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 One of the first things I plan to cover is whether or not unpublished writers should even have a blog.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 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Should unpublished writers blog?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If you’re in the ‘However’ category, I’d say the question isn’t so much ‘Should unpublished writers blog?’ as ‘How should unpublished writers blog?’
In her post at Kidlit.com, Mary said that too many unpublished writers’ have blogs with poor content or too little content.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 The problem I had with her post is that she makes the distinction between published and unpublished writers, as if getting a book contract automatically makes you both interesting and a good blogger.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?