Writers, Promotion and Blogs

I don’t normally discuss promotion and marketing. Partly because I’m not terribly interested, but mostly because I think intense focus on marketing and promotion can be dangerous for some writers, stripping away their self-confidence and interfering with their ability to write.

All things in moderation, right folks?

That said, I’m going to talk about promotion anyway, because I’ve been involved in a most interesting project these past few weeks. Writer Katherine O’Neal is self-publishing her back list. Up until now she hasn’t had much of an internet presence. I’m helping her establish one. We all know, to push ebooks, some promotion is necessary. How much? And exactly what? Well, those truly are the questions, aren’t they? Katherine and I have been having lots of discussions on the subject, and I think some points we’ve brought up are worthy of discussion with you.

But first, a bit of promotion. For those who don’t know, the lovely Plunder Bunny is my partner in book production. I handle the digital side, she does the print layout. She’s also an artist with digital graphics. Check this out…

background2So if any of you need a little magic with a lot of color, you can contact PB.

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

Blogs. What I’ve mostly been doing is helping Katherine set up a blog (and no, do not contact me for help in setting up a blog–this is a one-shot thing and I’m only doing it because Katherine and I are having a blast, like a couple of kids in a sandbox dazzling each other with our creations. It’s still under construction, but you can take a peek if you want.). Why a blog?

That is the most important question of all. I think far too many writers have unrealistic expectations about what a blog or website can do for them. They think, I’ll put up a blog and people will come and I’m all set promotion wise. I also see a lot–a lot!–of writer blogs that all do the same thing. Writers blog about their writing, but make zero effort to offer value to readers, so it’s just blah blah my writing blah blah more about my writing and ME ME ME, and that’s boring as hell. The only difference between them and a bore who corners a victim at a party is that in the case of the blogs, escape is just a mouse click away.

Nobody visits a blog, or subscribes, because they have to. They do so because a) It’s entertaining; b) It’s informative; or c) It’s educational. Sometimes it’s all three. Truly successful blogs have a theme, a focus, and a reason for existence beyond the fact that the writer wants to sell books. There’s a lot–a lot!–of competition for eyeballs, too. Millions of blogs. Ask yourself, how many do you subscribe to? How many do you regularly visit? How many satisfy some personal need of yours? I bet the number is fairly low.

I think writers need to dig a little deeper than merely deciding if they want to be entertaining, informative and/or educational. Some soul-searching and self-honesty are essential.

  • Blogs take time and energy. How much time and energy are you willing to take away from your writing?
  • Blogs require maintenance. Writing one post and then sitting back to await a flood of visitors will not work. Establish a schedule up front. Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Readers get used to a pattern. Your blog could be one of their habits if you post on a regular schedule.
  • How much interaction do you want? How much can you stand? It’s work keeping up with the comments. You have to know your own comfort levels. A blog is a public thing, which makes you a public figure. Fans are a delight, but they can also be demanding, or even dangerous.
  • How public do you want to be? I think some writer-bloggers get themselves into trouble when they get too personal and reveal too much of themselves. Words have consequences, and it’s easy to forget that the internet makes words last forever. Set your boundaries and establish lines you will not cross. There are those who thrive on controversy, those who are comfortable walking around in their underwear in public, so to speak. If you’re not one of them, be careful.
  • Finally, the most important question of all: Do you want to blog? A blog is only one avenue of book promotion. Don’t feel compelled just because everybody else is. I’m a big proponent of “Try it, you might like it,” but if you do try and find you hate it, for Pete’s sake, stop. It’s not worth the anxiety and resentment you’ll end up feeling.

What about the rest of you? Do ever do any soul searching about your blogging? Any important questions you asked yourself?