The Changing Nature of Blogging for Fiction Writers

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By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I've never believed that blogging was a must-do for ALL fiction writers. In fact, I've always urged new aspiring writers to use extra caution before jumping into the blogging world (and social media in general). I've advocated young writers to focus most of their time and energy on writing and learning about writing.

Lately I've noticed several other big names in the writing industry advocating the same thing. Jane Friedman recently said this to new writers: "If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good."

L.L. Barkat said something similar to experienced writers: "But if writers already have experience, and they are authors trying to promote themselves and their work, I tell them to steer clear [of blogging]. If they’ve already found themselves sucked into the blogging vortex, I suggest they might want to give it up and begin writing for larger platforms that don’t require reciprocity (an exhausting aspect to blogging and a big drain on the writer’s energy and time)."

I found it interesting that Jane encouraged new writers to "forget" platform building and that L.L. Barkat thinks experienced writers should "steer clear" of blogging.

Overall, I'm sensing many industry professionals are coming to the realization that for fiction writers (whether beginner or old timer) blogging is time-consuming and doesn't drive book sales. While blogging can offer benefits, those benefits just don't seem to be outweighing the costs (of time and energy).

In fact, L.L. Barkat goes as far as to say: "Is blogging a waste of time? . . . For the experienced writer, my answer is yes … in 2013."

As a published author who's been blogging since 2009, I thought I'd throw my opinions into the mix.

Has blogging been a waste of time for me?

Yes, when I was blogging five days a week, that was overkill. Even three days a week took more time than it was worth. Because not only do you have to write the posts and edit them, but you have to format them and find pictures. Then once the post goes live you want to be available to read comments and respond to questions. (And early in blogging, as Barkat mentioned above, the whole reciprocity aspect takes tons of time.)

Posting two days a week is manageable for me. I make it my priority to meet my daily word count goals first before working on blogging stuff. Blogging always takes a backseat to the real work of writing fiction.

Has blogging helped me in ANY way, even slightly?

It has NOT helped me sell significantly more books. Initially the large bulk of my sales came from the inroads made by my publisher's sales and marketing departments. Now that I have four books out, word of mouth from current fans is also helping to expand my readership.

Oh sure, occasionally I'll have a brand new blog reader tell me that they've purchased my book as a result of reading my blog. But it's only a scant handful compared with the bulk of the rest of my readers.

By and large, the most beneficial aspect of blogging has been the relationships I've been able to form with other writers. Although now that I don't have the time to give to the reciprocity aspect of blogging, I find that the relationships aren't as deep as I would ideally prefer.

Does blogging help me connect with fans?

At the beginning of 2013, I decided not to solely blog about writing, but instead to devote one of my two weekly posts toward readers. And while it's only been three months since I began the experiment, I've noticed that readers don't really stop by. Those who frequent my "reader" posts are still largely writers.

And yes, I make sure to let my readers know about my posts in a variety of places, particularly my Facebook page. But even with the encouragement to come over to my blog and chat, readers don't interact with the same openness they do over on Facebook.

So I would have to say that no, blogging hasn't helped me interact significantly more with my readers.

Should I throw in the towel on blogging and focus on other things?

For now, I'm not planning to give it up.

Elizabeth S. Craig also did a recent post on whether fiction writers should blog. And I liked her summary of it: "It's nice to have a home base on the web...a website, a blog, some place to hang your hat. Definitely a professional-sounding email address, at the very least."

I like having a place where I can "talk" about writing and reading and all of the things that happen in the industry. I appreciate being able to share the writing experience with others. And I also like having that home base where readers can come if they want to.

So if I ever feel like giving up on blogging, I'd probably cut back to once a week first. But for now I'm continuing with twice.

What do you think? Did you read any of the above articles on blogging that I cited? Do you think the importance of blogging has diminished over the past year or two? How are you feeling about blogging lately?

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