Courtney Milan talks the future of agents in a self-publishing world in “An open letter to agents,” the first of (what sounds like) two columns. Milan, whose self-published novella Unlocked is currently sitting at spot # 102 in the Kindle store, has an amazing mind, and her dissection of agents and their role in a world where author’s don’t need them to publish raises some very important points. She writes:
any idea. I am getting multiple e-mails every day from writers who are worried about what their agents are doing, and who are worried about how to handle agents, and who want to be fair to their agents but also don’t want to pay them a percentage when there’s little to no work involved, and/or the agent handles little of the risk.
“…the happy symbiosis between the ebook retailers and Apple, by which the retailers got access to customers they would not otherwise have had and Apple was able to readily deliver their customers content they hadn’t otherwise aggregated, appears to have come to an end.”
Blog: Bookseller Chick (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Answers to questions, Why we read, Answers to questions, Why we read, Opinion piece, blogging, authors, Add a tag
Thank you all for your response to Kevin’s question. I’m going to break things down into a few different categories and we can take the discussion from there. In what will probably be a several post piece, let’s start with the basics:
Why Blog in the First Place?
“I think the primary benefit of my blog is for keeping the existing readers fired up to go spread word of mouth.” Shanna Swendson
You’ve written the book, made a contract with the publisher, and survived the editing process, but your job still isn’t done. To counteract the ever decreasing marketing budgets at the publishing houses, you’ve got a find a way to grow your readership and keep them coming back—whether it is for the next book in a series, or a new book all together. Blogs can create that direct sense of connection between writer and reader, and they cost nothing to create. Well, nothing except time, effort and creativity…but we’ll get to those in a minute.
First let’s focus on what a blog lets an author do:
- Connect with readers by sharing their thoughts on the book process, the characters and proving they’re just like everyone else (Authors! They’re just like us! A new feature to found in the writer’s version of US Weekly).**
- Create an up-to-date presence on the internet that with tagging can increase your presence to the Google algorithm (given that 60% of the population uses Google as their first choice search engine, this is a good thing).
- Offer up advance excerpts, answer reader questions, and let readers know when the next book is coming out without waiting for your webmaster to update a website. Just write and hit post.
- Talk about other books that are similar that the author like, or direct the readership to other authors of note.
- Connect with other authors, direct readers to advance reviews, and network, network, network!
A successful author blog creates a community led by the author that allows readers to connect and builds on the loyalty of the readers. As Kalika said, “it makes authors seem less like strangers and more like people I know, so I'm more likely to want to buy their books instead of borrowing them from a friend or the library.” This loyalty and excitement from the blog transfers to readers going out to the bookstore to find the book or jumping on one of the online sites to make their purchase. Then on their own blogs, or in conversations with store patrons or friends, this reader will spread the word about this author’s work. The sales might not be able to be traced directly back to the author’s blog, but it acts as a strong link in the chain that gets people to read your books.
Author as Essayist?
One of Kevin’s points with this question (which I didn’t include, but he thankfully reiterated in the comments section) is that not everyone has what it takes to be a successful blogger—one who “can take the mundane or the complicated and make it interesting, funny, and readable. But that in itself is a particular writing talent, and not every writer will be good at doing that as opposed to their normal mode of writing.”
Back in February, I asked why people read any blogs at all in “Writer as Blogger, Blogger as Writer.” The answers I received cited Voice and Content as the two biggest reasons for following a blog. These two things working alone and together accounted for the loyalty most readers felt towards the blogs they followed. In many cases people cited finding a blog looking for some sort of content, and sticking with it for the voice.
But how does this affect an author’s blog when taking into account Kevin’s definition of a successful blogger?
Just as the acquisitions editor must consider the voice of your manuscript when deciding whether or not to purchase it, so does the passing reader when they decide whether or not to make a commitment to your blog. This voice is especially important for the fiction (as opposed to nonfiction writers) writer as you can’t always rely on content to bring new readers to your blog. Links from other authors might drive people there, but it is the voice you bring to the blog that keeps new readers there and old readers coming back regularly.
Blogging, with all its informality and immediacy, creates a sense of closeness between author and reader that you can foster with the tone or voice that you use for each post. By assuming an approachable style, you invite the reader to put aside their shyness and interact. Narrative prose, however, often differs from how a writer might sound in a conversation. I write this blog in the same way I would converse with a friend in real life (to the point that back when I was anonymous a friend warned me that anyone who knew me and read Bookseller Chick would know the identity of the writer immediately). This blog voice shares little to no resemblance to any fiction writing I’ve done, which is fine as I’m not attempting to use this as a forum to promote myself as a writer of fiction.*
If the voice of your blog sounds nothing like your narrative writing, that’s fine. It’s you, the author, conversing with your readers, not your characters. There’s a hidden danger that comes from sounding too much like your prose. I’ve come across many a reader complaining that they can’t think of the character as their own entity because the voice they know from the author’s blog intrudes too much in the narrative. These people may represent a small portion of your readership, but it is something you should be aware of in your blogging and writing.
Although the reverse is also true, as Random Ranter states, “Blogs give me a chance to get to know a person's writing style before I plunk down my bucks.” Finding out that the author who writes humorous little essays about his/her cats, actually writes gore filled books with dark plots may throw a new reader off.
Given this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” how do you walk the fine line in between?
Well, that’s where content comes in.
As an author, you have to decide what your blog is going to be to you. The best author blogs cover topics that both the author and the reader care about. As Lectitans states in her response to the “Writer as Blogger, Blogger as Writer” column, “The best blogs are conversations. I don't want to read a blog where the blogger writes only what she thinks her readers want without putting any of herself into it. That kind of writing is dishonest and uninteresting. Still, I don't care to read a lot of navel-gazing. A blogger should be aware of her audience and keep them in mind without giving herself over to them completely.”
When blogging, ask yourself: what are you blogging about? And why are you blogging about it? If the majority of your blogging is just to have a place for a personal diary with no relation to your writing, perhaps blogging isn’t the way to go. Same goes if you are just blogging by rote, and don’t really have any interest in the topics you’re covering. The content of your blog is strongest when it is a balance of what appeals to you and what appeals to your readers.
I draw a lot of people to this blog due to content. People searching for different authors, bookseller opinions, books, etc, stop by thanks to this search engine or that. Sometimes they like what they read and stay (or search more), and sometimes they move on, which fits with the nature of this blog and what it has become. The ongoing “mission” of this blog has changed multiple times over its lifetime, but one thing remains consistent: I write about topics that interest me and they are ones that I hope interest you as well.
As an author, you’ve got a built in hook with your blog readership as they want to find out about your books. Don’t be afraid to post excerpts and answer questions readers pose about this character or that. It may lead you to other areas of interest to write on and will also help you create content to reuse on your website (for example: questions from readers about certain characters can be collected and turned into a Q&A for their books).
Content Meets Voice and Produces Comment Babies
In my mind, the ideal mixing of content and voice happen when an author takes a general topic of interest and finds a way to approach it through an example from their own experience. Everyone may have outlined the publishing process, done a signing, gone to a con, worked with a writer’s group, or been called by their agent about a deal, but how an author tells their own story on this subject is what makes it unique. The factual content may remain the same, but the little details, the emotional journey, etc are what makes the author’s telling unique. It’s what makes your blog different from so-in-sos blog.
It’s what makes your book different from the others on the shelf.
Connecting content with voice makes a blog approachable and will bring people back. Balance those topics that seem more authorial navel-gazing with those directed straight at the reader, and your readers will let you get away with a little “me-time” introspection.
(Oh, and try to keep all of that shorter than this blog post has turned out.)
Agree? Disagree? Never made it to the end because the length made you fast forward to the end?
Bring on the discussion, and while you do so, keep these questions in mind as well:
How do you avoid only writing about the mundane? And can you get away with using your prose/character voice on your blog?
*Although the two people who visit this place who’ve actually read anything I’ve written can feel free to argue this point.
**In proving approachable via a blog, you are offering up validation to your readers. According to eight million websites I have found (who give no straight answer to where this information comes from), a 2005 survey found that 82% of Americans feel they should/could write a book. By appearing like a normal person you validate the idea that they too can write a book as well. I do believe that this correlates into more book sales.
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Blog: Bookseller Chick (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Answers to questions, Online Publicity, Answers to questions, Book recommendations, Online Publicity, Add a tag
First things first, for the person who came to this site with the search phrase “i want to read tales of the otori for free” I have an answer for you, it’s called the library. You can find the Tales of the Otori series and many other fine, fabulous books for absolutely no money down…unless you have library fines. That I can’t help you with.
Now on to the real business. On the “Online Publicity Kits: Do You Have One?” column Lynda Hilburn asked, “I have a question about the press kit. Everything you talked about is on my website, but I don't have a specific button called "press kit." Is it enough that all my materials are accessible?”
You do not need a specific button called press kit, no. Your site is laid out in such a way that if you wanted to create a downloadable PDF file on your bio page you could, but it is not necessary. Instead you should have all this information saved on your computer in a Word or PDF document that you can copy (the text and the hotlinks) into an email or just attach the document along with the pictures to your email. Save the jpegs for when you know you will be hosted on the other site so as to avoid getting sent directly to the trash folder. If you wanted your trailer included in a guest column or interview, you would send that link along with anything else you thought the writer might need. Given that most bloggers I know don’t reside in basements, but actually work full time jobs as well as blog, anything you can provide to make their job easier the better. So keep a file on hand on your desk top just in case.
Lynda’s question and my own column got me thinking about the role of Press Releases/Publicity Statements on the internet. For me they often seem to lose their impact when all I get from a subject line is “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” That’s good to know, but what is for immediate release? Why should I care?
The impact of the title line is lost because I’m not even tempted to open the email.
Of course, I’m an odd duck, so I want to hear your opinion. Have any of you received emailed Press Release/Publicity Statements that worked? How’d they do it? Have any of you written one that has received a good response?
As always, interested in what you have to say.Add a Comment
Blog: Cachibachis (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Drawing skills, Harold Speed, drawing, Project Gutenberg, e-book, Add a tag
Wow....this is a real find for artists interested in polishing up their drawing skills. It's a free e-book provided by Project Gutenberg that gives instruction on drawing in general and is written by Harold SpeedDisplay Comments Add a Comment