Monday, March 7, 2011

You Want To "Blog," Not "Ruin Your Career."

So you've claimed every online patch of grass that you can slap your name on. Right? What? You didn't immediately do so after reading the last post?? Well.

The top reason people resist the blogosphere (futile, btw, as resistance generally is) is that "they don't have time," which I tried to address in the last post--get a schedule, queue your posts up. Do what you can--three times a week isn't too hard (no, no it's not).

The second most popular reason is closely related: Coming up with something to say is hard--it takes time. You have to think...

And, really, do we need another writer blogging about their daily wordcount or their submission process? Is anyone interested in that?! No. No, they're not. Good instinct.

Think in terms of your brand again. Brands have specific messages, tailored to specific audiences. Successful brands sell product to audiences that are interested in consuming that product--they don't waste time talking about what their audience isn't interested in (*cough cough* your personal writing experience).

Blog about something you're passionate about. This will come across sincerely, and you'll have plenty to say--content won't be difficult. For me, it's the intersection of technology and publishing.


I don't because there's not time for that. But it's easy for me to find topics because it's where my mind gravitates naturally.

But, I'm passionate about WRITING, you say. Um, OK. But you're going to have to have some specificity, or risk becoming another one of "those" writer/bloggers. With no followers and no commenters

Ask yourself this question:

What do you like writing about? Are you fascinated by your characters' psychology, like Sarah Fine? Are you intrigued by court life in Regency England? For nonfiction, what's your premise? Fashion? Politics? Fashion in Regency England?! Blog about these topics--they're your voice, and they're what you love.


But continue to exercise caution. You have to keep your novelling/nonfic-ing SEPARATE from your blogging. Why? Because the book is (one of the) product(s) you're hawking--ideally to the same audience who finds your blog so clever. If you've said all you want to say on your blog, why would a publisher pay just to compile it? Why would readers pay for what you've already given them?!

Which brings me to the question of excerpts on the blog. NO!! NO, NO, NO!!!! No! Don't put writing you intend to sell on the interwebz for free. Not only are you putting it out there with only the minimum legal protections against intellectual theft, but you're undermining your book in the long run.

Build a following for yourself, separate from your book by blogging about the topics that prompted you to write a book. It's one step removed from your writing. This means that your blog readership is interested in you + your book. It's the best possible scenario: readers want to consume both products.

Win. Win. #Winning?


  1. What about getting your blog out there? You get the name, you pimp the site, you do the regular blogs, you publicize them on twitter and facebook and tell everyone you know about them, but how do you actually draw people to the blog if it's brand new and you don't have a pre-existing platform?

  2. Brilliant post, and quite timely-- I wrote about some of this today, too, but yours says everything I wanted to add but didn't!

  3. Would you suggest a separate blog specific to your book(s)? Along the lines of Freakonomics, for example, to fill the gulf between submitting the manuscript and its eventual release.

  4. Totally #winning.

    As much as I like to read excerpts, it makes me crazy when I see people post their work onilne. I have to stop myself from telling them to take the work down in the comments section.

  5. I know networking posts through twitter, facebook, and guest posting is a huge part of getting the blog posts out there. What else is there to draw attention to new blogs?

  6. Thank you so much for this post! The blogs I mostly follow are ones where the author is passionate about the subject matter (and of course, I'll buy their books when they're published).

  7. I don't understand why an excerpt of writing on a blog is a problem, especially given the Amazon preview feature. (I was able to read several chapters from Mr. Peanut.)

    It seems perfectly reasonable to post one chapter of a thirty-chapter novel online, even beneficial.

  8. To SM Schmidt:

    I've not used this technique for my personal blog (because I've yet to create one to release to the masses), but for monetized blogs I've created, exchanging links might be helpful. You put their blog on your blog roll and vice versa.

    I don't mind the usual bete noirs, such as excerpts -- in fact, it was reading an excerpt on the blog of a soon-to-be published author that put her book on my "to buy" list. I loved her writing style and am salivating for more-more-more!

  9. Another word about excerpts: publishers' publicity departments OK excerpts to be posted from soon-to-be-pubbed books. But there are a myriad of rules governing what can go up, and when. It's all strategy.

    I suppose an author could compose a similar strategy for their work. But if the book isn't for sale or pre-order, whether self-pubbed or traditional, this strategy isn't going to work. The goal of excerpts is to entice the reader to BUY THE REST. If they can't buy the rest, you're wasting the teaser.

    Now,if you're trying to get agent attention by posting excerpts, think again. Agents have enough to comb through in their queries. Blog well; we'll see you can write if we stumble upon your site. Save your book content for pubbing--however you choose to do it.

  10. Meredith, what if privacy is an issue? When I participate in freelancers forums, the number of writers who assume pen names and eschew blogging (or who have deleted blogs) because a they've had issues in the past is astonishing. Many don't have Facebook or Twitter accounts. The whole "getting your name out there" makes sense to a degree, but I don't want private clients -- especially those in the legal field -- stumbling across a website in which I write about creative endeavors. Does this make sense?

  11. Would someone very lovely and very generous take a peek at mine and tell me if/where I'm going wrong (apart from the excerpt)?

    I have a, shall we say modest readership so far and am on track for publication later this year.

    Also, is it essential to have a domain that isn't free? It will eventually be ported to the publisher's domain, but I'd like to put it off until the pre-publication craziness subsides.

  12. I've noticed that the posts that get the most attention are the ones about my life, and not my work. I use my blog to sell me, not my work, and I imagine writing is the same. Think reality TV and car crashes - everybody looks. Of course I use my blog to promote myself, but it's the random conversational posts that get the most hits. Have fun, relax, and don't try too hard. I fail on consistent posting, but that's because I've a business to run. Maggie Stievfater blogs better than anyone I know. It's the Maggie brand. Meredith, thank you :)

  13. Great post. I struggled for a long time with what to blog about and how often to do it. I agree that blogging on a schedule helps and I do have about five topics that I swore off blogging about as well(seen one too many train wrecks over them on other blogs). Have a great week!

  14. New follower here, nice to meet you!

    So, I think you make an excellent point. I remember when I first started blogging, and I avoided certain topics because I did not want to alienate anyone. Then I realized you can never please everyone, and why risk really connecting with someone by not being yourself? Obviously there's a limit, but trying to be too generic just ends up being boring.

  15. This is a really interesting post. I had a lot of trouble, initially, deciding what to blog about. While the topics I post about are usually a random sampling of whatever, they're either funny or introspective. Although, the last one can be dangerous (blur of public and private), I try to write that kind of post in a way that's engaging. Occasionally, there will be a poem -- because I love poetry, damn it. *smile*

    Anyway, thank you for this post! It's given me something to think about. ~Ali

  16. Great post!

    I'm sort of new to blogging and have struggled with what to post about and threading in my novel(s) somewhere. It's been tough. But I like your idea about analyzing "my brand" and thinking about what specifically I like writing about. That puts things into perspective. Thanks! Great advice!

  17. Thanks for pointing out Sarah's blog. Always nice to find other psychologists online :-)

  18. Simon Hay - I've found the same thing. The posts about my life generate far more comments than the 'this is how I write' type posts. The problem is, that kind of post walks a fine line between sharing and exposing, if you know what I mean. As Mer said yesterday, you want to build something separate from who you are as a person - you want an online persona, a professional brand. And how much I'm comfortable sharing is something I'm still trying to figure out.

  19. This is a great post and why I do not participate in these blog contests where you post part of your current many agents say DON'T!

    I've spent three years following agents, reading blogs and such. They all say not to post excerpts of your work - especially if it hasn't been heavily edited.

  20. Thanks, Meredith. You've pushed me into it: I've started a blog, covering topics to enable writers to become better critiquers for their writerly friends.

    I just hope I have enough to say. It seems like some bloggers have a neverending ability to come up with posts. I'm shooting for 2 or 3 a week at this point.

    I appreciate this "kick in my arse" to get started.

  21. Sound advice. It makes a lot of sense, which is nice. Blogging, as many--including you--have said, should be about building a platform and an audience. People should want to read your blog, because it's entertaining. Entertainment sells.

    Thanks again for this series of blogs about blogging, Meredith!

  22. Excellent post! Thanks for spreading the word about not posting your WIP online. I scream this weekly and still half my followers fill their blogs with snippets of fiction or poetry--ruining chances of sales later on. Glad I found your blog.

    I'm also not a big fan of word verification. It inhibits commenters. Unless you've got a huge spam problem, I'd say turn it off and just moderate comments on posts over a week old.

  23. New here--and have been reading (loving) all your posts about blogging :) You've totally motivated me to push out of my blogging rut, so thank you!

  24. This was a great post. Thank you!