Whether you’re a self-published writer or published by a traditional house, the word on the street is the same: Blog like your life depends on it if you want to sell any books. But does blogging really equal book selling?
Not exactly. Last week, for instance, I was fortunate to have one of my blog posts not only accepted by Huffington Post, but also collected in an industry roundup by that lion of literary news, Publishers Weekly. Want to know how many books I sold as a result?
Two. As in, “2.” Dos, deux, due, twee: In any language, it’s the same. Thousands and thousands of readers had access to that blog post, yet my take after writing it was about $3.80.
I post blogs once a week, usually on Sundays because the other nights get sucked up by other tasks. “Do you ever feel like you’re wasting your time?” my husband not-so-tactfully asked when I missed our last Downton Abbey assignation to finish a blog post.
“Not at all,” I said, though I was thankful for the DVR. I don’t like to miss Maggie Smith’s entrances and exits.
I am a neophyte blogger. I started a blog when my first book came out four years ago, but didn’t really keep up with it. I got a little more serious about blogging last year, as I was dipping a toe into the churning waters of self-publishing, until I got into a regular habit. No, it’s not a daily web log, as blogging was originally meant to be, but it’s a habit and, truthfully, I love doing it now. With self-publishing, it’s easy to see whether your blog posts produce any spike in sales, and it rapidly becomes obvious that those posts don’t usually have any effect on your profits.
Yet, whenever an aspiring author asks me if she should blog, I always say yes, whether she’s going indie or with a big publishing house. Here’s why:
Each Blog Post Is a Snowflake.
A book launch is no longer what it used to be: one day to celebrate and maybe three months of publicity rapidly eclipsed by a dark hole of nothing. Now, thanks to online sales and marketing channels, book publicity is more like making a snowball one snowflake at a time. Your blog post on Tuesday might not sell any books, but if you post blogs for a year and gather followers, eventually those readers will know your name and put it together with the name on that book they see in Goodreads or the NYT Book Review.
Blogging Keeps You Fresh.
Most writers carry journals. We keep them in our pockets or purses so we can capture fleeting ideas, whether that’s in the car or the shower. (I’m still searching for a waterproof journal.) Those scribbles become sentences in blogs as you work out ideas, whether you’re writing about how to use imagery in fiction, the latest political scandal, or an episode of American Idol. Think of blogging as warm up exercises for what you really love to write. It will certainly help you avoid writer’s block because blogging keeps your fingers nimble on the keys.
Some Blogs Become Books.
For many writers, blogging is a way of writing a book, or at least exploring a book idea. One famous example: Julie and Julia, which started as Julie Powell’s attempt to cook all of Julia Child’s recipes and ended up becoming both a book and a decent movie with Meryl Streep. One of my friends started a blog as a medical student and had her posts turned into a graphic novel after an editor read it. Another, whose blog is about caring for her aging mom with Alzheimer’s, is about to self publish a caregiver’s inspirational guide.
Blogging Forms a Community.
Sometimes—not very often, because most people are lurkers—you will get comments on your blog posts. When you respond, you’re starting a dialogue, and through those conversations, you form a community. You may not sell more books by blogging, but you will build a community of supportive readers and writers, and that’s really what writing is all about: engaging an audience.
Blogging Takes You Unexpected Places.
Your blog posts may never be picked up anywhere, but then again, they might. I’ve had posts picked up by various online magazines and even by print magazines that ended up paying to use the reprints. My posts have made it to audiences as far away as Denmark and Australia. No, I probably won’t sell books to those audiences, but I love the idea of my brave little words traveling around the world. By blogging, you become part of the world’s cultural history, charting the events of our time for generations to come. Sounds lofty and stupid, right? But think about it. What kind of record would we have of human existence of nobody had ever written it down?
Greta van der Rol says
No, blogging doesn’t sell books – but it helps you connect with readers. I received a letter from a lady this morning, via my website. She’d received an ad about a book, and came and ‘checked me out’. She told me when she read a couple of blogs I’d written about caring for an elderly relative, she decided to try my books. A point of connection, you see. She had cared for her parents in their last years.
I thought I’d share this story because something like that would never have occurred to me.
That’s a wonderful story, Greta! And you’re right. Something like that wouldn’t have occurred to me before I started blogging, either. Thanks for dropping by.
Thank you! I had actually been sitting here, wondering- should I keep blogging? Then I saw your post linked by Mythic Scribes.
I’m so glad, Jane! If you have fun writing your blog, I’m sure other people will have fun reading it.
Kerrie Paterson says
Interesting post, thanks. We were actually discussing this (ie to blog or not to blog) at our face-to-face writer’s group meeting on Saturday.
Thanks, Kerrie. I think the trick with blogging is to do it only as much as you feel comfortable doing; i.e., you don’t want to give up too much time on your “real” writing projects to devote to your blog. I have a novel due in June, for instance, which is why I limit my blogging time to once a week. Having said that, it’s a fun hour or two, writing a post, and then I get to hear lots of immediate feedback from readers–something that we know doesn’t happen too often if we’re devoted to writing short stories or novels, right?
Toby Neal says
I blog like you, weekly…but I agree, blogging is a calling card circulating in the blogosphere and the blog/website is a place for readers to find out more about you, and thus important even if every post isn’t earthshaking.
Keeping the blog interesting for readers is the challenge for me. I keep segueing into writing for other writers…! Which is important too, but I want to keep my blog oriented to my readers, one of John Locke’s bookselling principles that rings true to me.
Aaron Brinker says
I have not published any e-books but it is something I have been interested in for the future. I might be a dad blogger but I believe engagement and consistency are key. I work very hard to comment on posts and build a following because based on engagement. I believe it is because of this I have had posts published in online magazines and have been asked to guest post for other sites. I might not ever make a “huge” success in publishing but I continue to do this for myself and for the blogging friends I have made.
Aaron Brinker aka DadBlunders
I suspect you’re well on your way toward that book, Aaron! And you’re so right about the engagement piece. Thanks for stopping by.
Good points, Toby. I love the idea that your blog is a calling card…and that’s a good reminder to all of us to try to appeal to both our fellow writers AND to our readers–a place where I still need a bit of work!
Kayla Curry says
I like to blog, and I like using my blog to promote other authors, because in turn they will promote me on their blog. My blog is my best platform for cross promoting. I find that I sometimes get a few book sales after being hosted on someone else’s blog. That all depends on the number of followers they have and the type of audience they have, but it’s nice to help each other out! Cross promoting on blogs extend your reach and get your name out there.
Another great point, Kayla. Thanks for weighing in!
Kathryn Brown says
I blog about my books and am always giving them a mention in a post, even if the post is totally irrelevant. I have sold books through my blog, especially signed paperback copies, but I think the majority are sold through other social media outlets. But blogging definitely helps. I’m quite a prolific blogger and advertise my books in the sidebar.
Thanks, CJ. I think there’s a thin line between blogging about your books in a way that’s too promotional and blogging about them in a way that’s useful; i.e., if you’re talking about your struggles as a writer, giving readers a good laugh or some useful info. I’m still trying to figure out where that line is. I know that nearly everything people blog about is some kind of soft marketing for something, but I really feel like blogs can also be about delivering information, a good laugh, or something more to think about as you go about your mundane daily tasks.
Marie Pinschmidt says
I feel a blog is to let the readers know who you are. Therefore, I write essays about a number of subjects such as Valentine’s Day, etc. Only occasionally do I comment on my books since all the info. is on my website. The essays & newsletters also give them a sample of my writing style. If you have time, let me know what you think.
Marie Pinschmidt says
You have validated my own feelings and I shall try to blog more instead of less. If we reach one reader with our words, blogging is not wasted time. Agree?
I totally agree, Marie!
I’ve seen bloggers who never thought about publishing who were encouraged to do so by the blogging community.
The community as a whole is very supportive and talented!!!