Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Taking the Broad View on Blogging




The evolution of the Blog Banner

There’s been a lot of talk about blogging being a waste of time. James Scott Bell – a blogger himself, and an author I admire in many ways – says it’s a huge time-suck for little return. I like Jody Hedlund’s more nuanced view of it, but there is this truth underlying it all: blogging doesn’t have the power it once did.

So where did it go?

Social reach doesn’t evaporate, but it can shift from one platform to another. Many of my commenters come from other places – twitter, facebook, Goodreads, KB, my email list. They are drawn to my blog because the content of the day interests them, but they originally find that content on one of many social networks.

Blogging works for me because I like to bloviate at length (hello! this post!), and it gives me a central place to store the content that I want to share. A core group of people visit the blog daily, but most people discover my content elsewhere first. As long as the content brings value (information, entertainment, inspiration) to their lives, people will share it out on whatever networks they use.

If you’re rethinking blogging right now (you should always be thinking about how to best leverage your time), take a broader view of how you provide content and connect with readers (by which I mean all people on the planet who are capable of reading, including authors). Blogging isn’t for everyone. Some authors use FB to great effect (Megg Jensen comes to mind) – she provides great content (pictures, commentary, cute stuff) that builds her social network. Some authors use twitter really well, something that’s still a mystery to me. Some are denizens of the Kindle Boards, well known there for providing content and commentary on the day’s events.

These people have found a platform and owned it. Each platform has its own style - the trick is to figure out which works best for you, personality wise. 

Any kind of content-sharing can be tough for people who are not ridiculously outgoing (like me). The prospect of small-talk on the world's stage (FB) or one that's got more buzz than an over-liquored office party (Twitter) can be intimidating. Even for me, it’s taken time to get my footing on FB. Twitter still flummoxes me, other than tweeting out links to stuff I like to share (mine and other people’s). 

But I think that's actually the key: sharing stuff that aligns with your values. 

I recently posted this on FB:
Does this align with my author brand? No, it aligns with my values
Is it relevant to selling books in any way? Uh, no. 
Is it inspirational? HECK YES.

I kept thinking about that post, and the other people who shared it, and the still further people who voted for Krystina and Derek. We SHARED something by collectively stamping our approval on this young couple's dream. Because they shared their story, we were all enriched a little, uplifted a little. I was grateful for that blessing in the day.

This is the power of social networking.

(Also: do you see what I did there? You, my blog audience, now know about something that started on FB. The platform isn't as important as the content.)

A columnist for my local paper called me up the other day, wanting to interview me (about ebooks). Along the way, he asked, "How did you sell all those books?" I said, "I didn't. Other people sold them for me." By which I meant that word-of-mouth sold the books, people sharing with other people something that they enjoyed.

Here is the truth about social networks (and I think that Hugh Howey said this first, and OMG DID YOU SEE HE’S A NYTIMES BESTSELLER NOW?? *fans self* Ahem.):

Books sell on social networks, because OTHER people sell it, not YOU. 

You don’t have to have a massive social network. But, because the massive social network exists, IF you have great content (blogs/FBposts/books), people can easily and quickly share it. It’s word of mouth at the speed of electrons.

As long as you’re plugged in, it works.

Blogging may be waning, but social reach hasn’t disappeared. (Facebook has 1 BILLION people on it!) How people connect is a constantly shifting thing, as they seek out the best use of their time on a daily basis.

#1 Make sure you are plugged into that universe in some way.
#2 Provide content that people enjoy (this includes your books). 
(#3 Don't say you can't. You're a writer. I know you can create content.)

That's all you really need to do.

19 comments:

  1. Great post, Susan. You're right about others selling the books. It is about networking and finding the best place for each person. I'm not a fantastic blogger, but I do enjoy reading others.

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    1. And I appreciate every one of my blog readers!! There’s great information to be found in the blogosphere, even if the heady early days are waning a bit. I think what’s really happening is a stabilization of sorts.

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  2. Great post. It's sad to me that blogging may be waning because it's a much better way to share in depth like you do. And I feel my mission is to promote authors and books, which is better done through a blog than Twitter. I agree with you that some social networking is important. And I guess we'll have to see how people use other avenues like Twitter and Facebook successfully. Balance, which I don't really have, is the key.

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    1. I never have balance either! Always striving, never quite there. :)

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  3. I guess I'm still all abuzz about blogging since I'm new to it. But I've been noticing the recent wave of "Blogging is dying" mentioned around the blogosphere and outside the blogosphere. Maybe it could see a revival?

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    1. That you enjoy blogging shows that is a good format for you! I feel the same way, and it’s doubtful I’ll ever stop. And all of this “blogging is waning” talk neglects the core part where authors connect with each other in the blogosphere, as networking not as platform-building. For me, that’s been the most valuable piece all along.

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  4. I think I might hire you to plug in for me.

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    1. You know you're welcome on my blog anytime!

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  5. The "blogging is dying" idea makes me incredibly sad, because I love blogging so much. I'm just beginning to get the hang of using other media to leverage the quality content I work hard to provide. Twitter, FB and Google+ can all work hand-in-hand with a blog.

    Absolutely, word of mouth sells books. It's getting the story into the hands of passionate advocates in the first place that's the bigger challenge, I've found.

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    1. I love blogging too! But I really do see blogging/social networking as a separate thing from getting books in front of people. I work hard to reach non-friend-readers to make sure that I’m not always fishing in my backyard. But blogging allows me to do things like post that link, so that I can share lessons learned and help my friends (and pay forward some of the help I’ve received).

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  6. The only reason I have not blogged is my blog was hacked, Sue. But I do notice that a lot of bloggers are not posting anymore. *sigh* But. God, family, writing, and then blogging.

    Word of mouth is the most bodacious advertising there is. I have to order Closed Hearts. Will do that. Open Minds was awesome, Sue. :-)

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    1. Ack! Sorry your blog was hacked! And THANK YOU for reading Open Minds!! I hope you enjoy Closed Hearts as well. :)

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  7. it seems like Twitter has taken the place of blogging. I don't think blogging is a waste of time, though. I guess it just depends on what you're trying to get across and for what purpose you're using it.

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  8. Great post, Susan! I blogged about this subject awhile ago, focusing on why I blog now. For me, my blog is my quiet corner, not a marketing platform. I talk about my writing and how I feel about writing and publishing. Sometimes I'll share news about my books and tours, but mostly it's just my place to talk for people who are interested. In that way, it's not a waste of time at all. It's a very integral part of my career. :)

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    1. I agree that blogging has so many uses beyond, “hey this is my platform to sell books!” I think the “blogging is a waste of time” argument is made primarily about that aspect of blogging, and there is a point to that (although obviously I don’t agree with it entirely). If I could be guaranteed that my blog would never help sell another book, I would still blog. I just enjoy sharing and connecting with other writers – and as a networking tool, I think it’s still very powerful.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. I prefer blogging. No time for the others right now. I'll hire my daughter as publicist in FB and Twitter when needed. My priority time is for writing.

    Different solutions for each of us. If you put enough time into anything (writing, learning, etc.), you will see value for the investment. It just has to be something you enjoy or can live with. I'm hyper enough without adding more.

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  10. brilliant as always, and totally right. I have my blog b/c I started it back when I was trying to be traditional. Then I met all you guys, and there's no WAY I'd walk away now. I might have to cut back on time, but that's all.

    FB started as me keeping up w/my out of town relatives. Now it's just blown. Up. I have no idea what's selling TTAF--book bloggers, Goodreads, FB, my ridiculously large family... The Lord--LOL! But I guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.

    Great post, Sue! <3

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  11. Look at you, always on the cutting edge of hot topics :) I love you for that. I have to agree that I've seen some waning in the influence of blogs over the last several years. I think it could be the result of social networking exploding into different spheres (blogs, facebook, twitter, pinterest, goodreads, etc.). I still enjoy blogging, but I have to admit that facebook and twitter have definitely jumped in priority for me personally. I like that both networks offer smaller bytes of info (i.e., time investment) and instant feedback. That's not to say I'm laying my blog to rest--I've just shifted priorities.

    With my switch from adult romance to YA novels, I'm also rethinking how I connect with potential readers and influencers. I have great connections with other YA authors through FB and twitter, but those pesky readers...I'm still hunting for them. What's your take on connecting with teen readers?

    Finally, as to the self-promotion: yes! PLEASE, authors, stop promoting your own work (especially several times a day). It never wins me over. Never. Make the information available sure, but no more flooding my twitter feed, okay? :)

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers