Blogging: You’re Doing It All Wrong

Blah, blah, blah, blog!

Blah, blah, blah, blog!

Back at the end of July, I had a bright idea: I signed up for the WordPress workshop Blogging 101, a month-long series of assignments designed to introduce brand-spanking-new bloggers to the whats, hows, whys and wherefores of blogging, scheduled to begin August 3rd.

In my mind, I thought I might find some humor as an ancient experienced blogger working my way through daily assignments for creating, writing, and maintaining a blog.

Here’s the first assignment (I know, I know, it’s late. The dog ate my homework, or something):

Day One: Introduce Yourself to the World

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click “New Post,” and tell us why you’re here.

Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post on your blog.

I saw the assignment and thought if a reader wants to know who I am, he/she can click on my About page.

Now, if a reader wants to know why I’m here . . .  Well, that’s more of a mystery.

I started blogging 212 213 posts ago, back in 2010, when I couldn’t find steady work and thought I’d write to keep current on professional issues, but even the very first post on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please is only tangentially related to law (and not even American law). By the way, you don’t need to go back and read that first post, it’s absolutely cringe-worthy, but I keep it in the archives because I’m a masochist to maintain historical accuracy.

So despite my intentions, I wound up blogging content that was very different from what I set out to blog.

Fast forward about five years, and it’s August, 2015, and I’m signed up for Blogging 101. One morning, two blog posts show up in my Reader that get me thinking more about this “Why We Blog” issue. The first came from Amiecus Curiae in Writer’s Life Wednesday–Blogging to Build an Author Platform and it’s a response to a post from Dylan Hearn over on Suffolk Scribblings. Dylan’s post shows up in my Reader, as well, as I scroll further down: There Are Easier Ways To Sell Books Than Through Blogging.

If you read both posts, and you also read Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Pleaseyou’ll probably already have guessed that I’m mostly in agreement with Amie’s perspective on writers who blog in support of their writing careers.

But, and here’s the big but, the way to make this work, to actually build a following is to blog about something other than writing!

I’m reluctant to give writing advice (because, after all, who the fuck am I to give advice to anyone?) but let me share my experience as a reader: the last two novels I’ve bought were because I read op-ed pieces written by the authors on subjects that had absolutely nothing to do with the novels they’d written and that I (eventually) purchased. Ann Patchett wrote a very funny take for the Washington Post on what it’s like to own an independent book store (I bought State of Wonderand Diana Spechler wrote about sexual obsession in the New York Times (I bought Who By Fire).

And I mostly agree with what Dylan’s got to say–at least, I don’t disagree with it.

So why should writers blog?

Because it’s a wonderful opportunity to write something different, to let off steam, to connect with like-minded . . . to find comfort and community, to help others much earlier in the process than yourself and be helped by those further down the line. It’s a way of making new friends, for discovering excellent books and for improving your craft. It’s a place to be yourself, to be someone else or to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.

All good reasons to blog, to be sure. However, I’m not sure if Dylan’s approach is going to support a goal of making money (even just a little bit!) from writing, but I realize that’s not everyone’s goal. And while there are established authors who do not blog, and do not have much of a social media presence, any new author is expected to play the social media game (on FB, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on and on and on). I’m not sure if being all over social media sells books, either (you can read more of my thoughts on this topic in Is Your “Social Media Platform” Killing Your “Brand”?), but if you’re a novelist who’s blogging, you need to find a way to connect with readers, the folks you hope will buy your book(s). That’s my “big but” (heh! That sounded like I said “my big butt”) which is different from Amie’s, as I don’t have a tough time droning on about any number of topics other than writing (see my recent posts on adultery, ants, and, um, summer activities)–yes, blog, but find a way to reach readers of novels.

It would probably be helpful right here if I could tell you the ways to reach those readers, wouldn’t it? I’m sorry, I wish I knew. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t going to be offered the opportunity to write op-eds in the Washington Post or the NY Times anytime soon.

Anyway, if you came here looking for useful advice, you took a wrong turn somewhere.

Ok, so back to Blogging 101 and that question about why I’m here: I guess I’m here ’cause I got nowhere else to go.

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20 thoughts on “Blogging: You’re Doing It All Wrong

  1. Michelle at The Green Study says:

    I’ve been wrangling with the novel writing v. blogging thing over the last few years and have finally reached the conclusion that they must be treated as separate media. I read enough indie writing blogs to know that social media (all those that you listed) have relatively low impact on sales when approached with the “this is what I must do to sell” mentality. You make a very good point about unrelated writing pointing you in the direction of an author’s work, though.

    It’s easy, too, to confuse blogging with writing you might eventually get paid for. Blogging can be time intensive and can very much feel like you are working. For a procrastinator like me, it’s hitting the mother lode of things-I-can-do-to-avoid-writing when I know I need to be writing offline. Because it’s sort of like…writing.

    Blogging is more like my “mental junk drawer”. Anything that doesn’t have a place in what I’m working on can go there. I think I’ve just found my new tagline. Still, Karen, you may not have loads of advice, but I have never read a post of yours without having something new to ponder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for the kind words. They’re much appreciated, especially on a post like this, that seems to have been greeted by my readership with a collective “Who cares?”

      I think a really good argument against blogging can be made that it takes away creative energy that is better spent elsewhere, but I’m not sure I’m convinced of Dylan’s argument that blogging doesn’t sell books. I suspect the problem lies elsewhere (perhaps in the blogging, perhaps in the book, perhaps the author has just been unlucky).

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  2. Allie P. says:

    I don’t write normally about writing, but man am I thankful that other people do! As a relative noob at this, other people’s tips have been incredibly helpful and I’ve wound up purchasing a number of books by other bloggers as way of saying thank you for their free advice.

    I like to blog to connect with potential readers, and I admit I started blogging with the goal of selling books, but mostly I do it just to keep myself motivated.

    Like

    • Karen says:

      I try to not blog about writing, but I’m afraid I probably post much more about it than I’m willing to admit. I used to read a lot of self-published authors’ blogs, but I’ve recently been culling them from my Reader because I don’t think their posts add value (which is another question that needs to be asked before a blogger presses that “Publish” button).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Allie P. says:

        My hubby is a member of the Rotary club and they have these four fundamentals:

        Is it the truth?
        Is it fair to all concerned?
        Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
        Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

        While I am not a member of the club, I always try to keep these in mind whenever I publish a post.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Gradmama2011 says:

    I am old…at least when I was a kid I thought 80 was old. Now I’m not so sure. As for blogging, I write my blog posts for the sheer joy of being able to pour out astute or silly thoughts and opinions and know (or at least believe) that my work will be out spinning around in cyberspace forever. Some other bloggers will love it, some will hate it, many will just ignore it.

    Years and years ago I supported five kids on my newspaper writer’s salary. Not much, but it was a paying job and put food on the table.

    My blog is varied. I take the WordPress classes because I enjoy the camaraderie and information…reading other blogs, putting together a site that pleases me. I might produce a blog post one day about the idiocies of the U.S.Congress, or about the joys of bubblewrap. In fact I have.

    I never feel that I need to apologize for writing limited-readership blogs instead of producing the Great American Novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen says:

      I used to think thirty was old, until I turned thirty. 😉

      I think I’m like you–I blog as a hobby. I’m slowly letting go of the fantasy that I’ll write the Great American Novel. I just don’t think I have the talent. Plus, I think there are easier ways to make a living.

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      • Gradmama2011 says:

        aw, I have some novels waiting to be worked on… age really is relative. Talk about talent, some best selling authors are really terrible writers but they have good public relations. 🙂

        Like

  4. Kristina Van Hoose says:

    I couldn’t resist clicking on your description from blogging 101, lol. Love the title. I’m going to have to go check out where it came from. 🙂

    Both articles and your take were interesting. I love conversations like these where a post sparks someome else to post.

    I blog to practice my writing skills to create better books and to build a community so that when I publish, some people will already know me and perhaps like me enough to support me. I also intend to give away some samples so people know how I write. I do think blogging and social media can help if it’s done right. It involves time, consistency, and connecting on common ground.

    I agree it isn’t enough to talk about just writing. Only writers will come. We want readers too. It also isn’t enough to start a blog a few weeks or months before a book launch because no one is going to listen to someone who is only trying to sell you something. Again, it’s about connecting, which is where the social part is.

    It’s not enough to publish a post and walk away either. People enjoy socializing. Bloggers who visit others and respond to the comments people leave help build community. When you build relationships online, I imagine it begins to feel like you’re friends, which then leads people to be more willing to do things such as shell out money for a book when it releases like the one author Amie mentioned.

    For Dylan, he mentioned many bloggers said it wasn’t helping. However, he didn’t mention what efforts each author was making with their blogs. That impacts everything. However, blogging cannot take away from writing the stories either.

    I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen that advise blogging about writing and your novels or blogging as characters. I don’t think those hold value. Im glad you’ve shared Amie’s and Dylan’s perspective. It’s always nice to see more thoughts on the issue.

    For me, I was ecstatic when I read Kristin Lamb’s take on it all because she was like minded in this regard. It’s lways nice finding someone who agrees with you, lol. You might want to check her blog out.

    Like

    • Karen says:

      You’ll probably be disappointed once you read the story of how I came up with the name for this blog (you can find it in my About). It’s very boring 🙂

      I’m familiar with Kristin Lamb’s blog–I’m not sure that I’m in agreement with her philosophy about blogging. I think she tells bloggers/writers to not go off too much with the self-promotion, which I do agree on, but she blogs mostly about writing, doesn’t she? I mean, her actual posts are writing how-tos, I think. And then she sells all these services, too, I guess, to aspiring writers/bloggers. I may be wrong–it’s been a long time since I looked at what she’s posting.

      I’m not holding myself out as an expert on these issues–I’ve been blogging for a long time, I have a minuscule following, but I think I’ve accumulated a group of friends (yes! I’ll call them friends!) who come to Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please because they like to hear what I’ve got to say and they find me amusing. I think. Maybe they just come here to rubber neck at the train wreck of my life.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting, and good luck with your writing/blogging!

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      • Kristina Van Hoose says:

        LOL, I thought the story was funny. I can’t imagine being on a cruise ship with so many people throwing up they had to put up a sign like that.

        I thought I was the only one who thought that! At the end of every post, she always has an ad for what service she’s selling now. She says her niche is blogging to help other writers, hence the writing how tos. Still, the footers on her posts annoy me. It seems hypocritical. I just know that some of the things she says I agree with. I hadn’t heard of Aimee before though, so it’s good to know there are more people who think similarly.

        That’s what I picture it all as too. Meeting a new group of friends. While selling a book down the line would be nice, I’m much more interested in meeting new people and practicing writing with my blog.

        I saw some of your posts about how people find you via web searches too. I imagine that has to be pretty entertaining for you. 🙂

        Good luck with blogging/writing too!

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        • Karen says:

          Kristin is using her blog to support her professional goals and her method makes sense to me–she writes targeted posts designed to attract a specific audience (aspiring bloggers/writers) that consists of people most likely to buy what she’s selling (the various writing services she sells that claim to improve your chances of writing success).

          Her blog content matches her professional goal.

          What doesn’t make sense is to write posts like “How to Be a Better Blogger/Writer” to support sales of your 100,000 word opus on the sexual maturation process of arthropods (or whatever). The audience that is attracted to “How to Be a Better Blogger/Writer” type posts is interested in becoming better writers, and not so much arthropods (or whatever). If they are interested in arthropods–and some people may be!– it’s just a happy accident and maybe you’ll sell them a copy of your book.

          I don’t have all (or any!) of the answers, and gosh knows, there are people out there who do all the right things and never sell a book, and there are people who do it all wrong and become fabulously wealthy from writing.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Anand says:

    You’ve got a fantastic blog title, a very attractive tagline, and a great sense of humor. I don’t expect to do anything right in blogging anyway…but it’s nice (and selfish) to know that there are others who feel the same way.

    Like

  6. viv606 says:

    I’ve just start a blog, about two weeks ago and already hit an innumerable amount of bumps. I’ve been looked for guides and advice articles on how to get better at this and am slowly crawling out of the hole I keep falling into 😂😂😂 thanks x

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