Interesting to have a blog over here on Redroom as well as my "real" blog. But assuming that there's the time to do all the typing, there are some things better talked about here than there.
Like, blogging. I'm sure much of the marketing lit for new writers says you should "have a blog." Or a website, or something, some place where people can go to learn more about the Wonder that is You.
And that's exactly correct -- once they know you exist. Once they're already interested. Once they're already hooked on learning about your book-signing tour and how work is going on your long-awaited sequel.
But what if they don't know you exist? How do you use a blog to get an audience who wants to read what you're writing? An audience who would really like to buy it, in large quantities?
Here's one answer: don't do what I do.
I have blogged pretty heavily for almost four years now; a couple of hundred articles, maybe 300,000 words. I pour my heart into it. Because before the blog, I was a writer who'd stopped writing; at least, anything that wasn't corporate. And so I wrote essays and memoirs and cultural commentary and humor and bizarre poetry.
And for all that, I have perhaps two dozen regular readers. Really dedicated readers who check my site several times a week. I've come to recognize their domains on the web stat reports, and sometimes we talk in the Comments section. Every once in awhile, one of them will post a link to one of my articles on a popular blog or mailing list, and I'll get two or three hundred hits in a day.
And the next day, my hit stats are back down to 30 or 40 again. Including image hits. One of my posts has a pic I took of a life Girl Scout with merit badges tattooed down her arm. It accounts for three or four hits a day.
I've come to understand that my blog's readership will never be much bigger. A few more regulars may wander over, led in by comments I've left on other blogs; but there's nothing compelling about my blog that draws people to it and keeps many of them there.
See, I don't have a brand. If I were Jonathan Franzen, say, I'd BE a brand and I could post my grocery shopping list and get hits.
But I'm not Franzen, and I don't have a brand. I'm just some guy. And you don't know what you're going to get when you come around to my blog. It's different all the time. There's no story, no dynamic except maybe "middle-aged fat guy on the California coast." It has limited appeal.
People come to a blog to find a certain kind of thing: insightful life experiences of a certain type of person, or information about a certain type of thing, or entertainment of a certain type that interests them. You have to say, "This blog is a constant and reliable source of _this_ sort of information or diversion." That's your brand.
Then, of course course, you have to be good, and post a lot; or at least project a vision that nobody else has. Let me tell you a tale of two Steves.
Steve Dublanica was a stocky, well-educated guy coming hard up against 40 with a lot of life experience and not many prospects. He was just a waiter. But a really good waiter, and an excellent observer of human nature. He wrote long, literate, compassionate (sometimes bitter) essays about life in a restaurant: the front of the house, the back of the house, the dynamic between the waiters and the customers, the good days and the really terrible days. His posts were good, polished work; he made his co-workers and the customers come alive: the good, the bad, and the crazy.
Somebody should have been paying him for this stuff. But he was just Steve Dublanica, a waiter with no connections. Some guy on the Internet. And there are a thousand waiter blogs. But his blog -- Waiter Rant -- was good. Really good. People who have a liking for restaurant blogs, and there are a lot of them, came to look at Waiter Rant and stayed. For years. Every post got 100 comments, thousands of hits.
And eventually, he got a book contract. Half the material was from the blog, had already been seen by thousands. It didn't matter. It sold a ton. He made the Today Show and many other media outlets of all types.
His blog is still there, though he seldom posts and is no longer a waiter. He writes for a living now. All the old posts are there, though and I recommend them. Start at 2005.
The second Steve is a guy who writes under the name of Nova; but he's really Steve, and one look at the copyright page of his books will tell you that. Steve works for some sort of underfunded nonprofit government agency having to do with education. We correspond by email sometimes. He likes my work.
This Steve is very angry about the decline of America -- particularly about how wealth has been drained from the great mass of us and given to a few. One day he began to write a story called "American Apocalypse." In which America goes down not with a bang, but a whimper -- or a snarl. Government services are gradually withdrawn, law and order breaks down and America dissolves into little fiefs and territories. Which are not ruled by democratically elected governments, if you get my drift.
And he wrote installments of the novel on his blog, American Apocalypse; and when he finished it, he self-published through CreateSpace and on Kindle. And he wrote another on his blog; and self-published; and another. And he self-promoted the best he could and developed a following for the book and for his blog. And good sales. In fact, his sales were good enough to attract a publishing house which bought the first two books and, with a rewrite, is publishing them. Steve would be the first to tell you he's more of a storyteller than a polished wordsmith. But the words just pour out of him. He's kept his blog active, and still uses it to publish new work.
So that's one way to make your blog work for you; get a brand that people recognize and are interested in. Produce. Entertain. Share. Cast your bread upon the waters. And your massive fan base may well bring it back to you, 100 fold.
Maybe I'll learn to do that someday.