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Is Blogging Important for Novelists Considering Self-Publishing?


By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Lately I've hosted quite a bit of discussion here on my blog about the issue of blogging and platform for fiction writers, specifically whether it's a time-suck and whether agents and editors require it. My agent had a post yesterday that continued her thoughts about whether all authors should blog.

In the ever-changing publishing industry, it really should come as no surprise that the nature and need for blogging is changing too. We've learned a lot about social media over the past several years, and the bottom line is that social media, blogging in particular, doesn't significantly impact whether a novelist is going to find success with his or her books.

I'm traditionally published and I've come to the conclusion based on my own experience as well as through observing others, that one great book after another builds a successful platform for a novelist, not blogging. (That's NOT to say blogging is useless. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Blogging CAN serve many purposes and has many benefits. It's just not going to tip the sale's scale too far.)

But what about fiction writers considering self-publishing? Do they need to work harder at blogging and building a platform? After all, they don't have traditional marketing dollars to help spotlight their books. Should they develop a pre-existing platform before self-publishing? Are they doomed to obscurity if they choose not to blog?

In order to get an answers to my questions, I turned to a successfully self-published author Addison Moore. I've been friends with Addison for a number of years before either one of us were agented or published. While both of us have chosen different publishing paths, we're still friends and it's been exciting to see where our writing careers have taken us.

Addison started independently publishing her books in March of 2011 with her first book ETHEREAL (Celestra Series Book 1). In May, she released her second book TREMBLE, and then by July she had two different producers interested in turning Celestra into a TV series. She opted to go with 20th Century Fox. Currently she has eight books available with a few scheduled to release before the holidays.

Her latest release, TOXIC, is ranked within the top 400 on Amazon's best seller list for Kindle. Although I'm not at liberty to share specifics on her sales statistics, I can say the numbers she shared with me are astronomically enviable.

I asked Addison a few questions about platform, namely if it's helped her to achieve her success.  

First I wanted to know whether she thought novelist considering self-publishing needed to put time a lot of time into developing a blog or platform.

Addison answered with this: "For a writer considering blogging each day, I would say don't do it. Utilize your time writing and producing interesting and exciting books. Keep the blog current but don't become a slave to blogging. Your time is better spent writing your next great novel."

She also said: "I find that most of my readers don't have blogger accounts and it makes commenting difficult so I rely heavily on facebook for communicating with readers. I use my blog as a home base where readers can come and learn more about my books or read extra's that I've written. But overall facebook is a far more fluid venue for creating interpersonal relationships with readers."

I also asked Addison what role social media has played in contributing to her success (if any).

She only posts on her blog about once a week in a post she calls "Teaser Tuesday" in which she shares excerpts from her upcoming books. I don't see her much on Twitter. As mentioned above, she interacts with her readers mostly on Facebook.

Her OWN social media efforts were NOT what lead to her success. Rather it was the WORD OF MOUTH of her readers "via their blog’s, their generous facebook shout-outs, and twitter recommendations. Pixel of Ink picked it up in April of 2011 and they have a huge social media following via facebook, twitter and their own blog. They lifted the series off the ground a few times due to their incredible subscriber base."

In other words, Addison didn't have an enormous pre-existing blogging or social media platform that rocketed her into the spotlight. Instead readers enjoyed her books and naturally spread the word so that her popularity continued to grow.

Finally, I asked Addison what she considered the most important factor(s) in her books becoming popular and selling well.

She answered that "the most vital role in the series success was the low price of the first book. For over a year ETHEREAL was .99 and currently the book is free." She also offered this advice to anyone considering self-publishing: "Get a very good editor or two."

My Summary: I think it's really important for fiction writers whether traditionally published or self-published to keep blogging in perspective. The ingredients that make a book take off are a fantastic, compelling book and word of mouth by readers who are excited about that book. BLOGGING doesn't significantly sell more books. Great BOOKS sell more books.

So what do you think? Are you surprised by anything Addison said? Do you think blogging and developing a platform are more important for self-published writers? Or do you think it comes down to the book itself no matter which publishing route a writer chooses?

A HUGE thank you to Addison Moore for taking the time to enlighten us regarding blogging and social media for self-publishing writers. You can find out more about Addison on Facebook or her Blog.

35 comments:

  1. I suppose it depends on a bit of trial and error on the part of the author to find what works for them. I think all authors need a platform of some kind, but the way they build it is up to them.

    I especially think that a good balance is important, and the platform-building stuff should never get in the way of the writing.

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  2. I've been buying SP novels lately, but it has nothing to do with the authors' blogs. I'm not even sure if they have blogs. I'm buying the books because of word of mouth.

    I blog (and love it) and am considering SPing later next year. My blogging has and will help me toward my goal, especially since the number of followers I have keeps growing and I'm developing new friendships all the time. These are the people who will help get the word of mouth out about my books. My problem will be Facebook. That's the one form of social media I don't utilize much. I still don't know how to use it.

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  3. Jody, you are always such a wealth of info. And you went to the perfect person to ask these questions. I'm not surprised at all by Addison's response. I've been watching the habits of several successful self-published authors recently (not in a creepy way), and Facebook is where they're hanging out.

    Thanks for this super-informative post!

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  4. L.A. Gold (@_lagold)October 23, 2012 7:48 AM

    I was having this very discussion with my husband this morning. This is a terrific post. Thanks!

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  5. I just think it's cool I can say I knew you both when...

    ;-)

    Great points today ladies. As with many things in life, it's worth it to take time to consider what we're getting out of it and if we're growing from it.

    ~ Wendy

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  6. Hi Jody,
    Wow! What a success story. I think it is true that the time spent blogging could be used for focusing more on our writing. I used to spend a great deal of time making sure to write good articles for my blog, but I found that it distracted me from completing my primary writing projects. I am currently trying to find a balance that works best for me.
    Posts like this are very helpful. Thank you.

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  7. No, this doesn't surprise me at all. Blogs are great if you like it and you want to be a leader in the Self publishing world by offering advice. But from watching certain books and studying what the author does -- I'd say it doesn't equate to sales. It's easy to make the connection but there are too many books that take off where the author's blog isn't a big deal.

    And I'd say that's true no matter how you're published.

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  8. Your post answered some burning questions that I've had for a long time, Jody. I heard advice in the earlier days that it was helpful to blog almost every day, but I don't have the time to do that, work, and produce a manuscript. Also, I think Addison hit the nail on the head when she mentioned that her promotions were mostly word of mouth. People have told me that they connected with an author (traditional or self-pub) only after seeing the book in print or ebook, not necessarily on a blog.

    In defense of this medium, however, I will say that blogging has helped me to learn more about writing and to make friends. I will continue to blog, but what a relief to know that this one form of communication is not the only way to reach out to readers.

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  9. I know many writers who blog constantly, but I only blog twice a week on average. I do agree that writing quality book after quality book is the biggest key to success. Writers love to self-sabotage (including me) and wasting time on social media is one way to do that.

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  10. Hey everyone! So glad you're all finding this post helpful and enlightening today! I promise I'm done blogging about blogging for a while! ;-)

    I just want to reiterate again that blogging has its uses and can be helpful. So these posts aren't meant to be a strike against blogging! But rather a call for all of us to keep blogging in it's proper place in the writing life! :-)

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  11. I'm happy to see this post today and it confirms, to me, that I'm on track to building a good platform. I'm switching to a different genre and will be starting a new blog & Facebook page. I've had my current blog for many years, so I know that it can bring readers. I look at blogs and websites as a bonus for readers. A place where they can find out more about me and my writing. That being said, as I design my new website and blog I will be putting up little treats, like free short stories and recipes.

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  12. Thank you so much Jody for having me today! I'm so honored to be on your blog!!! I had a blast speaking with you. I truly cherish our friendship and cannot wait to see what the future holds for the both of us.

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    1. THANK YOU my dear! It's a pleasure hearing more about your writing experience! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and all you've learned on your journey so far!

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  13. Great post, Jody. Now I can feel a little less guilty about not finding blogging terribly helpful as far as sales go, etc. I love your story Addison and of course will be visiting your Facebook page soon. :) I think my blogging will become more spontaneous now and probably more fun. Once I give myself permission not to do something, then it's no big deal and I go with the flow. I've been fascinated by the self-publishing opportunities out there. I'm not ready to jump into that arena, but I'm interested in how to make it happen. Jody and Addison, are there people out there in the writing world that teach you how to put an e-book together? I'm guessing there is but really haven't heard much. And you blog about blogging all you want, Jody.:)

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    1. Hi Jillian~! I agree! Once I free myself from doing something out of obligation I find it a whole lot more fun! I have a link here with some indie resources that you might find helpful: http://indeliblewriters.blogspot.com/p/indie-resources.html

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    2. Aw, thanks, Jill! I'm glad we could all talk about the realities of blogging too. There are just too many demands and not enough time in life. And so, we can't pour a lot of energy into blogging at the expense of other more important things.

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    3. Thanks for the link, Addison. I'll check that out soon. Isn't it weird how our minds work about obligatory things, etc.? And Jody I appreciate you're ability to blog for a long time and frequently with such eloquence. You're a pro.

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  14. Jody,
    Thanks for the great post. Addison, thanks for sharing your experiences and insights. As a SP author, I followed the advice of the experts and started a blog. I'm glad I did. It helped me to establish an identity as a writer, share insights and lessons learned and connect with other writers. However, it is a huge time suck. Jody, this series has helped me to put it into perspective. I plan to keep blogging, but I need to strike a better balance and find more time for fiction writing. Thanks again for covering this topic so well.

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    1. I've found many benefits to blogging too. And since I said I wouldn't do another post about blogging for a while, I'll have to save a "benefits" post for the future! ;-) But seriously, I've had a great experience with blogging. But finding a balance is really key. And making sure to give our fiction the priority.

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  15. I didn't realize that commenting to Blogger was difficult. That's unfortunate because I like everything else about Blogger. I look on my blog as an on-line presence, a place to list and link to my (self-published) books and a form of writing to a prompt as I tend to write on different topics, usually related to writing or something from one of my books but not necessarily. Sometimes, if I seem to hit a spell of writer's block on my w.i.p. writing on a blog keeps the creative juices flowing.

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  16. Jody and all,
    I thought you might be interested in the fact that this question of Blogging or Not is going around academic circles as well. I found this today at work: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/college-ready-writing/blog-or-not-blog


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    1. Oh, very interesting! I guess the whole "whether to blog" issue is something all professionals have to deal with!

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  17. Great points, Addison! I don't think it necessary to post that often on a blog, only enough to keep its SEO up. Blogs are your online home and attract the "Google juice" more than static websites. You can expound more on a blog than on FB. FB, and Twitter in particular, are what help spread your blog posts worldwide. I write about authors, so if they don't have a blog/website I can't link to them, and usually I won't write about them either.

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  18. I'm not surprised. I like blogging so it's not such a huge time suck for me. My latest and greatest time suck is PINTEREST. I LOVE it and yet it is a huge time suck. I can pop over to pin something . . . and then three hours later I'm thinking, where did the evening go? Good thing I don't watch t.v. (much) ;D

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  19. I agree with many of the other commenters here - I'm not surprised by the comments but my own blog has given me do benefits (not sales related) that it's worth it regardless.

    My debut novel, The Big Smoke, launches this weekend so I will be more informed soon to tell you whether my blogging efforts have lead to sales. :-)

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  20. *do benefits* should read *so many benefits*. :-)

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  21. I think blogging is a valuable tool for all novelists. Agents and publishers are placing continually more value on the author platform, and numerous author friends of mine (published in various ways) have noticed pronounced sales boosts when they start blogging effectively. I definitely don't think it should interfere with other writing time, but it can actually help our writing—it has in my case, anyway. I blog twice per week, and while it can feel like a part-time job, the rewards are worth it.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

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  22. I'm nowhere near being published, but I use Wordpress to post bits of unfinished stories and poetry. It's been slow going but every now and then I'll get a message asking if I've done anything new. I think just like any type of writing, if you can stick with it, it'll be worth it.

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