So my telling creative writers not to launch a blog may seem a bit hypocritical, coming from someone who has blogged off and on for more than twenty years, and even taught blogging through The Loft Literary Center. I certainly don’t want to kill anyone’s dreams. That said, I think in 2020 most published authors would do well to focus their promotional efforts in other areas.
This post was prompted by this comment on my most recent post:
What is your advice for having a Blog since there are so many out there. I’m thrilled to have finished my book and got it published. I have a good website and would like to add a blog. I don’t know what to focus on, my book, or other topics? Is writing once a month enough to have a blog. Your feedback is appreciated.
My answer was longer than seemed reasonable for a comment. So I decided to share my thoughts in a new post. Here goes:
- There are a lot of blogs out there: By one estimate that’s over a year old, there are more than 600 million blogs. I’m writing an urban fantasy novel right now. If there were 600 million published urban fantasy novels, I might consider switching genres.
- We don’t consume content the way we used to: In 2010 Nicholas Carr explained in detail in The Shallows how the Internet literally rewires our brain to make it more difficult to process lengthy content. Things have only gotten worse a decade later. Even if your blog posts are as short as 650 words (the length of an average newspaper op-ed) that’s still longer than a tweet.
- We have grown more impatient online: This relates to our desire to read less lengthy works. It also means we’re less likely to hop around between platforms and sites. A blog, by definition, is its own site. You have to leave where you are (your WordPress feed, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube cat videos) to read it. And then you have to exit it to resume your online surfing.
- We are less inclined to engage in detailed discussions online: In my blogging classes, I would strongly emphasize that a blog should be the start of a conversation. I’ve allowed this blog to largely lie fallow for several years, but at its peak each post generated dozens if not hundreds of comments. All of us would engage in a rich, detailed conversation about the topic of the post. Other bloggers might be prompted to write their own posts. It was magical. When I started this blog up again a year or two ago, however, a veteran blogger welcomed me back with this news: People don’t comment on blogs anymore. They just click “like.” She’s right. Conversations happen elsewhere online, and they’re not as robust or as substantive (unfortunately).
- Blogs don’t sell books: Whether you’re an indie author or with an established press, you are forced to market yourself more than ever before. You’re constantly told you need more of an online presence. Um, okay. I suppose. Let me tell you from experience, however, that there is not a one-to-one correlation between blog subscribers and book sales. At its peak, this blog had 15,000 subscribers. I can assure you that when my literary memoir came out, a percentage far less than 100% of those subscribers purchased the book. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just life.
- Blogging is a major obligation: Another thing I would tell my students is that you must constantly feed a blog. The top bloggers post daily. My opinion was that you had to post at least two to three times a week to be truly viable. Once a week was a bare minimum. That is a lot of work. It’s hard to keep up the quality. And shouldn’t you be saving some of that creative energy for your creative writing?
- There are easier ways to engage online: I think what really killed the blog was the development of Twitter threads combined with a doubling of allowed tweet characters. With 280 characters per tweet, and an unending number of tweets that can be threaded together, you can say anything you would say on a blog on a Twitter thread. Readers can engage in part or in whole without leaving the social media platform. (Facebook has long been a way to engage substantively without blogging.) So perhaps you should become active in Twitter groups like #writingcommunity and share your thoughts there. Trust me; if you post a blog and share that link on Twitter, folks might comment there, but only reacting to the blog title, not actually clicking through to the post itself.
Having just said that no one comments on blog posts anymore, I’ll hope that I’m wrong. What are your thoughts on whether creative writers should start their own blogs?