Patricia Burroughs (Pooks): We’ve discussed blogging and how to make it work. I think the biggest problem with any advice on ‘how to build a platform’ is that it reads like a checklist that you tick off and then wait for people to read you, but as many have pointed out, you really have to find things to do that you actually enjoy doing, or you’re unlikely to be successful.
Sherwood Smith: Being passionate is not enough. There are plenty of passionate bloggers out there earnestly going on about themselves. Successful bloggers are interesting about what others are interested in. People have known for centuries (salonistes) that being interested in others and their interests is the first step in causing one to be interesting, then one either has to have interesting info or be clever.
Not two days ago I heard a highly regarded blogger talking about posts that begin with something shocking, like human trafficking and how to stop it, but then comes the deadly phrase, “In my science fiction novel . . .” And then the poster goes on and on about their book. Cue rolling eyes.
Someone else pointed out that that is classic bait and switch.
We have been dunned with commercial bait and switch so much that there is strong resistance: as soon as the switch happens, the channel changer clicks. Or in the case of blogs, as soon as the deadly phrase appears, we click to the next blog.
Very few can be interesting about their own work. Someone else has to do that. Being interesting all the way through about human trafficking and how to stop it is more likely to cause readers to finish the post thinking, “Hmmm, I need to check this blog out more often”—and maybe “check this person out, see what else they’ve written.”
The problem is, what if you aren’t interested in what the majority of others are interested in? 100 million Americans are interested in, say, sports. What if the very mention of football makes your brain shut down out of boredom? You have to work that much harder . . . and most writers would rather work that much harder at their fiction.
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel: I’m passionate about new and interesting things, and share them like a magpie with shinys. Also good books I find. But I am too swamped to review fiction right now.
I just have too many balls in the air. And the new book beckons.
Plus…hate most organized sports teams. Pumpkin Chunkin, now there’s a sport I can get excited about. Geeks nuking pumpkins for distance!…..
Pooks: Which only works when you write about cooking and sports, because otherwise people will come read the cooking and sports, but won’t buy your epic fantasies.
Patricia Rice: Yup, exactly. If you’re selling epic fantasy, then you need to be passionate about cosplay and costumery and conventions and video games and I don’t know what all. You target your market. If you’re a super costume designer, you’ve got a platform. You make designs for your characters. You do videos of them. Have people create music for them….
Do you hear the time sink?
Nancy Jane Moore: Something Sherwood didn’t say, but something she’s very good at: engaging with the people who read the blog. Sherwood’s posts always draw great conversations about whatever she’s written about.
From my own experience: when I read something interesting, I go looking for more work by the author. This is true whether I’m reading op eds or blog posts. So I don’t think you need to promote your work directly in your post, though your bio should tell people how to find more stuff by you. (I hate it when I go to look up info about someone and can’t find anything but a Facebook page.)
I seem to have hit a positive response with my legal fictions series and will be going back to that, with the goal of turning it all into an ebook. It turned out to be a lot of work, so I wouldn’t want to do it without a bigger goal in mind. But I suspect blogging about something that draws interest and bringing out a book related to it would definitely be a good strategy. I’m going to do that with self defense, too. (Once I get moved and settled.) That doesn’t work quite as well with fiction, though.
I’m feeling frustrated with social media, too, Pat. I am getting tired of FB, though there are people I enjoy engaging with on there. I just can’t seem to stay interested enough in twitter to pay attention. I’d like something else. If I could figure out what it was, I could probably get rich. I do find interesting work and authors via FB, though. FWIW.
Madeleine E. Robins: I feel about blogging the same way I feel about being on convention panels. My job is to be entertaining and informative about a topic (even when the topic isn’t me or my work) on the theory that that will interest some folk in other things I’ve written.
Deborah J. Ross: I keep old convention program schedules as a source of blog topics. Otherwise, my mind goes blank or refuses to leave the story I’m working on. The down side is that I don’t have other panelists to bounce ideas around with.
Sherwood Smith: Nancy Jane: this is true about your law series. It’s interesting, and there is no bait-and-switch. (I’ve been hearing more about that from other high profile bloggers and readers.)
To Pooks: Epic fantasy covers so much ground! Explore periods of history that seem to draw lots of writers to engage with, while other equally interesting ones go ignored (like, why are there so many Tudor-era historical fantasies about John Dee, but so few about the far more interesting Paracelsus or Philip Melancthon?)
- The effects of culture changes–dealing with the consequences–
- Inspiring epic fantasies that inspired one as early reader–
- How magic is invented, how it is used in various works, kinds of magic not often seen
- The tension between the tropes of romance and of epic fantasy
Those are just a few ideas. It takes work and energy to come up with real content, unfortunately. There is no way around that. John Scalzi apparently works between twelve and sixteen hours a day.
Patricia Rice: or he keeps trolls under the bed, which is what I think Nora Roberts does. <G>
And from experience, Pooks, I recommend finding several similarly-oriented writers and creating a group blog. Regular blogging is a sure way to burn-out. But with a bunch of people working together, your social media spread is much wider.
I’m still not convinced it sells enough books to be worth it.
Sherwood Smith: Nor I, but I do think it can help to have real content out there when people do check out your name.
Doranna Durgin: I am *always* on the verge of quitting my blog. It hangs over me like a big blot of “you’re not doing this right/aren’t very successful at this.” But it’s also a sort of diary, and I like having it.
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel: I work 60 hours a week just trying to keep up with the book media, get back into the job market, stay well, and keep writing.
If I didn’t have BVC to swap off with, not sure how I’d be doing at anything.
Pati Nagle: Yes, I feel this way too, and in fact I gave up on blogging as PR long ago. I now blog as an open-to-the-public journal. If readers are entertained by it, great. If not, no matter, because I’m doing it primarily for me – to have a record of my thoughts, and of random stuff I’d like to be able to find again.
Deborah J. Ross: One thing that I as a reader love about the BVC blog is the variety. There are so many voices and topics. I’m not equally interested in them all, but in the course of a week, I always find something of value. As a contributor, it’s a relief to not have to sustain that level of solid blog material all by myself.
Nancy Jane Moore: Right now the only place I blog is BVC because I, too, find a group blog much easier to do. I blog because I often have ideas I’d like to share, or things I need to get off my chest, and blogging is an easy way to do that. That is, I do it for myself and for its own sake.
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel: We’ve been talking about how some popular things are not directly tied to our work, and we’re not sure anyone is listening? Actually, I just started a book that has a lot to do with things I do like to blog about.
Not a clue if fans who have enjoyed the posts will also like the book! Or the opposite. But I am enjoying the writing, so I have hopes for a great book, at least.
Pooks: I blog at planetpooks because I like to. I write about things that interest me–books, gardening, whatever. If I didn’t like doing it, I wouldn’t, and as others have pointed out, it’s a diary of sorts. On many occasions I’ve been able to figure out when something happened by going back to my blog to see. It’s as scattered as my interests, which doesn’t do a lot for growing readership since they can’t count on me always writing what they want to read, but it has to interest me first, and that’s just the way I roll.
That said–there have been some great suggestions here, and I can see myself putting together some posts that work better in connection with my current trilogy, and that excites me. As has been said–writing about the books themselves is boring to anybody but me. But now I see ways to write about the historical settings, the magical constructs, the world-building and the travel I’ve done for research, and it might serve both purposes. Give me a chance to talk about my passions, and possibly interest other people with similar interests.
Compiled by Deborah J. Ross. The painting is The Letter, by Alfred Stevens (1823-1906), public domain.