Should You Join the Bloggernaut?

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6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970b 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.

Or not.


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.)

JohnnyM


JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and MyTango.com, among others. To learn more about him, visit johnmeils.com.



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6 comments

  1. I began blogging a while back when I first started my current WIP. I was under some of the same impressions John talked about - needing "platform," finding a following, meeting contacts and making friends. So I wrote a lot about my novel and about my passion for writing. And no one read it. No one commented it. I had a decent amount of page views but hardly more than a handful of followers. I couldn't start a discussion. Why?
    Because no one knew who the heck I was! And all I did was talk about a book that wasn't finished that nobody had read. Sure, I wrote some stuff on that blog that I really still like... but I was my biggest follower.
    I finally realized that I needed to be interesting; to do something different. Make the blog about my life and maybe not just about one story that was on its third draft. So I decided to ditch the old blog. My wife and I found out in September of last year that we were going to have a baby. Our first. It was with that in mind that I started my second blog. I asked her to contribute with me. We would talk about the journey of pregnancy and into the birth of our son (who came into the world May 11, 2010!) That way our friends and family could keep updated and along the way I could throw in a few posts about writing and trying to achieve that dream, hand-in-hand with my dream of becoming a father.
    This blog, called Creating Life, has seen a much better response. Our family and friends enjoy it and I've met a few fellow bloggers who were drawn to it not by the story in my head, but by the story I was living. I've even had the opportunity to guest blog on other sites! I think that having an "angle" of some sort - the way John has with his travels - always makes for a more interesting read. The standard "[insert name here] - Aspiring Author" blog really might not do what you want it to do. If you're gonna spend so much time with something, make it interesting! Make it about community. That's why we all do this blog nonsense in the first place - to meet people. Put your best - and hopefully most unique - foot forward.
    Happy blogging!
    Geoff
    http://creatinglifegm.blogspot.com

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  2. I know that the blogging platform Tumblr is an incredibly easy way to express yourself online. There are many options that make it possible for different people to showcase their best qualities, whether those qualities are art, music, business or writing.
    I use Tumblr now. My main blog is very personal and doesn't have much in the way of creativity yet, but I'm hoping to start one up that showcases my writing. I'm also planning to start a blog with some friends in which we simulate a zombie infestation, so that should be fun.
    Check me out. http://the-kreative.com

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  3. I started my humor blog to get back into professional writing after owning a web development company for 13 years. It quickly made me realize how much I missed what I had always thought I was meant to do - write. Since I started I've found the ideas are flowing faster and better, I'm coming up with potential article ideas, and I think of funny lines or ideas to include in the fiction novel I'm almost done. I don't get paid for blogging, and I won't junk it up with advertising - for me it is like exercising my writing muscle - and I'm getting more and more "buff" every day!
    My blog: http://www.KidFreeLiving.com
    PS: As a web developer I definitely recommend WordPress!

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  4. I've actually started with Tumblr a month ago and I got an amount of followers. Then I created a blogspot site where I post most of my writings. I actually post there, what I call, weekly confessions. It's quite like a short story collection about different secrets of random people. Right now, I'm finding another way to gain more readers. Definitely, blogging really helps writers in gathering followers and getting noticed.
    My blog: http://fromzorenwithlove.blogspot.com

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  5. Having heard from a few agents that both a web site AND a blog are expected of writers these days, as, by and large, you must do most of your own PR, I began one at the end of January of this year.
    Yes, it is hard work. I post several times each day, on a schedule, to entice the web-spiders (Google, Yahoo! and Bing), and the work is paying off.
    My novel FIVE took top honors here at WEbook last year, but I've never felt that I was building a big enough "platform".
    The blog, Uphill Writing is opening things up for me in a way I had never expected.
    My primary blog is at: http://UphillWriting.org

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  6. I started a blog several months ago on Tumblr. Its a real easy interface and I've racked up almost 3,000 followers. It does take some work though. The nice thing about Tumblr is you can reblog other bloggers blog entries. This way you always have fresh content and build followers. Once I had a sizable following on Tumblr I started a project on kickstarter to raise funds to produce a book of my short stories. I raised a little over $1,200 and my book will be out in a few weeks.
    message me on tumblr at http://www.hookersorcake.com/ we can follow each other and if I like your stuff, I'll reblog it and all of my 2,800+ followers will see it.

    ReplyDelete

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