C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Your blog does not matter

 

“Writers should not write blogs for writers!” some expert declared.

Instead, write for readers!

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.
These are the foundation stories of the coming Poeticule Bay Series of suspense novels.

I understand the argument, but what about writing about where your passion lies? I’ve written about writing for years now, drawing on my experience first as a journalist, publishing insider, freelancer, then as an editor and finally as an independent author who publishes his own work. I’ll be coming out with a book about writing later this year, so that’s one solution to the problem of writing for writers. But I keep thinking about that advice to write your blog for readers. I think I just figured out why it doesn’t matter.

Blog marketing does not matter. An author’s blog is usually something you discover after you’ve already found the author. Seth Godin’s blog is popular, but I found out about him through media first. Despite his high traffic, JA Konrath is sure that A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing doesn’t net him any new readers. He writes for writers and they come for his opinions and information, not his books. The readers of his blog and the readers of his books are two subsets of his readership with very little overlap. True, I read voraciously, but I still haven’t got around to reading any of his books. (Or John Scalzi’s or Chuck Wendig’s, either, though I love their blogs.) And what of all those successful novelists who blog little or not at all?

John Locke came up with a blogging strategy that helped him sell a lot of books, but he didn’t blog every day to do it. In fact, Locke blogged sparingly. He crafted each blog so he could leave it up for months and, using keyword searches and Twitter, drive traffic to his blog by going out and getting potentially interested parties. (Read Locke’s book on marketing to find out more about that.)

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

There is a caveat to these grand pronouncements. I’m not saying don’t blog. I’m saying that it’s unreasonable to expect a tiny engine to move that mountain. You need a website, but fairly static pages might do. Yes, I know (we all know by now, don’t we?) that a blog that changes often and has a lot of posts is smiled upon by search engine spiders and that boosts rankings. But that website you love so much isn’t the burning bush that’s converting believers. That website is where you send readers when you attract them by other means.

What should you spend more time on (and by you, I mean me)? Well, tomorrow night (Sunday at 9 PM) I’m going to have a chat on Blogtalk Radio with Sandi’s Tuttle. Tune in here. So there’s that.

Have a podcast, make personal appearances, show up on other people’s podcasts, do campus radio, do press releases (and make follow-up calls when they ignore you.)

Time for an angry tangent: A reader on a forum called on indie authors to send out press releases because she didn’t think we were brave enough or bothering to do so. She didn’t know what the heck she was talking about. Traditional media has a history of ignoring us because they don’t realize there are no gates to keep anymore. They’ll get over that. Too late, but they’ll get it. In the meantime, I’d love to sit down with that reader who thought we don’t do enough to help our cause and let her know all the things we do any given day, many of us after the full-time job is done. As if sending out a press release was a brilliant and heretofore unknown marketing strategy. She does not know the struggle. Indie authors are some of the bravest people I know in business. That grenade-thrower didn’t understand that just because you can read doesn’t mean you know anything about the writing biz.

Paranormal persuasion and scary stories (including two award winners.)

There are plenty of things you can do that could help your career more than writing a blog: Optimize your sales page on Amazon so readers can find you, for instance. Play with Amazon categories to get listed in the top ten of a subcategory to get traction. According to Klout, Twitter and Facebook help me reach more people than my blogs do (and my Goodreads blog presence doesn’t make a dent.) Becoming a star on YouTube could help more than a blog. If I’d starred on SCTV and become rich and famous at 22, I’d be better off now. (Time machine’s broken, so I’ll have to fix this the old-fashioned way: I’m going to need a DeLorean, a broken town clock and a bolt of lightning.)

What else can you do? You can do all the things you’ve heard about (or have already done): guest post, blog hop, do giveaways, comment up a storm, use free day promotions (to less and less effect), hold contests, pay for ads (though I rarely recommend that), send out more copies to reviewers, contact book bloggers, do signings, approach bookstores, make an app, cultivate powerful friends, save the life of a celebrity or write a book about cute cats.

Click to get Bigger Than Jesus here

So why blog? To serve the burning passion of a thousand stars going nova, I suppose. To express. To help. To have an active site for readers where I can send people who are interested in finding out more about me and my books and my process. On this site, I write for writers. On my author site, yes, there are plenty of links to my books, but mostly I talk to readers directly through my podcast. (Every week this summer and fall, I read a new chapter of my crime thriller Bigger Than Jesus for free. Those who can’t wait for the next instalment can get it all at once here.) Most of all, I write my blogs to discover what I think about things. (Like today.)

Do I expect any writers will convert to my book readership? A precious few, if they like my voice here because there’s some transfer of style in my other writing. No matter what I write, I’m a fan of twisting expectations, sneaky surprises and lots of jokes. I’ll expect most conversions will come when I publish the non-fiction books about writing. There are also niche blogging opportunities. For instance, I think if you’re a crime novelist and you blog about forensics in depth, you might gain interested readers from your blog to your books. Niche marketing is a buzzword, yes, but it does mean something.

The single most important thing you can do to help your career is write your next book.

If your blog is getting in the way of your book, then it’s time to take another look at your priorities.

And by “your”, I mean “my”*

To check out all the books by Robert Chazz Chute, click here.

*More on this tomorrow…

 

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14 Responses

  1. rsguthrie says:

    I blog for writers mainly for the same purpose as you (to write, to get it out of my system, and because I genuinely want to help other writers). I firmly believe there are enough readers for all of us, at all levels of quality (which bothers me sometimes but a great writer friend recently used an old but true cliche: the cream always rises to the top. Eventually. All things mentioned: blogging, podcasts, cross-promotion, guest posts, ads, etc. They are all, without a strike of lighting I’m afraid, tinkling in the wind—okay, not that useless (as far as selling books) but damn near. Exposure. That is the drum beat we all need to follow and start figuring out a way to be found. I have a new theory not unlike one you mentioned in your last blog. We’ll see if there is any fruit bearing on that tree. The gist? Yes, we MUST have a digital presence (i.e. Kindle, eBooks, Nook, whatever). But that is NO LONGER the Holy Grail. It never was. It was Locke’s (and a few other’s) Golden Calf. If I went by the people I meet, I’d say it’s still 75%/25% paperbacks to eReaders. I think our focus needs to be in getting out B-O-O-K-S out. Just my theory, but I am no longer convinced the “digital age” has caught up with READERS. Most voracious readers I know don’t turn on the TV, and they don’t spin up their computers much either.

    Don’t get me wrong—we absolutely need the central presence, SEO, etc. online. For one, there’s the 25% (correct only for thee sake of discussion). And that number, whatever it really is, WILL GROW. So yeah, we gotta be there and make our handhold strong. But I think if we want to sell more books, some of our time (a larger chunk) needs to be old school. I’ve personally been waiting to finish my third book, “the one” as far as the critic inside me is concerned. The one I can really get behind as a VENDOR (Russell Blake’s apropos term for what we ought to consider ourselves). I’m working very hard to make that widget into an honest to goodness sales-worthy product and I am going to be a vendor.

    Sorry for the tangent and length. Shoulda blogged this instead. Maybe I will. 😉

    Cheers.

  2. rsguthrie says:

    P.S. My blog’s never garnered me a single sale. 🙂

  3. carsoncanada says:

    I come to your blog because it is so refreshingly honest. It is a tiny haven in a world of BS. And I agree with what you’re saying. The blog is generally where people go who already know you and want to see what you’re saying this time. We don’t have an answer to this question of how to promote effectively, and I suspect in the end, when we have finally broken through, we won’t be any wiser then. But the path doesn’t seem any different to me than that which I’ve taken to other successes – Know that you will succeed and get to the point where there is no doubt, and all the while keep on writing.

  4. Chazz says:

    Ironic, but true that we aren’t necessarily any wiser when success comes. Some swore by Goodreads but Amanda Hocking was sure it didn’t help her at all. Some got a boost by Amazon, but after the algorithm change, that gate is closed. 99 cents was the answer. Then free was the answer until it wasn’t. It’s like there are many paths up the mountain and out of the fog of obscurity, but you can’t take the same route twice. We have to continue to explore, cut our own paths, and write more books. Write more books may be the only thing we *know* helps. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. I am a big believer in quality. Writing in itself isn’t the answer, writing well is. I don’t think my blog will ever be a massive sales boost and as for the whole twitter, promo, spamming debate – that will go on and on. I do think that a lot of writers sort of expect, that after they have pushed the publish button, on whatever platform they are using – then that’s it. They roll out the bots and off they go. I hope to be doing something a little more creative than that. After all, I am a writer and creative is what I do.

    As a reader, I’m not that bothered about the author usually. That may be a sad fact but it rings true. Unless you go stratospheric….

    I blog for myself – it keeps me writing, something, anything and flexes my craft muscles.

    • Chazz says:

      Hi. Thanks for reading and commenting. I think we’re all in favour of quality, even when it doesn’t look like it to the casual observer. I’m not sure what you mean by this “As a reader, I’m not that bothered about the author usually. That may be a sad fact but it rings true. Unless you go stratospheric….” and was curious, if you care to go a little deeper:

      Agree for sure about muscle-flexing.

      • As a reader I never looked up one single fact about an author until I started writing. I think sometimes Authors can get a bit carried away with their own “personal” importance in what they write. Most of this post is not referring to either of your blogs by the way which i adore and have mentioned in one of my posts. Also I think the fact that your promo is done in a creative way helps this.
        However there are authors who think that they are more important than the writing. As a reader, I don’t care if you were born in Timbuktu and spent six years in a commune. I recently got really irritated by an author who blogged about how you should put lots about yourself in the first few pages of your Novel and they would be discovered “like jewels by the reader” – This was then re-tweeted a couple of times and my response on twitter was please do this if you wan’t everyone to give up before they even get to your writing.
        The writers that people get interested in are the ones who are successful already… People like “Stephenie Meyer”, “J.K Rowling” and more recently “E.L James” who is currently doing the chat show circuit and was also on nearly mainstream Channel 4, in the UK last night..
        Phew, I’m hoping I had a point and was able to get to it in the wall of text above. – S.J :o)

  6. Chazz: I hear you. Some of my friends and I have often discussed the split between writers and readers in the blogosphere, how writing for writers doesn’t seem to make all that much sense. But, I believe, blogging regularly is good on a lot of levels, even if the main readership is authors. For one thing, I am a writer, but I am also a reader. I buy a lot of books and most of them are books written by authors with whom I have developed a virtual kinship on blog sites, Twitter and Triberr. I will always give them the first shot when I get ready to purchase a book. I don’t know if I am alone in that, but I doubt it. Second, I think blogging is a perfect way to hone writing skills. Third, the need for new content in blogs makes the blogger keep researching the digital book world and attempting to stay on the cutting edge of it or even forge a new way. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    • Chazz says:

      Thanks, Stephen. I do learn a lot from all the research and it’s research I’d do anyway so may as well share.

  7. […] HAS A SITE FOR READERSChazz has booksCHAZZ HAS PODCASTS ← Your blog does not matter 07/29/2012 · 11:27 PM ↓ Jump to […]

  8. Jackie Buxton says:

    Very interesting. I started blogging because I was advised I should (author platform and all that) but quickly found that I loved it and in the process, used to the two hour deadline I give myself to concoct and put up a post, I have got much quicker at writing short stories. I’m glad some people like to read my missives and that I get so much out of writing them. If they help sell me any books in the future (or indeed, help me snag a publisher…) that would be great but meanwhile I’m enjoying the immediacy of posting and people’s feedback.
    Wise words however, when it gets in the way of the novel, time to re-assess!
    Great post.

  9. claudenougat says:

    Excellent post and excellent discussion! I agree with you all, I don’t think I ever sold a book through my blog (maybe I did, but it hasn’t shown up anywhere). I don’t thionk there’s much of a link between Tweets and sales either. As to Facebook or Goodreads, who knows!! The best advice is to keep writing and yes, improve that Amazon page for your books. I keep trying to improve it but even that gives, well, unknown results! That’s the trouble: you can’t prove the correlation between sales and what you do to build up your platform…
    Then if readers are only seeking out writers who’ve made it…Forget it! Blog only if you enjoy doing it (I do)!

  10. Damyanti says:

    I run two blogs (both turned 4 years old this year Jan), and I basically blog for me– writers have a lonely life, and I love making some good friends who share my interests. I don’t expect my blogs to bring me sales. But I’m not an indie author yet (unless one measly book counts) so I don’t know. Writing a good book is what I can do– and I’m slowly, painfully learning the ropes of book marketing.

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