Fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Posted on Feb 26, 2007 in Blog, Writing | 14 comments

Does Blogging do anything for a Writer?

I’m wondering what people think about the value of blogging for writers. Specifically in the promotional sense. I’ve heard from a number of people that they think blogging is *the* way to get yourself out into the larger universe, or build up a following or… and I’m wondering if it’s true.

I see some people blogging quite successfully, but often it seems they developed their blogging brand before they developed their writing brand. They had something to say, a dead horse to beat, what have you, and they built an audience around it. I’m wondering if people either have experience with blogging as a promotional tool, and/or if anyone’s done any analysis of the value of website/blog traffic in terms of conversions to loyal and ongoing (and dare we say, paying?) readers.

All of this is absurdly premature in my case, as I don’t even have a book to flog, but hey, I’m curious if anyone knows of any good data points or quality examples, or just personal experiences on the topic. Thought I’d throw it out there.


  1. John Scalzi has talked about this on his blog; there are probably many relevant posts, but here’s one.

  2. Well, I think- properly exercised- it can be an important marketing tool.

    For instance, if Herr Bucknall hadn’t bloggged about your post, I wouldn’t know this journal even existed.

    As Tobi has thousands of readers, now far more people know- even peripherally- that there is such a thing as a Paolo Bacigalupi.

    It is never too late to set up a good blog. People who get hooked on reading someone’s blog are more likely to buy said blogger’s fiction.

    I mean, unless it is bleak and depressing or something…

  3. Yes, yes, yes. I started blogging solely as a promotional tool for my book, and now it’s developed into both a vehicle for me to find new readers and a vehicle for me to keep up my mad writing skillz.

    As for what it does for book sales and whatnot… this is rather anecdotal, but every time I post something that gets linked on other peoples’ blogs, I see my Amazon ranking jump a little bit. And I’m much more likely to see new subscribers to my RSS feeds and newsletters.

  4. Thanks for the responses. Most informative. And thanks to Toby for connecting me once again with Daniel!

    David, would you say that you’ve focused your blogging on specific topics, or is it a general thing about everything from your cat to your writing to… (looking at your blog)… the Oscars? Do you have any direction you’re trying to take your blogging work?

  5. I think of it like a conversation, Paolo. I usually don’t have a set specific topics, I just wander into a crowd and start riffing off other people. With blogging I’m doing the same, talking about whatever I’m interested in. And range is interesting, people are interested in you/your range.

    So I’ll go from pets to Indian space capsules to portable drives. Whatever gets my attention.

  6. How much time per day would you say that you spend on unpaid blogging? As I start to blog, I’m conscious of the number of hours that I put into it. At this point, I’m probably dropping up to three hours in a day, between mornings and evenings, between reading and responding and creating new posts. Maybe I’m just inefficient, but that’s a lot of time.

    One of the things I see people saying is that for many of them blogging answers other ancillary desires — for community, for connection with friends, for writing discipline, etc. For me, when I add up my hours at the end of the day, there’s definitely a zero-sum set of decisions. If I blog, I ignore my kid, or my wife, or…

    Right now, as I type, my son is asking me if we can go outside and play in the snow. “Dad, why did you turn your computer back on?” A couple weeks ago, we would already be out and playing. So there’s definitely a part of me that’s trying to figure out if there are real tangible benefits to the author-reader conversation, because my kid definitely is aware of the costs.

  7. Paolo: I’d say that 70% of the time I try to focus on topics that might interest my audience — which, in my case, means articles about computers, technology, writing, book promotion, and science fiction. But then again, those are the topics that interest me.

    As for the time involved: I’m definitely conscious of how much time it takes, even though I don’t have any kids yet. If you figure out an answer to that one, let me know.

  8. Paolo,
    I’ve been struggling with the same questions as I set up my own yet-another-blog. Daniel Abraham has been wondering what to blog about too. I’ve only written a handful of articles and have no master plan. Which is fine since my wife is the only one who reads it. When my book comes out in August I imagine I’ll use it to stay in touch with whatever fans I might accumulate, but I’m not kidding myself that I’m any threat to Scalzi or the Nielsen Haydens.

  9. Matt – “Threat” is the wrong word. Not jumping on you (and good to meet you, btw). But I’m convinced that the internet is a win-win game. Interestingly, the recent PW has an article about internet marketing, and it looks like it’s about 15 to 20% of Teen Books publishers marketing spend, at least in the ones they spoke with.

    Paolo – I have a similar problem. When I started, I could take hours to craft a post. I realized that not only was I neglecting wife and child, but that it made me reluctant to blog often enough to keep the blog active. I had to teach myself to get my thoughts out and down rapidly, and can now squeeze out a fairly substantive blog in five to ten minutes. Took practice though.

  10. It was good to meet you, too, Lou. But, I don’t know, you’ve got this attention economy thing to factor in. There are a limited number of free eyeball minutes in the world. Every pair of eyes that spends five minutes reading my blog (hi, honey!) is not reading the Whatever. Yo boin, Scalzi!

  11. But that’s mitigated when Scalzi mentions your blog. Hmm, does that make me a proponent of “Trickle Down Attention Economics” ?

  12. I think Matt raises an interesting question. The blog space will become increasingly crowded, and there will be increased competition for eyeballs and attention. Toby is also seeing this, and one of his solutions is to look to a different medium (video blogging).

    That said, I’m not sure that I believe the situation is as zero-sum (my word of the moment, apparently) as “If I read Scalzi, I won’t read Matt Jarpe.” But what an increasingly crowded medium — that’s moving away from its gee-whiz factor and moving toward a real component of our lives — means is that the voices in the medium will probably thrive or be ignored thanks to the originality and quality of what they contribute. I wouldn’t want out-blog Scalzi by trying to *be* Scalzi. But John doesn’t define all blogging any more than Cory Doctorow and Boing Boing do. I’d be perfectly happy to read your blog as well as John’s — as long as you’re offering something smart and unique. I only read about a tenth of what goes onto the Whatever blog, so that actually leaves plenty of potential for me to go view someone else’s blog, too.

    One thing I do see Scalzi doing, and that I’m trying to emulate as much as I’m able, is to really spend time nurturing the blog that I have. Posting to it regularly, trying to write interesting things.

    On another note, though, blogging certainly isn’t the only way to get a web presence. I’m looking at James Patrick Kelly’s website right now, and he doesn’t seem to blog at all. Just podcasts his already created content. At least, that’s what it looks like to me.

    And he’s actually pretty focused on providing some free content (stories, not blog items) and some pay for download content. http://www.jimkelly.net/ This website is focused on introducing people to his work, and then providing ways for those who like his writing to convert to paying readers. In my mind this has a lot of merit when you’re thinking of your writing as a business.

    Another thought. Why doesn’t Scalzi have advertising on his blog? It’s quite interesting, considering the main idea behind free content is that the eyeballs that are attracted can then be monetized through advertising. I’m sure John has written about his reasons before, but it does seem like he burns enough energy in his blog that he should be getting some cash over and above the fuzzy relationship between his blog readers and the people who convert to book buyers.

    Any thoughts on this?

  13. Something to consider: as a reader, I’m only going to follow those blogs by writers I’m actually interested in. Writer A might have the most fascinating blog ever, but if I don’t read his/her fiction and/or don’t LIKE his/her fiction, I’m not going to waste my time on their blog.

    So in terms of competing for your audience, I wouldn’t be too concerned. I’m the kind of person to follow a writer’s blog, no matter how sporadic they post, in hopes they’ll give me goodies in terms of the upcoming publications, etc. Granted, you’ll want to keep the blog interesting enough for others to link to (and therefore interest new readers), but I’m the opposite. I search out the writer’s blog AFTER I read their fiction, not the other way around. I might be backwards, though. :)

  14. I think that blogs help different people, including writers. If you are a writer and you have your own blog, people will have an opportunity to see your pieces of work and share their impressions with you.


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