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.
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?’
‘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.’
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.