Blogging: Walking Between “Interesting” and “Too Personal”
Some time ago, when I had a new book coming out in less than a month, I wrote to my publisher’s marketing director (who is not the director I’m working with now), and I asked her what kind of marketing was being utilized to help promote my book.
She wrote back: “Thank you for asking that question. I’d be glad to cover some ways that you can promote your book. First, do you blog?”
She went on to explain to me how having a strong Internet presence and regular blogging could help get the word out about my book—as long as I made the blog interesting. That isn’t exactly what I’d asked her, but . . . it did getting me studying the blogs of other writers.
Back when I was chatting on Live Journal, I posted all kinds of thoughts and ideas and opinions, including political ones. When JC created this blog for me (along with the new Noble Dead site), he really wanted us to focus entirely on marketing our books or offering professional thoughts on writing or the business—and nothing else. Although in many ways, I agreed with him, I tend to personalize most relationships, and for me to stick strictly to marketing wasn’t easy. I started up the Wednesday Writer’s Corner to offer some thoughts and advice.
He also thought we should keep the comments function turned off because well . . . there are a lot of crazy people out there who spend waaaaaay too much time attacking other people on the Internet (smiles). But a few days ago, we both turned our “comments” functions on, and we’re going to give this a try.
So I have put some thought and study into just “how much” a writer should share in his/her blog. The following is just my opinion, and nothing else.
Okay, for a writer trying to market books, this should be the mainstay of your blog. If you’ve got your comments function turned on, people can ask you about release dates, characters, anything plot related, or even let you know if they’re having trouble finding the book or about any issues with the electronic version. This can be useful for both the readers and the writer.
Do: Definitely post images of new covers—readers love color and visuals. Talk about release dates or “where” you are in the production process. Talk about your writing process. Post announcements for raffles and give-aways or other fun events to help promote your books. Post announcements of signings or conventions you’re going to be attending. After the signing or convention, post a few fun photos. You might provide links to positive reviews of your book, and if your book hits the NYT or USA Today list, I think it’s okay to point this out (smiles).
Don’t: Do not beg people to buy your book. Do not complain to them about how much you’ve personally spent on marketing. If your sales have dropped, do not talk about this and bemoan the dropping sales. Do not tell them that if they don’t buy your books, you’ll have to go back to working in a cubicle for an insurance company. I’ve seen this done on more than one blog (don't do it). Don’t post negative reviews and then write a diatribe explaining what an idiot the reviewer is and how he/she didn’t understand your book. Yikes, don’t do any of this.
Also, for the love of Teddy bears, DO NOT go online and trash your editor or your publisher. It will take about five minutes for this to get back to your editor or publisher, and trust me, these folks have long memories.
Do: Honestly, I have none.
Don’t: This is a tough one. I have strong political feelings. I have writer friends who I greatly, greatly respect who use their author blogs as a podium to champion their political beliefs or explain their religious beliefs. My feeling on this is that our country is so incredibly divided politically right now, that no matter what you say, you might alienate half your audience . . . and that just isn’t what you want to accomplish with an author’s blog. You’re trying to build an audience and promote your books—and yourself.
Do: I think it’s okay to post a health issue if it is interfering with your ability to complete a project—or even make a project late. Most readers who love their favorite authors are kind-hearted folks, and just knowing why a book has been delayed can bring out the best in people.
Don’t: I hesitate to say much here, because I do have a few close friends who've used their blogs to work through some serious personal illnesses. I think this is up to the individual writer. For myself . . . except for the reason mentioned above, I wouldn’t talk in detail, in public, about a serious illness I was experiencing. But again, this is a tough call, and it depends on the writer. Recently, Jim Hines did a post on battling depression that was just a wonderful piece of writing that I thought might encourage open discussion and help somebody else . . . so again, just use your own judgment here on what might be comfortable for you to share.
Do: People enjoy reading a personal post once in a while. Chat about your garden, books you’re reading, and films you’ve seen. Talk about your “office space” and what kind of writing space works best for you. One of my friends, Devon Monk, is just brilliant at balancing “personal with professional,” and she’s highly skilled at knitting and often posts photos of something fun she’s working on. Her readers love this. She never gets too personal, but manages to keep her blog interesting. Check out her good example here:
Serious Don’ts: For goodness sake, don’t talk about your sex life or what your girlfriend looks like naked (and, yes, I have seen this on the blog of a professional writer). If you’re going through a divorce because your partner/spouse is cheating on you with a poet that he/she met at the last SF convention . . . don’t talk about this stuff on your blog. Just use some common sense here. Remember that anyone can read this, and sometimes, things posted on the Internet can last forever.
Oh, also, I wouldn’t post the names of children or photos of a house that might make it easy to locate. Be sure you protect yourself.