Today I’m going to muse on a topic that has been floating around the writing industry blogosphere the past week or so — which is what writers get out of blogging and how big a ‘platform’ novelists need in order to sell books (or to even be considered for publication by the larger publishers). Anne R Allen and Roni Loren both have written great posts on the subject with lots of links.
I’m going to duck the ‘selling books’ aspect of this discussion, since that’s not exactly in my purview at the moment. But the question of platform is one that I’ve been thinking about all year, ever since I started this blog and joined twitter etc.
I first started blogging anonymously elsewhere in 2006. I had Things To Say: thoughts on books and movies, cafes and holidays, rants about the latest terrible customer service, favourite recipes… you probably get the picture. My personal writing journey featured heavily as well. What that blog doesn’t have is a distinct theme. It’s essentially a snapshot of my life.
But that blog was — and still is — as much for me as anyone else. An online diary of stuff I find interesting and inspiring and memorable. Its regular readers are my friends and family; although, as is the nature of blogs, some posts get regular external hits from googlers on the interwebs. The point is: I don’t care how many hits it gets. I keep that blog because I want to and I enjoy it.
And then last year it was borne upon me that, if I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, I needed a public persona online. A web site that industry professionals could find and use to engage with me — should they choose to do so. It was time to be brave and eschew anonymity.
And so this blog was launched in January of this year. A blog about writing and my writing journey. A statement that I am serious and committed and passionate about being a writer.
I’ve always enjoyed blogging about writing, and a dedicated writing blog allows me to explore writing topics in more depth. The most likely audience is other writers, who can likely empathise with many of the issues I discuss, but I don’t delude myself that the majority of readers aren’t people I already know.
Should I care about the number of blog readers I have? I’ve always felt that it would be foolish to expect a high number of hits — after all, I still fall under the banner of ‘aspiring’. Sure, people I don’t know might find the odd post of interest, but why would they keep checking in to see where I’m at? (If/when I’m ever published, it would become a completely different scenario.)
I would of course like to have lots of readers. (Every writer wants an audience.) I gather the way to make blog-friends is to read everyone else’s blogs and leave comments so they come and visit yours. But, while I would love to do this in principle, I don’t know how people find the time. I regularly get overwhelmed by the number of writers — published and unpublished — who blog!
Having said that, for a successful blog you definitely need to have compelling content (and this is where the blog elite cite the Art Of Blogging). I do know of several very successful bloggers who have first novels pending — meaning they must have established their platform as unpublished writers. These writers are obviously just fantastic at the art of blogging and social networking.
(It’s worth mentioning here that some of the wider industry debate surrounds whether authors should avoid blogging about writing itself, so as not to bore readers. This obviously presupposes you have published works and a bunch of non-writerly fans. I would imagine that readers might find insight into the authorial process interesting . . . but then again that might be because I’m a writer. It would be interesting to know what proportion of non-writerly readers subscribe to the blogs of favourite authors. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the vast majority of blog readers are writers too.)
As an unpublished (fiction) writer, I’ve always been content to fly underneath the radar. My approach with blogging and social networking is no different — for better or worse. I cannot see the point of worrying about platform before I even know whether I’m a good enough writer to need one.
So I have this blog, my tiny presence on the interwebs, from which to occasionally engage with the wider community (every so often I stick my head up and leave a comment somewhere). All readers are welcome, and I’ll endeavour to be interesting and foster conversation; but my focus is (must be) on writing fiction — learning the craft, producing the words.