To Blog or Not to Blog

I read an article in The Writer (from the Oct. 2010 issue) today on whether writers should be blogging or not, entitled “Are Writer Blogs Worth It?” (p. 28-29). They got two dissenting opinion columns going and watched the fun unfold. The first column, by Jackie Dishner, was arguing that authors should blog, and made their argument from things like visibility on the internet, drawing sales, connection to the fan base, and so forth. Naomi Mannino argued against the helpfulness of blogs, but had essentially only one point: you don’t get paid for writing a blog.

The first column won, hands down. It does actually benefit a writer to have a blog, and Dishner has grasped the essentials of it. Mannino is also correct, but only in a small, unhelpful way. Writers don’t get paid for blogs directly, that is true, but it is an isolated truth, shivering in the cold, naked and afraid. Mannino’s entire premise was that blogs do not make much money (she argues that the top blogs only make their webmasters about 18,000 a year), but then, those statistics are only looking for direct causality. Everybody’s got a blog these days, she says, so why bother adding to the noise when there were 50 million blogs online in 2006? The implication is that no one will hear you amid the cacophony of sound and you can’t make much money at it, so why bother?

The problem with her calculation is that she’s only looking for direct monetary benefit. Blog analysts can’t calculate the number of invisible sales a solid blog might bring a writer. If you are writing good, unique content, it gives you a readership and a respectability over time. It’s influence can get you into conferences where you do make sales and give talks (which increase your exposure and thereby boost the fan base and folks buying your books), bring you opportunities for seminars and all the rest of it. Vastly more important in this coming Thank You Economy is personableness. With a website, people have to write in and wait for you to post their question with your answer. With a blog, they can simply comment. Immediate interaction with people; this is what a blog offers, and it allows you to make an instant connection with your fans all over the world. Just interacting with people can draw people to your work.

But what will they think if you’re sneering at a blog because you don’t get paid for it? It tells people you’re not interested in them. You’re in this to make money, and that’s it. If that’s your perspective, I suppose I can’t stop you. But if you want to continue selling books, you’re the last person on earth that ought to have a blog. Plenty of authors throughout time have been jerks. But I wouldn’t advertise it. It tends to make the readers angry.

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