The Fiction Writer’s Dilemma–What to Blog About?

12 Mar

Monkey-typingI’ve been blogging here for six months now. I enjoy it–find it fun and challenging to think of topics, and it’s nice to run up against an idea and be able to put together a little informal essay on the topic and send it out for the world to see.

But at the same time I have to ask myself if this blog is doing what I’d hoped it would–which is to help promote my novels. This is probably something that many other fiction-writers-who-blog have asked themselves. The idea is to blog about what you know, to expound on topics you have informed opinions about. That hasn’t been a problem. I’ve postedLibri_books2 on writing, editing, indie publishing, science fiction in general, and other things related to books. I’ve blogged about my own books specifically, including excerpts and sneak peeks and announcements of giveaways. That’s what I know about. So that’s what I blog about. It’s not all I know about: I could blog on parenting, on surf music, on rockabilly, on teaching, on pets, on film and Hollywood history…all sorts of things. But the book-related topics seem the most likely to speak to people who might be interested in the kinds of books I write.

But there’s one little problem: the things I blog about are likely to appeal to other writers. The day my blog got the most traffic was the day I posted some advice for indie authors who have decided to be do-it-yourself editors. People liked the post, and I was glad to be able to offer good advice. The post that gets the most consistent traffic is the one I did on creating an active table of contents for Kindle, which tells me people are searching for that information, and (again) I’m glad to offer some help.

Neil Gaiman (Source: Neil Gaiman/ Author: pinguino k)

Neil Gaiman (Source: Neil Gaiman/ Author: pinguino k)

Two other posts that get a lot of repeat business: my review of the audio version of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and a post where I used Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a kind of extended metaphor for indie publishing. People hit those pages because they’re searching for info on Gaiman or, for reasons I can’t fathom, Yukon Cornelius. I wouldn’t have thought those would be my most popular posts, but they are.

Considering my popular posts and my less popular ones, how many clicks are there on my Amazon links? Almost none.

How many Facebook likes? None so far.

What do I take from this?

People find my blog. They read my blog. It provides some people with good and useful information. Some people are entertained. But very few of those people who visit the page are actively looking for a science fiction book to read. And very few of the people who visit for other reasons find the book covers and descriptions displayed here sufficiently intriguing enough to inspire a click over to Amazon.

If I want to appeal to science fiction readers rather than writers, I suppose I should be posting short stories, which I don’t have a lot of. And the short stories I have produced are ones I feel should be making the rounds at various SF magazines to increase my exposure there.

So maybe I should re-focus. Maybe giving away some stories here rather than sending them out into the marketplace will ultimately get more potential readers (fans?) to find this page attractive. I don’t want to stop posting about writing, but maybe it’s time to start just posting some writing.

Something to think about. I’d love to hear what other readers and writers think about this. Do you ever buy books because you follow (or find) an author’s blog?

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17 Responses to “The Fiction Writer’s Dilemma–What to Blog About?”

  1. Erin Elizabeth Long March 12, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Hi, Richard! I’m in the same boat; my blog gets a lot of traffic from fellow writers (and, for some reason, people looking for pictures of Ryan Gosling in a tight sweater), but that doesn’t translate to book sales. I’ve been thinking about doing a chapter-a-week podcast for my upcoming book as a way to gain more fans of my writing.

  2. Julian Froment March 12, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    I have been known to buy books written by people whose blogs I have read/follow. I find it interesting to look at the books that other bloggers have produced. In fact I have just added yours to my wish list for later.

  3. Elisabeth Zguta March 12, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Richard, I blog too, and don’t have a lot of followers, but the comments I do receive are appreciated. The blog sites help me connect to the outside world and helps me ‘not to feel so alone’, which often happens as one sits and writes by themselves for hours…point is, I guess I blog for myself as a diversion and a way to reach out. I don’t think it will help marketing, but it can’t hurt either. Good luck to you, and I enjoyed this blog post of yours!

  4. Peter D. Mallett March 12, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Here’s a few thoughts. I have considered this too. I am not a book writer, but I submit fiction and non-fiction articles, and short stories, etc. as well as providing writing services.
    As far as writers go, they are usually readers but they don’t genrally spend a lot of money on books.

    When I write on writing I believe I am speaking to more than just writers, but also people in many other walks of life whose jobs require writing and want to improve their skills at it.

    I do want to have a wider audience because those who are writers probably do their own writing, that’s why I find other websites to contribute to and comment on that are still within my interest, such as photography, travel, and art. Many of those people have come to see what I am doing and have followed my page. When they have a need hopefully I’ll come to mind.

    One thing that might help with click-through is a brief description of each book under the pictures to pique interest (and maybe a buy now button or link).

    Lastly, personally I love to find writers websites and I have purchased books, but not always right there and then. I write it down and may look it up later, so you might not know that the site did actually result in a sale.

  5. Len Berry March 12, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    I fight with trying to come up with blog content also. It’s a struggle we all share.

    I try to use my blog as a mechanism to release information about writing, elements about my works, or just overall thoughts. I don’t treat my blog as a way to discuss my work, so much as I use it as a way to let readers know me better.

    • richardlevesqueauthor March 12, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      Yes, ultimately it’s about connecting with people and building a community. As long as that’s the goal (rather than hoping analog will help sell thousands of books) then I think blogger-writers are on the right track.

  6. A.M.B. March 13, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Yes, I buy books because I found the author’s blog and liked it. I bought your books, too. Truthfully, I’m a little suspicious of authors who don’t blog. What are they hiding?!

    Blogging is one way to get the word out, as long as your blog appeals to the right audience. It might help to write about subjects that science fiction readers would find interesting. Are there certain scientific or social topics that might appeal to your target audience?

    • richardlevesqueauthor April 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Your post got past me originally. As far as I’ve been able to confirm, you’re the ONE person who’s bought one of my books because of my blog. And I am 100% grateful for that. Thanks again for your support and your interest.

      • A.M.B. April 2, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

        You’re welcome. I’ve enjoyed your books. I buy a lot of books because of author’s blogs, but I only review a handful of what I read. So, most of those authors would be unable to confirm why they made that sale. Maybe it’s the same way for you and other readers? In addition to attracting science fiction readers, you might want to attract book bloggers (by reviewing books yourself and by interacting with book reviewers on their blogs). Book bloggers are heavy readers, and we buy a lot of books. It helps that you write a good blog with substance to it. I’m no fan of blogs that are just thinly veiled advertisements for an author’s work (which I wouldn’t follow because it’s little more than spam).

      • richardlevesqueauthor April 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

        I find myself wishing I could know exactly what led to any given sale, that way I could repeat whatever it was that led to success. As for book blogging, I’d love to, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with my day job AND blog AND write. Sleep is overrated. Maybe one of these days I’ll branch out.

      • A.M.B. April 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

        Yeah, the “business-side of writing” is a full time job. Sleep is overrated, or at least my kids seem to think so. I’m not so sure I agree with them, but I don’t have much of a choice in the matter.

  7. L. Palmer March 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    I try to write about almost anything besides writing for this reason. Many bloggers are fellow-writers, which is great and fun. However, I try to write on nerdtastic and fun subjects that non-writers would be interested in. It seems to be working.

  8. nesherehrman April 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Yes, (as an author who blogs), I feel like I’ve run up against the same thought-obstacles you have… I think one of the problems is that some blogs just have interesting content, so they get a lot of hits but not much follow-through (clicking on links, Facebook likes, stuff like that). On the other hand other blogs have a concrete, dedicated fanbase who follow through on everything the bloggers put up. I guess my point is that putting up actual writing might help you make your blog more like the latter and less like the former…

    • richardlevesqueauthor April 7, 2013 at 9:01 am #

      Good points. I’ve been considering ways to make that happen. Thanks for reading.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. From the Grounds Up: On Being Freshly Pressed | Richard Levesque - April 4, 2013

    […] the effectiveness of blogging as a tool for indie writers. You can see my post on the subject here, but in a nutshell, I wondered  about the goals of the fiction writer/blogger in relation to the […]

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