Friday, June 12, 2009

Blogging Basics

by Meghan Conrad

One of the questions that I get asked most often is if authors should have an author blog--a professional blog for them to talk about their books and writing. Many, if not most, of the authors who I work with do, and for the most part, I think that this is a great thing. Blogging seems to be the queen of new media--authors promote themselves on their blogs, take blog tours, and the myriad review blogs opine daily on the latest releases. Blogging gives authors a platform that they have no other way to get, and it allows them to cultivate a readership who cares not just about the author's next release, but about the author themselves, and I think building that sort of readership is a great way to start a career.

A hundred readers who are passionate about your work are, in my opinion, more valuable than a thousand readers who buy your book on a whim and don't feel strongly about you either way. The hundred readers are, obviously, fewer immediate sales, but they're the people who will say to their best friend "Oh, you just have to read this book." They're the people who are going to ask if you can come speak at their writer's group, the people who are going to buy every book you put out. This sort of fan base is invaluable to an author, and having a blog is a wonderful way to build it.

There are, of course, pitfalls. One of the things to keep in mind is that everything you're posting is in a public forum, and it can--and, let's face it, probably will--be found by other authors, potential fans, and editors who are Googling you. When those people, all people who have the ability to affect your career, search for you, you don't want the first thing they find to be a flame war between you and another blogger. You probably also don't want your furry fanfic showing up on the first page of results, or an angry rant about a bad review. The last thing you want to do is put people off before they've even opened (or bought) your book, and part of that means that you need to present a professional front when you're in a public space like the internet.

If you choose to blog, even if you don't intend to use it as a professional tool, you should be aware that the people who find it are often in your profession and that their opinion of you has the ability to impact your career, for better or for worse. When editors get a new submission, we'll run a search for your name. While I don't think that anyone's going to reject you for your blog, it makes us wary if you're complaining about the utter stupidity of one of your editors, raging about low sales, or otherwise betraying a naive view of publishing and an unprofessional demeanor.

Sometimes it does come down to what everyone's mother told them on the playground: If you can't say anything nice, it might be better to say nothing at all.


Kimber Li said...

To me, blogging is like hosting a party. As the hostess, it's my job to make sure everything goes off without a hitch and on time, as stated in the invitation, to interact with my guests, and to make sure they have a good time.

Patricia Wood, author of LOTTERY, has probably the best author's blog I've seen. I think it's a good place for an author to start when figuring out how to set up her own. It's visually appealing and well-balanced between professional and personal.

No one is perfect, but make it too professional and it's boring, too personal and it's pathetic, too promotional and you'll come off as a used car salesman.

This is only my opinion as a blogging book reviewer who's seen a lot.

MsSnarkyPants said...

I never have understood the wars some bloggers get in! Maybe I've just listened to one too many Jimmy Buffett songs, but for the most part I'm kinda a chill person. (Don't believe anything my husband or children say!) I do like blogs that blend all aspects of the writers life. I really think what fans are looking for is something that brings them closer to the writers they love. I've even discovered writers because their blogs were so amazing I knew their books would have to be too.

Sandra Cormier said...

Amen to that, Baby. I've seen some pretty bad flame wars out there. So far I've been lucky to remain only a blip on the snark radar.

I love Pat Wood's blog. She never fails to make me feel as if I'm a lifelong friend. Same goes for Jamie Ford's blog.

Although Book Roast is now dormant, it was a fine example of a blog helpul to authors and readers alike. Yay, Chris!

Glynis Peters said...

Interesting, I like my blogs to be friendly. I get put off reading those who seem to engage in war against those who are there to support. I have set up an author blog, okay I am new to the world of novel writing, but it feels right to me. I get support and encouragement. I am an expat Brit in Cyprus, I live in the hills, blogging is my connection with the world of writers.

Bobbie (Sunny) Cole said...

wow - we must be channeling one another - lol. I just blogged about this topic. never understood the flaming and blaming games.

good post.

Anonymous said...

An author should be VERY careful what they say in a blog because nothing EVER goes away on the Internet.

I know a couple of authors who vehemently ranted about a former publisher to the point of being rabid about it. It came across as foaming at the mouth mad with one of them. They then went on to get a couple of military bloggers involved and a campaign was started against the publisher. One such militant blogger even has the publisher's logo with a big red line through it and this has been over a year since the campaign to destroy the publisher began.

I can't help but wonder what kind of damage such venom has caused the authors' careers. The funny thing is, I haven't seen or heard anything from these authors in the last few months. Could it be the other publishers read the nastiness about the first publisher and are staying away from the authors in droves?

I know I would if I were a publisher! Who wants to risk publishing something whose author might one day turn around and bite you in the ass?