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Monday Musings: Everything You Know About Blogging is WRONG!

September 12, 2011

Or maybe it’s not.  I know that most of what I know about blogging is probably wrong.

Anyway, a month or so ago someone Tweeted a link to a blog, which led to another blog and although I can’t remember who said it now, there was some pretty good advice.  Basically that advice is that most of us writers are not blogging the way we should.

The main problem as the author said is that we blog for other WRITERS with tips and stories from the trenches and so forth.  (Or just long-winded, profane rants after rejections.)  While this is all good for making contacts with other writers, it’s not really going to build much of a platform for you.

Instead what the author of this article suggested was that you need to target your book’s audience.  Granted other writers may be part of that audience, but probably not the main part of it.  So what you need to do is think like an ad exec, like one of those “Mad Men” guys, except think less about screwing your secretary and more on the task at hand.  Who’s going to read your book?  Not just “people who read fantasy” or “people who read sci-fi.”  Be more specific:  what kind of people?  Kids?  Teens?  20-30something adults?  Middle-aged adults?  Elderly adults?  Males?  Females?  So on and so forth.

In the article the author identified his audience as young women teens-20somethings who like to read stories about women kicking butt.  (Or something like that.  Again I wish I’d saved the link to look it up later.)  So when he writes his blog, he focuses on writing things those people will enjoy.  In turn those people may buy his book.  And chances are there a lot of young women who like stories about women kicking butt who are not writers.

Now I know Mr. Pagel already does this to some extent with his blogs by focusing each one on a specific niche.  As usual, though, I have no idea what I’m doing.  What’s my audience?  How the fuck should I know?  30-40something men who like dirty jokes—though not TOO dirty?  So that’s the problem for me.

OK, now let’s say I’m creating a blog for A Hero’s Journey (which at some point I’m bound to do); what’s my audience?  Let’s say I go along with what the author said for the most part and say my target audience is teens-20something women who like reading about a woman kicking butt.  I’d probably also say that they’re nerds who like comic books and superhero movies.  (Of course I wouldn’t call them nerds to their faces…)

Now then, this imaginary demographic probably isn’t made up entirely of writers.  So posting a bunch of Terrible Tips about writing isn’t going to interest them.  What I really need is to write about things they might give a crap about.

Thinking about the subject material of my story, I’m thinking of a couple of ideas.

  1. Discussions about stupid things like which female hero is the best or who could kick whose butt.  (Which I’d probably need Mr. Pagel to write for me because he knows a lot more of those than I do.)  And discussions/polls about which superhero movies are the best or which upcoming ones people want to see.
  2. News and views:  news about comics/superhero movies and maybe some short commentary.  (Again, I’m way out of my depth there.)
  3. Practical Superheroism:  This was something I thought of the other day.  It’d be short pieces (videos would be optimal, but I don’t have the kind of money for that) about how to go from zero to hero.  Things like how to make a costume, training regimens, weak points on the human body, tactics, and so forth.  (With a big ol’ disclaimer saying DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!!!)

The gist of the idea then would be people go to the site and enjoy the content and then maybe decide to buy my book.

As usual, though, the biggest hurdle would be getting people TO the site.  That’s a problem for another time.

So now you can get out there and start blogging the right way and maybe move some books, maybe enough so that you can start having three-martini lunches and hire a secretary to fuck.  If only…

We continue this line of thought on Wednesday with a real marketing strategy…

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15 Comments
  1. I don’t know if you follow Kristen Lamb’s blog but she gives a lot of this kind of advice. And while, form experience it seems most blog followers are writers of some kind, we shouldn’t forget this is the internet and we should be appealing to more than just writers. Its hard to do sometimes.

  2. I read a statistic that 8 out of 10 people write in this world. That leaves 2 out of 10 that don’t write and who presumably, just read. I would rather reach 80% of the market than 20% of the market. So blogging about writing (occasionally) sounds reasonable to me.

    If you don’t believe that 8 out of 10 people are writers, check around your workplace. Ask, “Hey do you write? Do you pen things down in secret and never show anyone?” The answer, I bet, may surprise you. I know it surprised the shit out of me here at my work. Oh and those people…they don’t follow any blogs at all. I don’t think they knew what blogs were.

    • The 80 and the 20 are not mutually exclusive. I’d rather reach 90-100% of the market than 80%. You can make writing tips a part of your website, but you need other content to attract the most people.

      • Okay well I’d also like to reach 90% to 100% of a market but you sure as hell aren’t going to do that through blogging no matter what you write. I think the important thing is to have a web presence so that people can follow your progress. Like George R.R. Martin would write “I’m almost done with Dance With Dragons” and “Getting Closer” and “Getting even closer” over the course of several years.

        Inbetween he just put up pictures of the model castles he made from legos and the little miniatures he would paint and stage on little moats. And he would talk about football. He said, “Sorry peeps…but I love football. No writing is done at all during football season. Just a reminder…I am not your bitch.”

      • He seriously makes castles out of Legos? I stopped doing that when I was like 11. Of course my stupid brother still does that. (Waiting for him now to tell me on Facebook that he’s not stupid for still playing with Legos in his mid-thirties.)

        Of course as a teaser, we’ll talk about how to reach that 90-100% more on Wednesday with my thesis on effective marketing.

  3. So much to say, so little time… First, thanks for the props. I’m way behind in my reading other bloggers because work intruded so much. (“I’ve found a way to make money WHILE working.” — G.O.B. “That’s what the rest of us call working.” — Michael Bluth.)(Quotes paraphrased.)

    I read an article on blogging once that said “have a theme, because nobody wants to read your memories of when you were a kid,” and I thought, in order:

    A. Yeah, that’s right, which kind of sucks for me and “Thinking The Lions” and then:

    B. That’s a load of crap because I read David Sedaris’ memoirs and memoirs are huge.

    So that’s where I got my ideas about blogging which are “Write whatever the hell I like to write.”

    The real point of a blog is: Why do you have it? If the point of your blog is to write — as most of mine are — then you don’t have to worry about who you’re marketing it too.

    Some people’s blogs I read are just “I like to share stuff about my life.” They don’t seem to have much “point” beyond that. Like “Every Day Is Awesome!” http://every-day-is-awesome.blogspot.com/ or “Abbie Turned Normal.” http://abbie-turned-normal.blogspot.com/

    Your post, and my comment, isn’t for them.

    Others seem to view blogs as extended forms of advertisement. Joe Hill (a great horror writer) uses his blog that way: http://joehillfiction.com/

    That’s the kind of blog you’re talking about, I imagine — author blogs. I went looking, as I ate lunch, for author blogs to skim through and see what they’re doing. (The list I worked off of is here:

    http://www.internetwritingjournal.com/authorblogs/

    So you can see if your guys are on there.) What I found was the ones I skimmed all were mostly about the author’s life as an author, rather than the perils of writing or some such. They were (like Twitter) ways for the author to share an interaction with fans. David Brin’s blog (He’s an AWESOME writer, and if you read the book “Earth” in the 1990s like I did you realize he was right about almost everything except the earth being covered by the sea)(but he did predict floating cities) is about science and politics, and that’s what he writes about in his books. Meg Cabot’s is about being Meg Cabot (and she had a whole Princess Kate wedding blog post which is appropriate since she’s the Princess Diaries lady).

    Which is back being good for my Thinking The Lions blog.

    (Some writers, like Stephen King, have a useless blog. Grisham’s blog on Goodreads is purely promotional items. Same with Stephanie Meyers. I would say that the more famous a writer is, the less need there is to do a blog. If people will already snap up everything you write, you can only do HARM by telling people stuff. That is, if you’re already selling 30,000,000 copies of everything, you risk offending people with a blog and don’t have much to gain by letting people get a glimpse into your life.)

    Nathan Bransford simply posed the question about whether you need blogs, without answering it, back in 2008.

    So with that said, to recap where I’m at:

    Getting your name out there is key — and a blog can do that.

    Targeting your audience can’t hurt. Or can it? If I ONLY wrote horror stories, and therefore got rid of all my blogs other than “AfterDark,” only people who go looking for blogs about horror would ever find me. Whereas, right now, someone might read something about superheroes on “The Best Of Everything,” then follow me on Twitter, see that I wrote “Eclipse,” and check it out.

    To put it another way: I like sci-fi, and so I’ll read Michael’s book. But I also like politics and sports and stories about people’s kids and videos and a lot else. So if you write a blog about something else, and I see that you wrote a book, I might check it out.

    What I think a lot of writers are doing wrong is writing solely about writing (sorry, Rogue — although you do an excellent job of writing about writing. You should put all your tips in a book and sell it as a guide to indie authors, a la Rachel In The OC. Her guide is doing great; her book, not-so-well.) I don’t read many blogs solely about writing; I think this is the only primarily-writing-related blog I read.

    Anyway, that’s my take on the subject. As for MY blogs, I do those primarily for money; when a blog is making money for me, I devote more time to it. When it’s less profitable, it gets less attention. If I made NO money off blogging, I’d do it less, because I still view it as free advertising, and I try to make it so that you never go more than 3 days without a new post on any given blog, because people get bored and move on… and because (like “John Dies At The End” and “Hyperbole And A Half” and that crappy-but-successful writer Diablo Cody, blogs themselves can lead to publication.) So I write what I enjoy and hope that it turns into something — like the lawyer who moved to ESPN (or the NFL?) because he did a successful sports blog. And in the meantime, I’m making money off of them, and no publishers tell me “People don’t want to hear about your childhood” because clearly, people DO.

    I don’t know. I’m rambling now and forgot what I was talking about. Here’s what I say you do: Write about your books and things you like and things that are related to your books, and people will find the writing, and it’ll be better written because it’s something you like.

    • I honestly don’t know why it flagged this comment at Spam and made me have to approve both of your comments. WordPress is being weird that way.

      I only blog about writing because I really don’t give a crap about most other things. I could do a political blog, but then I’d have to listen to Tea Party wing nuts, which would be annoying. I could take a cue from Bill Simmons and whine about Detroit sports teams, but there’s already enough sports talk shows aren’t there? And no one outside of Detroit would probably give a crap. I have a private blog for personal crap, but it’s pretty damned boring anymore. What I remember of my childhood is pretty boring too, except for the time I almost drowned in a canal, though I’m probably overstating that.

      Maybe I should start a blog called “The Least Interesting Man in the World” as a parody of those beer commercials.

      Or someone got here today with the search phrase “sex with carebears” so maybe I should go start a blog about that!

  4. Because I wrote that earlier comment in different sections as people interrupted me, I forgot to mention that I think:

    A. Having lots of followers may help you sell your book. Michael, I see your blog gets tons of hits; that has to help sell you to an agent or publisher because people read you and you have a platform.

    B. Here are six blogs that became books: http://mashable.com/2009/12/17/blog-to-book/

    And here is a listing of (some) bloggers who got book deals: http://gawker.com/202937/not-even-people-on-your-blogroll-would-buy-your-book.

    Mostly, I think that writing for a living remains the province of a select few; the rest of us write for fun and extra cash and a shot at the brass ring. So do what you like, and even if the money doesn’t follow, you’re doing what you like.

    • Dude…my blog is miniscule in the realm of blogs. I use my blog to network with other writers and to make friends. Just writing a blog has taught me so much. I’ve learned about publishing–I feel that I honestly know how the system works now and thus I feel I know why I and others fail at getting agents. The easy is to be famous. The hard is to write to a known formula and (once that is done) attend writers conferences to pester agents in person with pitches (which I’m not going to do). That’s how everyone gets agents these days. Rogue you should attend writer’s conferences and pitch in person with that charming personality of yours.

  5. Interesting advice.
    I guess the more difficult part about identifying an audience is getting everyone who you think will be interested down, not including writers.

  6. Everything I know about wrong is blogging!

    Good points raised here. When all’s said and done, you have to enjoy your own blog, otherwise there is very little point in having one in the first place. Writing about writing is fine in my opinion.

    Rogue, I like your blog the way it is. It feels as if you come from a place of authenticity. You are a prolific and passionate writer and that’s very well communicated. I think readers respond to that, be they writers or not.

    The same old problem exists for us all — how to get people to become aware of you and your work’s existence in the first place. I have no answers, alas.

  7. I don’t ordinarily check back but I did today in remembrance of things past.

    If you like to write about writing, write about writing. Remember what Colin Cowherd says: “It’s more important to be interesting than to be right.” That’s true. If you write what you like, then you’re interesting.

  8. I never have focused my blog on writing stuff. There are plenty of published writers out there giving that type of advice better than I could. But I’m also not consciously catering to an “audience” that I don’t have yet. Now, after a book deal it might be a different story, but right now I enjoy connecting with peers.

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