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August 10, 2006

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» Authors who blog and other diversions from Crime Fiction Dossier
Over at Buzz, Balls Hype, M.J. Rose has an excellent post on author blogging. Apparently, mega-publishing company Holtzbrinck (Holt, St. Martin's Press, FSG, Tor, etc.) has launched an initiative to get their authors blogging. Best of all, it will only [Read More]

» Great writer = Great blogger? Not exactly... from eSoup
Blogging can be a great tool for authors who are marketing their books...sometimes. Author M.J. Rose points out the shortcomings of this assumption. This Just In: Flogging -vs- Blogging. [Read More]

» Book blogs: can your blog sell books -- or anything else? from Angela Booth's Writing Blog
MJ Rose has an interesting post "This Just In: Flogging vs Blogging" about Holtzbrinck developing a group blog project and looking for authors for the group blog. She also discusses the time and energy it takes to create a blog [Read More]

» Blog Flog Glog Slog Clog Vlog Plog from Midnight Highways
And so on. M.J. Rose, at Buzz, Balls, Hype, weighs in on the question of author blogging, especially with respect to a recent effort by Tors parent company, Holtzbrink, to encourage authors in this wonderful world of the blog.  Ms. Rose ... [Read More]

» Balls from Balls
Also sells clothing and coffee mugs with pro American logos.Offers logod or personalized with up to three lines of text.A leade... [Read More]

Comments

Dan Zarrella

seems like http://www.negeek.com/2006-02-08-phlog-defined-whats-a-phlog.html
this guy had a similar idea, but he used "phlog".

ann michael

Non-fiction writers - especially in business or science might have something to write about several times a week, but you are dead on!

It takes hours per week to write content for a blog. It also takes hours of reading other blogs and connecting with them to make a blog interesting. Then there's monitoring and sometimes moderating comments on a blog - which also takes time. There's fact checking and linking and all those aspects as well.

This looks like a case of the publisher not understanding this process (just as they often don't understand the writing process) - and minimizing the effort it requires to do it well.

Eric

So let me get this straight...

This is a writer's blog post about how writer blogs are pointless.

Hmm. Maybe you're right.

joe Miller

I'm one of the writers who has been invited to take part in this venture. I'm super excited about. But then, I've already been blogging for a couple of years.

I agree with some of your points, expecially the blog v. flog part. I've raised some of these points to the publicist I'm working with. Specifically, I've urged them to work with the blog I already have -- name and all -- as opposed to having me start a writer-specific one. My argument is that folks will be able to tell riight away that this is just a marketing ploy and not a sincere effort to build community.

But I disagree about the "writers shouldn't blog" part.

I started blogging to overcome writer's block, and it worked. In the process I've cultivated a small audience of loyal readers -- new friends, really -- who are probably all going to buy my book. I didn't expect this to happen, but when it did, I got the sense that a blog could be an effective companion to a book-writing career. Even if the blog were to have just a thousand or so loyal readers that would be a strong base, a community of people eagerly awaiting a book's release.

I also don't agree that writers necessarily only write about process. My sense is that the most effective blog would be an honest-to-god blog, where you just write about whatever the hell you feel like writing about. If folks like it, they'll stick around. If they stick around, they'll buy your book and tell their friends about it, and the blog, and so on.

Lewis Green

If the intent of the blog is to sell books, and that intent comes across clearly, count me out as a potential reader. And if the blog's purpose is a "how-to" on writing, count me out again. I have been a writer (among other things) most of my life, and use that skill daily as a business consultant. I will go to Amazon.com, if I want to buy a book, and I do not believe that non-writers can learn how to write by reading about writing. Nor do I believe that writer's get better by reading about writing. Writers write, wannabes read about how to write.

 sanctimonious

For the most part, I think you are correct in your belief that blogging is of limited value in selling books. I have no formal blog but I do get my thoughts out to the writing community.

Most blogging in general--not just by authors--is an exercise in ego-enhancement and self-expression. There is some value in that, but that has nothing to do with selling books.

When everyone with a computer and internet access can share his/her thoughts in cyber-space, creating an account that lasts forever on servers, you're gonna end up with a tremendous amount of senseless blabbering. And that is exactly what we have--not much different than what we do on cell phones.

At least we now have the lovely and powerful blogosphere to belch out our thoughts and feelings with the delusion that the world is listening and cares about what we have to say. And not only that, but we can now leave a digital cyber-trace of our existence that lasts forever. What a legacy! What a way to achieve cyber-immortality!

Robin

I can say that I've gone out in search of books because of finding an author's blog and reading their posts. Barry Eisler is one that comes immediately to mind. I had been curious about his books, but had never read one. I found his blog accidentally while looking for other things, and it led me to finally go back and start his series. Just my 2 cents.

Same thing with Jennifer Weiner, now that I think about it. Her blog is so witty that I decided to try one of her books, when I'd really had no desire to before.

MJ

Exactly Robin, when it works its terrific. Barry's blog is a perfect example. I have blogged about it several times and don't want anyone to think I only use Barry as an example:)

But some blogs wrok great.

That's why I didn't say no writers should have blogs. I'm saying that the way this publisher is pushing it is wrong.

And if you are a blogger and with this publihser the effort is a no brainer.

And Eric, this blog is not about me or my fiction. It's a marketing blog, while I do have my books up on the page, I know this is an industry blog and its intent is not to sell my fiction. That's the big difference.

Ali

Good Post MJ -

Your points on Time so bang-on / apart from Blogs, the few dedicated Thriller Sites such as Jan Mag Blog, Crimespree, Deadly Pleasures, Sarah Weinman, Crime Fiction Dossier and Shots et al - we spend vast amnouts of time putting up reviews, transcribing interviews, writing articles - so when someone says it takes a few minutes each day, they're talking wiffle.

Good post, keep fighting the good fight

Ali

David J. Montgomery

Blogging is a colossal waste of time for 90% of authors. Publishers should be spending their time thinking of the NEXT way for authors to get publicity, not piling on the last way that hardly worked for anyone anyway. (And they should try to find ways that don't require the author spending several hours a week doing it!) Any author who launches Yet Another Blog at this point without some unique, exciting and valuable angle is just spinning their wheels.

John Dodds

I agree - both with your points and that you probably have typoes (you repeat point 3).

Blogs rise because they are of interest to their readers - to blog in order to promote a book implies you are trying to attract readers to ablog inorder that they then go and buy the book seems incredibly byzantine.

Moreover, this seems to suggest blogging after the book is written, whereas the one way you could potentially build momentum would be to blog throughout the writing of a book and include samples of the writing.

Even then, I'm not convinced this would work since I was rapt with attention to the King Kong production video blog for over ten months yet didn't go to see the movie.

Bryan Fleming

I agree. Too many people are hopping on the blogging bandwagon without ever knowing what it really is.

- Bryan
http://www.BryanCFleming.com

Michael

Dead on and then some.

I have been keeping a journal for 35 years and never thought of myself as a writer, however one day I just wrote down the title of a book that came with the wind, while smoking outside a cafe and 8 weeks later I had finished a 200,000 word novel.

Then about a month after that I got another idea and I finished a second novel in 10 weeks.

Then it all happened; I was writing novels one after the other and have even registered 10 of them with ISBN numbers even though I am not published.

And this is my point. I AM NOT PUBLISHED BECAUSE I DISCOVERED EMAIL AND THE INTERNET.

I got distracted and went on to join social groups et al and even posted two blogs and in the process left behind my books.

I just came home and read Seth as I do everyday, and came here to read and it was as if you were looking over my shoulder this morning while I was writing how miserable I am and all. I even asked God for a sign to tell me how to find my way back to my old self again; then, I never felt all this frustration and nervous energy that flows through my veins even as I write this.

I also had a message on my answering machine. It was from a girl who translates from English to French. I met her 5 months ago at the market; guess she thought I might have been trying to pick her up. Gave her my number and told her I wanted to publish my first novel in French. I told her a publisher of a French Newspaper said he would put the story of the book on the front page with the lead,"English guy publishes first novel in French. Why?"

This translator and others have all said to me that the viral marketing from this front page story will make people curious to find out why I wanted to do this. And my answer is not a maketing ploy; it's the truth.

Would I say I am a writer; of course.

Would I say I love writing; of course.

So why the H_LL am I wasting my time on the net when I have 46 more story ideas to write?

Yes you can kick my ass here; I know! But sometimes it takes a story like this one here and the comments here to wake a man from his self imposed misery.

So here's to clunking the time wasting, mother gut wrenching, stress inducing, reality of the Internet and here's to love of living again as a humble writer.

Wish me luck; imagine the translator and this story here I'm commenting on. All before 1pm after a gut wrenching morning of Misery Plus.

Thanks Seth and thanks M.J. Rose.

Allison Brennan

If I did everything that people say I should do in promotion, I would have no time to write three books a year. Having a tight production schedule and the ability to write fast is far better for my career than blogging.

I have a blog and post only on Mondays. My hits to the blog are exponentially higher on Mondays and Tuesdays because people who visit know I only post once a week (and I occasionally remind people in my post). I have a group blog I post on Thursdays. Each post takes me about 30-60 minutes. I'm a columnist for Romancing The Blog and post once a month. This has the highest readership of all because it has a better defined purpose and audience.

kevin p

Becuase I have been reading Chris Anderson's Long Tail blog (http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/) I am planning on buying his book to see what the "final edit" looks like. Yet I agree with the main points of your argument. Perhaps blogs sell books for non-fiction but don't for fiction?

Alexandra Levit

I look at my blog, like my nonfiction books, as an extension of my platform as a twentysomething career expert. I don't know that it affects sales directly, nor do I expect it to. Writing the blog keeps me observant, it keeps me sharp, it keeps me involved and paying attention to the business world niche I'm asked about in media interviews and by readers every week. My concern about this initiative is that publishers seem to be forcing authors to jump on the blogging bandwagon, whether it makes sense or not. Authors have enough pressure to sell their own books as it is. Doing a blog the right way requires an enormous amount of time and energy (as many have already stated) - it's not simply another trendy promotional exercise that can be thrust upon the author for instantaneous results.

MJ

I am not saying no writers should blog or that all blogs that help sell books are bad.

I'm simply trying to point out that its not as simple as you are a writer - get a blog - it will sell your books.

Marti

Gee, here I am trying to sell my book from my blog. And it's REALLY from my blog, since it's a collection of humorous essays, and some of them were former blog posts.

Should I just go drink the Koolaid now? LOL

Eric

MJ said:

"I'm simply trying to point out that its not as simple as you are a writer - get a blog - it will sell your books."

The same could be said for getting a publisher. There are a lot of actions & routes that, by themselves, don't necessarily imply you will sell books.

We could apply this critical thinking to the gamut of promotional activities. But it reveals the obvious question, what WILL sell my books?

NOT blogging doesn't seem like a solution. You may conserve effort/energy which could be spent on writing more books. But then you've got to sell those books too, and the core problem remains unsolved.

What could I do instead of blogging, then? Besides Not Blogging. Not Blogging isn't much of a strategy.

The Zero Boss

100% agreed. A blog needs to be treated as another avenue for your writing. It is, essentially, a daily magazine with you as its sole author.

The best bloggers work on their blogs daily. For most, their blogs ARE their medium. If you can attack a blog with the same kind of dedication and fervor you do all your other writing, then go for it. If it's just going to be a bulletin board on which you tack short little "updates" and promo info about your next speaking gig, don't even bother.

MJ

Eric, I'm not saying that. Come on. I'm saying if you think that by blogging you are going to sell books and that is the reason you are going to do it - be prepared that it's not that easy especially with fiction becuase:

A. Flogging is transparent.
B. There are over 50 million blogs and its hard to break through
C. Readers - ie people who buy books are not necessarily interested in the writer but rather the story/characters/ideas and so
D. A blog that will engage readers can be very difficult to come up with and difficult to maintain and may not be worth the effort.

What can you do to sell books? About 100 things. Many of whch I write about at this blog. But if you want to talk about blogs specifically here are two:

Find the blogs already in existance that you think speak to the kind of people who might be interested in your book. Write the bloggers, tell them about your book and ask them if they'd be interesed in having you guest blog, or would they be interested in reviewing the blog, or would they be interested in mentioning the book and giving away a few copies to their readers.

Some savvy authors do with on a regular basis and others have set up companies that host what we call virtual blog tours. The benefit it the author of the book can go on one of these tours during the critical 12 weeks that the book is about to some out and when it comes out and then spend the rest of the time writing the next book.

And that's just two minutes worth.

But no one thing sells books. Many things do.

All I'm saying is that blogging is neither easy nor a foolproof way to self-promote unless the author really has a great idea of how to creatively use a blog and that the letter from the publihser made it sound simple - which I don't think it is.

Jeff Nordstedt

Correction: there is "one thing" that sells books. Its name is Oprah.

Trudy W. Schuett

Blogs are but one part of a total marketing effort. I'm a firm believer in the concept that once the book is written, the author is only half done. Finding (or creating) a community of readers is the next step.

There are major differences between fiction and non-fiction when it comes to marketing. Readers of non-fiction know what they're looking for, so the search structure of the online world works well.

Fiction readers don't always know what book or author they want, so browse is a better function.

It is a fractious, difficult relationship we have with hard-copy and online products, but I think any author intending success needs to have a foot in both worlds.

RisingSunofNihon

I realize that I'm getting to this party late, so I apologize for that. I also apologize if the content of this comment has been covered already (as I didn't go through all the previously posted comments). Anyway, I agree with you on two points: first of all, I don't know many fiction writers who would have the time, energy, or inclination to keep up a blog for the sole purpose of peddling their books. Second, as a reader, I would definitely be turned off if I went to an author's blog only to find that it's little more than a sales pitch for his/her latest work.

Robert Nagle

Maybe you've already made this point elsewhere, but the real challenge is coming up with literary projects that use the blog/serialization form successfully. I quote an essay I wrote a few months ago http://www.teleread.org/blog/?p=3905 :

"Ignore for the moment the difficulty of producing on a daily basis. The journal/blerialization format offers the opportunity to remind an audience on a daily basis that you (or your story) still exist. Like a literary heartbeat. The blook/blogstory is clearly a case where the technical constraints of the software have imposed a form..a chronological/autobiographical one. The much derided “haircut blog” (”…Today I had a haircut and then walked the dog and then called my girlfriend“…) actually is an easy narrative to follow, especially if the character is interesting and the story occurs in “real time” ( a time frame identical to the person reading it). Lacking in structure perhaps, and lacking dramatic incident (telling and never showing), blogstories nonetheless create a first person protagonist with emotional nuances and significant backstory for those willing to delve into the archives. Web guru Eric Meyer once compared reading a weblog to watching the film Memento. You read the latest entry first, and then go backwards. Like a TV show you catch in syndication and later watch the earlier episodes, weblog-based literary forms either have a backward focus or an obsession with the eternal present. The pleasure comes not from anticipating the future but comparing the present with past.

"Long novels have forward momentum and a single starting point. Few who start actually complete the journey, but those who do feel the pride of accomplishment (that is true both for creators and consumers). For blognovels, there is no single station to begin your journey; that train is constantly picking up passengers at various stops, and nobody has stayed on the train the whole time.

Robert Nagle

To explain myself further: you see blogs as merely promotional tools (in contrast to novels, which is the main course). But blogs can also be the main course if done the right way. They can become the creative project itself.

Note that I have not found many successful examples of blog novels (although in podcasting, I see more examples of successful serialization). I've also seen successful examples in erotica writing, though that genre may be naturally suited to journal-autobiographical type of writing.

juliamazal

This blog has sold a book. To me. Indirectly.

I think of it as critical mass. I see a bit about M.J. Rose on other websites. I read some good reviews - though, those don't influence me that much. I find your blog. The blog looks neat, esthetically pleasing, and showcases intelligent writing. This, to me, is the best evidence that your books will also be worth reading.

I'm wondering what to buy... all those things culminate and I order an M.J. Rose book. So, no, it's not a direct book+blog=sale, but it's an indirect sale to someone who's never read your work before.

MJ

And I'm not questioning that or saying it doesn't work. I'm saying the main goal of a blog can't be to sell the books - if the writer doesn't have a passion about a subject and doesn't run a great blog, you won't think about buying that writer's book. In the letter in question the blogs were presented as an easy way to sell books. My point is they are not an easy way.

But thanks for buying the book. I hope you like it!!

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By M.J. Rose

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