Tomorrow I am back on the train to the Big Smoke, in part to participate in a panel at the NSW Writers’ Centre’s symposium Open Access: Selling Your Book in the Digital Age. My particular panel will be discussing The Author as PR Machine, which should be very interesting (and I am currently working on creating a few enlightening things to say).
One of the things I want to talk about is the role of blogging in an author’s marketing toolkit. Specifically, I think, about how my attitudes towards blogging have changed.
When I began my blog over at the Fibro nearly four years ago, I had no clear idea of what I was doing and no particular goal in mind – except a vague idea that it might help me to become a ‘person’, a ‘writer’ and ‘author’ rather than just a byline on a page in a magazine or newspaper. My name was out there, but it was a disembodied jumble of letters, easily skimmed over between the headline and the intro.
My first (non-ghostwritten) non-fiction book (Credit Card Stressbusters: Slash your credit card debt in 90 days!) was launched in 2009, about two months before I started blogging. I was writing regular finance articles for a large website, but I had no online presence outside of that. The book got some editorial coverage via print publications and my large website, and that was pretty much that.
I started my blog, making it up as I went along, blogging daily about life, the universe and whimsy. I wrote a little bit about writing, but I didn’t want to have a ‘writing’ blog.
By the time my second non-fiction book (Career Mums) came out in 2012, I had a well-established blog and a very supportive online community, who cheered and threw streamers, wrote blog posts, tweeted and retweeted. The book was covered widely in print and online publications, due to a great publicist at Penguin Australia, good timing and, frankly, great material.
It was about this time that I realised that blogging daily was cramping my writing style. I had written some 350,000 words on my blog in the previous year – at least 150,000 of those could have easily gone into the long, messy, first draft of a new novel, or non-fiction project, or something.
I remembered a post that I had read. A post that summed it up. A post that I had ignored at the time. Your blog is not your job.
I also realised that while my favourite posts on the blog were the storytelling posts – like this one, and this one – the most popular posts by far were about writing. And about freelancing. And about blogging.
I changed tack a little bit.
This year, I integrated my blog into my website. I still miss my Fibro blog, but it makes more sense to do exactly the same thing over here. Only, it’s not really the same thing.
These days, I tend to blog more ‘strategically’ (which simply means that I’m trying to write more useful posts, less often). I’m not just throwing up words at random to see how they arrange themselves. Because I am also writing fiction – women’s fiction, middle-grade fiction, children’s books. I am writing features. I am doing social media work for other people. I am blogging for other people.
I have to be sensible about all of this just to keep my head straight.
I used to wonder why people blogged without purpose. They would just meander about, putting their thoughts online, sharing pictures of themselves and their kids, keeping a record of their lives.
Now I envy those people.
Writing for the sake of writing is the best kind of writing. The first draft of anything, when there are no deadlines, nobody waiting, no chance of publication, nothing but the joy of getting it all down on paper. That’s the best kind of writing.
Blogging is the same.
When I was first blogging, addicted to the rush of finding new followers and getting (actual!) comments, it was exhilarating. Back then, I was a staunch advocate of authors having blogs. And for many reasons, I still am.
But I am more cautious now, too. Blogging is a fabulous way to make friends, talk to other writers, and find your writing voice.
But, if you intend to make it part of your author marketing toolkit, it is also part of the job (note: not the whole job), and needs to be treated as such.
And you know what they say about turning a passion for eating chocolate into a job at the chocolate factory…