I’ve written about blogging as a tool of author promotion before over here (in a grumpy manner). I’ve spoken about writing first, promoting later – i.e. write your book first, then start with the self-promotion. Today I feel a little more temperate. Or I did before I started writing … then I started to think about all the stupid stuff I’ve witnessed in relation to this … and then I had a cuppa and a piece of choclit and calmed down.
So: what’s a blog/website for? (Note that I have conflated the two thingies in my non-technical fashion – but you know what I mean.)
- Getting in touch with readers. Readers, if they like your work, will want (mostly in a healthy fashion) to know more about you and your writing process, where ideas come from, etc.
- It’s a means for you to let readers have some contact with you – they can email you via the site and, if you so choose, you can reply.
- It’s a means to promote your work and your next book – it’s the extra bit of marketing you can do outside of that done by your publisher, and it’s the stuff that has the personal touch – run competitions, give stuff away.
- It can be a means of offering advice to wannabe writers about things like craft and author behavior tips – a means of giving something back and improving your writer’s karma.
So, it’s a powerful tool for good writerly platform things. Conversely, it is also a potential source of great evil if improperly used – and you can make a horrible mess in a careless manner that you will spend a lot of time cleaning up later.
Possible rabbit holes to be aware of falling into:
- It’s wise to keep your political/religious/controversial beliefs to yourself. This is because if you spend your time slagging off a particular section of the population, you’re assuming (sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly) that they don’t form part of your book-buying public. You risk alienating a large chunk of your audience.
- If a particular agent/publisher/reviewer has refused to represent you/declined your book/given you a bad review, don’t give them a good old sledge via your online presence. It may feel like you’re the Hand of God when you’re scribbling your righteously angry reply, but seriously, it will follow you forever. Also, people tend to forget that the internet is an open ‘book’ and folk like, oh say, publishers, have searches set up to bring any news of themselves floating about in the ether to their desktop. There’s a reason old-fashioned journals used to have locks on them – Jane Austen may well have written in her diary “Would dearly love to put Mr So-and-So’s bollocks in a vice”, but she never would have blogged it. By all means, compose your angry reply, but don’t send it: write it by hand print it out or and put it in the bottom drawer for a few days. When you come back to it, think carefully about whether it’s something you want out there. Sure you can take the post down, but things move at the speed of light on t’intertubes and the damage can be done very, very quickly.
- If you are writing in a particular genre and a new flame war is erupting about some aspect of that genre, think carefully about whether or not you want to enter into the melee. Anything you’ve written in anger or annoyance may well offend as many readers as it does your fellow writers. You may find yourself in the position of having to write a retraction to soothe fans brimming with anger at your perceived ‘betrayal’ of the genre. Time spent ranting or apologizing could more profitably be spent writing the new novel.
- Offer people an insight into your work, sure, but make sure something is actually happening. Blogging and email-bombing people about stuff that might happen is just annoying. Don’t constantly send messages that tantalize a reader into thinking something big is imminent, only to then tell them that, well, maybe-but-not-really-hey-it-could-happen! It’s like teasing a dog with a biscuit that you never let them have – and eventually that person will stop looking because you’ve cried “Wolf!” too many times. Make your news real.
- And, finally, don’t tell people too much. Beware the over-share, the spreading of personal details across the world. Ask yourself: does anyone really need to know this? Do I really, really need to spread word of my personal fetishes/traumas/despairs/diseases/interpersonal missteps/wars/beliefs to anyone apart from my nearest and dearest? Reveal too much and you leave no mystery. When there are no mysteries left, then how does one keep interest? After all, you don’t start a book by telling people the butler did it.