So last night I was invited by our local specific author’s guild, the CSFG, to be on a panel about Blogging For Writers. My fellow panellists were the wonderful and talented Ian McHugh, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, and Nalini Haynes, with the ever-prepared Leife Shallcross directing the discussion and keeping us all in line.
It was a pretty awesome fun night. I was there as the tech geek and “longest running longitudinal study on blogging ever” (I’ve been blogging, more or less consistently, since 1999), though I ended up digressing into a bit of neepery on publishing in general in the middle, mostly because it’s a topic my dead black heart finds endlessly interesting.
Anyway, I’m not going to recap the entire discussion, but have some summary thoughts nonetheless:
- Despite “conventional wisdom”, you do not need an established social media presence to get a publishing contract. This was one of those memes that was going around the industry a few years back, and has now (mostly) run its course. Having a big pre-existing following used to be attractive to publishers under the assumption it would allow already tight marketing budgets to stretch further (you don’t need to do much marketing on behalf of someone who already has a platform… right?). However, this has proved to be not as much the case as publishers originally hoped. Basically, the link between “follow someone on Twitter” and “buy someone’s books” isn’t as tightly coupled as publishers hoped. (It’s not nothing, but it’s not everything either.)
- That being said, yes, your publishers expect you to be an active participant in your own marketing, and that will include being able to write blog posts. Better start practicing now.
- Everyone on the panel used blogging differently. Elizabeth started her blog to promote her freelance editing services1 and then fell into the wonderful world of book blogging. Ian uses his blog as a portfolio and a platform to answer craft questions.2 Nalini runs Dark Matter Zine. I blog because I always have and I like to fiddle with the tech. The point is, find your own use for your online presence, even if it’s just a single static page saying “here I am and here’s what I do”.
- Blogging (in the conventional sense) is kinda dead… but a lot of the industry still hangs around on places like Twitter and LiveJournal. There’s probably a broader discussion to be had in here about “social media for fan outreach” versus “social media for professional networking” that we didn’t get into last night, but… hmm.
- We didn’t really get too much into the different platforms, but continuing on the theme above: different blogging platforms reach different audiences. Know which one you’re going for and target accordingly.
- Never forget that, as an author, your online presence is your professional presence, and to act accordingly. What that means, in a nutshell, is don’t publicly trash-talk other people in the industry: editors, agents, fellow authors, publishers, reviewers, whatever. (Panel-agreed exception: Vox Day. No-one likes that guy.)
- Speaking of: controversial opinions, having them. Being outspoken on a particular social and/or political topic can be part of your online “brand”. If you can work it for you, then work it for you, but be aware that’s what you’re doing.3
- On the same topic, online harassment and blacklash sucks. The panel swapped some war stories and discussed their strategies for dealing with it. Mine, for better or for worse, is that I tone down my public persona quite a lot.
- Finally, it’s never too early to start any of this. In fact, start yesterday. Start ten years ago.
… And by the time we’d covered all of that, it was 9:30 and we got kicked out of the room.
All-in-all, it was a fun night and a good discussion, and I hope people got something out of it. Particularly all the new people (there were a lot of new people, which is rad). I’d especially like to thank Leife and the CSFG committee for inviting me to speak, and to everyone who showed up to listen.
See everyone next month!
- Which she’s awesome at, plug plug.↩
- Ian teaches writing short courses at CIT, which are also awesome, plug plug.↩
- This, incidentally, is one of the reasons I’m always… conflicted about writing publicly about diversity in books/publishing. It’s something I believe in promoting, quite strongly, but because it’s something I believe in it’s something I struggle with writing about authentically rather than as a marketing gimmick.↩