Monday, August 1, 2011

That's not why I'm here

There's a post making the rounds today, that argues that writing a blog is a waste of time for fiction writers because (to paraphrase) even though blogging may help you meet other writers, network, and improve your craft, it will not help you sell books.

Author bloggers, she suggests, blog only as a means of self-promotion, but because they have tunnel vision and only blog about writing, they appeal only to other writers, and so do not reach an outside audience, sell no books because of their blog entries articulating the pain and terror of the revision process and on and on, until the internet becomes like unto a cat, devouring its own tail, and the world ends.

(I may have exaggerated for dramatic license at some point in that last paragraph.)

I have, you may have guessed, some thoughts on this. My first is that if you, as a fiction writer (the rules are different for nonfiction writers, who often have to demonstrate having an audience for their topic before they can get a contract) are doing anything social media related for the purpose of increasing sales, you are doing it wrong. And your readers and followers and friends can probably tell and are probably unfriending and unfollowing you so they can go read someone else.

You know what can help increase sales? A good story. If you write rubbish, the most snazzily designed and managed author platform (ugh) in the world isn't going to help you increase your sales or reach your target market or whatever the catchphrase is that we savvy writers on social media are supposed to use.

So if we're not watching the zeros on the royalty checks increase with every page view, why should writers blog? Well, I think "should" is the wrong word. And I can't speak to why other writers do so, but I do it because it gives me a way of connecting with people, or to a conversation. Do I talk about writing a lot? Well, yes. That is because what I do - a lot - is write. I have the following project files open - a novel, a book-length nonfiction project, a short story, an academic article, and a ballet. I am writing for two other websites right now. I am in the research process on a nonacademic article, and another novel (or possibly short series of novels.) That is, yea verily, a lot of writing. During the academic year, I teach literature, so, you know, more writing. 

Does that mean I only want to talk to writers? No, of course not. Does that mean I am limiting my blog audience from all the people in the world to the people who are interested in writing? Probably. But since recent search stats have shown that people who have found my blog have been looking for werewolves in New Hampshire, noseless Greek mathematicians, and the most beautiful girls in the world, I'm not too concerned.


  1. I'm a musician, not a writer. I read your, and other authors' blogs, primarily because I'm interested in the creative process, and authors (unsurprisingly) write about it more often, and typically with more clarity and insight, than do musicians.

  2. This entire blog had me cheering. And nodding in agreement.

    Blogging, Twitter, and Facebook isn't about selling books. It's not a giant sales pitch. I run from those people. They tend to scare me. It's about having a conversation. It's about connecting with people. It's knowing that if I shout, "I died so many years ago..." SOMEONE is going to finish the lyric. And then go watch Once More with Feeling.

    Personally, I like to write about anything and everything. Sometimes, I post a poem. I talk about my best friend. I make fun of boys. Then I quote Shakespeare. I like to think it's interesting -- or at least moderately amusing. Blogging makes me happy. It helps me to connect with people, some I know and some I don't. If it sells a book, great! If not, that's not why I write the damn thing.

    I suppose that's just a long-winded way of saying that I agree with you. I do. And thank you for writing this. ~Ali

  3. Lol, I like the dramatic license. Seriously though, I think you have a healthy and realistic vision of blogging. You're not blogging randomly w/ the illusion that you'll sell books. You know what you're getting out of it, and how it's working for you, so more power to you.

    -Livia Blackburne

  4. Thanks, everyone. Of course, the other thing I get out of blogging is the chance to meet the people who stop by and comment, even briefly. I appreciate every one of you.