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?