Should You Join the Bloggernaut?05:14
I blog. Doesn’t everybody? If you’re a writer, surely you have a blog. No? Well get to it. Hurry up already and start posting something witty, profound, and useful every day. How else will you attract a legion of fans overnight, translate them into a massive book deal followed by a hit movie and millions of dollars in licensed products? You’ve always dreamed of managing your empire from a yacht, right? Well, you’re not going to get the big boat if you don’t start blogging.
Does blogging matter? Do you have to do it in order to get taken seriously as a writer? Is it necessary to have a blog in order to secure a book deal? It depends on who you ask. Agents and publishers love to throw around the word “platform.” It basically refers to a writer’s potential audience. For example, celebrities have huge platforms—they’re in movies, on talk shows, featured in magazines, etc. Millions of people know who they are and those people are more likely to buy a book by someone they know than somebody they don’t know. Non-celebrities like you and me—sure, we know some people, we might even publish a little bit here and there, but how many people will definitely buy our book? Ten, a hundred, maybe a thousand, if we’re lucky. That means a lot more work for a publisher to insure their investment in us.
Enter the blog. A successful one can have many thousands of readers, even hundreds of thousands if you’re dogged, lucky and/or popular. So you have to blog, right? How else will a publisher respect your platform? Well, successful blogging—building and maintaining a large audience—doesn’t just happen. It takes considerable effort. And if a blog has any hope of attracting readers, it has to be about something those readers care about enough to return regularly. That means posting on a schedule, which takes time and effort away from other writing you might do.
Then there’s the technical and marketing side. You can start a blog easily on any of a number of free blogging sites (Wordpress, Blogger, etc.), but if you’re going to do it seriously you’ll ultimately want to host your blog yourself, add bells and whistles to its interface, and allow for advertisements. That means either teaching yourself how to implement all this stuff or paying someone else to help you. Finally, you have to do a lot of social networking—leaving comments on other sites, befriending fellow bloggers, link exchanges—if you hope to attract readers.
Suddenly, blogging feels like a full-time job and you haven’t touched your manuscript, short story or poetry in months. Then there’s your day job, which is now getting in the way of your blog. Before you know it, blogging has taken over your life and you don’t even have a potential book to shop.
Here’s what I think: you should blog if you have something you’re passionate about and it translates into a blog platform. For example, I like to write humor and fiction and I’m currently traveling in Latin America with my girlfriend while she hunts for a job. This means we’re moving every couple of months to a new place. So I started a blog called WorldofJuan that’s essentially a humorous, quasi-fictional account of our travels.
There are two contributors, John and his Latino alter-ego, Juan (hint: they’re both me). Yes, it’s weird and no, it probably won’t get me a book deal. I only post once a week and sometimes not even that. I do host my own domain, but my interface is very basic and stripped-down at the moment. I might get 500 unique visits a month. I do it because it’s fun and it keeps my friends and family in touch with what I’m doing. Also, I’m finishing a manuscript and I don’t want to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to blogging. However, my next book will be set somewhere in Latin America and eventually I plan to ramp up WorldofJuan a bit and try to build an audience, as they would be the ideal readers for a novel set here.
For me, blogging is about fit. Does it fit with your writing goals? Do you have the fortitude to deal with some of the technical headaches that go along with it? Do you have the time and energy to do it on top of your regular writing? Or maybe you don’t care about any of this stuff and you just like to put you’re writing online for all to see—because that’s fine too!
The question of the week is: Do you think blogging is necessary for writers and why? (If you've got a blog of your own, feel free link. Self-promotion is allowed.)