This post is for you writing and creative types who are unhappy with your blogs. You feel like you are Supposed To Blog, but each post is a chore to write, and if anyone comments, it’s the same two friends. Worse, you feel like your blogging doesn’t support your booklife–maybe it even takes away from your writing time.
Believe me, I can relate. And if you like, I can share the tale of my slow rise and rapid descent as a moderately successful niche blogger–more as a cautionary tale than a success.
I hand-coded my first blog platform when I was working for a dot com over ten years ago. I’ve switched platforms a number of times, but I’m still at the same domain. Here’s the text of my first post:
man, starting a weblog is tougher than i thought. i think that part of the problem is that i actually care what you think. and i’m looking for feedback, relationship, community. this is like the beginning of an extended blind date with a million potential partners.
but i’m doing it anyway, risking rejection or even worse–total apathy. i am closing the door behind me, stepping out into the blackness, lit only by the glow of your monitors, and starting with this first post. hi::
Blogging has always been deeply personal for me. When I started, I was a posing IRL as a clean-cut, god-fearing, stalwart Mormon man, but inside I was full of sin and doubt and turmoil. On my blog, I could tell the truth, be the real me. And I posted under my real name. Over time, I connected with other closet unbelievers and grew a mini-community. After a few years, I took on a blogging partner who had experienced her own painful exit from Catholicism.
We covered a lot of topics, but my personal story focused on my gradual exit from Mormonism, with an emphasis on feminist critiques and a personal campaign against Prop 8 that culminated with my excommunication. I felt that public reporting was my only defense against an institution which abused social power over me and my family. My publicly posted criticism of the Church was cited by the authorities as a primary reason for my excommunication.
This was when mind on fire reached its zenith in terms of visits and engagement. It was a relatively successful blog at the time: on its peak day, it had 20,000 page views, with 12,000 unique visitors, each staying for an average of 2 minutes. My posts on my blog and as a guest blogger elsewhere were getting a 100, 150, 300+ comments. I wasn’t trying to be successful. I was simply doing this: I wrote my life, I wrote my obsession, I wrote with a purpose, and I wrote for an audience that I knew well, that I connected to deeply.
But as I put Mormonism behind me, and healed from my dysfunctional relationship with religion, my need to write about it evaporated. I lost almost all of my followers. I am a blogger in crisis.
As I consider what to do next, I’m thinking about four bloggers in particular: Bill Shunn, Mary Kowal, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. I think I was following them all back in ’05-’06. With the exception of Bill, I was pleasantly surprised to discover, over time, that they also published in my genre (and I followed Bill’s example and went to a Clarion workshop). I paid money for books and stories by these four authors because I first got to know them as bloggers. So, if your goal is to use blogging to expand your audience, don’t write for SF writers, write for potential readers.
What do you think? How can you blog to increase your reputation as an author? (and your sales!) Do you have blogger-authors you look to as models?