Blogging Advice for Writers: 6 Myths About Blogging, Glory, and Fame


Photography: dogfrog

Of late there have been some insightful rants and comments about the rather naive idea that blogging is a golden goose that lays money, fame, and Amazon rankings overnight; that just having a blog is somehow enough to instantly catapult your career and Be Popular.

So I’m here a little early to debunk six myths people have about blogging. In detail. With quotes from bloggers who are experts specifically about blogging.

Feel free to send this post to anybody who’s getting pushed to blog—and to anybody who’s doing the pushing.

And now, the six myths….

Myth #1: If you blog, they will come in droves.

Maybe if you blog really hot erotica. Otherwise, no. It’s not enough to just have a blog, and expect people to magically stop by. Potential readers

  • have to know that your blog exists in the infinitum of the internet, and
  • they must want to stop by—and keep coming back.

Both of these are difficult to accomplish, especially if you have no foothold to speak of—“aspiring writers”, I speak to you.

If you want proof of how hard building a blog is, consider the measure that many bloggers (and here I speak of people who are totally into the blogging thing) use to measure success: income.

Darren Rowse, who puts the pro in ProBlogger, took four years to support his family via blogging, and he’s not only good at what he does, but he works blogging like a more-than-full-time job. You are likely nowhere near his league, and you’ve already got a job writing.

So we’re already talking a timeline of more than four years.

And remember, Darren is a success story. In November 2007, he ran a survey to see how much money bloggers made the previous month. Of the bloggers who did make money (28% did not), 26% made less than $10 a month. Do the math.

Myth #2: You must post every day to your blog.

Commonly touted advice, but bloggers have already started poking holes in that argument.

It’s not that posting everyday is a bad thing. Indeed, there are some blogs—like Whatever, they must need bears, and Lifehacker—that update multiple times a day, but I read them religiously because they’re always entertaining.

However, this is not the case for all personalities or all blogs. Skellie (Skelliewag.org) is another giant in the blogging world, and she commented on ProBlogger that reducing post frequency allowed her blog to grow faster. She currently has over 3,000 subscribers to her blog.

And, since blogging everyday can leave you on auto-pilot, I also recommend her post about blogging consciously, which in itself is a process of examination of why you want to blog in the first place.

Myth #3: Promote fiercely online so people will buy your book.

As Donald Maass points out with respect to the myth that blogs and Myspace always lead to book sales, it’s the other way around if you don’t have an established audience already (and an established, large audience at that).

It’s all about entry points.

Entry points are what lead people to your blog. They can be comments, email signatures, forum posts, mentions on other blogs, anything that creates a link to your site. And they correspond strongly to how much of an audience your blog can have.

Now think of books. Books also have entry points, such as word of mouth, which also correspond to how much of an audience your book can have. We cross the cyberspace/reality barrier in that your site is an entry point to the book, and your book is an entry point to your site.

If you’re a published author with a few books out, and a blog less than four years old, then your books are generating more entry points to your blog than the other way around. DTM.

Myth #4: Your blog exists primarily to sell your book.

Not even marketing blogs think this way. Why should you?

As Darren notes in his article about turning visitors into readers, blogging successfully is all about the readers:

A reader returns. They return because you offer them something of substance. You give them what they want—repeatedly. You give them value. They like visiting. They like reading what you write. They like how your mind works. They enjoy telling others about what you have to offer, bringing more visitors, which will hopefully turn into readers.

So for a writer with published books and readers of such books, what are your readers’ needs?

It’s not just about what book comes out next—sure, they’d like to know that it exists, but don’t want to be hit over the head with the fact.

But what readers want is you.

They want to know how you live. They want to know how you think. They want to know how you work your writing magic, which gives them so much pleasure. They actually do want to know that you suck at Scrabble. You are a special person to them, as odd as that may be, and they take an interest.

For aspiring writers, the answer is… different. You have to offer readers something else, because you have no books to offer them, and as such it will take much more effort.

But in all cases, these three rules apply:

  • Don’t try to be something you are not.
  • Celebrate your weaknesses.
  • Learn to take criticism.

Myth #5: Building a popular blog won’t take too much time out of your schedule.

You mean… the work to seriously get a blog to a popular standpoint, a la Darren Rowse, so you have an audience to sell a book to one day? As opposed to a blog where you just post pleasant slice of life for your readers?

Uh… here’s my schedule.

6:30am Wake up and go to work.
7am-9am Commute. Half an hour to check on comments, spam, and correspondence.
9am-12pm Work.
12pm-1pm Lunch. Half an hour to check on comments, spam, and stats.
1pm-6pm Work.
6pm-8pm Commute. Half an hour to check on comments, spam, and stats.
8pm-9pm Dinner. Research for posts.
9pm-11pm Write posts.
11pm-12am Try to get mind back into fiction land and write story.
12am Go to bed.

Add in, say, kids, chores, volunteer work, or extra work hours.

Does this look like a schedule with a lot of time for writing fiction?

Plus, remember, I’m going to be doing this for a few years at least. And if the blog does get popular—which, you know, may never ever happen—well.

Skellie gives the low-down on running a blog when it actually IS popular.

Myth #6: It doesn’t matter what you blog about, as long as you blog.

This is more a myth by omission. What’s missing is the mention of passion.

You have to care about what you blog. People know when the enthusiasm is there. It makes your writing shine, makes your writing glow, makes you give that extra effort because you want to show the world your best. Gives you that aura of authority that people speak so often about in the blogging world.

If you don’t have passion about what you’re blogging, then even the readers who were attracted to your blog because of your books will leave quickly. And once lost, difficult to bring back.

This is why writers who write about writing have devoted blog readers: they are obviously enthusiastic about writing.

This subject is difficult, and generates many posts amongst the meta-bloggers.

So what is blogging good for?

For writers, blogging has its benefits, but you have to look at them from a blogging perspective. This is why I said the medium is different from all the rest.

Blogging is a conversation. Blogging is about connections. Blogging is about networking.

And yes, through conversation and connections and networking, you can sell stuff. But the connections you make are more important than the stuff you sell.

All the pleasure that I derive from blogging, I derive from its conversational nature.

Thank you for reading.

Now, if I still have people left who want to learn about blogging for writers, next week I’ll be back with a less heated column. My goal has never been to turn writers into bloggers, nor to turn writers into marketers; my goal is to help writers who want to blog explore the medium and enjoy it.

The Floor is Open

For questions, berating, ranting, cheering, blaming, and the like.

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5 thoughts on “Blogging Advice for Writers: 6 Myths About Blogging, Glory, and Fame

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. Hi Chris! Thanks very much for stopping by, and thanks VERY much for subscribing. My aim is to pack this blog chock full of content.

    Although the next few days I’ll be cutting back—I have a story to get done by the 29th. O.O But I’ll be back in full strength afterwards. :)

  3. Greetings – I actually found you through entrecard, and I’m impressed with much of what I’ve been reading. I read ProBlogger daily, and definitely have the aspirations of the Darren Rowse’s of the world. That said, it is definitely incredibly difficult at times. I am on my second big blogging effort; The first was my personal blog which taught me a tremendous lesson on what people DON’T want to return to read; my first blog was not focused on a niche or a passion, other than a passion for creativity.

    It took me a good year to figure out what niche I had a passion for; I am now doing 10 times (literally) better than I did traffic-wise, and have had great conversations with readers on my subject.

    One thing that I’m hoping is not true in this article ;) is the “more than four years” idea. I think for most people, 4 years means *never*. Rather, for me I look at folks like Leo at ZenHabits.Net — he ascended to full-time blogger in a year by writing insanely useful topics, responding to his readers, and finding a niche that he is not only passionate about, but surprisingly insightful. He is also living what he writes about, which makes a huge difference in his “authority”.

    At any rate, I’ve really enjoyed reading here, and will continue to do so. As you can tell, this isn’t a “nice blog” entrecard comment ;)

    Best,
    Metroknow

    http://www.almostfit.com

  4. Hi, Metroknow! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a very thoughtful comment! :)

    Different blogs for different things; there are benefits to keeping a private journal (hat tip: Make @ DoshDosh.com). I myself keep a less formal journal around and abouts.

    A high-profile blog, on the other hand, can be more difficult to achieve. Certainly personal blogs, like Whatever, have made it. But as always, making it is highly dependent on how well you entertain an audience. Much harder with a personal blog, unless you’re someone as charismatic as John Scalzi.

    A timespan of years is about right for over-the-top success in most any endeavor. There are those who, by dint of effort and luck, will come out on top in a year, but there is almost always backstory we didn’t hear about. (Previously failed blogs, for instance; or a career in non-fiction; or persevering down the long road of self-improvement for three years.)

    “Four years is never” for most folks means that it just won’t happen for them—which is also about par for the course. From what I’ve seen around the web, and through digging up histories and such, people should not go into blogging and expect to be scott-free in a year. Even if they try insanely hard.

    Especially this is the case if they have to hold down another job, like writing books and things; though if you have an audience already through books, life may or may not be easier for you.

    All you can do is keep truckin’, and keep improving. Look for success and think long-term. And know that any way you cut it, you’ve got a long and hard road ahead.

    All that said, I wish you—and my blogger compatriots—lots of luck! I think you all can do it, if it’s what you really want; but don’t underestimate anything said in this article. :)

    I’m glad you find my site useful! For me, that’s the barometer of success. I’ve already got a well-paying job that I (currently) like (though that wasn’t always the case…).

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