they should be working on). I heard Michael Chabon speak once where he said he made an attempt at blogging but quickly gave it up when he found it was taking away from his work.

So, as a publicist, I encourage my authors to blog. Secretly, I harbor the opinion that whether or not to blog is very much like any "rule of writing": you have to do what works best for you. If you can sustain an entertaining venue for communicating with your readership AND keep the creative juices flowing for your next book, do it. If you feel it detracts from your work, either cut back on the posts or just give it up.

All IMHO, of course.

writtenwyrdd said...

Great post, moonrat!

Daniel W. Powell said...

It really is a boon to networking. My readership has slowly expanded and a good web journal is a great way of archiving your progress and trials with the writing.

This is an excellent post, and I think it really speaks to all the different duties a writer needs to consider in his or her quest to get the word out.

Colorado Writer said...

Thank you for the great post.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds pretty good to me, and I've generally followed this pattern and had some success at building my blog traffic and keeping people reading, and have sold some books.

I think commenting on other folk's blogs and linking to them is very important. I tend to post more than once a week and I think it's a good thing to start out doing more frequent posts and then you can let up a bit once you've established yourself.

green_knight said...

As a writer, I like interacting with other writers - I love reading about their books, their processes, their experience with the industry. As a reader, I like to hear about interesting blogs, from writers, readers, reviewers. As a human being, I like reading blogs about interesting people.

What I don't like (and don't read) are author blogs where someone is using the medium to advertise. I get so much advertising shoved at me, I am *not* going to seek out more. The more you push, the less likely I am to read your book, and I am rather annoyed when I am not treated as someone to talk to, but someone to push a product to.

What concerns me is that I'm seeing more and more demand for 'platform.' Writers, agents and editors talk about building a presence, on the web and otherwise, being publicity savvy, but what they don't talk about much is how to write a better book. The one thing that guarantees that I will pick up a book and consider it is having read a previous book by that author. The one thing that guarantees that I will go out and buy it without looking at it is when that previous book has blown me away.

Interacting with that author - and having the feeling they read my blog *not* to blow their own trumpet, but because they are interested in what I write - comes second, but there are only so many people you can have that kind of relationship with. Your books, on the other hand, can reach thousands of people, who, if you've written a brilliant book, will be only too happy to talk about them to their friends.

Julianne Douglas said...

Meeting other people who share your interests is the best part about blogging! I've only been blogging since January and have already made some wonderful virtual friendships.

One thing I've found incredibly helpful was to install a site meter on my blog which lets me know where my readers are linking from or what they type into Google so that they wind up at my site. I make sure to thank other bloggers who link to me and try to return the favor. As for the Google thing, it reveals what topics for future posts have the greatest potential for attracting new readers.

(Thanks for all the great advice, Moonrat! Although I don't comment too often, I'm a devoted reader of your site. It's so helpful to hear what's going on on your side of the desk as I fidget here in submission hell. {s})

writtenwyrdd said...

I think green knight summed up my feelings pretty well. I don't like feeling used by reading a blog; I like feeling like the writer's blog friend. Big difference.

It's great to mention your book. But if it feels like that's all the writer is blogging for, then I don't stick around much.

Some well established writers have great informational posts on writing craft, and I like that content very much, too!

I'm not sure I ever want to blog as the real me. I like the anonymity, perhaps too much!

Dennis Cass is . . . said...

Thanks to Moonrat for the post, and a big thanks to green_knight for pointing out the fine line between getting yourself out there and naked self-promotion.

I ran my first blog as a promo blog and have now realized my mistake. So what to do? Spike it? Fix it?

And here is another question:

Is it better to be online badly or to not be online at all?

The Anti-Wife said...

What they all said - especially about blatant self-promotion and nothing else. Boring!

Thanks for the info.

Mary Witzl said...

I started my blog entirely for selfish reasons, because an author friend told me it was a good way to get my work read. Writing into a vacuum is hard, and I longed to know that someone -- anyone, really -- was reading what I wrote. It is enormously gratifying to me that people do read what I've written.

Oddly, though, if any of my manuscripts got published, I have wondered if I would even bother mentioning it on my blog. I seldom write about the process of writing or the manuscripts that I am writing, though I have been lucky enough to find both critique partners and excellent beta readers through blogging. The blogosphere is like a second home; a place where I can talk to other writers and compare notes. Reading what they write and commenting on it is as much fun as writing and getting read.

Ello said...

Could we write a book that includes my kids and your Mom, Dad and Aunda in it? I think it would be a bestseller!

Anonymous said...

EA, great advice. I wonder, however, about the "be as nice as possible." what if you're writing/brand/character (whatever) is supposed to be snarky, sarcastic, etc?

cyn said...

i can't choose which i love more--your informative posts or your random ones about rally monkey and momrat. =D

and yay! at least i'm blogging already. doing something right!

Christine Fletcher said...

Anonymous 12:13, there's a line between snarky-funny and snarky-mean. Smart Bitches Trashy Books is good example. Profanely, often hilariously snarky about their chosen subject--but they treat people with respect.

I just found this blog, EA--great post!

Maud Newton said...

Some very viable and interesting suggestions here, but personally I'm not persuaded that every author should blog.

While I've discovered a number of very good writers because of their blogs, I've also been affimatively dissuaded by banal bloggy chatter, terrible grammar, offensive musings, and whatnot from picking up books I might otherwise have read.

Conversely, in some cases, I've actually read and enjoyed a book and then encountered the author's site and found his or her blogging unappealing for whatever reason. I might not have picked up those books had I read the blog first.

Maud Newton said...

A quick clarification to the comment I just left: Obviously anyone who wants to blog should blog. I'm just not sure it's in every author's best interest to start a blog in order to promote his or her books.

Precie said...

Thanks so much for that detailed and thoughtful post!

You've been quiet of late. I hope all is well, and you're enjoying life...not trapped under a pile of dead trees. :)

Demon Hunter said...

Great advice, Moonie! I come here to learn so many things from ya. ;*)Ello and the kids make me laugh/smile quite often. That woman and her kids always make my day, as well as you, Moonie. :*)

Josephine Damian said...

Moonrat, my huckleberry friend, I'm running a whole series on blogging for published authors as well as wanna-be's.

Here's Part One:


Here's Part Two:


And more to come!

Ari said...

I won't echo the bandwagon other than to give a plug for author Poppy Z. Brite's blog.

As to the larger point of whether an author should blog or not, why specify an author? Take a look at Paul Levy's blog, as the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston muses not just on medical stuff about running a hospital, but intersperses his blog with stuff about vacations and Facebook.

I think Mr. Levy is admirable to have a daily blog. Whether *he* posts each entry or a staffer does, I don't know. But that's not the point either, as any successful author could have a blog with entries posted by any number of people.

Which brings me to ghost blogging. Hmm?