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Should Writers Blog, and Why?

I’ve gotten into several different conversations lately, at conventions and online, about blogging. Specifically, is this something writers should do, and why?


I think that blogging can sometimes be an effective way of getting your name out there and selling books, but I don’t think it’s a requirement, and I don’t think promotion is the only consideration, or even the primary one.

Promotion: Discussions about blogging commonly open with things like:

  • “Your publisher expects you to promote yourself online!”
  • “Look at Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi!”
  • “You can’t expect any help from publishers, so you’ve got to do it all yourself, so get blogging!”

I will mention my work from time to time, and yes, sometimes it is blatantly promotional: “My book just came out. Yay!” I try not to do that very often. Other times I’m just talking about the process: “I just started draft four of Libriomancer, and I’m freaking out!” The latter isn’t intended as promotion, but it does result in readers knowing about my next project, which is nice.

But if the only reason you’re blogging is for marketing/self-promotion, then you’re basically writing an infomercial. And I don’t know many people who deliberately tune in to infomercials…

Money: I’ve also heard that one way or another, it’s important to monetize your blogging. As a writer, I do think it’s important to get paid for our work. I have friends who do freelance, paid blogging, which is excellent. Others use ads to generate a little extra income from their blog. I don’t personally mind that as long as it’s not too intrusive.

I’ve chosen not to insert ads or look for paid blogging opportunities, but that’s me. The benefits I get from blogging aren’t financial (see below). As for the ads … well, I’ve got links to my books and such in the sidebar. I figure that’s enough.

Connecting with Writers: This is why I started blogging more than ten years ago. I wanted to connect with and learn from writers who knew what the heck they were doing. I found those people online. I read their journals, commented in their posts, and eventually got to know some of them. I joined a webring, for those of you who remember what a webring is. I participated in novel dares, trying to write an entire 80,000 word novel in a month, and joining my fellow participants in sharing progress and setbacks online.

In some ways, the blogosphere and a few message boards were my graduate program in writing. It’s where I learned the business. It’s where I found inspiration. It’s where I chatted with coworkers around the virtual water cooler.

Connecting with Fans: This was not one of my original reasons for starting a blog, in part because back then, I didn’t have any fans. But over time, it’s become a way for me to connect with some of the people who enjoy my books and stories, and that’s awesome.

It’s also a way to connect with fandom in general. A lot of the people who read my blog have never read one of my books. (So much for that Promotion thing…) But we have great conversations about Doctor Who or Star Trek or gaming or the latest book by Huff or Jemisin or  Grant or whoever, and I love that.

Politics: This is a tough one. I’ve been told that a writer should never blog about their politics, because they risk alienating readers. It’s a valid point. Heck, I lost some readers myself earlier this week. On the other hand, I’ve seen people post thoughtful, well-written political posts that attract new readers to their blog, and by extension, perhaps to their books as well.

I’m not writing a political blog, and I don’t really feel qualified to do so. However, I will write about things I feel strongly about, and sometimes those overlap with the political. I do this not to sell books, but because I think these things are important to talk about.

What I’d say is that if you choose to go there, know that you will upset some people, and be prepared for some backlash. These posts can be emotionally draining, and eat up more time and energy.

Entertainment: Sometimes I just want to make people smile and laugh, dammit!

Wrap-up: I could go on, but this is getting long. I don’t think writers have to blog. I think it can help you somewhat, but it’s not a magic bullet that will make or break your career. And if the only reason you do it is to sell books, I suspect you’re going to invest a lot of time and energy that probably would have been better spent writing more books.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Oct. 21st, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
I blog about the books very very rarely, and frequently it's along the lines of "Oh dear god, this is the death march stage of the illustrations, drawing dragons is all I do, I am so very tired, why didn't I become a medical test subject like Mom wanted?"

Books get the announcement when they come out, and I'll mention that they picked a couple more in the series or whatever, but I don't advertise them just for the sake of advertising very often--I get annoyed reading that on blogs, so I assume everybody else does too. Otherwise, yeah, it sounds like an infomercial.

What I strongly question is the "You can't expect your publisher to promote you" argument some people make. I've run into it before, and all I can say is...the marketing department at Dial has gone to the mat for me. They do STUFF. Lots of stuff. The good, the bad, the stuff that could maybe do something with an interesting hat. Stuff that I would never do, would never think to do, did not know you actually could do. For my first book, they made tins of breath mints and handed them out at trade shows. (The title is "Dragonbreath" so...err...not as left field as it sounds...) This is not an effort I can duplicate at home.

I am sure it's not an egalitarian system, of course, I am sure many fine books are left to howl in the dark--my first book with another publisher got about as much promotion as foot fungus--but everybody rags on the traditional publishers on-line today, and I just wanna say that they can kick ass and take names when they get going.

Ahem. Sorry. Been feelin' that one a lot lately...
Oct. 21st, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC)
What I strongly question is the "You can't expect your publisher to promote you" argument some people make.

Yes! It's true that I've never been sent on a worldwide book tour or anything like that. On the other hand, my publisher has run ads in Locus and elsewhere. They've got a sales force meeting with bookstore chains and distributors to sell my books and others. They did a sampler with a chapter from Snow Queen and a few other books a year or so back. And there's a lot more that I'm sure I just don't know about.

Like you, there's no way I could come close to matching their efforts here.

Maybe not everyone gets a lot of promotion, and maybe publishers aren't doing as much as they used to, but that's a far cry from saying they won't do anything at all.

(This changes as you get closer to the vanity press side of things, though.)


Jim C. Hines


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