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Is blogging worth it?

Oh, don’t worry, readers. I’m not going to abandon you, so no need for tears. Clearly, blogging is worth it for us here at DGLM, and I’ll explain why in a bit.

Earlier this week, I was intrigued by this blog post from author Livia Blackburne (via Galleycat). In it, she wrote about the major issue that blogging authors have: they often wind up writing not for their readers, but for other writers. It’s a great community to become a part of, but I’ll be honest, it’s not exactly what agents and publishers had in mind when we so fervently recommended that every author needed to be blogging. In fact, if you’ve heard me speak at a conference in the past year, you’ve probably heard me talk about authors finding the right ways to promote their books online–and I’ve suggested that most authors not blog. If your posts are only going to reach other authors, I honestly don’t think it’s worth the time to maintain a blog, since that time could be spent doing something more effective to either reach readers or create something new. It’s all about audience, and authors often lose sight of exactly who that is.

But Livia took things one step further in a follow-up post, suggesting ways in which authors might actually reach out to their readers directly. She even references a DGLM client who has done an amazing job of developing an audience all on his own, John Locke. Early on, he figured out who his reader was, going so far as to create a psychological profile, and then crafted blog posts to appeal to that reader. It may seem calculated, but it’s smart. (And, for anyone writing commercial fiction, it’s important that your books appeal to that same reader, though that’s for another blog post!) For those of you writing fiction and blogging, I suggest it’s something that you very seriously ponder.

So, back to us. We actually thought about our audience when we retooled our blog a while back. We discussed who our readers were: aspiring authors, clients, and a smattering of other people. We now focus our blog posts to appeal to those groups, which has raised our blogging profile. We’ve got a more cohesive, more appealing product. We’ve improved our reach by understanding our audience.

For those of you that blog, have you thought about audience? Are you building a blog following by reaching out to your readers?

25 Responses to Is blogging worth it?

  1. Joelle says:

    I wanted to blog for teens, but eventually only writers seemed to be reading me (pre-publication) and so it became about craft and the writing business. This is why I stopped blogging about six months ago (or longer). I was kind of bored to tears over it myself and felt like I’d talked about writing enough.

    I actually have been pondering the idea of taking it up again when I get closer to publication of my second book, but I do know that if I do, it will be directed toward my readers. I’m not really sure how you do that as a newer writer because in a way, it seems like whistling into the wind…who’s going to hear you at first? Still thinking about it though. Thanks for the post and link.

  2. Oliver Yeh says:

    [A distinction needs to be made between published and unpublished writers. My response is in reference to unpublished writers.]

    Blogging is worth it. If nothing, it provides a writer another outlet to continue the act of writing, to test, reveal something about themselves, to connect.

    When we talk about audience, I’d ask that we lighten the lines. For example, yes, there may be a good portion of people who follow me who are writers. But aren’t writers readers too? And not only that, there are all types of writers (medical, newspaper, screen…). Reaching other writers isn’t such a bad thing. I’ve learned a lot through conversations and give and take.

    I would dread there are unpublished writers out there who spend too much time chasing an audience, chasing buyers of their books especially if there’s no book to buy. You have no data to figure out your target audience. You have no metrics to place a stake from which to tie. This is a bigger waste of time.

    Of course, once published the blog would need to change to reflect a different focus. If you’re smart, you begin that process of change as your success grows for this first novel: agent representation, publisher buys books, release.

    But a writer has to start somewhere. I think the task is much harder if one waits until a book is about to be released. And again, I think there are plenty of benefits to blogging as long as it’s kept in check versus the time you spend writing and editing your work.

    Obviously, there is one direct way to build an audience: post your work. But even then, are you really building a market? Or just an audience waiting for your posts? There have been plenty of bookdeals from blogs. One has to decide where he wants his work to land.

    But what do I know?

  3. Kim says:

    I’ve written an Irish mythology inspired book for middle readers so I’m considering a blog on Celtic mythology, but only if I can carve out a place that’s not already taken. Still researching.

  4. Giora says:

    Answering your question, Michael, my blog is for readers and everyone else who want to learn about the China. While novels set in China are not a category (genre) yet (althought Lisa See is doing well, for example) my prediction is that they will be. Oliver raised a good point that unpublishing authors don’t have actual or prospective readers yet, beacuse there is no published book to offer. Hence, unpulished author should have a slow moving blogging, just to keep themselves out there and then move to active blogging when they have a book that they can sell. That’s my plan at least.

  5. I’ve had a blog for about 4 years. I write about whatever tumbles out of my brain and through my fingers: knitting, books, travel, TV, movies, music, paper dolls (once a week, I post a vintage paper doll), the current writing project, or anything else that intrigues me. During American Idol season, I write smartass recaps of the show. I get an average of 380 hits per day (with a total over 550k over the history of the blog). During AI season, the hits jump 200-300 more (word evidently got around among AI fans). Though I hope that the blog generates interest in my books, and I definitely promote them there, I blog because it amuses me. People are welcome to follow. Or not. I have a steady readership, but I truly have no clue as to whether or not that adds up to book sales.

  6. Brodi Ashton says:

    Wow. I haven’t really thought about the readers of my blog in that sort of way, mostly because the only reason I’m able to keep up a blog is I find it fun. If I started to research my audience, to the point where it influences my posts, I think it would become more like work, and I probably wouldn’t do it.

    But I argue that NOT thinking about your audience can be effective too. I don’t tailor my posts to any one particular set, I don’t focus solely on writing, or on my book, or on my family… I stay pretty random. But I’ve developed an audience who expects that. It’s not an approach that would work for an agency like DGLM, but it works for me as an individual.

    The part where I focus on the readers is in the comments. I know people say it’s pointless, but I still try to respond to every comment. It becomes more of a conversation that way, and I do think it’s the reason I’ve made some loyal followers.

  7. Christi Goddard says:

    I just came back from a blogging hiatus of four months to focus on what was more important to me. While I do feel a blog is a helpful tool to meet other authors and share information, I do not think most blogs I read are aimed at readers (other than readers who are also writers). I have formed many friendships due to blogger and found beta readers who are priceless, so I would never say it wasn’t necessary.

    It has also led me to many books via writers I respect (and agents) which I might not have found otherwise, so I can see it can be a marketing tool. It is still word of mouth selling, only on blogger instead of at social gatherings. Blogging has also helped me find many agent blogs which teach how to query properly, but also techniques which have infinitely improved my writing. Is my blog awesome? No. But as a tool to reach out and find others like me and share information, it has been invaluable.

    There are also ways of the blog which lead to the Dark Side. Competitions to increase readership, incorrect information circulated, group meltdowns over suspected Publishing Apocalypse, and the simple fact it can be a time waster if you follow too many blogs yourself trying to increase your readership.

  8. Michael says:

    I’m glad this has generated so much response! Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments.

    I want to clarify just a bit. I was trying to address a topic that comes up for me at every conference and in most conversations with authors who are just starting out. They want to know: do I need to blog? And for so long, agents and editors and publishers all said, unequivocally, YES. But I don’t think that’s the right answer, and I don’t think most writers starting out think about why they’re blogging.

    A blog can be a place to write and explore, as Oliver rightly points out, and as long as that’s your intention, and your expectations match, I give my blessing. And Brodi points out that she’s found a following (and I’m paraphrasing here) by finding a unique blogging voice, the audience for which may well be different than the one who will be buying her book (though I’m sure they’ll overlap). And I approve of that, too.

    But as far as blogs as sales tools go, if you’re not addressing your audience directly, I don’t believe they’re going to be effective.

  9. Robin Weeks says:

    I heard at a conference once that YA writers should be blogging for the gatekeepers (librarians, parents, teachers) more than their actual teenage readers. Not sure how true that is, but I haven’t noticed a lot of teens hanging out in the YA writer’s world (of course, maybe they’re just very quiet).

    I can’t imagine anyone who follows Brodi’s blog who WON’T want to buy EVERNEATH. We can’t help but adore her. Her willingness to reply to comments helped me feel like her friend long before I met her in real life–and I’m not the only one who feels that way. Then, as friends, her followers want to support her career. Come January, I’m personally going to be hunting down people who haven’t read EVERNEATH yet….

    My own blog has been mostly beneficial in meeting other writers–and maintaining those contacts. Those writers have helped me to polish my WIP, have given me advice on the industry, and support me in my goals. It might not translate into a publication contract or increase my sales, but so far I’d say it’s definitely worth it. :)

  10. As an unpublished writer, I think my ROI on building a platform to attract teen girls for some future possible book is pretty low. Also, gosh, what would I write about? Would I have to fill pages with disingenuous “SQUEE?” Gosh, I’m as old as my target market’s mothers, how bloody uncool is that?

    In blogging for my writer pals right now, I’m familiarizing myself with the technology, plus the moral support is priceless. :-)

    • Robin Weeks says:

      LOL–Okay, now I get your comment on my blog, Tamara. :) Squee, indeed. :)

    • Gloria says:

      16ae0352f1I needed to send you this very small word to fainlly say thanks as before regarding the pleasing tactics you have contributed at this time. It was really remarkably open-handed of you to make extensively what exactly a number of people would have made available as an e book to end up making some bucks on their own, principally considering the fact that you might well have tried it if you considered necessary. These techniques as well acted to become fantastic way to recognize that some people have a similar passion like my personal own to know the truth very much more when considering this matter. I’m certain there are several more fun sessions up front for those who start reading your site. 155

  11. * I meant no disservice to writers who actually do attract readers. Just because I am uncool does not mean others are. My hat goes off to writers like Brodi, and I applaud your cleverness and hard work!

  12. Thanks for the shoutout, Michael!

  13. I write a blog with three other writers. We all write books set in international locations and we each have expertise in our chosen destinations (Iran, India, Russia and South America). Our blog covers culture, travel and storytelling, and we have guest bloggers (mostly non-writers) who have experience in other parts of the world. We deliberately designed our blog to attract readers who are interested in learning about different cultures and we love to promote other authors who have books with international settings (such as Gary Corby, Michelle Moran, Cara Black, etc). We’ve found a lot of non-writers who read our blog like to learn about the processes of writers and how they research their books. None of us who write the blog are published in book-length fiction yet, and obviously we’re working toward it, but when we (hopefully!) do have a book/books on the market, we hope the readers of our blog will give our books a try as they contain the same international flavor as our blog.

  14. Rowenna says:

    One thing I’ve noticed–in the field of fiction more than nonfiction, because that’s where I hang out–one blog followed by a lot of writers might not generate sales. But it does generate community. I know about books I wouldn’t have known about otherwise from that community–the network of guest blogs, friends announcing book deals for friends, and general sharing makes me more aware of books out there. And I buy them and tell friends (real and in webworld) about them if they’re good. When I watch a blog friend’s book grow from first draft infancy to full-fledged published novel, I’m likely to talk to others about it. Does this mean whopping sales numbers? Probably not. But it can’t hurt, and really–many sales can be attributed to good ol’ word of mouth, anyway.

    In the end, I blog because I like it. I have a rather wide-ranging blog that talks history, clothing history and re-creation, and writing, so have a slightly broader following than only fellow writers. Still, those fellow writers are priceless cheerleaders, both during the creation process and after publication.

  15. Michael,

    Great post as always. One thing to remember is that writers are not only voracious readers. They are also big book recommenders. Most writers I know have a big group of people they suggest books to. Also, lots of readers are closet writers. They are interested in the world of writers. In my case, since I write to a MG audience, it would be tough to write a blog that would interest the kids who read my books. But if I can write posts that are of interest to writers, readers, librarians, teachers, etc. I am targeting the parents who will be buying books for their kids.

    It’s also a lot easier to use your blog, Twitter, etc as a means of keeping the snowball of readers growing and rolling then to create the snowball in the first place. many of the blogs I read regularly are the authors I already enjoy.

  16. You hit the nail on the head, but I have a thick head. I love writing about writing as much as I love writing fiction. It is the educator in me. While my blog is about the craft and business of writing, I use other blogs and resources to reach my reading audience. I think it is important to do both. Despite who your audience is, this might help build your readership: http://whisperedwritings.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/10-ways-to-grow-a-blog/

  17. I think people– including John Locke –are missing the fact that writers tend to be voracious readers and there are a lot of readers who are aspiring authors. I don’t have a problem at all with authors who blog about writing and think it’s wise for an author to do so from time to time.

    It could be a problem if that’s ALL an author blogged about.

    Locke’s approach is an important one that I think authors should adapt, but I also think that approach misses some facets.

  18. Pingback: Is blogging effective? Or are we wasting our time? – Laura Pauling

  19. You mention reaching out to your readers (customers and prospective clients) and blogging with them in mind. We don’t have a blog on our site – trying to decide if it’s really worth it! We do have a FAQs page, though. Would you say a blog is still worth it?

  20. I don’t write many comments, but i did a few searching and wound up here Is blogging worth it? | Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. And I do have a few questions for you if you tend not to mind. Could it be simply me or does it look like some of the comments look like left by brain dead people? :-P And, if you are writing on other places, I’d like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post. Would you make a list of the complete urls of your shared sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

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