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Is Blogging Right for You?

These days one of the answers to the question “What should I do to market my book?” is all too often “Go forth and blog.” But blogging isn’t right for every author. by M.J. Rose

These days one of the answers to the question “What should I do to market my book?” is all too often “Go forth and blog.”

But blogging isn’t right for every author. A blog can go far in marketing your books if you’re a nonfiction author with a platform. Think Arianna Huffington. She writes about American politics and her website, The Huffington Post, is about American politics.

A blog can work well if you’re a fiction writer with a strong voice and an entertaining style and you want to invest the time in blogging. Two fine examples are Jennifer Weiner (jenniferweiner.blogspot.com) and Neil Gaiman (journal.neilgaiman.com). But keep in mind they’ve both been at it for more than six years.

What’s great about a blog is that when it’s working, it offers a captive audience every time you have a new book out. And it’s very easy to mirror the blog in various destinations to expand your reach. Update your main blog and—if you’ve set it up correctly—your Facebook page and Amazon.com plog will be instantly updated, too.

Overall, nonfiction authors have a much better shot of using blogs to market their books because the books are subject-related and blogs can easily be focused on a subject. Fiction authors can have a harder time finding the right hook for a blog.

(Click here for a free download on How to Start a Blog and Turn It Into a Book.)

THE BLOG AS MAGIC BULLET

A few years ago, one of New York’s top publishing houses sent e-mails out to hundreds of authors suggesting that each start a blog. They offered free blogging software, advice and the promise that the blog would act as a promotional vehicle for the authors and their books.

Good idea? Not necessarily.

While I admired the publisher for looking for new ways to market books, I don’t believe that putting marketing pressure on an author is ever smart. But more importantly, just having a blog doesn’t mean anyone will notice it. It’s the old “if you build it they will come” fallacy. It worked in Field Of Dreams, but it doesn’t work for blogs.

Technorati (technorati.com), a website that covers all things blog-related, tracks more than 112.8 million active blogs, which means there are more people blogging than there are people reading books. Technorati also reports that there are more than 175,000 new blogs created every day and that bloggers update their pages to the tune of more than 1.6 million posts per day, or more than 18 updates a second.

Compared to blogs, there are only 500 books published a day. So you could actually have less competition getting attention for your book than your blog. (These figures don’t include self-published books. But if we did include them, there would be 1,000 books published a day—still far fewer than the number of blogs.)

Another blog caveat is that it takes a lot of effort to keep a good blog going. You need to post at least three times a week, and not just a little entry about where you had dinner, how much it cost and if you’d go back to the restaurant again—you need to write interesting and compelling posts that will keep people coming back for more.

For a blog to be successful, it has to have passion, voice, commitment and creativity on a continuing basis. For many of us, that’s what writing a book entails and we don’t always have enough of those attributes to spare for a blog, too.

THE BLOG TRAP

Many writers blog about writing. Seems logical, right? It was for the first two or three dozen writers who did it. But these days there are thousands of writers blogging about writing, and while readers might adore our books, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they want to know the ins and outs of a writer’s life. Not to mention that even our own dedicated fans can be turned off to our books if our blogs don’t measure up—or if we opine about politics when our books aren’t political, or religion if we’re not writing books about religion, etc. Recently a bestselling author shut down her blog after dozens of readers said they’d never buy her novels again because of a blog post that had nothing to do with her books.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE BLOG

When we spend quality time and effort engaging the reader and give the blog the opportunity to grow over time, we can build a relationship with our readers. It’s not something you can do in an instant, but when it works, it works!

In nonfiction, Seth Godin (sethgodin.typepad.com) is a great example of a writer whose blog stands on its own and sells books to his fan base. Godin writes books about marketing and business, and his blog covers those areas on a daily basis.

A novelist can use the “platform” approach, too. Almost a year before my novel The Reincarnationist came out, I started a blog about the subject of reincarnation (reincarnationist.org). My goal was to make it active in advance of the novel’s publication so I’d have a built-in audience interested in the novel’s subject. And because this book was the first in a series about reincarnation, I figured the investment would be worth it.

I set it up so it automatically fed my Amazon.com plog and my Facebook page. I don’t use it as a constant marketing tool—first and foremost, it’s an information portal for people interested in past life research. But when my last book came out, I used it as an effective marketing tool.

It does take time. As book reviewer David J. Montgomery said, “Blogging is a colossal waste of time for 90 percent of authors. Any author who launches yet another blog at this point without some unique, exciting and valuable angle is just spinning his wheels.”

And according to a recent article in The New York Times by Matt Richtel, bloggers aren’t taking breaks from blogging, which can lead to weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and in some cases, even death.

“A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment,” he wrote.

“Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.”

I’m all for promotional efforts, but not to that end. [WD]

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