Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In Defense of Blogging

At a writer's conference I went to recently, the author panel was pretty down on the whole social media thing. They didn't see any value in it; it was a timesuck. The blogosphere is cluttered, and you only reach a limited number of people. Have a static website, they said. Social networking isn't worth the effort.

I disagree. And I may have said so at the conference, although I did so with all due respect. I know blogging isn't for everyone, and if it's not for you, don't do it! It's been said a million times that if you're going to blog/tweet/skywrite with the intent of SELLING BOOKS, then it's going to be a miserable failure. I think that's pretty obvious--who wants to hear ME ME ME all the time? But I think there's a lot to be gained from a blog and a twitter account and facebook and all that malarkey.

The first and biggest reason for me is that blogging is FUN. It reminds me of the reasons I got into writing in the first place. I can write whatever I want, whenever I want. (Within reason, of course. I would NOT advise using the blog to talk smack, unless it's funny pseudo smack in which case please leave the blog address in the comments because I want to visit.) There are no deadlines except the ones that are self-imposed. It's totally self-directed, and I like having that creative outlet.

It also keeps me writing every day, and I think that's pretty handy. Especially on days when I'm running errands and have no writing time, it's nice to have that half hour to sit down and write. I find that the words come easier if I do a little bit every day, and then I make the most of every minute.

So there's definitely a personal benefit, but is there anything else? With all the millions of marketing activities that a writer can do, why spend time blogging? Especially if you're only going to reach a limited number of book bloggers.

Maybe blogging IS insular. I certainly know a lot of people who aren't blog readers and don't intend to start any time soon. But I don't think you can say that a blog's influence is limited to the kidlit blogosphere. Book bloggers don't spend every waking minute on blogs. They go to school or to work. They hang out with friends. They go to the mall and walk through the bookstore, assuming that they're lucky enough to still have a bleeping bookstore in their mall. And during all those things, they talk. They recommend books they've heard about, retell funny anecdotes, and name drop authors. I've certainly done that.

So that blog might only get 200 hits in a day. But there's no way to know how many people talk about it or recommend the book to friends later or request it at the library. In a way, you are reaching people who have never touched a book blog. How many? Who knows?

So yeah, the book blogging community might be small, but the community of people who go to book signings is pretty small too. I look at it like a giant game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The connections don't stop at the first degree. And I think you've got to look at blogging like that.

What about you? What do you think of blogging? If you do it, why? If not, why not?


Janet Johnson said...

Interesting about the panel's comments. I've never heard a whole group say that at a conference before (because the issue ALWAYS comes up).

But I'm with you. There's a lot to be gained and it is nice to have a voice. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

If I'd never started blogging I wouldn't have found writers like you. I love reading what others are saying. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes informative, sometimes from the heart. Yes, it takes time, I don't read all blogs all the time, but it's like good friendships, you make time for them.
I was a news writer so it was natural for me step into blogging but what I do is more personal and helps me sort out my interests and passions, and I can interact with others who enjoy these things.
I'm carrying on a bit here, but I can't begin to inventory all that I have learned in the couple of years I've been doing this, nor put a value on making some fantastic new friends (even if we've never met face to face).
And, finally, look at Neil Gaiman--a prolific writer of numerous novels, screenplays, short stories--who's been blogging for a decade! *steps down off soapbox*

Noelle said...

I have been blogging since late 2005. I thought it was silly at first. Then I found out I had alot to say. My blog is my forum. Of course I have self-imposed rules that I always follow. Never blog about work. Never blog complaints about family or friends. Never post pictures of my child. Never use more than the first initial of family members' names. I follow those to avoid relationship issues and stalkers. But everything else is fine. I love airing my opinions or making funny statements.

I read your blog ALL the time. I honestly started because I know you personally. (Even if we haven't seen each other in...gasp...19 years. When are you in Cleveland next?)

I know another new writer who had his first book published in 2010. He blogged and used twitter and facebook to announce when he had book readings, signings, and any other events. I don't know if it worked for him or not. But I did post on FB myself to tell people I know about his book. Who cares how you network, as long as you network?

Tabitha said...

Huh. That's very interesting about the panel's comments. I don't agree at all...

Writing is a solitary job. I'm actually one of those people who is fine to work alone, but even I need some interaction every now and then. There is a huge community of readers and writers on the internet, and the only way to connect with them is through social networking. And, when we connect, that often sparks amazing discussions about writing, book recommendations, and more. I love that.

I started my blog as a way for me to better understand the craft of writing, but it has grown into so much more. I've made some great friends that I've never met in person, but will whenever we're in the same part of the country at the same time. :) I think this is one of the best ways for readers and writers to connect.

While I understand that blogging isn't necessarily for everyone, it's most definitely for me. :)

Carrie Harris said...

Janet: I thought it was strange too. It was a small panel, though. I wonder if they'd had just one more person whether the discussion would have changed.

Tricia: Yes! Exactly! And I get such a kick out of reading Gaiman's blog. It makes him feel like a person instead of a shadowy, intangible figure behind a computer screen. And I like that!

Noelle: I cannot believe it's been 19 years. CANNOT BELIEVE. And I will get in touch next time I'm in C-town.

As for your comments, heck yeah! I think it's smart to impose limits, because the info IS public. And for me, it's been a GREAT way to network.

Tabitha: Couldn't agree with you more. I've met some of my closest friends and writing partners through blogs. And some day, hopefully, I'll have a chance to meet YOU. :)

Marsha Sigman said...

I think it's a great way to make friends and connections with other writers. The support is amazing and without it a lot of great writers would probably just give up.

It's also an incredible information resource on the craft and the business.

And it's a lot of fun. Can't find one reason NOT to blog.

Vikki said...

I've been blogging for about 4 years now. I started while I was working on my first book, and though it didn't bring the results I had initially hoped for (bazillions of followers, agents banging down my door, total world domination, Oreo trucks showing up in my driveway every morning), it turned out to be the best outlet for me. I found other blogs I loved and made friends with other writers (including you...I think we bonded over Secret of NIMH or something). And most importantly, it helped, and continues to help remind me that I'm not alone. Every writer struggles, gets frustrated, has good days, bad days, days they feel like jamming pencils in their ears and setting fire to their laptops, etc. Since writing is such a solitary thing, it's so nice to have a social outlet like that.

Kelly Jensen said...

Hmm. Had I not been a blogger, nor had you been a blogger, we'd have never met.

The panel? It was wrong. Blogging is so helpful professionally, as well as personally. On both ends.

Cate Gardner said...

I'm surprised by the panel's comments. I absolutely love blogging and my blog friends.

Kelly Polark said...

I started a blog because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I continue it because it entertains me, forces me to write, and mostly connects me with wonderful writers like yourself.
Just knowing others that share my love for writing (and nonsense) makes me a happier person.

storyqueen said...

I have started this comment 5 times, but it's just not coming out right.

What I keep trying to say is that I like to read the blogs of writers and I appreciate that they take the time to post. I have learned so much!

I like to keep my own blog for a couple of reasons. 1. It serves as kind of a personal writing journal. Sometimes I'll go back and read stuff and think , "hey, I'd totally forgotten about that! Cool!" and 2. I like to be a part of the writing community.

Good topic.


Paul Michael Murphy said...

I can't believe publishing houses don't have some hard data on the relationship between social networking and book sales. If a publisher expects its authors to devote their time to such pursuits, I would expect a lot of writers to ask, "Why? Do you have any figures that show it will make a difference? Because honestly, I'd rather be working on my next book. Or tossing around a baseball with my son. Or watching Hasselhoff videos."

Carrie Harris said...

Marsha: Oh yeah! The blogosphere is just one big support group, isn't it? I couldn't survive without mine.

Vivi: I agree. I get a little twitchy when my only conversation is about princesses and butts. (My son is seven. Every joke is about butts.) And the Secret of NIMH rules! Justin is made of awesomeness.

Kelly: And that right there is the best defense of blogging ever.

Cate: I was kind of surprised, but I also know there are some authors who don't blog at all. I completely respect that choice, but I don't think that should equal blogging isn't worth it. Know what I mean?

Kelly: I did pretty much the same thing, and I'm so glad I did!

storyqueen: I think that comment came out just fine! Dude. :)

PMM: It sure would be nice, but I can't imagine how tough it would be to get hard data on that. All blogging's not the same, y' know?

Having said that, I think EVERYONE should watch more Hasselhoff videos. :)

Ishta Mercurio said...

I love blogging! It gives me a chance to get to know others who share my interests - and then when I go to conferences, I meet up with them. So many of my blogger-friends have become real-life long-distance friends.

And I like the freedom of writing my blog: it's not working on my WiP, but it's still writing. It keeps me fresh.

Deana said...

How frustrating is that...its a good thing I like to blog because it seems everywhere you turn someone is saying to market this way...oh, that way. Bleh! Blog on. I love yours by the way and I soooo love Zombies, can't wait to read your book:)

Tabitha said...

Yes! I hope to meet you as well. I mean, I *have* to get my copy of Bad Taste In Boys signed, you know. :)

If you tour to the Chicago area, I'll be there. :)

Anonymous said...

Love this post! I am a blogger. I've been a blogger for several years. Mine started out as a personal blog to keep my family and friends updated with my random posts and pictures. I started reading a lot and found that most of my posts were about books so I switched it. Every now and then I will still get a personal post on there.

I found that the book blogging world had so much to offer. I am an AVID READER and I support all of the authors and everything they do. I never in a million years thought I'd talk to ANY authors. I still look at them all as celebrities. But I guess when you love something so much, you become a fan!

I only hope that book blogging is spreading the word for the writers, to help them get their book out there, and also to show others that reading is FUN, and everyone should be doing it! ♥