Of Battling Bloggers and the Zen of “Duh”

I don’t usually like to respond directly to other blogs, but I thought today merited some exception to that rule. See, on Wednesday Kristen Lamb tried once again to whack us in the noggin with the idea that as writers trying to grow an  online audience, blogging about writing is not a good idea.

This is not new. Kristen has been talking about this at least since I started reading after her at the beginning of the year.

Then Austin Wulf, another blogger I like and respect, answered back with a post arguing against Kristen Lamb’s main points. I recommended you read both blogs for yourself if for no other reason than the fact that they represent two very well argued and opposing viewpoints.

But here’s the deal: I’ve been thinking a lot about this blogging thing lately. More importantly I’ve been thinking about audience numbers and how to expand them. Of course I’ve always wanted more readers, but for a long time it was something almost academic, simply a way to fuel my pride about my blogging ability.

But about a month ago something changed. I released an ebook called A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw. Many of you who are loyal readers of this blog bought the book, and I thank you. But about two weeks after releasing the book my numbers basically hit a brick wall. I’d sell one every couple of days, but the numbers just weren’t there. I’d tapped out my audience, and now I was swinging in the wind. And I don’t know about you, but the prospect of making money really makes me perk up and pay attention.

So I started thinking about what I could do about it, and what I came up with was this: maybe I shouldn’t be blogging exclusively about writing.

Because I believe it does limit my readership to a certain extent. Looking back over posts of the past, some of the most popular by SEO numbers have absolutely nothing to do with writing. And now that I’m further along in my blogging career SEO is a big part of bringing in traffic.

Now there are clearly writers that can pull off writing about writing and garner an audience by the boatload, but as far as I can tell all of those writers are named Chuck Wendig. I am not named Chuck Wendig, nor do I have even an iota of the man’s skill in crafting pithy punchy posts.

Which is why you may have noticed in the past few weeks, that I haven’t been writing as much about writing. Instead I’ve been dabbling in other topics that interest me to see what kind of reaction I can get from the audience at large. This is not to say that I’ll never blog about writing again, but after all this time, I’m finally starting to think maybe Kristen was right all along. And even though it did take me a while to realize it, I’m not ashamed.

Sometimes you have to understand something for yourself. You hear it over and over, and one day it finally clicks and you’ll say, “You know that thing everyone tried to tell me I should do for all those years. Maybe I should give that a shot.”

And the people who tried to tell you for all those years are smacking their heads with their palms and saying, “Yes, what a brilliant idea. Maybe you should try that.”

And that’s okay. Because sometimes you just have to learn it on your own.

Addendum: don’t worry. The economics post was a bomb, so you won’t have to worry about seeing Money Mondays anytime soon.

Addendum 2: I have a new/old short story out for the Kindle. It’s a terrifying little tale that mixes science fiction and horror into a delightfully spine-tingling concoction that I call Derelict. Maybe you should check it out.

19 responses to “Of Battling Bloggers and the Zen of “Duh”

  1. This seems to have become a big issue lately. The idea that if you blog only about writing your main audience will be other writers is probably true. But if you’re a writer trying to increase the audience for your books, then dragging in random subjects in order to attract a wider audience is *not* a good idea. A basic rule of blogging is that a blog has to have a focus, even if that focus is only “what I had for breakfast this morning and why it made my boyfriend leave me.” Maybe it’s just too easy to forget that writing is about reading. About books. And not just the blogger’s own. Some readers want to know about how and why books are written, but most probably want to hear about the books and why they’re the blogger’s favorites or most hated. They want bloggers to share their thoughts about books, not about the mechanics of writing or the pains of publication. Find a balance and you’ll probably find the readers.

  2. Thanks for the link, Al. I’m using this week to experiment with the whole “not blogging about writing” thing. Should be an interesting week.

  3. Blogging about “what you had for breakfast this morning” works for some writers, and blogging about writing works for other writers- and not just Wendig. I read several writing blogs that attract non-writer comments (they mention this). So my 1 cent is blog about what feels right for you and what makes sense to you. Don’t take any 1 person’s advice as infallible. There are always many, many exceptions in this rapidly changing game. What works for you may not work for Wendig.

    And I’m just not a math person. 🙂

  4. What works for Wendig works because people tend to fixate. I’ve been reading Wendig’s blog for several months, but lately, I find myself skipping it most days after I’ve seen the title. I don’t give a damn about his baby or his personal life. I started reading because of what he had to say about writing, and simply tried to ignore his over-the-top foul mouth. And no, I’m not a prude. I just get tired of seeing so much spew that doesn’t really contribute anything. What offends me most about the spew is that he doesn’t use it elsewhere. It’s his gimmick for pulling in readers. But after a while, it’s just the same-old, same-old. So be it. I’m on the verge of deleting the bookmark for his blog, not so much because of his mouth, but because he’s offering me less and less that’s of any value. I have to admit I’m also turned off by the worshipful you-can-do-no-wrong attitude of some of his followers. When all is said and done, there are a lot of factors that go into the success of a blog. Every blogger has to decide what’s right for them. And you have to accept that what thrills one reader about your blog is going to turn someone else completely off.

  5. I seem to be blogging A LOT lately about my frustrations with blogging writers and the conflicting advice they give. I’m trying desperately to learn this writing craft thing and depend heavily on the very generous writers (such as yourself) who bother to take the time to help newbies like me along. I really do appreciate their efforts, but sometimes the advice can be downright confusing– including Kristen Lamb, to whom I commented on that Wednesday post you referenced. (I think that was the one, geez there are so many! lol) What I have finally settled on, at least for now, is to blog about what inspires me, which for the last few days anyway has been my frustration with writer’s blogs. Maybe someday I’ll branch out and talk about my dog, or my garden, or the high price of gas, but so far all I seem to be able to focus on in my blog is writing.

    One thing I will say, however, is that while I find blogs focused strictly on writing helpful, I like the blogs best that do explore other topics of interest. There’s really something to be said for bloggers that put themselves and their personalities, likes, interests, etc. out there. I find myself beginning to like the people behind the blog (even though I don’t know them at all beyond their blogs) and really want them to succeed. I root for them. I want to buy every book they write. I want to tell the world about how great they are. In the end it’s all about relationships and humanness, and if you can connect with your readers on a human level (some bloggers that only write about writing tend to not do this) then you’ve gone a long way to selling a book and building a fan base.

  6. Catana:
    Always so good at saying things so unpleasantly. I didn’t know this was a referendum on my blog’s content and style?
    If the blog doesn’t work for you, then yes, quit reading it.
    For the record, my foul mouth lives on outside my blog. It lives in my fiction. It lives on my Twitter feed. It lives in my day-to-day life, where I’m constantly befouling the air in front of that baby you don’t give a damn about.
    Generally, I try to remain polite to people just the same, and not befoul *their* blogs. Otherwise, I have a foul mouth all around.
    Again: don’t like it, then don’t read the site.
    That said, you could stand to be a little nicer. Brusque and trollish comments like that earn few friends.
    — c.

  7. Albert —

    I like your blog. I like when you blog about writing or anything, really. My feeling is (and this may be worth a post of my own, I dunno): talk about whatever you have on your mind. If you’re interested, we’re interested.

    — c.

  8. Thanks for the link to Austin’s post — I read Kristen’s blog, and it’s nice to get another perspective. Like author Roni Loren, I get around the issue of having a writing-only blog by breaking another of Kristen’s blogging rules — don’t have more than one blog. 😛

    I guess the most important part is to know what you want out of blogging, and then figure out how to get the outcome you want. I’m ok with what I’m doing now, despite not adhering to various advice floating around on the internet, because it’s working for my current goals. When my goals shift, I’ll try out new stuff until I find something that suits me and gets me the results I want.

    So I think you’re on the right track — you know what your goal is, and you’re trying different things to see what works best. Looking forward to seeing how your experiment goes, and good luck!

  9. Who’s Chuck Wendig?

  10. Wow! Quite an assortment of ideas posted here from commenters! I was stunned by Kristen’s post because I had been told the opposite months ago by a colleague of hers. So, what I’ve done is add variety into my blog. Instead of writing only about writing, I now write about my passion, navigating mid-life with good health and a lot of fun, 3x per week, once about writing and one post with links to other great sites. so far, people seem excited about the change. Al, you’re a good writer and your fans, like me, will read whatever you put up.

  11. Marcia, the problem is that there are not only different kinds of bloggers, but different kinds of readers. I subscribe to a lot of blogs, here on WordPress, and elsewhere, but there are only a few that I could say I’m a fan of. I read the title of the post and, if it’s available, the first few lines. If it isn’t something I’m interested in, I move on. Let’s use your blog as an example. If I were a fan, as you say you are of Al’s, I’d read all of your posts. But I’m not interested in your health and fun posts, and those amount to three a week. The chance of any post about writing being of interest to me are about fifty-fifty, because I have my own specific interests in that area and because I’ve already read so much. The chance of your links post being interesting to me is about 50/50 for the same reasons. So, all in all, the majority of what you’re writing is of little or no interest to me. If I had been reading your blog regularly and you made these changes, I would eventually have dropped you off my list.

    Maybe I’m not a typical blog reader. I don’t really know. But I do know that many readers are selective simply so they don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of material available. What it boils down to is that readers want to read what they’re interested in. If you go too far in changing your focus, you may lose readers rather than gain them.

  12. Looking forward to whatever you come up with, Al. I like your posts on writing, but im really interested in other topics that holds your interest…including economics. I’d love you to share some of those “movie rants” that you enjoy.
    Catana-sounds like you’re pretty blogged out. You might need to cancel your subscriptions, and start fresh with only the blogs that you’re a fan of.

  13. Good cross-section of healthy opinion here that’s for sure! I suppose if anyone wants to stick to a theme they could always read the telephone directory. Are they still printed?

  14. Hey there, Albert. Thanks for linking to Austin’s blog – I had a read, and liked what I saw. Both he and Kristen do make valid points, I agree. What strikes me is the fact that this is being talked about so much when, to be honest, I’ve discovered none of my favorite writers through blogs, and I’m twenty years old, meaning that I’ve grown up with the Internet flourishing around me and becoming what it is today. And yet I still scour the bookstores for whatever catches my eye more than anything else.

    I suppose that while I know that branding and blogs are definitely important for writers today, I’m also inordinately terrified of marketing myself and so I just wish that there was no need to do it at all.

  15. Author Kristen Lamb

    I think what is being missed is that we can blog about writing. I blog about writing, but I DON’T have a writing blog. There is a difference. One is a Kristen Lamb Blog and we know that every Monday Kristen posts about writing. If we want to know about writing, um, we show up on Monday. I am a social media expert. So Tuesdays and Wednesdays I do what experts do. Blog on what I teach. Then Friday???? Anything goes. Those are the days to have fun.

    If we are going to blog multiple times a week for YEARS, then we need to be open to all the colors of the creative palette. We are WRITERS and we have been delivering the essence of life in words since the beginning of time. People who can’t write look to us in awe because we have the power to use combinations of 26 letters to create…ANYTHING and make it interesting.

    And for the record, Chuck blogs about a lot of stuff that isn’t writing and that’s one of the reasons I love his blog. He talks about everything and makes it all fascinating and fun.

    Best of luck and I need to go buy your book. Hugs!

  16. I love the image. 🙂 I know there is a method to Kristen’s madness! Just keep writing and you’ll find your way (with the help of Kristen’s teachings, of course). 🙂

    Don’t ever try to be Chuck Wendig. Your skills and styles are different. Besides, some people prefer your blog over Chuck’s. You just don’t realize it.

  17. Love this debate. Like others, I see valid points on both sides. I’ve blogged about writing for two years and don’t regret that because a) I’ve been able to meet and network with some amazing fellow writers and b) that blog got me a referral to my now agent.

    However, now that I’ve gotten a book deal and will be published in January, I’ve had to give a hard look at who I’m reaching. I write erotic romance, so I don’t feel like throwing in romance-y topics into my established writing blog would be fair. People expect a certain kind of content from it and I doubt my guy followers would appreciate getting a post about how hot Bradley Cooper is in their reader when they’ve been getting craft posts from me for two years. So like Linda mentioned above, I broke Kristen’s rule of not having multiple blogs. I have my writing blog MWF and then I have a blog on my author site where I cover more fun/romance/random type topics on T-Th. I have links that go back and forth between the two if people are interested in both. It’s not the perfect solution, but it works well enough. I think bottom line, each person just needs to find what works best for them.

  18. Pingback: Birthday Santa is nibbling at my heels… « Flux in, Flux out with Gemma Sidney

  19. Originally, I thought I would blog about writing (what I was learning about the craft, my own journey through writing, etc). I found it hard to keep up the posts. There was only so much I could say because there was so much more I needed to learn. Then, I found Kristen Lamb’s blog and started thinking about expanding my topics but still keeping them within the realm of my writing genres. I took a class from Kristen too and she helped me out with a blog-line that really pulled everything together for me. In short order, I realized that I could post about science fiction/fantasy on Mondays and horror on Fridays. On Weds, I still post on writing because it’s a subject I love and I also throw in some flash fiction too. Having a theme gives me the freedom to post on a whole lot of different topics but still keeps them connected.

    Personally, I don’t mind hearing about people’s personal life and interests. If I enjoy a blog, I like to hear a little bit more about the blogger. I don’t always get to every blog for every post

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