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Should unpublished writers blog?


I’ve been working on my talk, THE FINE ART OF SELF-PROMOTION, in preparation for my presentation /workshop for the GLVWG writers’ group in November. One of the first things I plan to cover is whether or not unpublished writers should even have a blog. 
 
By strange coincidence,
at Kidlit.com the other day, Mary Kole asked that same question.  Jodi Meadows (aka [info]jmeadows) wrote a great response to this (with which I mostly agree), but I’d like to add my own thoughts. 
 
Should unpublished writers blog?
If you’re a not yet published short fiction writer, and don’t like the idea of blogging, then don’t. I think you’re missing out on a great experience, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to start a blog who wasn’t keen on the idea.
 
However (and here's where I'm afraid I must disagree with from both Mary and Jodi), if your goal is to one day publish a novel, that’s a different story. The days when a debut author let the publishing and publicity department do the marketing and promotion work while he/she just got on with writing the next book have long since passed (if indeed they ever existed). 
 
If you’re in the ‘However’ category, I’d say the question isn’t so much ‘Should unpublished writers blog?’ as ‘How should unpublished writers blog?’
 
In her post at Kidlit.com, Mary said that too many unpublished writers’ have blogs with poor content or too little content. I see where she’s coming from, and I totally agree that content is important. The problem I had with her post is that she makes the distinction between published and unpublished writers, as if getting a book contract automatically makes you both interesting and a good blogger. It really doesn't. 
 
The fact that someone’s a published writer might attract a few readers at first. It would certainly give a little credibility when it comes to offering writing advice, but other than that, unless you’re a celebrity of some sort, the success (assuming the goal is to attract readers - and by default, potential book buyers) of any writer’s blog comes down to quality and frequency of content, and more importantly, the way in which he/she interacts with other folks online. 
 
Of course, how folks use their online journals is up to them, but I would argue that far too many published, or soon-to-be published, writers only use their blogs for social broadcasting (talking at people), when social networking (actually engaging with people) is far more effective and a lot more fun. 
 
Effective blogging isn't as difficult as writing a book, but it is a skill of sorts, requiring practice and deliberate intent. It doesn’t matter where you are in your writing career, if you make the effort to create interesting posts and take the time to connect with other folks, you can develop a blog readership. If you don’t, then it doesn’t matter how many novels you’ve published, few people will visit your journal more than once.
 
Since good blogging takes practice, doesn’t it make sense to acquire that skill now, rather than wait till you get your book contract? I believe it takes years of steady work and a deliberate plan of action to develop a wide social network. If that’s your goal, I recommend starting early. Down the road, when that novel you’re working on gets published, you’ll be glad you did.  
 
How about you?
 
Do you think unpublished writers should blog? 
 
 




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( 65 comments — Leave a comment )
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catephoenix
Jul. 24th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
I 100% think unpublished writers should blog. The opportunities to network and meet others going through the same thing as you is invaluable.
msstacy13
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:19 pm (UTC)
Not to mention all the potential to be amused
by obliquely snide remarks your hangers-on cast at one another...
:)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 24th, 2010 12:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
I think of 'social broadcasting' as talking at people: Read my story/buy my book/see me at this Con/book signing etc, all of which are important, but (I think) should make up a small part of your content. Most of it should be interacting with other folks in some way.

I do agree that writing blog posts takes time, but so does watching the telly. If you want to, you can always make time for the important things, don't you think?
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 24th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
mikandra
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:07 pm (UTC)
so... unpublished writers shouldn't blog about the process of writing and/or getting published...

Hmmms...

While we're at it, maybe we should stop backyard jazz musicians from blogging about their amateurish music, or we should stop non-professional bird-watchers from blogging about what they've seen on family walks, and of course we should stop amateur astronomers from blogging their observations. After all, they're all worthless hacks and complete amateurs who are just doing it for the fun of it.

Wait a minute.

Weren't there two amateur astronomers who both took, independently, some amazing pictures of lightning Jupiter last month? While the 'pros' were probably 1. in bed, 2.drinking coffee, or 3. at a personnel development meeting?

jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:44 pm (UTC)
I'm sure Mary didn't intend it to come across in quite that way, but it did strike me as a little odd.
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jul. 24th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 25th, 2010 09:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jul. 25th, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
msstacy13
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:30 pm (UTC)
Blogging IS writing,
and it's a form of publishing,
so, in the strictest sense,
an unpublished writer cannot blog;
blogging itself makes one a published writer.

My impression of that particular article
is that commercially unpublished writers shouldn't blog
as if they were formally published writers.
At the early stages, it's about networking among writers;
at the later stages, it's about promoting one's work.
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC)
'At the early stages, it's about networking among writers; at the later stages, it's about promoting one's work.'

Fair point, although post-publication should certainly include promoting one's work, I think it should still be the smaller part of it, otherwise folks get bored and stop reading altogether. I know I do.
brian_ohio
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:35 pm (UTC)
Not only should they... I think agents and editors expect them to blog. How else do you explain the fact that the agents and editors visit an author's blog to check out how they're networking themselves?
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC)
Indeed they do, and many of them blog themselves.
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
By 'writer's blog' I'm thinking of when where it's immediately obvious that the blogger is also is a writer, though I don't think it means all posting there has to actually be about writing, far from it.

I try to stick to some kind of writerly theme, but so long as it's interesting to the people who read it, I don't think it matters what folks blog about.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 24th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
bogwitch64
Jul. 24th, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC)
I agree with you, Jon--earning a place in fellow bloggers hearts and space in their day takes effort. Sure, someone might read your book, look you up, start following your blog, but without the content it takes to cultivate a bloggerly relationship, you won't keep that person long. I tend to skip over blogs that are mostly, "SEE ME!"

There is no such thing as "too soon" when it comes to a writer blogging. I don't advocate a novice giving writing advice as if she's a pro, but I wholly support a novice blogging about the lessons she learns as she learns them. It creates a sense of kinship that, later on, will have people cheering for her successes.

A successful blog is one that mixes 70% interesting content with 15% personal content, with 15% promotion.
bogwitch64
Jul. 24th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
Oh! And add to that, this: A blogger can have all the interesting topic in the world but if she doesn't interact with those commenting on her blog, she might as well not bother. People don't like being ignored.

Interacting means replying to comments made in your blog, as well as taking the time to comment in other blogs.

When an author has a bajillion fans and can't possibly keep up, that's one thing. Still, an occasional, "I appreciate all of you" post is in order, the occasional appearance in someone else's blog that says, "I'm here," proves your not a self-centered twit who only cares about being seen, and nothing for seeing others.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 24th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jul. 24th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - paulwoodlin - Jul. 26th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jul. 26th, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Didn't sound preachy to me, and I agree completely about promoting wisely. It's definetely one of those things where more is less :)
littlemoremasks
Jul. 24th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
That's like asking should an amateur photographer get an flickr account.

Let me quote the best act to come out of New Zealand:

"If that's what you're into"

jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
I didn't know Peter jackson said that ;)
maryjdal
Jul. 24th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
Should unpublished writers blog? I have to say the question threw me until I read that it was aimed at writers who wonder if they should blog when they don't wish to. So my opinion is = it's entirely a personal choice. :) if you enjoy it - do it. If it is not who you are than follow the path that is right for you.
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
I agree completely, unless you plan to get a book published ;)
eowyn_315
Jul. 24th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
Not being interested in publishing, I can't really answer the question of unpublished writers being obligated to blog. If it's expected in order to get an agent/contract/whatever, then I suppose you ought to do it. But if you don't want to or have nothing to say, it's probably not going to be a very good blog anyway.

Speaking as a reader of writers' blogs, though, I'd say the answer is, "If they have something interesting to say." I tend to read blogs because either (1) they post useful writing advice and/or link to other useful posts about writing or (2) they post about interesting things, which may or may not have to do with writing. I don't think you need to be published to do that.
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
'But if you don't want to or have nothing to say, it's probably not going to be a very good blog anyway.

Lol, that's true enough, but authors are expected to get good at arranging book signings and put themselves out in the world to market their novel. An online presence is part of that. If they're not going to blog, I'd say they'd better get real good at the offline stuff, because no matter how good your book is, you need to push the marketing these days.
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks for taking the time to make such a considered response :)

'Being published--or having the goal of being published--doesn't make you an interesting blogger.

Absolutely.
southernweirdo
Jul. 24th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
Should unpublished writers blog?
Yes. Yes they should. Any time spent writing -- even blogging -- is a chance to work on writing skills.
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Should unpublished writers blog?
Very true :)
mary_j_59
Jul. 24th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
Um - wow! so people who haven't been published yet, or who don't dream of being published, shouldn't have the right to express themselves on their own blogs? I do need to go and read the posts you refer to, because I sincerely hope they aren't saying that.

But I loved this entry, Jon. I haven't - ever - thought of my own blog as a way to build my career, but I can see from your blog and from that of a couple of other authors I met on livejournal that a blog can be a great marketing tool - if you want it to be. That does take work. I'd say a lot of people might find my content "bad" because it's not immediately useful/inspiring to them, and that may be something I need to change as I move forward.

On the other hand, it is my blog. That's a type of journal, and my main goal was initially just to share thoughts and theories with other Harry Potter fans. Nothing wrong with that! But an official author's blog would have to do something different, and be more "public". I'll have to think about that.
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
To be fair, I don't think Mary was saying that unpublished writers shouldn't blog. My disagreement with her post was the assumption that unpublished writers aren't worth reading.
elissacruz
Jul. 24th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm not published (yet) and I've been blogging for about two years. The best decision I ever made, if you ask me. I've expanded my circle of writing friends (which was practically non-existent before I blogged), and I've fine-tuned my blogging persona. I'm now feeling comfortable in my blogging skin, you could say, so when that book of mine sells (when, dangit!) I'll be prepared for the online networking and promotion required.

And blogging can bring other opportunities as well. If it wasn't for all the work I've put into social networking through my blog (and other online social networking platforms), not to mention learning what my own blogging strengths and limitations were, I would have never been able to start the amazing group blog that I did (which has a readership in the thousands already, though it's only a month old). Good things can happen for those who blog. I'm just sayin'...
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
Absolutely, and congrats on that great readership :)
(no subject) - elissacruz - Jul. 25th, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
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