Blogging for authors: mostly why, with a who and a how or two

It’s exciting to watch authors on their journeys through social media – some of them already well established in various online media, others taking their first baby steps, and yet others ‘working it’ a little too assiduously. (Names of the latter will not be named.)

One way or the other, the process of writing and publishing a novel is a marathon rather than a sprint, and it inevitably spans more than a year for most. The many slips that can occur between cup and lip in the course of writing a novel and being able to share it with readers include writer’s block (natch), rejection by agents and/or publishers, and a very slow time-to-market cycle: the book may be finished ahead of schedule, but if your publisher can’t afford to print and promote it in 2011, you’re looking at yet another delay of between six and 12 months.

Even if you, as an author, experience none of these delays and can juggle promotion of your 2010 novel as you’re plugging away at the one to be published in 2011, using a blog as the base of your social media pyramid has so many advantages I’m surprised there are writers without blogs. I wanted to highlight three very different authors’ blogs to give novelists some idea of the vastly different approaches they can take to blogging.

William Gibson’s Blog

Gibson’s blog was the first author blog I discovered. I used to see him on the streets of Vancouver’s Kitsilano, tall and slightly stooped. I always respected his privacy too much to accost him. What would I have said to him anyway? ‘I respect you so very much as a thinker and am delighted you to chose to leave the US for Canada so we can claim you as one of our own?’ (Would he understand that I admire his thinking more than his writing, in much the same way I prefer Iain Banks when he writes as Iain Banks rather than Iain M. Banks, i.e. that I struggle a bit with sci fi, although I’ve tried, I really have?) Although he blogs only intermittently when he’s in the throes of writing, his content is fascinating. Here’s a great post on quantum teleportation, artificial intelligence, the ‘after us, the deluge’ school of sci fi writing – with some gems about what he learned as an undergraduate. You can also find him on Twitter.

Amy King’s Blog

I’m not at all familiar with Amy (A.S.) King‘s work (she writes young adult fiction, and I believe I passed – or bypassed – that stage of life 40 or so years ago – in fact, I’m not sure the genre actually existed when I was 12-18), but found her on Twitter recently when this feisty post was retweeted by several folks I follow. What’s interesting about this post (and I hope to see more of this kind of post by Amy in future), is that she raises many issues relating to copyright and how it affects sales – issues about which writers, publishers, and readers need to think long and hard. Many of her posts announce contests, giveaways, and publicity dates for her forthcoming novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz (October 12, 2010 US release date). All her posts give you insight into a writer’s life. If you’re a fan of her work, what better way to keep folks engaged while waiting for a new release?

Heather McCormack’s Blog

A newbie blogger with her first novel just barely under her belt, I was lucky enough to find Heather’s first post, again via Twitter. In case you’re not reading every one of my Twitter updates, I’ll repeat (paraphrased slightly) what I said about her inaugural post there: Authors, this is what I mean when I say ‘blog about your writing process and your inspiration.’ In Heather’s post she talks about inspiration, influences, the necessity to exorcise a demon or two through writing, what set her off on the novelist’s path. That’s what folks want to know. We all know that choosing to write fiction isn’t the most practical career choice. What readers want to know is how – and why – you choose to face down the odds.

Those odds may include not only trying to find an agent, get a novel finished, get published, make a decision about your book’s cover. They may also include other aspects of writing – how to make the transition from short story writer to novelist, journalist or essayist to book author (fiction or non-fiction), or from non-fiction writer to fiction writer. The audience for Margaret Atwood’s book on debt is not the same for her novels. Nor is her poetry audience identical to her literary criticism audience. Nor have all the loyal readers of her contemporary – or her historical fiction novels Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin – necessarily been fans of her more recent futuristic fiction (the same can inevitably be said of Doris Lessing on the contemporary novel/sci fi front). Roll on the Venn diagrams showing there is an overlap in a single author’s various fan bases – I don’t doubt for a moment there is. But by using the categories features on blogs, you can immediately direct readers to the posts that interest them most. You can also expand your potential readership base by being genuine about your own heroes, as Heather does when she talks about Greil Marcus.

Will all Greil Marcus fans become Heather McCormack readers/book purchasers? It’s doubtful. Some might – and by adding a Greil Marcus tag to a blog post Heather would/could (has? I confess I haven’t checked) make it that much easier for his fans to find – and connect with – her. I’ve never forgotten it was J.D. Salinger in Catcher in the Rye who sent me down the path of discovery to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native.

These are only three examples of (non-client) authors with highly individual approaches to blogging. I know there are many, many more. What are your favourite author blogs? Who are the authors whose blogs you love (almost) more than their work? And who’s doing a spectacularly bad job of author blogging? And who’s not blogging who should be?

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About ruthseeley

Ottawa born, Toronto educated, lived in the Lower Mainland and southern AB for more than a decade. Geographically, I get around a bit (at least within Canada). Passionate about community, democracy, and good books. Fond of the Oxford comma.
This entry was posted in Blogging, Social media, social media for authors, Twitter, working with authors and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Blogging for authors: mostly why, with a who and a how or two

  1. A.S. King says:

    Glad you dug my post. Thank you for mentioning me! I don’t get quite that feisty very much, but I’m glad that’s how you found me. I’ll make a point to get all riled up more often now.
    And for what it’s worth, I write novels for teens and adults. PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ is for both. I bet you’d like it. 🙂

  2. ruthseeley says:

    Hey – thanks for stopping by. The notion of Creative Commons licensing is very lofty and wonderful, and I’m glad it works for some people (usually those who aren’t actually trying to make a living from writing or photography). Sadly though I think it’s encouraged more piracy. And isn’t it ironic that we now find ourselves in a situation that hasn’t really existed since Dickens’ time, a few decades before international copyright laws that worked were finally enacted.

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  5. A.S. King says:

    Here’s an interesting thing about the inner-Jack Russell and being feisty. Today’s follow-up post was something I’d been planning since I got a facebook message on Saturday about a teen who wanted to take me up on my dare. It was received quite poorly, apparently, by several people over on Twitter who loved my post on Saturday, but now hate me enough to call me a bitch and say, “I will never buy another A.S. King book again.” What changed?
    I went from talking about piracy and challenging pirates to talking vaguely about the fact that people told me that my dare was illegal because I was soliciting people to steal and a real teen who was actually willing to steal my book. I felt I brought the subject to a close quite nicely. But it went over a bunch of heads, I think. *shrug*

    Thing is: I’m a grown up. On the internet, I’m up against people who aren’t grown ups yet and honestly, Ruth, I don’t have it in me. I already have kids. 🙂 If ever you want to know why I prefer playing games and running contests on my blog to Jack Russell posts, this is the reason.

    The drama, Ruth. The drama!

  6. ruthseeley says:

    Yes – you haven’t been following me long enough to have seen me uttering cryptic pseudo-Confucian remarks on Twitter like, ‘She who sticks head above parapets most likely to get it lopped it off,’ but I’ve been known to say it. More than once. Not sure the folks who should have read my tweet about being astonished that there were folks who disapproved of your copyright post did so. I thought the follow-up post was a lovely example of an interaction with a reader and potential fan – that anyone would snipe about it – well – let’s just say I’m sitting here with my eyebrows trying to touch my scalpline. I mean – there are bloggers whose inner Jack Russell is so close to the surface anyone could be excused for mistaking them for one. Haven’t come across any author bloggers who fit in to that category. And perhaps that’s it, you know – perhaps you’re getting the finger wag because your blog is supposed to be a marketing tool and some folks think the last two posts are evidence you’re thinking way too far out of the box. What can I say? You can’t please all of the people any of the time; it’s your blog, not theirs; and the expression should probably be modified to, ‘The meek will be on the verge of starvation before they inherit the earth.’

    The other thing, of course, is that your post, and my post, and our comments on my post, are classic illustrations of how communities begin to form via blogs though. And I’m all about joining the community of other feisty women who want to be treated fairly and who know they deserve respect for several decades of hard work and a fair bit of skill. 😉

  7. A.S. King says:

    Thank you for saying this, Ruth. I’m often surprised at how quickly the Jack Russells come after people. But I guess that’s part of being in the public eye. What you may not know about me because we just met is: I’m an ex-self-sufficient near-hermit type. All those years alone with my farm made me too nice. Made me believe that the core of a human being is good. You can imagine my disappointment since coming out into the real world again.
    That said, I will continue to believe it.

    For this ex-hermit type in me, social networking is a bizarre science experiment. One of the things SN exposes for me is the ability to grasp one’s own boundaries. For example. Inside the social network, you can insult a stranger (his ideas, his family, his everything, really) right to his face–make no apologies and have no forethought and have no fear. Sure. Go ahead. But you still look really immature and bad doing it, just as if you were doing it in real life.

    The same goes for the ‘She who sticks head above parapets most likely to get it lopped it off’ adage. In the social network you can go off half-cocked, but those words are in the public arena the minute you type them and anyone can join into the conversation. If you didn’t want a conversation, then why say the thing in the first place?

    Which brings me back to my feisty post.
    We live in a world of dilution. I write fiction to face things and not dilute them. When I wrote a blog post like that, I know the diluters are going to come out and find me. In this case, the people who want to defend the illegal actions they commit. The “copying isn’t theft” people. The “let me pick apart this argument word-by-word” people. The “You’re stupid for writing this and I hate you even though I don’t know you, never met you and have no idea how immature I look” people. Oh the drama.

    I don’t particularly like keeping a blog. It’s something I do because it’s part of my job. (The case for all social networking, actually.) So, I run groovy contests and have a lot of fun, usually. It’s funny. Last week, while I was running one of my writing contests (to win my contests, you have to write to the parameters) I got a really critical comment about how if I ran easier contests, the type where entrants just had to comment to win and not write stupid things, that I would probably get more entries.

    Again with the laziness. Again with the I want it this way so I should get it this way. Again with the “here’s the anonymous opinion of a [rude] stranger. You should listen.” Just like the reactions to the subject of illegal downloading.

    My theory: I am actually from another planet where mature, socially responsible people with boundaries come from. Our spaceship self-destructed and we’re stuck here. I say–at least there are Cheetos.

  8. A.S. King says:

    Please forgive typos and tense issues in that post. Though I read it a trillion times, I’m still only on one cup of joe. 🙂

  9. ruthseeley says:

    One of the ironies for me, as a PR person who figured out early on that I couldn’t afford to ignore social media (and really, as someone who first got into PR of the high tech variety due to recognizing enormous potential of SM 1.0 as early as the days of AOL chat) is that there’s a tremendous disconnect between all the ‘do’s’ for social media – link to other blogs, comment on blogs, read blogs – reach out, share – and how few people actually do that – as well as how few people actually respond to comments they get on their blog – they’re very much treating it as a 1:many medium, rather than as an exchange of ideas. Which is fine. Those tend to be the blogs I don’t return to very often.

    P.S. There were typos? I’m just about to put the kettle on for my FIRST cup of coffee!

  10. A.S. King says:

    Good point.
    It’s hard to keep up with all those do’s, too.
    Especially if you’re trying to avoid all those ugly don’ts! (Or if you get caught up in them, which is a lot easier than I used to think!)

    I’m actually taking a break from SM this week to work on my next book (Due Fall 2011 from Little, Brown) without distractions. Watch my back out there, eh? And thanks for this chat. I’m always glad to meet another person from my planet.

  11. Mucho thanks for the link love, lady. Every little bit of support helps, really.

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