Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Decision Time

Just over a week ago I had a signing event for my new release, Heaven Preserve Us, at Third Place Books in Seattle. I talked about how I'd decided on food preservation as the theme for the book, how I'd researched various aspects of the story, and detailed how the setting of my Homecrafting Mysteries, Cadyville, WA, is a fictionalized version of Snohomish, WA. Then, as these things go, I took questions from the audience.

A few minutes in, a man in the front row asked what I thought about blogging. Specifically, didn't I think that bloggers were sarcastic, mean, opinionated egotists who were wasting everyone else's time?

Sitting behind him was a friend of mine who blogs for fun -- sweet, light, home-and-family oriented stuff. Her eyes were wide as he described his generalized idea of bloggers.

(I should mention here that this guy thought he was coming to hear me pontificate on the coming of Christ, having only read the name of my book in the paper -- a lesson if ever there was one about choosing titles carefully! He was sorely disappointed to learn I was there to cheerfully talk about what he later called "the greatest of all sins: murder.")

I gently suggested that perhaps he should stop reading blogs if he felt that way about them, or at least find some that fit his criteria for decency. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

But this episode highlighted the fact that during the last two weeks I've been trying to decide whether or not to start a personal blog. Actually, I've gone a little further than that. I have the name, scoped out the domain availability, investigated Blogger vs. Typepad vs. WordPress, made a long list of subjects to blather about, and, er, bought a copy of Blogging for Dummies in case I was missing anything.

Seriously. I like to be prepared.

But I haven't yet committed to doing it.

Many of the Midnight Ink authors who contribute to the Inkspot blog, and no doubt many who read it, have personal blogs as well. If you haven't checked out our member blogs yet, you should -- they're all listed under the book titles in the sidebar on the right.

So I'm here soliciting advice from you all (all y'all , if you're from the South):

What got you started in the first place?

Do you ever feel that your writing energy gets siphoned off by your blog? Or does writing your blog energize the rest of your writing?

How do you use your blog? To reach new readers? Keep up with old ones? Broadcast your opinions? Connect with other writers online? Something else entirely?

How much time do you spend on blogging?

What questions am I not asking? Any advice, opinions or general feedback to help me make this decision, either from bloggers or blog readers?



Keith Raffel said...

Cricket, In my case blogging doesn't take away time from writing. I blog from home and write at the corner cafe. But I suggest you blog because you want to, because you want an outlet, not because you think it will win you passels of new readers.

G.M. Malliet said...

I am not one of the "What I had for breakfast" type of bloggers (there is a book called "No one cares what you had for breakfast" that you might want to check you ideas on what to blog about).

I blog on my personal blog when I have something to announce, more than when I have something to say, so my blog will never be a destination spot on the web. I find it useful in an historic sense - I can look back and see what was going on two months ago. So maybe I'm just talking to myself, rather than blogging.

I do think daily blogging takes time and energy away from my writing, so I've resisted it so far. If I do go in for a regular blog, I might let one of my characters be the blogger. But there's a whole lot of work involved in that, too, and to date I just don't have the time.

Julia Buckley said...

Hi, Cricket. My take is, that guy's comment should have absolutely no effect on your decision, because it's one man's perception, and it's the first time I've ever heard such a negative view of blogging. I've heard plenty of non-writers say that they are "addicted" to blogs because they are a fun and quick way to get updated on many topics.

I began blogging because I was encouraged to do so by our publisher, but I continue my personal blog because I enjoy it and I have developed a small and loyal group of readers. It's also a way for me to record events that I can return to later--a permanent record of the day.

Bill Cameron said...

Blogging is, to me, one of those things you do because you want to and because you feel you have something to say.

For me, I find blogging to be a burden. I usually struggle to come up with something to say, overwork it, and end up finding my posts cut into real writing time. I'm not convinced blogging sells a single book either.

Mostly I think blogs simply slightly more formal chat rooms. Nothing wrong with that, but it has to be for the pleasure of it, not because you feel an obligation or think it's some kind of grand marketing tool.

As a result, my personal blog is rarely updated, and mostly only with news items. Obviously I'm not group blogging anymore either. Though I do know this, if I ever return to blogging, it will only be through a group blog. I can see the case for a group blog building a kind of identity that may serve some marketing function. Plus, there's less individual burden.

But in the end, until someone shows me real metrics that prove otherwise, I suspect that blogging as a marketing device is a poor use of time.

Anonymous said...

As Louis Armstrong is supposed to have said, "If you have to ask, you just can't know." You seem to have too much hesitation about blogging. I fear you'll start a personal blog and it will peter out in a few months. I could be wrong, but I've seen it happen a lot.

I've seen some writing blogs that raise your same question about whether writing blog posts will siphon away some of the writing compulsion better focused on fiction. Most have dismissed that worry. The see writing a post as letting off steam, as pre-writing or warm-up. The compulsion to write is always there for them, even if the story itself isn't coming, so making a blog entry is a way to keep the mechanism in practice.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Wow! A lot of differing opinions here. But the one thing I totally agree with is Julia's comment. That idiot in your audience should have absolutely NO effect on your decision to blog.

I started my personal blog after our own Keith Raffel suggested that I do so. Shortly after it began, I posted a highly controversial posting that garnered me over 200 comments in one day! Who knew! Since then it has settled into a way for me to connect with my readers; to keep them posted on what I'm up to, news about my books, and how my writing is going. I also use it to rant about personal peeves and opinions. Sometimes I just post a cute picture someone sent me.

Does it cut into my writing time? No. I keep it simple. I don't feel compelled to blog on a schedule. I used to do interviews with other authors, but stopped that when that DID become time consuming. Now I just occasionally blog about favorites books and authors.

Does it garner me new readers? Sometimes. Not enough to make that the reason to blog, but enough to continue.

Do I think it's a good marketing device? Yes, absolutely. It keeps me connected to my readers and when new people visit my website, most jump over to my blog.

Readers often tell me how much they enjoy my blog. That's enough reason to continue - that and it's free publicity. I had one reader tell me it makes me seem more accessible.

Cricket, if you are not sure about blogging or are uncomfortable about it, then maybe you shouldn't do it just yet. As Paul said, you may start it and then let it peter out. I think an old abandoned blog on the web is a bad advertisement; much worse than no blog at all. Do it when you are sure you want to do it and only do it if you think you will enjoy it.

G.M. Malliet said...

My blog page is also among the most visited on my site, and I feel bad if people go there hoping for something more than the occasional photo or news update. Still, I can't justify the time needed to do a real blog, and keep it constantly fresh and updated and entertaining. I'm in awe of those who can do that AND write novels. I just don't seem to be one of those people.

Cricket McRae said...

Thanks everyone -- lots to think about! I can certainly say that the guy at my reading was nothing more than amusing and won't affect my decision one way or the other.

If I start blogging, I want to do it on a very regular basis, and it will be as much about home crafting as about writing, if not more. I'm making such a big deal about this decision because I don't want to leave an abandoned blog out there for people to see. It's a fairly major commitment, at least the way I want to do it.

So I'll let you know if and when I start up! Thanks again! ~C

Deborah Sharp said...

I echo what some of the others have said, but want to add that a blog you decide to abandon isn't the biggest problem you'll ever have. Blogspot has a mechanism to delete a blog, so if you start one and decide you don't like it, just delete it.
Not sure how web-savvy you are, but I do know for most people the blog is much easier to update and keep current (for signing dates, fotos, news releases and the like) than a website is.
Good luck!