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Is Blogging a Time-Suck for Writers?

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Last week my agent, Rachelle Gardner, had a post called "Who Needs a Platform?" After reading the post, I glanced at the first comment and was surprised to see James Scott Bell's name there.

Since Bell is someone I really admire and whose writing craft books I've devoured, I had to read his comment regarding building a platform. Of what he said, this stood out: "Don’t pressure new fiction writers to be doing all those things that were fashionable in 2007. Especially starting a blog, which is the biggest time suck for the smallest return known to man. Encourage them to work at their craft and publish." (Emphasis mine)

(Sidenote: Notice Bell said fiction writers. Platform-building and blogging for non-fiction writers is an entirely different topic and is of much greater importance. This post is geared to fiction-writers.)

To be honest, I was taken aback by Bell's comment. But he definitely gave me food for thought. It led me to re-read a post I wrote this past summer: Does Social Media Really Help With Success?

I said this: "In all the social media hype over the past couple years, have we elevated its importance too high? Does social media really give a boost to an author's sales, land them on best seller lists, get them bigger publishing deals, or turn them into national celebrities? After several years and several books, I've decided that even though my social media presence is fairly strong, it has NOT been the most significant factor in my success."

So on the one hand, I tend to agree with Bell's comment. We shouldn't be laying such a heavy burden on fiction writers with social media, that writing excellent fiction is what builds the brand of a novelist.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I agree that blogging is "the biggest time suck for the smallest return known to man." Even if blogging hasn't been the most significant factor in my success, it has benefited my writing career in many ways. I can't easily quantify all of the ways, but I wouldn't be where I'm at without it.

But . . . I can definitely understand why Bell says blogging can be a time suck. I've been blogging for three years. And during that time, I've gone through several phases: 

1. Eager, excited beginning blogger who spends way too much time crafting blog posts and blog-hopping in order to build a following.

2. Burned-out blogger who realizes she's spending too much time on blogging at the expense of real writing time and other responsibilities, who then cuts back to a more manageable level.

3. Seasoned, realistic blogger who understands that consistent blogging is a lot of work, but cuts back again to find a balance in blogging so that the output in time equals the returns.

Let me repeat that last line, because ultimately I think it's a wise approach for fiction writers: Find a balance in blogging so that the output in time equals the returns. I actually think it's a good approach for all social media, but particularly for blogging.

Why spend hours and hours on something that isn't moving your career forward? On the other hand, for those who've found a niche and have an easier time building a following, the returns might be greater.

The bottom line is that the "returns" are going to look different for fiction writers depending on how we define it.

For some, the benefits of blogging are the relationships they build with other writers, because let's face it, most of us don't have real life friends who "get" our passion for writing.

For others, the return in blogging is in learning more about writing, networking with other writers (which could open doors), developing influencers, or gaining industry savvy.

Still others want to see increased sales as a direct result of blogging. They look closely at their statistics and how they can tempt visitors into buying their books. And by guest posting and doing interviews, they generate buzz for their book that wouldn't happen otherwise.

All of us have different reasons for blogging, derive varying benefits, and usually have a mixture of reasons for doing it. 

But the truth is, we can't spend more time on blogging than we're getting out of it. We have to keep it in its proper place in the scope of the writing life, otherwise it truly will become a time suck with little return value.

I continually evaluate the returns I'm getting out of blogging and weighing it against how much time I'm devoting. Even now after three years, I keep asking myself, is the amount of time I spend on blogging worth the effort?

Ultimately, we have to keep our stories the number one priority. Because for fiction writers, our books are what build our platforms. Slowly, over time, one good book after another is what helps our names and readerships to grow.

So, keep blogging in its proper place. And keep the main thing (writing), the main thing.

What do you think about Bell's comment? Do you agree that blogging is a big time suck with little returns? Or do you think that fiction writers can benefit from blogging? 

56 comments:

  1. I'm not sure how to answer that because I'm not published yet. Blogging is a time suck, but I think I've gotten some great things in return: new writer friends, tips that have helped my fiction, writing posts gets me out of my fiction-writing comfort zone, and winning some great new books in blog contests!

    I put my writing first, though. The problem comes when writers spend most of their time blogging rather than writing. You have to write first and blog later.

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    1. Totally agree with you, Laura.

      Thanks so much for this post, Jody. Helping me put things into perspective here. :)

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  2. I agree with your conclusion! My blog audience is mostly other writers. When my book comes out, I don't anticipate readers will flock to it; I have a website and Twitter as well, and may have a tumblr account geared more toward readers. I don't expect my blog will sell my books, but it has been an amazing way to be part of the writing community.

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  3. I had a conversation about this yesterday. I'm so glad that I stopped by to read.

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  4. I just went and read Bell's full comment, and I'm thinking I might agree with him. That if I take the two hours a week I put into my blog and switch it to some ebook I was going to sell for free or $1, that might be a lot more beneficial in growing my readership. I'll have to give it more thought. Maybe talk to my agent.

    Blogging really helps you connect with other writers, though, even if just by doing an occasional interview or book promo. So I'd loose that. But then, there's always the question of whether these writers you help support actually read your book and can grow your fan base as effectively as someone who gets really excited about your book and starts passing it on to others.

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  5. I have to agree that balance is the key. When I first started blogging in 2006, it consumed my thoughts and time. And sometimes that got very stressful when I felt that I couldn't keep up. Then I sort of burned out, and honestly I never really found a balance.

    However,I think you have found the perfect balance. By posting two days a week, your readers (and other writers) know what to expect and we get to learn from your experience. Yet, you're not constantly writing blog posts or responding to comments. You're concentrating on writing your BOOKS--which is what we want you to do. :)

    But that said, I think this little peek into your writing life (and the blog tours you do) really keeps you real to your readers. By showing that you can keep your priorities in order in your home and with your family, yet still be a successful author, is an inspiration to me and to others. We feel that we are getting to 'know' you. And I like that. As I said, it keeps things real and connects you with your readers.

    Thanks for the insight.
    Blessings,
    Amy O'Quinn

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  6. After blogging for three years and having gained a following, I tend to agree. A little bit. But this is only because I'm now happy about where I am in my career and I'm no longer obsessed with getting exposure. I've now learned how to get it away from the blog. But in the beginning, it was BECAUSE of the blog that I discovered all the things I am doing now to help promote myself. So in the end, realistically, his comment is silly. He should have said, "don't pressure ESTABLISHED fiction writers". In the beginning, I think it's a vital part of the process.

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    1. Just have to chime in and agree with this! I'm not published yet so I can't weigh in on that end. However, I put a good amount of time into my blog and I get a great return from it. Writer friends, knowledge, connections. I've found my critique partners that way and established other great relationships. Once I get further along in writing, though, and have deadlines and need to focus a lot more, I will have to cut back on blogging. And I think at that time, the return will be a lot less than it is now.

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    2. Absolutely agree with Jessica & Cindy. Blogging is helping my writing in so many ways. I think it is vital in helping me make the transition from hobbyist to professional. I believe this is true no matter what brand of writer that you are. Very few of us will fit into neat little boxes especially at the onset of our careers when we are finding our voices, our niches and our audiences. That said, my blog/website is constantly evolving as I grow. I'm a big fan of Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, and she indicates that her platform for writing services does not necessarily translate into sales for her fiction series. But I'm also thinking that it didn't hurt her in finding an agent. Not all rewards/benefits are easily traced to their causes. SoMe takes a more comprehensive analysis, perhaps.

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  7. I think given that one of the biggest challenges faced by any writer is learning to reliably hit deadlines, blogging can be an extremely good learning tool, well worth the invested time. A blogger who sets s schedule and keeps it learns not only the self-discipline to sit and write even when they don't feel like it, but also how to let a piece of work go rather than picking at it for months trying to make it perfect.

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  8. Did someone mention my name?

    Good discussion to have, especially here, in one of the better writing blogs I know of. I'll check in later and offer a few more thoughts.

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  9. Nice post! Over the last few years of my blogging I've gone through those same three steps you have.

    I've found the balance to stay where I am with my blog right now. The key, for me, is figuring out when, how or maybe even if it's worth the time to try to take my blog to a higher level.

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  10. The best thing I did for my blogging, honestly, was making it not all about writing.

    SO many people have writing blogs, and many, like yours, are wildly successful.

    But if ever writer tries to write about writing... which I think is what is happening now... well, that's a lot of blogs, folks.

    When Annabelle was born, I decided to let her "hijack" my blog because honestly, it was a great way to update people and I ended up sharing a lot of my heart there, and people responded.

    I credit Annabelle with making me refocus my blog on what *I* am passionate about and what I can connect with readers on. Mostly, it's about the struggle as a crazy busy mom trying to live her imperfect life to the glory of Jesus, and giving tips and advice along the way as to how to do that. It's about finding joy in the journey God has put us on, regardless of the twists and turns we take.

    It's not for everyone. And I *lost* some of my "writers" who used to read my blog, because I know they are spending most of their time reading "writing" blogs, but that's okay. I'm reaching the people God wants me to reach, and it's about so much more than book sales.

    On a business side though, I think you're right. there is a balance, and takes a little time to figure it out. You've done SO SO well, Jody, and I LOVE your blog!!!

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  11. I agree with Mr. Bell 100%.

    Platform for fiction writers is novel writing. And if a writer isn't honing her craft and producing sellable fiction, she really has no foundation for platform. Blogging is not the foundation for a fiction writer's platform, novels are. Blogging is a just a very useful tool once the writer has novels to sell.

    I see some benefits of blogging for fiction writers, but I'm just not sure those benefits include book sales - not enough to make a difference anyway. And I especially don't see the benefit of a large amount of blogging before a writer has her first book out.

    But that's just me. ;)

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  12. I only started a blog recently (in May) after I had published several books. Every writer seemed to have a blog so that was a motivation. I decided to follow your lead and blog twice a week. But one thing I did notice (and wrote a blog about--Disappearing Bloggers--was how many blogs had been abandoned months or years ago.

    I decided to write for readers not writers, much as I appreciate the author blogs that give writing advice. In addition to whatever promotional value it is worth, I look on it as writing practice. I'm writing to a prompt that I've come up with that relates either to one of my books or some other topic I'm interested in. I don't agonize over the writing and try to stay a few entries ahead. So far it's working but I can see that after a year or two I might decide to stop.

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  13. I agree that finding balance is key. I have to admit that the relationships I've built through blogging (since 2009) have helped me move ahead--without them I would have quit long ago. Other bloggers have helped with promotion to a degree. I know it can't be the only thing I rely on, however.

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  14. This is a subject I've been struggling with for the past year. In fact I blogged about it last week. I attended Jim's seminar last month in Cincinnati where I live. He knows my frustration. I've come to the conclusion that blogging is a time suck for me. I don't know why I hate to admit that, but I do. I feel like a failure in that area. And yet I don't want to stop completely.

    I've had friends tell me to use it as a journal. I blog once or twice a month over at the Charisma Realms Blog which hasn't taken off either. So why take that valuable time away from my writing when I work full time counseling and have family obligatons including my 87 year old mother living with us.

    My immediate plans for the future, God willing, is that I publish a book a year and write a novella or short story along the way as Jim suggests. Rachelle agrees that would be best in my situation. I'm also 57 years into my life journey and it really does go faster and faster the older you get. How do I want to spend that time? For me it's time to experiment and see how things go. I think this is a really important issue for many writers, published or not, and it's time for us to wrestle with the subject and be true to ourselves.

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  15. Great thoughts, Jody, stuff I've carefully pondered myself. I've concluded that while unpublished, I need my blog to build friendships/network and feel like I'm "blooming where planted" and making the most of my opportunities. Plus, editors/agents still pay attention to whether or not you blog and how many people visit/follow you. :-)

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  16. Great post, Jody. I struggle with this topic, especially since my day job is a social media coordinator and I blog regularly for my company and see the benefits. I'm just not seeing the same benefits in my fiction life.

    I'm pre-published and for the past three and a half years I've been experimenting with my blog and trying to find that perfect niche. I've toyed with the idea of starting a new blog, new website... but it frustrates when I just really want to write! :-) It's a fine balance between it all, and in this world of social media, platform building has taken new paths. I can think of several authors who don't blog but have such a powerful social media presence.

    It isn't one-size-fits-all. And with a billion blogs out there, it doesn't pay to be another mediocre voice that doesn't stand out.

    That said, I look forward to each Tuesday and Thursday for you insightful blog posts, Jody. ;-)

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  17. I saw that conversation on Rachelle's blog and thought it was really interesting, so glad we're continuing it here. Your blog and the success it brought you was one of my main reasons for starting a blog, actually. (I remember reading some post about how it was good to start a blog BEFORE getting published so you already had connections established.)

    For me, it ended up being about more than that. Starting my blog and reading others' was one of the best things I could have done for myself. I met other writers, connecting with my amazing crit partner, and discovered my writing voice. Like Krista, I started out writing about writing, but soon learned I didn't know what to say that wasn't already being said out there. So I turned it into being more focused on me and my faith and how I live that out/what God teaches me.

    For me, it works and I like doing it. For others, I can see how it might not be worth it. It just seems like it's everyone's individual decision based on their circumstances.

    I will say that I made a few big agent/editor connections through my blog, though. God can use anything in your life to do it, but blogs do give you exposure and do give agents/editors a way to sample your writing without even having to request something from you at first.

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  18. Great post....something I have been pondering lately.
    Smiles.
    Mary

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  19. I, too, love James Scott Bell's craft books. They're some of the few non-fiction books I've actually finished. :)

    However, I love the perspective you shared about blogging, Jody. I'm in the middle of trying to figure out how to manage my blog in terms of time and return on that time.

    While Bell's perspective on blogging is a common one, I love blogging and feel it has benefited me as a writer. It's more about the the building blocks of a platform, since I'm not published yet. The routine, the relationships, and most importantly, preparing me to address readers if/when I am published.

    Let's face it, a published book does attract more interest. So if I don't learn to master some kind of social media now, how can I prepare for the future?

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  20. I'm not a fiction writer--yet--but I can see where the benefits would outweigh the cost in time and effort if you developed deep relationships that helped you grow as a person and a writer.

    I've had to cut back on both the number of blog posts I write and the length of the posts, due to needing more time to WRITE. As always, I think each writer needs to ask what they're all about and what they hope to gain from any activity they do, whether blogging or sqaure dancing or making brownies for a neighbor.

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  21. I saw that comment and asked Mr. Bell for further clarification. He responded, and for a brief moment, one of the greatest writers of our time knew I existed. (Admit it, we newbies idolize the greats.)

    I agree with him completely about self-publishing novelettes, but, as I've pondered this for a few days, I've wondered how anyone would find my novelettes. My first thought is through my blog. I could offer it for free with e-mail subscription and see if word will spread. I've also found benefit in blogging as a way of developing my voice. And, my blog is a homeschooling mommy blog, so I hope that I'm where my future readers are. I have found that I put way too much time into my blog over the summer, at the expense of my WIP. This fall, I've cut back to concentrate on my fiction writing, and the numbers have increased. Go figure.

    I'm not ready to quit blogging (although there are days), but in the few days since that post, I've brainstormed a half dozen ideas for novelettes. Now I just need the time. Thanks for continuing the conversation, Jody.

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  22. Hi Everyone!

    Great comments! It's interesting to see the diversity among your comments! It just shows how different blogging is for everyone and that we can't really make blanket statements that blogging is good or bad for fiction writers. Ultimately, we're all going to get different things out of it. And some of may not get anything out of it.

    Should we pour our energy into short stories and novellas instead of blogging? Again, I don't think that we can say this particular path is going to be right for everyone (the same way we can't say blogging is the right path.) And honestly I'm not sure that we should be pushing "new" or "young" writers to rush out to self-publish novellas or short stories any more than we should be encouraging them to put their focus on blogging. They should first and foremost spend the time on learning to write. The rest will come later.

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    1. And the other thing I'll add here is that while you are so right - "we can't make blanket statements that blogging is good or bad for fiction writers" - we writers also have to recognize the ever-changing industry. We have to constantly reevaluate. Blogging might be a great vehicle today, while six months from now we might need to pour more energy into adding another book to our schedule or some other social media venture that doesn't even exist yet.

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  23. What constitutes "balance" and how to achieve it is going to be different for different people depending on their writing goals. Blogging, like all the other online activities, can easily become addictive. If done at the expense of time spent on our novel writing, yes, I think it's a time suck. I enjoy blogging and the cyber relationships I've established because of it, but if it becomes arduous or too time-consuming I won't hesitate to cut back because writing a good story is my first priority. I think we each have to determine our goals, abilities and limitations.



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  24. Excellent discussion. Here, and over on Rachelle's blog that started the original debate, new writers will have plenty of good information to make an informed judgment.

    Just to be clear, this was the context of my original statement: NEW fiction writers being told they HAVE TO "build a platform," which included having a BLOG. Well, as Jody can tell you, it takes an incredible amount of work to create a blog that builds a "platform", meaning lots of readers. It doesn't take much work to do a blog that attracts a few and which might even be fun. But the key for the new writer is to figure out the best ROI (return on investment, which in this case means time and effort). I said on Rachelle's blog that the better investment is writing, learning, and then self-publishing which builds actual readers in the most organic way.

    Jody and Rachelle are both top bloggers and both have cut back on their blog frequency. It is HARD to do this in a way that builds a strong and continuous following. And that's where I don't like to see this pressure put on newbies who may not have the desire for consistent blogging. In virtually all cases, blogging will suck precious time and energy away from the "main thing," which is writing at your top level.

    Some of which can now be put in the self-publishing stream. It would be much more beneficial for a new writer, IMO, to trade blogging time for short story or novella time, get those ready (a big key) and get those out with frequency.

    Sure, there is room for a low-traffic, low-expectation blog. It can be a communal thing, as long as community is defined as "wherever two or three are gathered." That's up to the writer. If she has fun with it and can manage it, there may be a few benefits. It may be a warm up the actual fiction writing engine, for example.

    But my main concern, again, is with the new writer and "platform pressure." And of all the things traditionally offered to get there, I stand by my contention that blogging has the worst return for the time invested. Writing and self-publishing has the best return.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Jim! You have definitely given us all something to ponder! I always love a good discussion! I think that with the growth of social media the push has become too strong for beginners too. They need to take the pressure off themselves and focus more on learning the craft of writing. The whole idea of building a platform through social media before publication is really tough for fiction writers. And the best use of time truly is to write our books.

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  25. I'm a non-fiction writer and I, too, believe that a blog is an incredible time suck with no payoff. I also think readers are blogged-out and tired of reading umpteen blog posts a week so they're being much more selective. I'm working on building a better website while I gradually back off of blogging.

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  26. I come down in the middle, I think. I rarely blog more than once a week, and it usually only takes me 20 minutes or so. I often do them on my lunch break. Since I''m still working a "day job" until the fiction career takes off, I'm not really cutting into my writing time. I only blog when I have something to say - and that's usually no more than once a week.

    Do I have a lot of followers? No, probably not. Does it help my writing? I think so because it works on voice - and I have connected with some people who offer valuable insight. Same with social media. Do I think it'll be a place to sell books? I don't know. Maybe. Do I feel it is a total time suck? Not yet and perhaps that's why I continue to do it.

    Now that's my "professional" blog. I also have a personal one, more of an online journal of my life, and I write in that even less frequently. But that's my place to let out those thoughts that I need to let out, but really don't connect to anything - except my general life experience.

    At the end of the day, I just don't feel like these things are sucking my time nearly as much as the need to have a regular paycheck coming in (Now there's something that takes time away from my writing!).

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  27. Visibility in the writing community is good; it gives us a chance to develop a community we can draw on to help publicize, and whose work we can also help publicize. But I'm beginning to think that I have to view blogging as a separate thing from actual writing time; I am not a "writing" blogger and I'm not willing to specialize--I want to write what I want to write. Blogging has become, for me, an online journal of my life and thoughts, with the hope and possibility of casting some ripples into the world, and getting my name out there enough that people will encounter my work later and know I can write. That has to be good enough for me.

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    1. That sounds a lot like the "personal" blog I have - what I want to write, when I want to write it.

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  28. I think Gwendolyn had a good point, above--agents and editors continue to look for a strong online presence when contemplating contracting w/an author. Bottom line, it DOES play into whether they consider you or not.

    I've been thankful many times for my first agent, who suggested that I start a blog (this was four years ago). My blog has morphed over those years--I've lost some readers when I began posting Christian-themed posts, once I determined I was going the CBA route for publication. But the readers I have are the ones who will be interested in my book, when/if it comes out.

    Honestly, if an author doesn't have a blog, it looks like a cop-out to me. I understand once you have a book, you can just do a website w/links to your book, info about your book, etc. (a la Stephenie Meyer, who's probably never had to blog a day in her life). But in the meantime, it gives readers a chance to get to know you.

    Plus, it's an easy way for prospective agents/editors to see how you write and interact with others. Vlogging is especially beneficial, because your readers/agents/editors get a chance to literally "see" a little of your world.

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  29. I started off blogging daily. It wasn't too long before I realized that effort could be better used for writing books. I post twice a week and use my blog to air out ideas on writing or to sort through subjects I'm researching. I think Twitter is a much bigger time suck.

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  30. Yes, blogging is a time-sucker out of EVERYTHING. I mean everything...reading and commenting on blogs can just take four hours of your day. I enjoy blogging very much and still building up a following. Once I have a great following, I probably will comment less but who knows, what will happen. I love social media and that's the problem.

    Great post!

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  31. I'm not published, so I only know what I've done from a reader's standpoint. I plan my blogs in advance, usually 3 per week. They're short and regular, about life as a pre-published writer and faith. I take maybe an hour or a little more to plan the week.

    As a blog reader, I visit 1 or 2 every other day. But from these, I've been persuaded to purchase probably 20 books in the last 2 years. That's not so much, but considering I'd only purchased 12 over the course of the decade before that, it's considerable. All I know is my own experience, and reading suggestions for books, or visiting author's blogs and getting to know them has made a difference in my reading and purchasing habits.

    It probably is a time-waster, especially if it isn't enjoyed, and I love the idea of self-pubbing short stories. But I like writing the articles, and I love the interaction with folks, so I'll keep it up.

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  32. This is a really interesting discussion, especially since I just read Kristen Lamb's "Are you there Blog? It's me, Writer" this summer. I've put some of her great advice into use on my blog, but I haven't gone the Facebook route yet. I have a feeling that social media is really where you will notice a difference in book sales.

    I'm also unpublished. I worried too much about my blog at first, but now I try to write four or six posts in one sitting and then scheduled them to post on my two blogging days. This keeps me from thinking about the blog all the time.

    I've found that those blog entries keep my writing voice fresh and snappy, so it's easier to hear when I'm writing my WIP (fiction, YA fantasy, with a Christian theme).

    I don't think anyone should feel forced to blog. I started my blog for a nonfiction writing class assignment and I'm glad I did. It got me focused on writing regularly.

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  33. I think to one degree Bell is right: a writer shouldn't be so obsessed with their blog or other social media that they don't find time for writing. If we don't have a book to sell, we'll never get published, hence the need to write. I've gone through the different stages for blogging and social media too over the last 3 years and now I've settled into blogging 2 times a week and a perusal of social media each day that allows me time to do the truly important task of writing. I don't always meet my blogging obligations, there's been times things have come up, but I feel I've built an audience that understands if I do have to miss. I would advice writers to take it slow, blog once or twice a week, especially starting out. A blog shouldn't be the most important thing on our mind--our book should. That said, I do worry that agents want too big a platform for writers starting out. You can only do what you can do. I think everyone needs time to stretch their wings out and fly.

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  34. First, I love that this topic is discussed openly by competent people. Thanks Rachelle, Jody & Jim.

    Second, I believe that the pressures upon NEW, FRESH writers to spread themselves thin between writing good and exciting stories, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, pinteresting, whatever, are very closely related to the poor quality in huge amounts that is found out there.

    Beginners in any field or activity can't multitask efficiently -- that's only possible after they reach professional level on at least part of those tasks.

    So, instead of doing 10 things at mediocre or poor quality, it's far better to do 2 at top quality. And then in a couple of years, add some additional tasks while these 2 can be kept at top quality out of momentum and experience.

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    1. Great point, Vero! I love the idea of focusing on a couple of things and doing them well rather than spreading out too thin and doing a poor job at everything.

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  35. I agree most strongly with the comment above. "You can only do what you can do." I blog, I write, I network, and I write some more, and while I admit that the balance isn't perfect, nothing ever is. Thank you for this post and the discussion. Your the perspective helps take the pressure off.

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  36. Great discussion. As you know, Jody, I followed a similar path on blogging as you did since I think we started around the same time, grew a good following, and got book contracts around the same time too. Blogging was super beneficial to me pre-published. It helped me learn about craft, it created a create network of friends, and it got me used to writing every day. Also, it got me a referral to my agent. And I think it helped my debut because more people knew about me.

    However, having said all that, I think it is a thing of diminishing returns these days--at least for me. I'm under crazy deadlines (writing 3 novels a year) and I just can't justify spending lots of time blogging when I need to be writing. And nothing boost my sales more than ANOTHER book. As soon as I have a new release, all my books shoot upward again. A good blog post won't do that.

    I do still blog at least twice a week, but it's a lot more loose than it used to be. And I do it because I enjoy sharing thoughts and having discussions with others. That's why I've stuck with it. But I don't really have any notions that it sells more than a handful of books. I think social media presence as a whole (facebook, twitter, good website) is important. You want to be out there. But I'm not sure I would recommend a new, pre-pubbed writer start blogging these days (and I would've recommended that a year or two ago.)

    Beyond the time suck of a blog, I think blogging is a harder draw now. There are SO many blogs that it's hard for people to keep up. I know that I haven't kept up with my google reader in years. Now I only get to blog posts by clicking on links I see on Twitter. The conversation has moved. So unless you're an already established blog like yours, it's going to be extremely difficult to gain footing.

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  37. Jody, thank you as always for starting this very real, very thoughtful discussion. I'm a new, unpublished writer, but I enjoy blogging twice a week about books and reading. I'm learning and growing because of my blog; I should probably limit the time I spend on posts, and write several at a time to increase efficiency. I probably spend too much time obsessing over individual posts. But it has taught me discipline, voice, and art of writing concisely. Thanks Jody!

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    1. Oh, Julia, I am such a fangirl of your blog. Not a waste of time. Your ideas are as fresh as your voice. Other writers, I believe do themselves a disservice by pushing out sloppy work...the downside. I love your word nerd quizzes.

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  38. I would certainly agree that blogging can be a time suck, if you let it. I was told I needed to blog 3x a week. Well, that's too much for me. So, I now focus on one quality blog per week (two if I get really inspired) with a published author (youngest was 13!). I no longer attempt to write a personal "this is what I know/learned, etc." blog per week. I've only written and published two novels (third in editing). The only thing I'm expert at is being a Newbie Indie. But, it is a wonderful learning tool having guest authors. I'm learning so much and sharing it with my social media followers. There is always a learning moment in everything we do. We just need to see it. Thanks, Jody!! Great thought-provoking post.

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  39. I just got done reading, "Embracing Obscurity" -- and it completely turned my eyes away from "platform."

    Blogging should be to build the craft, not build an audience. Period.

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  40. I guess I blog partly because I wanted to have a web presence, but mailnly because it's fun. I'm not doing it to sell books or grow a huge following, but to network with other people who share the same interests.

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  41. I think that the great thing about blogging is that it can change as we change and grow as writers and authors--that can't be said about many things. It can be what we whatever we want it to be.

    When our focus changes, our blog content changes.

    I think it is an invaluable tool for people just starting out, to learn the social media graces, to have a place to meet other writers and bloggers, and to be a landing pad for support for the journey.

    The question that I guess people are asking in this backlash against blogging, is how to turn it into an effective selling tool. And I'm not sure that it ever will be one--it's not designed to be a website, or twitter. And it doesn't need to be.

    It is what it is. :)

    I think you are spot on about making sure that the "output in time equals the returns." That's perfect.

    Thanks for the great post. :)

    (I found this post through twitter--which is how I get to most of the blog posts I read these days!)

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  42. yes and no; i'm a blogger, and every fiber in my being likes to yak, in contemporary voice, literary voice, ya, ya -I'm working on novel now and cut back. But writing is writing, and I have great fun putting it out there. I've connected with wonderful writers, and I think social media if used to feed one's soul, not promote one's platform, is terrific, but PR is an aspect of writing. Nowadays the writer has to do everything.

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  43. Blogging certainly can be a time suck, but that's only problematic if it becomes the equivalent of sucking arsenic versus, say, a chocotini. In other words, for me, it is worth it as long as there is joy in it; with my site, writing posts is my way of sharing thoughts I've been having about my craft, and sharing opportunities with other writers that I can take advantage of myself. As a poet, my blog is the "cherry" to my poems' "chocotini." If, however, I started to dread it--if I wasn't able to write or submit poems because I was so busy figuring out my blog--then it becomes a craft killer ... the "arsenic" to my craft's "old lace."

    Thanks for this food for thought! (Er, no pun intended)

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  44. I think the broader question that James Scott Bell raises about return on effort is as true for authors as it is for freelance publicists or in-house marketing mavins. It's a question that is asked all too infrequently. But in order to answer you you need to ask some very specific questions about what "returns" you mean and how you'll measure them. What does success look like?

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  45. Good post! On the plus side, for writers like me who are inconsistent in working on their projects, it gives me a short piece to sink my teeth into and grease the writing wheels. However I'm a nonfiction writer so my priorities might be different to those of a fiction writer.

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  46. It's been one of those years. Every time I think I'm just about to get a break,life hands me yet another once-in-a-lifetime crisis. I'm about crisis-ed out. I haven't had the emotional energy to sustain a long fictional narrative, but I was able to sit down and slam out enough 500+ word blogs to call myself a blogger. I've networked with other bloggers when I didn't have enough time to network with other people in my life. My friends and family love me, but they really don't want to hear from me very early in the morning and very late at night. My blogger buddies don't care when I get around to reading their posts or commenting. They just appreciate the love.

    What blogging has done for me is to provide an opportunity to be a writer, without the pressure of having to sustain a coherent narrative for 75,000 or so words. Yes, I have to use good grammar, build characters,tell a story and communicate without "that" and to-be verbs dominating what I say, but I don't have to wake up tomorrow and pick up the thread of my story.

    Thank goodness I chose to blog about something besides writing or I would've really been out of luck, because no one would have wanted to read about my literary frustrations for months on end. However, blogging about travel has afforded me an enjoyable escape and my readership has grown steadily, if slowly.

    I think (I pray) the crises are past and nothing major will arrive on the horizon. I want to dig in and edit a completed novel, as well as start something new and fresh. I'm glad the emphasis on blogging for fiction writers has abated. I can ease off on the blogging and focus on the business of fiction without losing street creds with my fellow writers.

    Thanks for underling this trend in your post. I'd sensed this was the way things were going, but it was nice to have it confirmed by a pro like you.

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  47. The benefit, as you say, is in the relationships built, and the back and forth learning that goes on between writers. My critique partners came via my blog. Now I am on line reading and learning about querying. I've cut way back on my blogging because I can't do it all, but I do believe there is value, I just don't believe that value will ultimately sell books. I agree with you. That's all in the writing!

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  48. Don't be pressured to share the most important facts on your first paragraph. Build up the meat of your chosen story first and make your target readers want for more.

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