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About a week ago, I bumped into an old writer friend of mine in a local Target store. After complimenting me about this blog, he said he planned to start his own writing journal and asked for advice on how to build a fan base for it.

I told him I had no idea.

“Don’t get me wrong,” I said. “I’ve got plenty of helpful tips for building an online friend base, but fan base? Sorry, haven’t a clue.”

““I want a blog not a chat room,” he said. "Besides, I’m too busy writing to waste time making ‘internet’ friends.” 

I didn't argue, and he soon went on his way, seeming a little peeved at my answer.

Afterwards, as I wandered around Target, I found it hard to understand his point of view. I mean, of course your writing comes first, but the accepted wisdom is that if you’re looking to make a career out of it, you need a strong, positive online presence. Unless you’re already famous (or infamous), that won’t happen overnight. It takes years to get it to a level where it can have a positive impact. If that’s the case, then it makes sense to get started on it as soon as you can. It’s certainly not something you tack on to a ‘To do’ list after you sell your first book.

How the heck would an unknown writer build a fan base anyway? 

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation since then, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that there are some writers with journals on LJ who treat their blog readers as if they’re fans. They ignore most comments; they don’t friend people back; they use their blogs as little more than notice boards, and generally talk at their readers, rather than to them. 

I guess if you’re already a fan of that person’s work, you might not care, and it’s certainly not for me to say how people should use their journals, but I find it hard to see how this kind of standoffish behavior would make someone who wasn’t a reader want to find out more about that writer or his/her work. I know it has the opposite effect on me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to swap BFF bracelets and send their children birthday presents each year, but blog readers are people, and if there’s one thing people have in common, it’s that we all hate being taken for granted.

Then again, maybe I’ve got it wrong. 

How about you? 

Fan or friend? How do you prefer to be treated by other bloggers?

I don’t care either way


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( 133 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 6th, 2010 11:49 am (UTC)
I think this is one of those ultimate YMMV situations, though I think politeness (almost) never hurt anyone. While I like it when people are nice and friendly, I don't expect it on every blog I read and comment.

Some writers have chosen to treat their journals as a place for fans to come -- which may be an extension of their pre-Web 2.0 experience with fanzines and whatnot. Likewise, they may be wary of getting too close to their readers and watching the privacy boundaries vanish. Or, they may want to spend time doing things other than talking online.

Other writers try to get to every comment on their journal, replying with a friendly "thanks!" if nothing else. They engage with their readers in detail, and often come to be friends with their readers. They seem like warm, genuine people online, and are a pleasure to get to know.

I think you (the author) have to find whatever your own personal balance is between distraction and connection.
Mar. 6th, 2010 11:58 am (UTC)
Re: "Other"
'While I like it when people are nice and friendly, I don't expect it on every blog I read and comment.'

I do, or I stop reading, but as I say, that might just be me.

My old gran used to say: "There's always room at the table for Mr. Manners." I understand people are busy, or don't want to engage with their blog readers, but if you don't want to respond to comments, it would be better to disable that option, rather than just ignoring people, don't you think?
Re: "Other" - jtglover - Mar. 6th, 2010 12:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Other" - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 12:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: "Other" - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Other" - jtglover - Mar. 6th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Other" - jimhines - Mar. 6th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Other" - jtglover - Mar. 6th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Other" - out_totheblack - Mar. 8th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Other" - clarionj - Mar. 6th, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 6th, 2010 12:01 pm (UTC)
Personally I think of my online "friends" as just that - friends. We have conversations, we share jokes, and in some cases we share the bad stuff too, and give each other advice. Maybe I won't ever meet you guys in real life and go for drinks, but I still value that connection.

And as a fledging writer, I want to be approachable and friendly anyway. I don't want to give the impression I'm all about advertising my work and making you buy it, because that's not my aim as a writer. I want to share my work. Big difference.
Mar. 6th, 2010 12:45 pm (UTC)
'I want to be approachable and friendly anyway.'

Me too. For one thing, it's a lot more fun.
Mar. 6th, 2010 12:03 pm (UTC)
I answered with regard to how I treat and am treated by most of the people whose LJ's I read. I can see, however, that there would be circumstances where I would be happy to be a fan, but in that case it would be because I already read and love the writer's books and had come to their blog or LJ because of that, rather than the other way round.
Mar. 6th, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC)
If it were someone famous like (say) Stephen King or Terry Pratchett, absolutely :)
Mar. 6th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)
My answer to your poll is "all of the above."

This is how I managed that. This blog I have on LJ is for my friends, my online buddies. As you know I post a lot of my thoughts and from time to time I may tell you about my day, etc.

But I do have a writing page on Facebook in which people can become my fans. What this means is that I share my writing with them and writing tips and they get to read them and maybe leave feedback, but I may not know everyone who has added me.

Mar. 6th, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC)
Interesting. If you don't mind me asking, have you become a fan on other people's facebook pages?
(no subject) - iamtheelfinpoet - Mar. 6th, 2010 12:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - iamtheelfinpoet - Mar. 6th, 2010 01:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - iamtheelfinpoet - Mar. 6th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Mar. 6th, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 6th, 2010 12:27 pm (UTC)
I agree with jtglover's comments about people having various reasons and ways of using their blogs.

For me, I don't really view my blog as a place for "fans" though. My blog basically focuses on writing, improving on writing, and learning more of the skills associated with writing. I don't think most readers or "fans" have that level of interest in the craft of writing.

Blogging is a good way for me to meet people who have a similar interest in writing either as a hobby or a profession. So the way I choose to interact with my f-list is different from the "author/fan" relationship.

When I develop my website it will most likely be one similar to what your friend was aiming for. A place where readers and "fans" can find out more about me ( to a limited degree ) and my works. It won't have the same type of relationship that my blog has because it will have a totally different purpose.

Good post, by the way. I a blogger/writer needs to realize what type of audience they are trying to communicate with and that will tell them how to proceed.
Mar. 6th, 2010 12:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Aaron :)

I hope I'm not coming across as telling people how they should use their own blog. I just find it surprising how some folks seem to regard their readers.

(no subject) - a_r_williams - Mar. 6th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
For me- like many above, it depends. While I certainly like to feel that my comment was heard, and appreciate the feeling of connection that a reply gives- I recognize that it may not always be possible. I can't imagine how some writers with blogs find the time to followup and reply individually when their comments get to fifty or more...
Perhaps this is one reason why I tend not to comment on a blog if I see there are already numerous comments. Unless the blogger specifically asks a question and is looking for feedback. When your comment is one of a hundred or more saying "Yay I agree," or "great post, go you" then it's sort of just like hands clapping isn't it? In that case I think it's perfectly fine for a blogger to pop in and basically, take a bow- making a post to thank the commenters.
But it's a good topic Great post! Go you! ;-)
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:06 pm (UTC)
Hehe, thank you :)

Mar. 6th, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC)
I always thought having fans came with success. Isn't it kind of early to be thinking of fans when you're just beginning? That's how I feel for myself, anyway.

I want to share the stories on my mind, and I want people to like them, but my focus is on the stories, not me. If you show people something you like, like a waterfall or a piece of music, you're hoping the people will like that thing. You want them to say, "Wow, yeah, that is a beautiful waterfall," or "I love that song too, thanks for sharing it!" You don't expect them to say, "Wow, what a wonderful person you are for showing me that waterfall (or song)!" That's how I feel: if I want fans, it's for the stories, not for myself. But I never really thought about it as wanting fans, I guess.

I read blogs for lots of reason and with differing levels of engagement, and I figure it's the same for people reading my blog--they read it for different reasons, have different levels of engagement, etc. Over time, I do come to feel friendly with people, and I value that a lot.
Mar. 6th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
'I always thought having fans came with success.'

Hehe, me too :)
(no subject) - asakiyume - Mar. 6th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
RE: Monsters and space stations - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 6th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
It's nice if someone says they like your work, but I know I lose interest fast when a blogger uses his/her journal as a glorified notice board.
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
I've used my blog as a place to connect to friends, peers, and eventually, readers. I like interacting with people, building relationships, having discussions.

I've been so pulled in various directions lately that I haven't been a very good blogger or very good at posting comments on other blogs. I miss that and would like to get back into the habit. I've had plenty of online friends turn into real world friends. I've had plenty of people I've only known online be the people I've laughed with and enjoyed at conventions when I finally met them.

Mar. 6th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
'I've had plenty of people I've only known online be the people I've laughed with and enjoyed at conventions when I finally met them.'

That's certainly a plus :)
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
the accepted wisdom is that if you’re looking to make a career out of it, you need a strong, positive online presence

I don't accept this wisdom at all, as you've probably guessed! IMO a blog should totally be about community-building and friendship, never about marketing one's work to "fans" (I also hate the word "fans" and prefer "readers"). My blog's readers are mostly fellow writers and friends, with a few "readers" thrown in. My blog makes almost no difference to how well my books sell. (I should add that most of my book-readers are kids who are not on LJ).

Anyway, my answer is "Friend" and I friend everybody back and try not to use my blog for marketing purposes.
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
I also hate the word "fans"

I agree so much! There's something... icky about the connotation of the word.

And I don't want to read entry after entry on a blog about 'and buy my book'... there's a reason I pay for my LJ to have it ad-free...
(no subject) - sarah_prineas - Mar. 6th, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarah_prineas - Mar. 6th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ladysaotome - Jan. 5th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarah_prineas - Jan. 5th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
I checked "friend", but then again, I haven't written much to make me famous :-)
Mar. 6th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
Lol, you, me and just about everyone else too, Jakob :)
(no subject) - jakobdrud - Mar. 6th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
As long as I have time to keep up with them, I definitely prefer to have friends... Of course, my journal is a bit special, in that it really only deals with writing, and most usually with MY writing, so it could probably accomodate fans if I had any!
Mar. 6th, 2010 03:00 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's wrong to write about yourself in your own journal, and you're always friendly - except to Peadar, but let's face it, he brings that on himself ;)
(no subject) - peadarog - Mar. 6th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peadarog - Mar. 6th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)
I don't like the idea of being treated like a 'fan', so, in general, I try not to become one [of the author]. Also, I know that finding out things about people can really ruin my ability to enjoy their work, which is horrible and sad, so I try to find out as little as possible about people whose work I like (mostly authors and actors).

I am, in a sense, a fan of the book (or character), but not so much a fan of the author. This also is a good distinction when you really love one series by an author, but dislike the rest of their books (has happened to me more than once).

But I'd make a horrible fan-girl, anyway, I just don't have it in me to 'squee' enough, and there are too many things I like to devote enough time to one particular author/actor/fandom.
Mar. 6th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
It's strange how finding out something unrelated to a person's work affects how we like them, but I'm the same.

After news of Russell Crowe's phone flinging hotel rant (and other temper-related incidents) came out, it was a long time before I wanted to watch Gladiator again, even though I loved that movie.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 6th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
One of the reasons I prefer LJ is the way the comment strings make it easy to follow conversations. With other blogs, it's hard to keep scrolling through unrelated remarks to find the next reply in a particular thread.
(no subject) - b_writes - Mar. 7th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 6th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
One of my personal peeves is the barrage of emails I get from facebook friends suggesting I become a fan of [insert name of some minor celeb or hack I hardly know nor care about]. Confirm/Ignore. There should be a button that says "Why would I want to do that?"
Mar. 6th, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
So that's why you didn't join me on the fan page of Ethel Murkowitz, the one-legged cabaret singer who had that walk-on (or should I say 'hop-on' role in an early episode of Crossroads ;)
(no subject) - mylefteye - Mar. 6th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mylefteye - Mar. 6th, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 6th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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( 133 comments — Leave a comment )

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