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.|
|12pm-1pm||Lunch. Half an hour to check on comments, spam, and stats.|
|6pm-8pm||Commute. Half an hour to check on comments, spam, and stats.|
|8pm-9pm||Dinner. Research for 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.
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.
- DoshDosh: What You Don’t Publish Defines Your Site
- Skelliewag: The Five Barriers to Success
- ProBlogger: Writing With Confidence or Risking Your Reputation
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.