The Bookseller Chick has featured a couple of excellent posts on the value of author blogs. This one is fairly lengthy but provides some great insights. Perhaps I'm unfairly biased, but if an author doesn't have a blog (or similar website) in this day and age I start to question their commitment level. Does it require a time investment? You bet. Is it worth that time investment? That depends...
I was debating this with an author over lunch earlier this summer and he made a good point about how many book authors struggle with writing short bursts of blog content; the link above only helps prove his point, but the post is filled with solid information. You also hear of stories where authors have a hard time coming up with compelling posts, causing them to labor even more on the blogging front. If an author spends more time blogging than writing their book I'd say they're going about it all wrong. In fact, I'd argue that if an author spends more than an hour a day writing content for their blog they're probably investing too much time.
Here's a follow-up post from Bookseller Chick that offers a few more pointers and thoughts. I'm not on board with her suggestion that you don't have to do it daily or weekly though. I skip some days on my blog but I think any blog that doesn't have new content each week isn't likely to attract a meaningful readership level.
Although I've been blogging for 2-1/2 years now I'm now starting to explore Facebook. I've only scratched the surface but I can see where Facebook can quickly become a much more powerful platform and tool than a simple blog, especially since you can insert your blog's RSS feed into your Facebook page. That said, my first attempt at this isn't providing a live feed, but I'm told that's because there's a problem with the particular RSS feed app I'm using in Facebook; I hope to get some time later this week to correct it. Maybe one day I'll completely abandon Typepad and make a wholesale move to Facebook...
I've had Web sites for books in the past, but this week I set up my first blog devoted to a book. It's for CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation. It's at
I've used the blog to extend the book substantially, adding material that didn't make it into the manuscript, plus facts that I discovered after the book went to press. I recently posted an errata sheet, which will no doubt be revised as new info comes in from readers. This is particularly important because of the complexity of the subject.
I'm planning a site for Blogging Heroes, as well. It will provide updates and new material.
Posted by: Michael A. Banks | September 15, 2007 at 08:41 PM
I'm the author that Joe referred to in the post. While I can see some value in author blogs, I'm not totally convinced they're worth the trouble -- to the author, that is. I can definitely see where publishers like them; an author blog is free publicity with no work or money required on their end. So the publisher benefits and the author does all the work; great deal, right? (My advice to any author who is asked by his publisher to create a blog is to answer, "How much will you pay me to do that?")
As to authors blogging, it isn't always a good use of time, especially given the small (miniscule) audience of the average blog. How much time will the author devote to the blog each day? If it's an hour a day, that's an hour that the author isn't writing books, and isn't getting paid for writing. Frankly, I make my living from writing; I don't like to practice my profession without getting paid for it.
But it's good publicity, you argue. Maybe, and only if anyone reads your blog. I guess it depends on what your blog is about, and how many people find it interesting or useful. Yet another author blog about the joys/tribulations of writing isn't going to pull a big audience. I can read only so much author whining about how lame publishers are...
In addition, most real writers, book writers in particular, aren't really suited to writing blog-style. A blog requires lots of short posts, and few writers that I know are comfortable doing that kind of quick-and-dirty writing. Where you get into trouble is with the typical author who likes to (1) write verbally windy passages and then (2) polish the prose until it sparkles. Where a civilian blogger might be able to dash off a post in 10 minutes, a fastidious writer might take an hour or two to create the same post. Most so-called authors I know simply don't know how to write fast; they labor over every word and sentence. And that's not how you do it in the blogosphere -- which makes blogging a particularly large waste of a writer's time.
That's not to say some types of author blogs can't be useful. Personally, I maintain blogs for a handful of my books (Googlepedia, iPodpedia, YouTube 4 You), primarily to log updates on the constantly changing topic matter. Readers can use the blog for the latest updates and as a "living" errata sheet. In addition, and this is the real plus for me, all the blog posts become the core of changes necessary for the next edition of the book. I just got done doing a second edition of Googlepedia, and I simply copied off all the blog posts in the last year to use for the update.
But you won't catch me writing a typical author blog. No one would want to read it, and I don't have the time for it. It's hard enough to devote time to read all the blogs I like (Joe's included), let alone write another one of my own.
Posted by: Michael Miller | September 16, 2007 at 05:05 PM
Hi Mike. I was hoping you'd weigh in on this. Yes, it was our conversation a couple of months ago I was referring to. You might be surprised, no, shocked(!), to hear that I disagree with you on at least one of your points. The one that jumps out at me the most is the question of value to author vs. publisher. Bear in mind that I never said an author has to write a blog for the book they publish with my group and for that book alone. While it sometimes makes sense for an author to write a blog tied to one particular book, it's probably a better use of their time to create a blog that's about them, the author, and *all* their books, even books written by other publishers.
Does that benefit one publisher? Quite possibly. Does it benefit all publishers the author writes for? Again, quite possibly. Does it benefit the author? I think so. Blogs, websites and any other sort of online presence an author can create today serves as a calling card for them. It's a living resume, there for all to see, including a publisher looking for their next author, a conference recruiter looking for their next speaker or in the case of the IT books you and I often work on, an organization looking to hire an IT specialist.
Authors need to look beyond the ROI they might get from blogging about a particular book and think more about how to also use blogging as a way to extend their platform, inside and outside publishing.
P.S. -- Isn't it about time for you and I to hook up for another lunch debate?... ;-)
Posted by: Joe Wikert | September 16, 2007 at 05:49 PM
There's a little truth to Booksell Chick's idea, but I'm with Mark Miller in thinking that blogs are not always good for writers. Here's why. IF you are a writer with some niche book to plug, for example THE BASEBALL LOVER'S GUIDE TO EBAY or some commercial paperback series book that comes out twice a year or something, okay. Put up a blog, blog about your career and personal trials and tribulations - your latest interview, link to your new review, talk about the block party you went to last night, your kids first day of school, wahteva. People will eat it up, you'll get links, the world will love you. It's great. Author with blog.
Ok now consider the case if you're another kind of author. You are someone like David Herbert Donald writing a huge serious biography involving years (yes YEARS not days or weeks) of research. You are someone like Donna Tartt writing serious literary fiction. A poet like Billy Collins or Ted Kooser. Or you are a serious novelist, whateva, you get the point. Well you are busy working and the work you publish is refined, worked and reworked. You do NOT have time for a blog, you do NOT owe the world little inconsequential writeups about your personal life, you do NOT as a serious artist link to reviews of your own works of art.
Could you imagine Ernest Hemingway: "Sep. 16. Hey, New York Times just gave me a great review! Awesome! Click here to read it...
"Sep 17. I'm working on my new manuscript right now. Let me tell you all about it. Let me tell you what it's like to write each day. Let me tell you all about the words.
"Sep 18. Gone fishing ... [text has link to weather map of coastal Key West]"
Writers in this category, who write big time books that take a long time and where every word and letter counts, they don't even have web sites. (Or if they do, the publisher makes it for them.) On the other hand, commercial writers such as those who write pop books or most nonfiction et cetera, well they sure oughta have a blog.
So. Two kinds of writers, two ways to go.
Posted by: Amanda Davees | September 17, 2007 at 01:25 PM
Hi, Joe. I enjoy your blog.
I agree with Book Chick, i.e., that bloggers do not have to post daily or even several times a week. In fact, as more blogs proliferate and as information continues to explode, I'm convinced that the blogger who posts more selectively is more likely to retain readers. This is especially true with the use of RSS and email subscription options. If an author can promote her feeds and subscriptions to first-time blog visitors, she can keep up and stay connected with readers without overwhelming them with posts.
I elaborate on this idea in a post called "A blog can be like a business lunch" -- click on my name or copy and paste this into your browser:
It was written for nonprofits, but the general principles apply to authors. For example, authors could post from time to time about new things in their life, especially their professional life; a book published by a friend; a book that takes a different position from the author's; news stories that relate to the subject of the book, etc.
Posted by: celeste w, studio 501c | September 17, 2007 at 10:24 PM
Amanda, I'll bet if Hemingway were alive and writing today and had a blog it would be pretty darned popular. Yes, I agree that the type of posts you're talking about would be silly, but if he were truly into it I think it would be effective. I would picture a more edgy and curmudgeonly feel to his blog, similar to the tone of Mark Cuban's blog. (Btw, please don't beat me up about how "Cuban isn't a novelist and certainly isn't on the same level as Hemingway." I realize that...I'm just talking about the tone.)
Celeste, I just hopped over to your Studio 501c blog and I think it's terrific! I just grabbed the RSS feed and look forward to reading more. You may be right that blogs can be successful without posting frequently/regularly. I just haven't found any that I've kept in my RSS reader that work that way. I start to lose interest if something new doesn't pop up every couple of days; but then again, maybe I'm not as patient as most blog readers.
Posted by: Joe Wikert | September 18, 2007 at 12:27 PM
That's interesting, Joe. Thanks--I hope you stick longer with me because I haven't been posting frequently lately (though my subscribers have slowly grown through links from other sites).
I want to let you know about the sites of two dear friends. Sandy Beckwith is a book publicity expert, among many other things: http://buildbuzz.blogspot.com/
...and Esme Raji Codell is a children's author and an expert on children's literature: http://planetesme.blogspot.com/
Posted by: celeste w, studio 501c | September 19, 2007 at 12:30 AM
Coming back to this a little late, but also having seen and read Mark Cuban's blog and having spent more time thinking about this. It's an idea that I am very much intrigued by - do blogs and novelists go together?
Blogs are like syndicated columns almost, sort of like diaries or journals that are public. A lot of great authors wrote diaries and journals but what I wonder is how many of them would make them public immediately, instead of keeping them private.
As for Hemingway, while he did contribute short stories and articles to places like Esquire, the interesting thing to note is that no great writer like him also had (say) a weekly newspaper column. I can see a great writer having a web site that would link up all their articles and stories, but I just can't see a great novelist writing blog entries every day. Could it really work? If so, how come the very best novelists today don't have them?
Posted by: Amanda Davees | November 16, 2007 at 09:34 AM
Hi Amanda. Could it work? It depends on what you mean by "work". ;-) I'm a big fan of Stephen King so I'm pretty sure I'd love to see what he'd have to say on a blog. Would I read it every day? Probably not, but then again, there are very few blogs that I read every day.
I wonder if the reason why big-name novelists don't blog is because they don't have to. They already have a huge following and don't see a need to add to it with a blog, which is unfortunate as I suspect many of their fans would like to hear what they're up to. To be fair, quite a few of these fans could care less! They want to read the book and maybe see the movie and that's it. They don't care what the novelist is up to but they'll gladly read their next book!
Posted by: Joe Wikert | November 16, 2007 at 12:41 PM