As ever, interesting things were mooted on Twitter last night.
My favourite author blogs tend to be ones that rarely talk about the author’s books. I find ones that do the opposite really tedious.
The above, from James Long, caught my eye and sparked a few nice thoughts. I totally agree with what he said after that, too, which basically stressed the point that he’s far more interested in what authors think. I don’t see the point of telling people how many words you’ve written (unless you’re George RR Martin and you can see villagers gathering with pitchforks outside your window).
Updating on your daily word count isn’t going to interest many people; neither is continually publicising your works. Sure, it’s ultimately a tool to sell books and folks will be keen on finding out a little of what’s going on with your novels, but I’m not so sure that constantly banging on about yourself these days is going to interest readers in the long run. With all the competition for attention from new writers discovering the benefits of being online (and it’s far tougher these days), I think it’s personality that makes the difference. It’s a tough balance.
Rather than waffle more about the art of author blogs (generally, it’s not that difficult these days: be varied, be interesting, be regular, don’t have dodgy web design), I’d point out a few very distinct examples of author blogs that I enjoy reading.
1. Chuck Wendig – always hilarious, consistent (even in the randomness), and all on a superbly designed site. Whenever there’s an update from him, you can be sure it’s going to entertain. He gives plenty of advice, too, and – most importantly – doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has fun.
2. Jonathan Carroll – the original online writer’s notebook. Wonderful stuff, observations on human life, or a scrapbook of poems or links, it’s always going to be something to make you sit back and reflect. This is the true, arty end of blogging, and I really do make time when a post appears in my RSS feed.
3. Punkadiddle – Adam Roberts’ hotbed of reviews, mainly of genre stuff. Note: he’s a thorough reviewer, and gives some of the best quality and interesting write-ups you’ll see online. Not every new author could probably get away with tearing into certain books, but Adam doesn’t seem to mind the rough stuff.
Some other good blogs include: editor Cheryl Morgan (a fascinating range of topics); Sam Sykes (you’re always going to reflect, chuckle, or worry for his sanity); Jay Kristoff (relative newcomer to the scene, but a great blogger); and there area whole load more on my RSS feed, but these are the ones that particularly come to mind.
All of them do exactly what I, personally, like: they offer varied debate, show me things I don’t know, entertain, or help make me think differently about certain issues.
And isn’t that what writers are meant to do anyway?
Definitely, although I was guilty as charged at first (I guess the self-publishing boom/plague* has increased the number of author blogs massively) but you soon learn not to be a salesman-like twat. Certainly, the thing that encouraged me to keep coming here was the whisky and nature related postings, as well as the book talk.
* delete as per own personal view
I think most authors tend to do the plugging thing now and then, but I guess after a while you work out the best way for yourself. It’s just that yeah, the number of blogs is huge now, so if you’re interested in audience-building, I think branching out is the way to go. Plus, it makes it more interesting to write in the first place.
I agree that the “hard sell” approach is a turn-off – I have a landing page with sales stuff that I can link to, but it’s not my home page. I only post to my main blog about my books when it’s something really exciting, like a new contract or cover art! Mostly I write about things that I think will interest other readers of fantasy, and I find it also helps to keep me up-to-date with the market – I have to read more often if I’m going to write book reviews, for example.
I still blog the dull stuff like word count, because I like to keep a record of my progress, but nowadays I do it in a separate blog in its own section of the site. That way visitors only come across it if they poke around!
Hi Anne – yes, that sounds like a good balance, and writing some posts for genre readers is an excellent way of getting your name out there (people will spread the link love!)
Agreed, liked, weva’d. I’ve bought a bunch of books from authors because their blogs were entertaining. I didn’t think their books were going to be written in the same way (blogs and books, so very different) but I did feel like I knew these authors had a commitment to craft, entertainment and just a general interest in the world. And that’s what I want to find in books. The Essence of soft selling at work I guess.
All good points.
Now here’s a question: if these are some of the things people like to see in author blogs, aside from too much self-promotional blogging, what is it that people most dislike?
Format, frequency, any particular bugbears that make you less likely to return?
Hi Jodie – thanks for sharing, and glad you agree!
Eric – what most people dislike? Well, I think too much of a focus on one’s work is the main thing. Of course, it is partially a news outlet for those interested in such things, but I’m of the opinion that authors can and should talk about anything and everything. There are no bad topics. Well, I think should people be, for example, a casual racist – then that’s a no go area. If someone has extreme opinions, they should probably be kept inside.
Generally speaking, variety is wonderful!
I’m probably in the minority here, but I actually love it when authors talk their books on blogs. Not so much in a promotional sense, because if I’m reading an author’s blog in more than just a one-off case, odds are I’m reading their work as well. But I love to get a little more in-depth insight, be it how they write, why they made the choices they made in this book or that book, expanding on themes, or what have you. In my opinion, too few authors (of the ones that I read at least) seem eager to DISCUSS their own books.
Litg – I’m with you there. I love it in books where there’s an ‘author afterward’ or something where they go into the inspiration and techniques about what they write. Neil Gaiman and Stephen King spring to mind as two who do it very well in their short story collections.
So yes, not “buy buy buy my book” but an insight into how you wrote it and why is good.
I’m also a fan of “bonus content”, but a barrage of word counts, project updates and other trivia really turns me off.
That said – and I know this is a topic you’ve touched on in the past, Mark – the problem with an author putting him- or herself out there is that whenever you express an opinion on the internet, someone is ready and waiting to disagree. That doesn’t matter quite so much if you’re blogger in search of page views, but if you’re an author and your stance on something impacts your sales (gulp!)…
Wordcounts are boring, but they are safe. I’d stop following the author, but I wouldn’t avoid their books.
(To cross-site plug, there’s a good thread going on authors with great social media presence over on Fantasy Faction: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/favourite-author-in-terms-of-their-out-of-work-contributions/)
Someone is indeed waiting to disagree, but I find it’s hard for people to disagree with a fine courgette or a good cabbage.
With respect to disagreement though, I think the authors who cope best with realising it’s all just internet nonsense are the ones who can get away with it without the headaches.