blogging, book sales

This blogging biz

When I first started blogging, some 16 months ago, I was fortunate enough to be advised by Steve Jobs (OK, don’t ask – just a little gift I have). Naturally, our conversation, which you can read here, turned to branding. Steve was kind enough to give me a couple of tips to get me started, because an author these days needs a brand. Otherwise, as Kristen Lamb cogently puts it here, you’re invisible. And the brand is part of your platform, which is basically your presence on social media.

So where am I now, 16 months down the line? Well, one thing I can say is I wouldn’t have lasted more than a week at Apple. I mean, Steve, as you know, is pretty short-tempered (and in that respect, I’m afraid to say he hasn’t improved in the slightest). But at least he was ready to listen to my power point presentation about blogging, which in my case is a central part of my platform.

ppt jobs

Being the one and only Steve Jobs, though, he cut me off barely five minutes in. ‘Hang on. You say you’ve got two blogs?’

‘Yes. Journey of a Blogvelist and CurtisBausseBooks.

‘Why?’

‘Well, the first is just sort of miscellaneous stuff, you know, to build up a following. Because if you blog about your books all the time, it turns people off. So I’ve read, anyway. And if other people are like me, I can well believe it. But then I thought I wasn’t blogging enough about the books, so I set up the other one. But now we’ve got the Writers’ Co-op, which is about books as well, so now I’m making CurtisBausseBooks more miscellaneous and stopping Journey of a Blogvelist.’

‘Jesus, Bausse!’ Steve’s sigh of despair reverberated all round heaven. ‘You spend all that time building up a following and then quit?’

‘But building a following is one thing. Selling books is another. Look at this next slide.’

graph

Even Jobs was slightly shocked at this. After a quick calculation, he said, ‘That’s about one book sale for every 15 hours of blogging. If that was a bricks and mortar outlet, you’d be out of business in a month.’

‘But it’s not, is it?’ I retorted. To be honest, he was beginning to get on my nerves. ‘OK, it’s a lot of effort for hardly any return. But without it, I’d have nothing to show at all. And the thing is, you don’t blog to sell books, you blog because you enjoy blogging. And I quoted Britt Skranabek, who reached a similar conclusion on her own blog: When you write a blog post, don’t worry about its success—number of shares, views, likes. Write what you want to write from a beautiful place inside, then release it into the world. When you write a novel, don’t worry about its success—number of units, sales, dollars. Write what you want to write, not what you think others want to read.

Steve Jobs thought about this for a moment. Then he said, ‘Bausse, I wish you the best of luck. But one thing I can tell you is, if you want to get rich, you’re in the wrong business.’

‘Gee, thanks, Steve,’ I said, ‘but I knew that already.’


It might seem that this is another post about what doesn’t work rather than what does. But I would argue that the main purpose of a blog isn’t to drive sales – it’s to build connections, have discussions and showcase your writing. Indirectly, sales will (or might) follow, but a blog that’s too heavy-handed is likely to be counterproductive. That said, there are certain basic guidelines to an author blog (as opposed to just a blog) which Kristen Lamb points out here. And of course, you can save a lot of time by doing it right straightaway instead of following my example.

Every writer’s blog has a unique style: it’s your personality out there. And a couple of links to writer blogs that I follow will show just how different they can be: Kevin Brennan and Dan Alatorre couldn’t be further apart. Restrained, thoughtful, extrovert, wacky, humorous – all a matter of personal taste. At the end of they day, though, they’re trying to do the same thing.

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19 thoughts on “This blogging biz

  1. mimispeike says:

    I agree that a blog should showcase your personality, your way of looking at the world, and your writing style. Your ‘Dead Rat’ piece does that in grand fashion, I definitely want to read more from you. The ‘loving life’ lady you sent me to bores the hell out of me. The other blog: interesting, that approach, but the content could be punched up. And, too much repetition.

    You have a wicked, and lively, take on life, that is very enjoyable to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. GD Deckard says:

    I’m struck by Mimi’s phrase that “a blog should showcase your personality, your way of looking at the world, and your writing style.” I suspect Mimi writes that way and that Sly is merely her vehicle, a story to carry her personality and way of looking at the world.

    So why shouldn’t we all write that way? Is this already a recognized school of writing? I’m re-reading Henry Miller’s “Nexus, The Rosy Crucifixion.” It quite blatantly showcases Henry Miller’s personality, way of looking at the world and writing style.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess it’s easier in ‘literary’ rather than ‘genre’ fiction, where there seems to be a strong tendency towards the formulaic. In many ways we’re between a rock and a hard place – quirky and original is seen as too risky, but go for a genre and you’re up against a zillion others.

      Liked by 2 people

      • atthysgage says:

        Also, being a genre writer carries a set of expectations which can be self-limitiing. You get a cover meant to appeal to teens, and you can end up shutting out readers who just don’t read YA. That’s a poignant example for me, though I’m sure the same happens for scifi and horror and romance. Even for mystery, where the cover might not be a problem, the category itself might dissuade non-mystery readers from giving your book a shake.

        Genre identification is supposed to connect us with readers of a certain type (and it probably does), but it can also have the effect of shutting us off from other readers who might otherwise be receptive. This is probably a good trade if your books sit comfortably in one genre or another, but for oddball misfits (like mine) I think it’s a hindrance.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. atthysgage says:

    My main takeaway from Kristen Lamb was that I shouldn’t be writing a writer’s blog, because God knows there are too many of those and no one needs another. Her suggestion is that you should blog about horses or cookie recipes or natural cleaning products—whatever you have a passion for. Your passion will radiate through your writing and attract all those many folk who love cookies or horses, and those people will gradually come to appreciate your style and your personality and want to check out your books as well.

    Sounds reasonable. Problem was I couldn’t really think of any one thing I wanted to write about as a main theme (except writing) and I couldn’t see launching another “little bit of everything” blog. I don’t have anything against them, but again, how is that going to attract anyone’s attention?

    I agree with Curtis. It’s worth doing even if it never sells a single book—if you like doing it. I certainly have made connections through my modest little blog. But maybe seven different people have actually made comments after nearly a year of blogging, so I can’t kid myself. The vast. vast majority of my 500 subscribers probably aren’t paying any attention at all. But I think I write a pretty good blog, and i like doing it. So why not keep trying?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I quickly saw that blogging wasn’t going to be the answer to marketing, and I think very few writers would see it as such. But it is enjoyable, plus it’s good writing practice, two fine reasons for continuing.

      Like

  4. mimispeike says:

    Atthys, the thing that I am struck by with your blog is, no matter what your topic, you write so gorgeously. I can’t believe that others don’t have the same reaction. And want to tell you so.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mimispeike says:

    GD, my personality, me-infused style is not the way I have written other works. I had two finished books, long lost (pre-computer) in the course of my chaotic life and many moves. In which I simply told a story, sure, with my same humor, but no explaining or commenting. They were both as straight a telling as I am likely to do.

    Sly, the character, and the sixteenth century world, full of opportunity for quip, have pushed my buttons. And I’ve found so much fodder for fun.

    I have taken a passage straight from Margaret, Countess of Something-Newcastle, in which she complains that a woman scientist was not taken seriously (she is billed in a bio as the first female scientist). That passage, word-for-word save for any reference to a female changed to a reference to a cat, is funny, but hilarious if you understand that it IS word-for-word, which I reveal in the accompanying footnote. I am having SUCH a good time writing this.

    One of Margaret’s idiosyncrasies was that she liked to put her scientific theories into verse, publish them to be peer-reviewed as verse, or as a piece of fantasy fiction. Think I’m not going to jump on that? You know me by now.

    My two lost works, one was set in an attic, roughly, I picture it in the nineteen thirties or about, a family of mice, displaced from a kitchen three floors below, moves into an old doll house and interacts with the other residents of the people-less space.

    The other, I have only a preface left, I told the story of a forgotten film siren, based on Louise Brooks, a mouse, again, who starred with Rudolph Rodentino, among others. I had bits to die for.

    I took a passage out of a movie mag in which Gloria Swanson complained, “They say it’s impossible to be glamorous when you’re only five feet tall.” My mouse complained, “They say a girl can’t be glamorous when she’s only five inches tall.” I researched movie mags from that period and found fabulous stuff.

    Oh well. No sense bemoaning the loss. I have my hands full with Sly.

    Like

  6. Pingback: The First Saturday 7 – Space, Time, and Raspberries

  7. This post sort of cracked me up. Other than the arts, does anyone ever put in so much time for so few bucks? So writing has to be for the pure love of it, and blogging (social media) has to be about being…social (duh – this took me a couple years to learn). What I’ve found is that, initially, relationships sell books. Brand is a tool for creating familiarity which enhances relationship. Then comes the whole balancing act of time-management. What an industry! Great post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. atthysgage says:

    D: I’ve found much the same thing. I’ve done one author signing in my short career, and while it wasn’t spectacular, I did connect with people, and without any effort on my part—without even talking about the book in some cases—people bought books after talking to me. I’m not the most social guy in the world, but there’s something about seeing a real person behind the product that just makes it more interesting and appealing. (I had hoped blogging might create some of the same effect. So far, not so much, at least in terms of book sales. But there are other benefits.)

    Thanks for commenting!

    Like

  9. mimispeike says:

    In terms of promotion, my latest idea: I am going to join the Freedom From Religion Foundation. My husband and I are atheists, me practically life-long (from at least ten or eleven). Hell, probably earlier. I overheard my parents discuss during my high school years how I had almost failed my First Holy Communion. I was not impressed with the lessons, apparently.

    Anyway, I have thought that I might reap some media coverage from promoting a tale of a free-thinker cat to an atheist organization. It’s no scam, I do sincerely share their beliefs. I have just received a packet of information from FFRF and, ha! they have a small catalog of books. Some is heavy stuff, Richard Dawkins, etc.

    Some is not: ‘Rhymes for the Irreverent’: The Great American lyricist who wrote Over the Rainbow delights with iconoclastic light verse. Illustrated.

    ‘Lead Us Not Into Penn Station’: Gracefully readable pieces of Anne Gaylor’s classic writings.

    My husband and I give money to Bernie, to Alan Grayson, to Doctors Without Borders, to others. I intend to give to the new progressive SuperPac. Mainstream Dems have sold us down the river too many times.

    Another good cause, and a potential payoff at some point, is reason enough to add the FFRF folks to our list.

    Liked by 1 person

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