Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Part 2: Why Bother To Blog (That's Not a Question) (an IWSG post)

After a month of extremely low traffic (like February was for me (see part 1)) or a drop off in comments or a failure to generate sales from blogging or any number of other things, you might wonder, "What's the point? Why should I spend my time doing this thing; it doesn't seem to be getting me anywhere."
I can't say that's not a legitimate question.

So let me give you an example of why a blog can make a difference for even a well-known author.

John Scalzi is kind of a big deal in the science fiction world. His first (traditionally published) novel, Old Man's War, was nominated for a Hugo in 2006. Red Shirts won the Hugo for best novel in 2013. There have been many other nominations (which I'm not going to go try and figure out). He was also the president of SFWA for a while.

But, see, despite the fact that I read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy, I'd never heard of John Scalzi. Not as a writer. I discovered him through his... wait for it... blog! His blog is, in fact, great. I didn't find his blog until well after I'd started blogging myself, and I didn't realize, right at first, except in a very vague way, that he was a writer of books. I mean, he doesn't spend much time talking about the process of writing, so, just from his posts, it's not always apparent. Which is fine. I don't really need more author/writer advice, and I didn't go there looking for that stuff. Why would I when I didn't know about any of the books he'd written?

I went there because he has interesting posts about actual things and, more importantly, he has real things to say about those things, whatever those things happen to be, and we, evidently, have a very similar way of looking at those things. So far, I haven't disagreed with him about any of the things, at any rate. Though I'm not likely to wear a dress. (And you can just go check his blog to figure that one out.)

Eventually, though, he mentioned a thing he had coming out ("The B-Team," part 1 of his serialization of The Human Division), which caught my eye since I was serializing Shadow Spinner at the time, and I really took a look at his books and decided I wanted to read Old Man's War, which I haven't actually done, yet, but I will. And I also, now, want to read Red Shirts (which is going to be a TV show, so I really need to get on that). So, in me, he has a fan, and I haven't even read any of his books, but, see, I like him.

And all of that was because of his blog.

There's also Demetri and the Banana Flavored Rocketship, my favorite read of 2012, by Bryan Pedas, whom I found through his blog. And Briane Pagel and the very many things he's written (which, actually, includes his blog, which is like some vast, scrawling art form); do you want to guess how I discovered him? I bet you can't. No, seriously, just guess.
Okay, you got me. It was his blog.

I could go on.

Actually, I kind of will. If you have a blog and, for whatever reason, I go to it, and I see that the last post was November 27, 2011, guess what I'll do. If you're thinking that I'll explore it anyway, you'd be wrong. I'll close it up without bookmarking it and never bother to go back. I won't go poking around and I won't find out what you may or may not have written. Which is not to say that if you're an author you need to have a blog, but, if you do, you should keep it updated. If you're not going to do that, take it down. All the way down. Or archive it somewhere as a "look what I used to do" kind of thing.

Blogging may not be the thing anymore, but it is a thing, and it can be a big thing if you use it well. Most of my new reading (other than authors I already follow (like Gaiman, Lawhead, and Russell)) is coming from things I'm finding from blogs. That someone may be following along here and later decide to read one of my books makes me want to do a good job with the blog, which, granted, can mean a lot of different things and is a much longer conversation, but the intent is still there.

All of that to say, sure, blog traffic will dip and sway and be fickle and passive-aggressive or, even, aggressive-aggressive (I've had some of that, too) and it will come and it will go, but that doesn't mean that I should decide that it's just not worth it. How do I know when someone like me might come along and decide to check out one of my books? I don't, so I need to make sure that no one comes along sometime in 2016 and finds March 5, 2014 as the date of my last post.

This post has been brought to you in part by the IWSG.


  1. My blog traffic rises in direct proportion to how many blogs I can find time to comment on during the week. I don't think it's my content at all - though I do try to keep it interesting. I follow a lot of how-to and publishing biz blogs, but no famous author blogs. I usually find those to be poorly maintained with very few posts and about boring things. But you know what? I LIKE my blog, and I LIKE the peeps who comment, so I guess I'll just keep blogging! :)

  2. Commenting sometimes means I get comments back. That's not always true, however. If I never get any reciprocation from the said blogger, I usually drop my visits to that blog.

    Time is short for everyone.

  3. Funny you and I both mentioned Bryan's book today. =P

    I have found one fantastic author after another thanks to their blogs. I feel it's a better way to reach potential readers than Twitter and Facebook. It gives me a sample of how they write.

    I'm slowly reading House on the Corner and I'm loving it. Great job with the first person perspectives.

    Co-host of Insecure Writers Support Group
    AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

  4. I love blogging too much to give it up. I love the interaction, the banter with readers, the discovery of someone so amazingly cool you're in awe of them (like when I found Briane and the Beer for the Shower guys, whom I would never have met if I didn't read YOUR great blog, which if you stop writing I'll find a banana flavored rocket ship to beat you over the head with.
    This may surprise you, but I'm such a numbers girl (ba dum pa) that I have to stay away from the stats or I obsess. I allow myself to look once, on the first day of the month, go huh, I wonder what happened (good or bad, depending) and then NOT LOOK again until next month.)
    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014
    Co-hosting the IWSG

  5. I'm committed and as long as people visit and comment, I'll continue. (Plus there's the whole IWSG thing, which has grown way beyond me now.)
    I think it was Bryan and Brandon who said that until they stopped selling books every day, they'd continue to blog, because it did make a difference.
    And over half the books I discover now come from blogging.

  6. First off, "like some vast, scrawling art form" is now the subhead on my Thinking The Lions. As noted in my own IWSG post today, you'll have to take your place in line behind Rusty and your other self for the royalty check. Bring a chair; the line isn't getting any shorter.

    I actually read fewer blogs than I probably should. I'll check out any blog from a commenter, but there's only a few that hold my interest on a routine basis. Yours, Rusty's, Robin's all have unique viewpoints and are interesting. Liz's, too, I like to check out.

    I don't know if there's a connection between blogging and selling books. I don't see a direct connection, but I enjoy blogging anyway and it's a chance to practice writing, and, like you said, try other things that apparently amount to a new art form. I like that.

    My own post is a sort of rebuttal, sort of inspired by, your recent posts, so as always, I'm standing on your shoulders to get to the cookie jar.

    One final thing: I've been thinking about why people DON'T read blogs or short stories, especially, online, and I realized that I very rarely do that, myself. If I don't do it, why would someone else? So I've got to think more about how to get my stories and blogs to people in formats that they will want to read them. That way, I can keep doing long posts and long stories and apparently superlong comments and yet people will be put in a position to be able to read them the way they like.

    (I started thinking about that because Sweetie was reading a pdf story on the laptop last night, and she commented that she really didn't like to do that. Neither do I. Neither, apparently, does ANYONE.)

    I'm thinking "newsletter," but it would just email you in pdf form the stories I posted that week and let you read them. I'll have to work on that.

  7. My sales were down sharply last month. Maybe blogging did actually help with sales?

  8. Briane: As a reader, for some unknown reason, when I'm reading a PDF of a story or book, or a web page containing such, I feel like I'm not reading something "real." It's not a real work of fiction. However if I'm reading it on my Kindle, then it is. And contrast that to non-fiction where "real" for me can happen in any form.

    I can't explain why this is. But I think it's a barrier. Maybe it's because I'm an Old and grew up reading on paper. Maybe there are formatting changes and whatnot that can be done with PDFs to make it feel more real to me? (There can be huge quality variations in PDFs, and different fonts and stylistic choices may help or hinder.)

  9. I use a lot of pictures on blog that seem to draw a lot of google image results. I have no clue if they take the time to read or not, but I blog for fun and therapy. Also I love findiing others that are like minded.

  10. I'll agree that blogging is relevant for the reasons you cite. And no matter what, a constantly updated stream of content is something else on the web that potential readers might find. It can't hurt to keep updated blog posts up.

    What can hurt is spending too much time blogging (like I have done and still do to some extent). Staying connected through comments still makes a difference until the blogger is so big that their blog gets visited despite what they do.

    I'll keep on blogging for as long as I have things I want to say and I think it makes some difference to build platform or whatever it is I need to do.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  11. Yep, Alex, that was us. And while we wouldn't just throw in the blogging towel if we stopped selling books, we do know that any bit of success we've had from selling books is directly related to the blog. And that our book sales are only continuing to grow, just as our traffic continues to grow. That's a direct correlation.

    Besides, anyone who says blogging is truly dead obviously has never heard of Hyperbole and a Half or the Bloggess, who recently released books that have sold numbers I probably can't even imagine.

  12. I just blog because it's fun but it's definitely more so if I know people are reading. This year, I made the very interesting discovery that posts about Audrey Hepburn movies get unusually high traffic. Dead for 21 years, the woman's still a draw.

  13. Sadly, I don't get back to your blog often enough, Andrew. Because when I do, you never fail to teach me or remind me of something important. Thanks, and happy IWSG day.

  14. Yes, you have to work at everything to get results. If you can't keep up with your blog, you better find some other way to connect with readers.

  15. Lexa: Who I visit tends to not fluctuate, so I don't think that has anything to do with my traffic. And, yeah, many famous author blogs are poorly maintained, but there are a few that are really good, like Scalzi's and Gaiman's.

    D.G.: If I visit a blog I will almost always comment. I think it's important that the blogger knows I was there. There are exceptions when I can't decide how to respond or just draw a blank and either don't comment or think that I'll go back and do it later (but I never end up going back). But I know what you mean when you visit a blog and comment a lot and the person never makes it back to you.

    Elsie: Well, that's a great book.
    And I'm glad you're enjoying House!

    Tina: I obsess much less about the numbers than it probably seems like, but I know a lot of people do obsess about the numbers. Of course, a lot of those people aren't consistent, and, if you're not consistent, the numbers don't work, anyway.

    Alex: Wait, am I supposed to be selling books -every- day? Oh... well, so much for blogging! Sorry, Tina, I'm cashing it in.

  16. Briane: That is awesome!
    Wait, how many of "me"s do you have?

    And stand on my shoulders as much as you want as long as I get some of the cookies.

    I don't know exactly how blogging affects book sales except that I know that it does. For instance, you have bought my books, which you could argue is not related to blogging because we're friends, but that happened because of blogging, so there's a connection. And I think we were buying each other's stuff before we were friend friends. Like, back when we were acquaintance friends, and that was because of blogging. And I could go on, but I don't want this comment to be another post.

    Especially since:
    I hate pdfs. I hate reading on them. I hate looking at my own stuff on them. You want to know what it boils down to? Bookmarks. I can't stick a bookmark in a pdf file, and they don't save my place like my kindle app does, so I will do all I can to avoid reading anything on a pdf.

    Pat: Maybe? You could experiment?

    Sarah: It's the bookmarks. I'm sure of it.

    DAVID: I haven't seen any evidence that I have better traffic for image-heavy posts. But my stuff tends to be image light, so maybe people just don't expect images? I don't know.

  17. It can definitely be disheartening to be in single digit comments after a year or two (quite a while back) of a lot more. I know I formerly had a lot more time to visit OTHERS so that's a huge part of it, but I think the blogger to reader ratio has diffused us. STILL, this is the most connected I get in this networking community. All my other efforts are good, but this is where I really SHARE and where I really feel like I get to know people. It's a worthy effort.

  18. Way back when I first started blogging in 2004, we were all on AOL Journals, and our J-Land leader was this guy called John Scalzi.

    If you go back to the very beginning of my blog you'll see me mentioning him in passing every week, because he would give us weekly blogging assignments to do...

    And he kept that up until 2008, when AOL took Journals down for good and we migrated over to Blogger. In the meantime, he went through the process of writing, editing and publishing his first book, Old Man's War.

    Which I immediately read, because I knew the author! And it is an awesome book! What are you waiting for! Go read it, now!

    It has a stupid cover...or it did, unless they've changed it since then. I've read it 4 or 5 times, it's that good.

    But anyway, I thought you'd like to hear that story of 'I knew him when...' :)

  19. Very true. (And your IWSG post is way more serious than mine)
    If I stumble on a blog that hasn't been touched in months or years, I usually vacate before the ghosts can get me.
    Sometimes it ends with "I'm out, guys! It's been fun!"
    Way more often it something like "I'm sorry I've been away so long! Let this by my covenant to you that I shall never leave you again!"
    *leaves indefinitely*

  20. For me, blogging has never been about the "numbers game" as much as a writing exercise. I also enjoy reading about people's lives. You never know where you'll find a little life lesson tucked away in someone else's experiences.

  21. Lee: Oh, yeah, well... um... Can there really be too much blogging? I'm sure that there must be some evidence out there that suggests that blogging should always be more moRE MORE! Right?

    ABftS: Well, you know, except for the Hyperbole blog being kind of dead. There's only been, like, one post in the last year or something.

    Maybe I need to start making cartoons on my blog...?

    TAS: That's interesting. I've learned that people like werewolves. Evidently. That post I did on how to become one continues to get lots of traffic.

    Joylene: Well, anytime you can stop by :)

    Jeanne: Phooey! Connect with readers! What kind of crazy talk is that?

    Hart: I'm really looking forward to gaining a commenter who is not actually a blogger. That would be a novelty.

    RG: Well, that is cool. Really cool. Do you think he remembers you?
    I'm going to get to the book. I just have other things I need to read first.

    David L: Those are the ones I hate the most. You can usually tell a blog is about to die when the blogger apologizes and promises to do better every post.

  22. Mark: I think the discipline of blogging, when you do it consistently, can be very good for people, too. As long as you don't let it take over (just ignore Lee up there talking about blogging too much).

  23. Too much blogging is when it starts keeping me from writing stuff I probably really should be writing. For me blogging often becomes my excuse not to do other things.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

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  25. Lee: Well, I was being slightly facetious. But, yeah, I agree. Blogging does sometimes get in the way.

  26. I'm sure he doesn't! That was long long ago and he is a big time author now! :) But yeah, his books are great, in the Old Man's War series, and his other books too.

  27. RG: I don't think making it big actually causes memory loss. At least, I hope it doesn't.

  28. This is why I'm blogging even when I'm behind on my writing. It will pay out some day, in some way that I cannot yet foresee. But I'm sure it will. Besides, it's fun!

  29. Veronica: It is fun to an extent. But very time sensitive. There is a pressure to keep going that can get in the way, sometimes.