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?


  1. I wrote my blog post for this coming Monday yesterday.

    I spent a few days asking myself what I hope to accomplish with my blog and why do I do it. And I came up with a three-fold answer that is eerily similar to third bit of advice Rachelle gave.

    My main reason is to connect. connect with readers and writers and to offer help and encouragement in some way. That's what my post is about on Monday. :)

  2. I'd have to say mine is about connecting and being available. I don't really believe it will help sell books. I've bought books I wouldn't normally buy because I met the authors online and liked the person, so I bought their book. But I've never bought a book because of a blog itself, and I don't think others will.
    Blogging, to me, is a way to get out there and meet people who live so far away I'd never meet them otherwise. And if I sold a book, I'd definitely do a blog tour because while I don't think it will increase sales (I truly think word of mouth does that) I think the tour will increase my visibility.
    Great questions, great post, great advice! :-)

    So far, my blog is mostly about connecting with other writers but someday I'll make it more toward readers too.

    Now I'm looking forward to Katie's post, since she gave a teaser. *grin*

  3. I totally agree.

    I view blogging as a "can't hurt" kinda thing. I LOVE building relationships with readers and writers, and it's so much fun to interact with them online, infact crutial considering we spend so much of our writing time with just our characters. It improves sanity, me thinks.

    But at the same time, it never hurts to have others know who we are. Even if I only have 100 people who semi-regularly read my blog, then maybe 50 of those will buy my book someday.

    Not that the sale of 50 books is going to make me a best seller, but there is this great thing called word of mouth, and if each of those 50 tell one person, that's a 100. Then if someone introduces it at their book club, that may be another 10. I don't think we'll ever know the TRUE impact of our blogging, because so much of it will be unseen, just like word of mouth.

    But right now, I blog to connect and to build relationships. Because cyber people (okay most of them...) are cool:-)

  4. This is good advice.

    I know that blogging may help sell books. But I think that all depends on who your readers are. Are they online? Do they like reading blogs, in general?

    But blogging can do many other things for writers, as I've mentioned in my comments before.

    We do have to be careful not to let it be a distraction from a work in progress, however.

  5. I must say that I never thought about starting a blog to eventually have individuals wanting to purchase my novel. However thinking now I suppose there is the little thing in the back of my head that always knew!

    I write to be heard, I want everyone to see how beautiful the world can be, even with all it's struggles! I want to inspire others through my writing! And within that passion I believe creating relationships becomes easier.

  6. Very good topic. This is what most writers who have blogs wonder. But though, I started with trying to "build my platform" it's evolved so that I just enjoy blogging. I like the community of people I've found and often can't wait to share writer news with others who will understand. If it helps me sell books, that's a bonus.
    In answer to your past questions, I think your blog is great! And though I may not have time to comment, I do read.

  7. I love that blogging gives me a chance to connect with other readers and writers. That's why, like others here, I ask questions at the end of the post. I love to hear what others think about the topics I post.

    That said, I think it MIGHT give me a couple extra sales some day. If I follow through on point #1 and write a great novel, hopefully that will increase my reach in terms of word of mouth.

  8. Great advise. I love the connections I have made through my blog. Connecting with readers and other writers is one of the best things I have taken from blogging :)

  9. This was a very good post and I likewise look forward to Katie Ganshert's post on Monday. I have ranting on this blogging topic (as I have mentioned here in the past) for going on 2 months in my Monday series "Blog Boggled". I been trying to unravel the science of blogging through observing my blog and the blogs of others. I'm still not coming to any absolute conclusions.

    I think that blogging can only help us as writers because it provides practice, inspriration, community, focus, and many other good habits. We can never write too much as long as we are writing with purpose. Writing with purpose fires up inspiration. And any community helps get us noticed. I doubt whether our blogs sell many books directly for the most part, but they get us on the right track and may help some indirect sales eventually.

  10. I tip my hat to what you and Katie wrote--It's all about connection, baby! I love it. I still feel as though I've found people like me I only suspected existed.

    You are genuine (just thought I'd throw that out there).

    Point of interest: I'm now being contacted by authors to review their books on my blog. Hm. Interesting. I love it b/c I make more connections, get free books and write more. Win. Win. And, they get a strong write up. So they win too.

    Have a great weekend!
    ~ Wendy

  11. I've been wondering this a lot lately. I wonder the same thing about "blog tours." In some ways, I feel like we bloggers are an incestuous group. We are really reaching our own writing community, but we are not reaching out beyond it to the much bigger reading community at large. Not sure how to go about fixing that though.

  12. Guess I won't really know how important blogging is to sales until I have a book to sale (but that point is only weeks away now...can't wait to find out!!).

    But I like the idea that it's all about the book and how good your story is. So, blogging can be a place for readers to connect with you after they already like your story. It can also be a guarentee to them that you're in cyberspace and are willing to connect with them because they see how faithful you post on your blog.

    At least I hope that's the case. Honestly, I have no idea.

  13. Great post! You have a brilliant agent!


  14. I read an interesting blogging post on Dystel & Goderich Literary Agency blog earlier this week. They advised not mentioning a blog in a query letter unless the blog's followers number in the thousands. They alluded to the fact that anything less than that really doesn't do much for sales. I'm not sure if I agree with their thinking, as getting those types of followers would be a full-time job, unless you're a Blog of Note. Interesting to consider though.

  15. I started my blog after I published my memoir on the advice of the marketing team. I know a few books have been sold as a result of the blog because people emailed me or commented. But the main thing the blog has done is connect me with other writers and readers. So yes, it is all about connection. At book signings, there isn't really time to connect.

  16. Ah, whatever would I do without my brilliant agent?! :-)

  17. The primary importance of blogging for me now is the connection to readers. Perhaps in some eon in the future, some of my readers will connect with me as an author, but for now, I'm enjoying what I learn, while learning what I do.

  18. Considering how many of my readers have asked for a signed copy of my first novel...I am thinking it might help me have more readers of my book, but it probably won't do much to help me sell more!

    But I really just blog because I love it. Not because I'm hoping it will boost my future writing career.

  19. I don't think it can hurt, how about that? I agree wholeheartedly with something you said. And that's about making connections. I was chatting with a friend yesterday about this very thing. I said I wanted to forge a relationship with people. To relate to them. So when I go to their blog, I want to feel like, "Oh, my heck! We're twins! She gets me!"

    So that's why I love blogging. I have found that. And I think I will continue to find that, book sales aside.

  20. You've said it exactly! Do I expect every single one of my blog followers to actually purchase my book? No. BUT, it is a place where readers can come learn more about me? Or a place where a potential reader can get a sense of my voice before plunking down $12 on a trade paperback? Of course.

    And it will be a place where there is (I hope) fun content to read in between the publication of my books, so that readers don't forget I exist between print runs...

  21. You are definitely off to a good start connecting with your readers, Jody. I think the point I'm taking away from your posts on blogging is to always be reealuating why we blog. If we're writing fiction, we should be blogging to suit a purpose other than hoping it will help us land an agent or a book deal. Not that it won't, but we should make sure the writing comes first. Have a good weekend, Jody!

  22. I started blogging for support. I think as writers we need to be surrounded by people who understand what we do and why we do it.

  23. I find blogging much like visiting other people's gardens. I walk through the rows, learn new techniques, get inspired, then get back into my own dirt and make things grow. Ultimately, the hard work I put into my own garden is what will result in a good harvest.

    Jodi, I'm pleased that your blog is helpful and inspiring to an unpublished, beginning writer like me!

    I blogged for two years during cancer treatment, and developed wonderful relationships. I plan to continue blogging at a different level of intensity, with hopes it will make reader's want to buy my non-fiction, because of our relationship. We'll see!

  24. I started blogger now almost four years ago because I wanted to connect with other aspiring writers. I've done that and more, which is why I guess I'm not crazed about my number of followers.

    Now when I have a book to sell, I guess may look at it differently. I would like to take the suggested position, one of relationship vs. sales.

  25. I love how you aren't afraid to tackle the things we all think about but shy away from actually talking about. Thanks so much for your honest and informed opinions. :-)

  26. It's interesting that your topic today is questions concerning promoting your book through blogging.

    My post today is about the choices authors have on Face Book.
    You might want to check it out. :)

  27. In this competitive and bizarre market, I have tried to reflect God's stories and gain new readers, one at a time.

    Blogging? Yes. FB? Yes. At the expense of your daily page goal?

  28. I didn't start blogging to build a platform - it was to have an online journal. Now it's "evolved" into a writing blog, but I still try to have something for everyone there - not just writers, but readers and people interested in general topics as well.

    I think that potentially, it could (along with my website, Facebook & Twitter) give me a jump on name recognition...and sure, that could help sell books. When I'm walking through a bookstore and recognize a name from some site, I'm more likely to at least take a look.

    How many books would it help sell? Who knows. But I blog because I enjoy it, so any little boost will be a bonus. :-)

  29. As a two-week old blogger, I've been extremely overwhelmed, feeling the pressure to establish myself. That pressure, coupled with the need to learn cyberspace techniques, has left my brain crowded and cranky. Thank you for putting things back in perspective.

  30. This is great. I'm getting ready to make a few changes to my blog in February. I agree with the idea of shifting our focus on readers. The challenge will be keeping it fun and personable at the same time. You are a wonderful model Jody, and thanks a million for recommending Tiff!

  31. I think blogging (and FB) can help sell a few books, but probably only a few. I agree with the others who've said blogging is about connecting. One thing I've done is traded books with a number of other writers (including Emily Ann who posted a comment here). Many of the books I've traded for I wouldn't normally buy or read, but I am now. And Cheryl (my wife) likes it b/c I'm getting some books she likes! Like Wendy (who is going to review my book) said, blogging can turn out to be win/win for everybody.

    Good post, Jody. You always have practical stuff about blogging.

  32. I've often thought about my purpose in blogging. I've also noticed that my blogs have changed over the months. I don't know if it is because I ran out of ideas or just turned in another direction. Right now I have the prayer at the beginning of the week and promote authors at the end of the week. Eventually I will get around to having something different in the middle of the week. I have no idea if I sold any books because of my blog. But, since I am with a small publisher and not on bookshelves, the internet is the only way to get myself out there.

  33. When I think back to when I started my blog it was definitely for a web presence, but from where I sit now, it's all about the on-line friendships I've formed and a want to encourage and keep in touch, and yes, even vent sometimes.

    That said, considering how many authors want blog interviews and reviews posted on blogs, you've got to think that it does make a difference in sales, or why would they go asking bloggers they don't even know to consider interviewing them or influencing for their book? I've got to think it is a form of marketing, no matter how small it is, it still can reach one more person who otherwise never would have heard of the book.

    I've clicked on blog links to purchase books that I hadn't heard of before several times when I like what is said in the blog. So it works for those authors with me. Those are sales they never would have had had I not been introduced to them and/or their book via a blog.

  34. Love this series of posts. Lots of helpful stuff, thanks so much!

    Happy weekend:)

  35. Jody, I wholeheartedly agree with Rachelle's thought that blogging should be about building relationships with our readers. When I first entered the blogosphere, I was a cyber know-nothing. I started a blog because I'd heard that was something a not-yet-published writer should do. I didn't have anything to say, struggled to come up with material for my posts, and was lucky to get a handful of visits a week.

    Being a historical writer who is used to research, I did some on the topic of blogging and learned that it isn't about me. It's about the readers. If I don't have something of value to them, why should they bother visiting my blog?

    That was when I launched Romance Writers on the Journey, which is where I offer support and encouragement for those, like me, who want to see their names on the cover of a romance novel and for those debut novelists who've sold their first book. What a difference that shift in focus has made. And what a blessing the site has been to me. I've made some wonderful friends from those who've been my guests and those readers who visit the site on a regular basis.

    One of my writer friends, Laura Frantz, who wrote The Frontiersmans Daughter, showed me how an author can really connect with her readers via her blog, Laura When I first began visiting her blog just after her book had hit the shelves, my comment would be one of a handful. Now, just a few months later, I drop by and marvel at the wonderful interchange she has with her readers. Instead of the familiar names I see in the tightly knit fraternity of writers, Laura's visitors are readers who've enjoyed her book and are eager for her next title to be released. She's touching hearts and lives with her book and her blog. When I get published, I hope to do the same and will use her experience as a good example to follow.

  36. I could not agree more with your conclusion!! I have met so many wonderful people through blogs. They have blessed me and I pray that I have blessed them!!!

    Great post!!!

    -Alisa Hpe

  37. I don't really know if having a blog would impact on sales. I know I've purchased books because of my blogging association with the authors. Right now I find I'm more interested in getting to know fellow writers and building enjoyable relationships than worrying about how I might be able to use my blog to sell books when that time comes.

  38. I definitely started my blog to try and promote my books, but I soon realized that it was more about meeting new people, getting more ideas, and most important, listening and learning! Thanks for being there.

  39. Honestly, I started my blog because I was given a chance to write a column, and once that vein was opened I couldn't stop coming up with ideas for columns. Since I only had one shot a month, it made sense to start a blog to put all those extra thoughts. So in that way, it serves what feels like a vital need to me as a writer. But...I struggle frequently with what it could be taking from my work in progress. I love the blogging world, but I think I will be in constant discernment over how much energy I should put into it. And...yes, I do see it as a way to build readership. But the book has to be written first. I appreciate it when you keep bringing us back to the fact that the readers need a good book to fall in love with first. I think if we can accomplish that, our blogs will be the place readers go to read more of our work. So, all things in perspective, but all our efforts have some payoff, I think. Thanks Jody, and have a great weekend!

  40. I doubt it helps much. I constantly ask myself why I blog. It takes a lot of time that I could (and probably should) be spending writing. At first I think I did it because I thought I needed to--writers must have a blog right? But I think I continue because I feel like I've made real friends through blogging. I'd be sad not to know how they are doing. And, occasionally, I have something I really want to say--and people actually read it when I write it on the blog. :)

  41. I agree with what Natalie says, "It takes a lot of time that I could (and probably should) be spending writing."

    Blogging, for me, is like visiting a friend in her living room, sharing a plate of cookies with her and maybe some tears or inspiration or angst.

    I never thought I'd fall into blogging like I have. The connectivity and friendship is a blessing, apart from "building a platform" which is a part of it, I suppose.

    When I blog, I feel listened to, and that is nice.

  42. Your posts always feel a bit like school - in the very best way possible.

    I blog as a way to practice my craft and develop relationships with other writers or people who want to read my writing. I hope someday it will be an author blog, but for now it is what it is.

  43. I started blogging to connect with other writers and to learn about the craft. I am a beginner here so I am learning but blogging has helped me become a better writer along with finding a ton of support.
    While I was here-- I read "How to Know When to Query" and "Ten Common Blogging Mistakes". I will be back to read more but these were very useful.
    Thank you.

  44. Thanks for the email. I can see why your blog has so much engagement. I shall learn from you and I'll be visiting often. I'm also sure your blog will help y9ou sell many books. Good going!

  45. Well, I know this: I would not have known about you or your book if not for your blog. But now that I've been reading you, I can't wait for your book to come out and I will most certainly buy it because I feel like I've been part of the process :)

  46. Speaking with my internet marketing hat on (instead of my wannabe writer hat), I'd say that blogging can help a lot. I've noticed that most writers blog for other writers though. I suspect blogs aimed at attracting readers--those who could potentially be their fan base--would get them farther.

  47. I was encouraged to have a blog several years ago -- by one of my newspaper editors. It was a wonderful way for readers to reach me and comment quickly on my weekly columns. Later, after I published a book, the blog morphed into a publicity tool as well.

    The blog has increased my book sales. Many of my blog readers don't live in my community and weren't familiar with my writing until they found me online. Many have purchased my book -- then reviewed it on their sites and brought a few more book sales. I'd say it's worth the effort.

    However, you noted that blogging can eat up a lot of time. Yes it does. Some mornings I get absolutely nothing done on my own writing because I am trying to keep up with so many other blogs.

  48. Great summary of the blogging vs. writing conundrum. It's both refreshing and disheartening to know that an agent and a contract won't make this part go away, or make it any easier. I really appreciate your honesty.

    - Liz

  49. As a reader, I think you've done a very good job of setting a genuine, open tone for your blog and will be a writer who readers will feel they can connect with and relate to.

    I think, too, your blog is doing an excellent job of serving yet another purpose; You are a mentor and encourager through your posts. I think you are very gifted in that area.


  50. I honestly think blogging is more to build relationships. I think if they can trust you as a person, they can then begin to trust you as an author, company, etc. (At least, that's what we are hoping.) A lot of my readers on my blog already know who Cedar Fort is, so all I am doing now is building up existing relationships, and maybe making a few. I enjoy blogging, I think it can be a personal release of feelings. Thanks for the discussion. It was fun to read everyone's thoughts!

  51. Beautiful. Thoughtful. Helpful. I could pile up a bunch of adjectives. This is about as impressive as any site I've visited. I learned a lot and enjoyed the visit. You caught my attention with the impressive format and kept it with the content. Wish I could be like you when I grow up!

  52. A handmade trackback since I can't figure out how to do it the official way. :) I mentioned this article at my blog in a january in review post. Cheers! - Corra McFeydon


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