Does Blogging Really Help Sell Books?

Let's be honest. Most of us are blogging to develop an online presence so that eventually we'll have a wider audience for our books (also called platform building).

Of course that's not the only reason we're blogging, maybe not even a big one, but it is A reason for many writers serious about publication.

But. . . will blogging and developing a web presence really help sell more books?

Lately I've struggled with this question. If it doesn't significantly help in the long run, then perhaps we can take the pressure off ourselves and cut back on blogging. On the other hand, if an ever-growing web presence will truly benefit us, then it makes sense to continue to put some effort into blogging well.

Before I tackle the big issue of the day, I want to pose another similar question. Can blogging help us get an agent? My answer: I don't think it's likely, but it has happened.

I doubt there are too many agents who have time to surf around cyberspace reading author blogs and hunting down potential clients. But. . . if an agent does happen to stumble across our corner of cyberspace, then having a successful blog or a uniquely visible web presence could make them take notice of us.

Of course, an agent won't make a decision of representation based on a blog or web presence. It always comes back to the book. Without a well-written, saleable book nothing else really matters.

So, back to the original question: Will blogging really help us sell more books someday? If we're putting forth time and effort into networking, will it significantly help us as opposed to another author who doesn't have an online presence?

I recently posed that very question to my agent. Her answer was very enlightening. Here's a summary of a few things she encouraged me to do:

1. Focus on your writing:

Even though I'm agented and contracted to write three books, my primary focus STILL needs to be my writing. Writing and learning the craft should always come first and foremost at any stage of a writing career. (For my list of the writing stages and corresponding priorities, click here.)

Ultimately a good story sells a book. If people read it and like it, then they tell others. We've all heard that word of mouth is one of the biggest factors in selling books. So if we want people to recommend our books to others, then we have to give them something they can get excited about.

2. But. . . do what you can to develop an online presence:

In this cyber age, if we writers want to stay relevant and connect, we have to go where people are congregating. And that happens to be cyberspace. The vast majority of the population is hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and the internet in general.

It's certainly not going to hurt me to be savvy with the internet, to learn how to use social networking effectively, and to start doing all of this before my book releases. Even if these connections don't particularly boost my sales initially, at least I've got a jump start on how it all works, because at some point, ideally, I'd like to connect with my readers via these mediums.

And that brings me to the last piece of advice Rachelle gave me. . .

3. Make a paradigm shift and look at blogging as a way to establish relationships with readers.

Maybe blogging isn't so much about selling books as it is establishing relationships with people. Of course we all want our books to sell well and get positive reviews. But perhaps blogging won't be the vehicle through which we promote our books but will instead be the place we can connect further with our readers.

I long to be the kind of author who is able to have genuine, open communication with my readers. I want to get to know them personally and develop real connections as much as I'm able.

So to sum it up, I've come to realize that blogging shouldn't be so much about ME as it should be about others. What can I do to encourage writers? How can I connect more genuinely with readers? Can I use my gifts and abilities to make a difference in lives, not just through my books but also in my blogging?

What's your opinion? Have you ever wondered if blogging will help you sell more books someday? Do you think it will? Why or why not?

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