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Monday, January 28, 2013

The Case Against Blogging

The advice recurs on forums all the time: authors must blog to accumulate "platform." I've heard newly agented authors say "my agent says I should blog."

But is it good advice?

Setting aside for a moment the fact that I'm writing this on, erm, a blog, the answer is that blogging is not for everyone. It depends on your goals, your life and your style.

Some authors receive fierce sustenance from blogging. These are the happy people who blog like they breathe--easily and without angst. And don't get me wrong--a personal blog can be a super way to build your audience. When I think of blogging success stories, I think of authors such as Elana Johnson and Hilary Smith. These two lovely ladies have for years thrilled their readers with a lively discussion of the writing life. Examples of blogging success abound.

But it would be a mistake to say that every author and prospective author should aspire to become a blogger too. Before you drink that particular glass of kool aid, ask yourself a couple of tough questions.

Can I Spare the Time?
To blog well means to spend quite a few of your precious authorial hours working on something which is not a manuscript. Not only must you spend time writing blog posts, it takes time as well to build up your following. That means time spent reading others' blogs, commenting on them, and becoming part of the greater blogging community. If the very idea of spending time on those pursuits makes you quiver with anxiety, you are not insane. Blogging is a commitment. And if you approach it halfheartedly, your readers will notice.

Also, a blog is like a pet, providing companionship and entertainment. But pet owners are often slow to realize that it also needs frequent walks, and special food. And if you want to fritter off and neglect your blog for awhile, its liveliness and readership will soon flag. (Blogs, at least, do not poop on the floor in anger. They merely wither, like neglected houseplants.)

Am I a Becoming a Feedback Junkie?
To blog is to receive quick feedback. Warning: those blog stats and that comments section can be come an addiction. If you write a successful blog post, and twice as many people read and comment than you usually attract, that feels great. It even feels productive. For an aspiring blogger, it is. But if your number one goal is to write and sell books, this can become a trap. It's easier to brainstorm blog posts than to try one more time to fix the things wrong with your pesky chapter 27. If your goal is to write books, don't give yourself new and pretty excuses to set that goal aside. A little self knowledge can go a long way toward answering this question.

Should I Guest Blog Instead?
When you launch a book, guest blogging is a must. When you guest blog, you are making an exchange: you provide free and interesting content to another blog in exchange for fresh eyeballs. For many authors, this is a terrific compromise--you build audience without the distraction of an ongoing blogging project. If you would like to try your hand at blogging, consider offering a post or two to bloggers you admire. It's a great way to experiment.

Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.


Janet said...

The blogosphere is buzzing about blogging these days. Kristen Lamb did a three part series on using blogs as platform (excellent series, BTW), Elizabeth S. Craig (Mystery Writing is Murder) did a post on Blogging for Writers, and there was another post (not enough coffee to jog the memory).

I think you hit the key point when you talked about those authors who are blogging brilliance. Social media is very important, but the author has to decide which works best for her (I would rather blog than Facebook, I know others who are excelling at FB).

Great post - thanks :)

Sarah Pinneo said...

Thank you, Janet! Some people ARE blogging brilliantly. I think that puts a lot of pressure on the rest of us.

Rebekkah Niles said...

I will have you know that I once had a plant that would pee on the floors when it was upset. Of course, it was primarily upset because I kept over-watering it. Still, how rude. Bad houseplant! Bad!

Great advice! I enjoy my blog, but I think I may be one of those people who just likes to blog!

Claude Nougat said...

Excellent advice, Sarah! The only advantage there might be to blogging (compared to focusing say, exclusively on Facebooking) is that writing a post is a splendid exercise for a writer: it forces to pull your arguments together and express them in a graceful, attractive style.

So the time "wasted" on writing blogs is really not time lost. You are exercising your pen...

Sarah Pinneo said...

Claude-- it is "time in the batting cage," to be sure.


Yvonne Osborne said...

Hi Sarah!
Good advice. It's the instant feedback that is addictive. You're right about that.

As we labor privately months on end, year after year on works of fiction the instant gratification of comments that legitimize our effort is rewarding.

But it can be a trap. As I've become more involved with social media, I find myself opening my email or my blog link before my current wip. Three years ago this would never have happened. So there is definitely a downside to all this. I think as long as we are aware of it and careful about the time element, the writer who wants to blog can have it both ways.

Hayley N. Jones said...

I don't spend a lot of time blogging, but it's definitely time well spent. I love the sense of community, though I'm not one for commenting a lot; realising I'm not the only person with the crazy dream of being a writer is invaluable, as is seeing bloggers at different stages of their writing careers. It's especially useful since I'm not surrounded by writers in my day to day life - none of my close friends or family even considers themselves creative!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks Sarah for posting this. I really like blogging and watching my following increase. But you're right. It does take a lot of precious time from writing. Personally, I think it's important to develop a platform.

Jeanette W. Stickel said...

I love your post. My hope for this year is to find a proper balance and you articulated the issues perfectly.

Huntress said...

Blogging is a time suck, no doubt! Posting is one thing but visiting,reading, and leaving intelligent comments on other blogs, well now, THAT is the key to losing several hours of daylight.

I decided that FB was only for family and friends. Twitter and blogging is set aside for my writing career.

CD Coffelt at Spirit Called

ramblinbess said...

I saw Susan Orlean speak recently, and she not to blog if you're an aspiring author. Her main point was that you shouldn't put anything out there that isn't the best representation of your work and that editors are integral to the writing process (which I believe even in this age of self-publishing). That said, I still have a blog. I'm brainstorming ways to pare it down so it's more images and less text.