Friday, April 27, 2012

What's The Use?

Writers are supposed to have a website and a blog. Right? Because that's part of our "platform." We're also supposed to be on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, Google+, and anything else that might reach a potential reader. But there are times when we think, "What's the use?"

I've read surveys telling me social media isn't the magic bullet it's supposed to be, bringing hundreds and thousands of new readers to a writer. I've read others that say social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and if I don't participate, I'm losing readers. How do I decide?

Then again, there's the pressure of coming up with something new and interesting on a regular basis. I've settled into a twice-weekly schedule, posting Tuesday and Friday. Others--and I don't know how they do this--post five or even seven days a week. Agent Jessica Faust has been posting for over five years, and recently she decided to let her blog go dark. Why? Reading between the lines, it appears that she's just tired of it. I can so identify with that.

My opinion, shaped over a number of years on the road to writing, is that the best marketing device is word-of-mouth, linked with creating the best possible book.  Yet I continue to do all the other things recommended for writers. Am I swimming against the tide? Is it time to just drift?

My recent request for input about blog content brought a few responses--not as many as I'd hoped, but enough to give a feel for what my readers want. Apparently, they're not as interested in author interviews and book reviews as in writing tips, insider publishing information, and posts about life in general. Duly noted.

Here's one last chance for you to toss in your two cents' worth. Obviously you read blogs, even this one, or you wouldn't be able to comment. I'd like to hear from you. Do you think a blog is important for a writer? Have you ever bought a book based on the writer's blog? Do you think the Internet is running out of steam? And what would you like to see on this blog?

I'm listening.


Adam Blumer said...

Here's an idea. Do a series on how you write your novels. Step by step. If you've already done that, forgive me.

Adam Blumer
Freelance Editor and Novelist
Novels: Fatal Illusions, The Tenth Plague (coming Sept. 2012)

Erica Vetsch said...

I think, at the heart of the matter, is you have to do what you can and like to do, and you let the rest of it go.

I mostly blog and interact on FB because I like my blogging and FB. I am on Twitter, but I don't tweet much, because I don't find it gives me the connection to people that I like. I don't have a newsletter, and I don't write "How To Write Fiction" blog posts because the internet is saturated with so many of those blogs by people who say it better than I can. I blog about me and my life, looking for ways that my life and those of my readers and friends intersect, what we have in common. I think that's where friendships are made, discovering what we have in common with each other.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I have definitely been struggling with this, too. I know bloggers who have TONS of followers but I feel like I'm just one face in the huge crowd and I don't comment on their blogs much. Then I know others that have TONS of followers but they engage the readers every week and it makes me want to come back.

I struggle with what to post, but ultimately, I had to change it up a little and put some more personal and general information. It's too hard to come up with writing posts every week, let alone several times a week and I'm still trying to find a balance. My long-term goal is to really engage readers, even if it means I have less followers, let them know who I am. Hopefully this will interest them in my books.

I enjoy reading about writing tips, for sure, and the more personal you make it, the more I'm going to relate. It might seem like old news to share your experiences with writing, with your journey, with agents and editors and your struggles with what you're working on now, but sometimes that's what resonates the most.

Have a great weekend!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments.

Adam, I haven't gone through the nuts and bolts of writing a novel, mainly because there are some excellent books about it. But I will do more posts on writing, including some things I've learned by experience (and making mistakes).

Erica, you make a good point. I intend to have more posts about "stuff," because there seems to be interest there.

Cindy, writing tips are certainly popular, and it's obvious that I need to keep sharing them.

So, with some exceptions (of course), I plan "stuff" on Tuesdays and "writing" on Fridays. We'll see how that goes.

Katie Axelson said...

I will be honest in say that I found your blog (somehow, I don't remember how) which inspired me to buy your book which I loaned to a friend who devoured it in three days and decided she has to go get more... Social media and word of mouth work.

<>< Katie

Richard Mabry said...

Katie, Thanks for the encouragement. I'll buy word of mouth--still trying to decide how I feel about social media (although I use it).

S. Kim Henson said...

Don't go away just yet. You just signed me up as a subscriber after I've tried two or three times over months ... doesn't that mean you have to hang around a little while longer? : )

I'm not sure about social media as far as selling books since I don't have one published but I have gotten some writing jobs (articles) from it.

I prefer to read writing tips, living tips and life lessons over bios and book reviews (just thought I'd add my 2 cents).

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Kim. Guess I'll hang around for a while.
I've heard the feedback, and plan for Tuesdays to be "stuff" and Fridays to be "about writing." Apparently my blog readers aren't interested in interviews with writers or book reviews. However, I may be able to work snippets of both in, using them to make a point about the writing craft. For instance, in a few days I'll have a comment about changing genres, talking about the jump James Scott Bell has made from historical legal thrillers to noir fiction to a book about a vampire attorney (no kidding!) to his latest, which features a martial-arts trained nun. Stick around.

S. Kim Henson said...

I'll be here for the vampire attorney and the nun who may need him ... can't wait to read more.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Hi Richard. I have to weigh in on this because I've been getting the vibe lately that you're not enjoying your blogging experience. I don't always leave comments when I read, but I always find your posts interesting and of value.

I loved finding Dan Walsh here recently, especially since his appearance on the 'Seekerville' blog earlier in the month helped me improve the opening of my current w.i.p. You've previously asked about what we want to read on your blog, but I think the more important question is what do you like writing about here?

For writers, how we spend our time is a big consideration. I want to be writing, but developing a following is important, too. Blogging is about community. If blogging doesn't build relationships I think it's legitimate to question why we're spending time on it.

The blogs I return to regularly are those where the author is personally invested in the topics and wants to interact with the readers about them. The author's passion comes across the platform. The most useful social media options turn out to be the ones that encourage personal responses. For me, that's blogging and Facebook. (I'm on Twitter, Google+, and GoodReads, too, but they aren't as personally satisfying so I don't give them much of my time. I could drop them without a qualm.) If I had to let go of every social media option but one, I'd probably keep to my blogging because there is a greater opportunity for self-expression. FB would be my second choice because it allows fast and easy interaction -- our posts end up on all our friends' newsfeeds and they don't have to make a great effort to respond. It's easier there, while blogging requires a click over to a new site. How willing they are to do that depends on how strong a relationship has been established.

As for your question about buying books, I have bought the books of almost every blogger I regularly follow who has published one! Even when I'm not sure they will be well written. Even when they're of a genre I wouldn't normally read. I buy them because I've developed a relationship with the authors, am interested in seeing what they write, and want to be supportive of their efforts.

Now I'd better step of my soapbox! Sorry for monopolizing the space, but you asked. :)

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, No need to apologize for leaving a very good comment, one that thoroughly expresses how you and a significant segment of my readers feel.
Sure, I feel frustrated at times, and truly think, "What's the use?" I'm trying to edit one book, write another, market several others, and still maintain what's laughingly called a life. And social media can be a huge parasitic drain on anyone. But it's a necessity for a writer.
My blog is something I'd hate to give up. Two posts a week work for me, and elsewhere I've mentioned what I'll continue to do each Tuesday and Friday. Hope you'll keep coming back--as well as visiting my FB page and reading my occasional tweets.
Thanks for your support.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Of course I'll keep coming back. :)

I don't envy you the time-eating routines that getting and staying published require, although I hope to be in that position some day. Right now I have the luxury of writing at my own pace, without deadlines, except for occasional magazine articles. My tune could change when my circumstances do!

Blessings to you!