Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, April 14, 2008

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Over the last few weeks, my life has slowly been overtaken by blogs. Once a week I write something here to keep Sariah from sending over the Three Nephites (or their close cousins) to rough me up. Then I have my alter ego gig. Then Robby Nichols at Covenant asked me to help out at an LDS reseller convention by talking about blogs. Finally I have been working my tail off on my Farworld Blog Tour.

So the other day my sister gave a deep sigh and asked me something like, “With my new book coming out, I’m supposed to start a blog. What do you recommend?”

I asked her, “Do you want to do a blog?”

She said, “No. I really don’t.”

My insightful, blog experienced, marketing savvy answer was, “Then don’t.”

Could be I’m just a little burned out on blogs at the moment. It could even be the word blog has lost all meaning for me. Blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog. See what I mean? It kind of starts to sound like a digestive act Kerry talked about on Friday. It certainly doesn’t sound like anything you discuss at the dinner table.

But I think my answer was and is, really how I feel about almost any marketing activity. Don’t do it unless you want to. And understand what you hope to get out of it.

I recently heard a speaker describe initiative not as what you do the first time out, but what you continue to do afterward. Here’s the thing. If you don’t blog, no one is really going to miss it. They’ll check your website, realize you don’t have a blog, and move on. It’s not that big a deal. But once you start a blog, you built up a certain level of expectation. It’s like making friends. There is an understanding that you’ll stay in touch. By my analogy then, starting a blog you don’t want to do is like making friends with someone you really don’t like. (Say, Rob, for example.) What are the chances of keeping the friendship or the blog going if you don’t like it? Not so good. And it’s better to have no blog than a dusty thing that sits in the corner.

Of course, just like writing, a blog does not have to be a commercial venture. You can keep a blog as a sort of journal. You can use a blog to tell family and friends what you’ve been up to. You can use it to share information you know about hobbies or interests. You can use it to make new friends. In fact, I would go so far as to say, even if your primary goal is to sell books, or rakes, or juggling knives, you won’t keep the blog up unless you really come to at very least like what you are writing about and who you are writing to.

The first thing you have to figure out is why you are blogging. As someone who is heavy into marketing, I spend a ton of time visiting other sites, checking tools like technorati, marketleap, and statcounter. I decide what kinds of things to blog about. I decide when to post my best blogs. I trade links. I check my referral sources. Essentially I treat it like a business. I love it, but I still work at it.

But why do all that if you’re just looking to stay in touch with friends? Why worry about how many hits you’re getting if you posting about Timmy’s first words? Isn’t that kind of like worrying about whether your diary will become a best seller? Have fun with it. Post when you want to and enjoy what you are writing about. If posting regularly becomes a drag, team up with some friends so you can all carry some of the weight (and make fun of each other.)

The same thing goes for all these networking sites: Facebook, MySpace, Cre8buzz, or whatever. For the average LDS writer, the time you put into a networking site is not going to pay for itself. Not even close. If your sole goal is to make more money, spend your time writing the next book.

But if you are looking to make friends or stay in touch with friends, then stop treating it like a business (how many hits did I get? How high am I ranked? How many friends did I get today?) It’s just another thing to obsess over.

Blogging is great. I’ve made a ton of new friends. I’ve ordered far too many new books. I’ve hopefully done a pretty good job of promoting my new book. But don’t do it unless you really want to. There are enough things we have to do in life. Spend the time you have free on the things you like.


At 4/15/2008 10:44 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Jeff, thank you, thank you, thank you! It's enough for me to write one blog post a week and update my website occasionally. I can't imagine maintaining a Facebook site, Cre8buzz site, multiple blogs, etc. I admire authors who can do all of that, but it's too much for me. So I am relieved and grateful to hear a marketing-savvy guy like you tell me not to worry about it and write my next book instead. Bless you.

At 4/15/2008 10:59 AM, Blogger Michele Holmes said...

Amen Stephanie.

At 4/15/2008 11:13 AM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

I'm glad it worked for you. I actually showed the post to my wife and asked her if I was coming across as a cranky old man.

It's not that I don't think those things can have some value. But it's just that there's always one more thing you can do, and the law of diminishing return applies.

I mean realistically how many people are going to find an LDS book on a site like MySpace and go out and buy it? Five, ten? Even if it was twenty, and I'd be amazed, it's just not worth the time and effort it takes to maintain something like that.

On a national market book, I might feel a little differently, but even then, you have to draw a line. I am probably spending two hours every day for my national online presence. And I couldn't do that unless I honestly felt like the return was going to be the ability to write full time.

I give total support to people who do all these things. But I hate that so many authors, who already sacrifice so much valuable personal and family time to write, feel like they aren't doing enough if they don't have ten online forums.

At 4/15/2008 12:09 PM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

Diminishing returns is important. We're all busy with kids, spouses, jobs, callings, keeping up around the house, community service, activities, etc., sometimes you do need to step back and say, "This is too much, I have to draw the line." Everyone's threshold is different and we can't compare ourselves to what someone else is doing because we all have different lives. We have to decide what we can do and be happy with it.

At 4/15/2008 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, that was the most fabulous, freeing post. Thank you for writing it. I've been struggling with the dilemma of creating an online presence (my first national market book is coming out with Shadow Mountain in June) and it was really nice to realize that all of this isn't mandatory. Especially since I'm never going to be able to write full-time (well, not in the near future anyway, since my kids are tiny).

Anyway, THANK YOU for this.

At 4/15/2008 4:14 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

I happen to be a little blog crazy myself, but Amen to what you said. If you don't like it, don't do it.

At 4/15/2008 5:34 PM, Blogger Janette Rallison said...

Good advice. I remember when I was first told to blog. I thought I'd run out of things to say in about two months. Apparently not. Sheesh. I talk way more than I thought.

At 4/15/2008 6:52 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

In some ways, wouldn't it be nice if authors didn't have to do ANYTHING for marketing? I guess the rule is to pick what you're willing to do and be okay with not doing more than that. (At least for me--it would be SO easy to just say, "Hey, I don't want to do any of it!" Except that I do have fun with my blog . . . hmm.)

At 4/16/2008 7:52 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

For those of you who are a little blog crazy, and have a Gmail account, I have two words for you:
Google Reader.

Check it out and see if you are not just totally amazed at how efficient you can be about keeping up with a dozen blogs or so. =)

So, what if I've been thinking about doing a blog, but don't know where to get started? Any advice on that?

At 4/17/2008 10:04 PM, Blogger Sariah Wilson said...

"In some ways, wouldn't it be nice if authors didn't have to do ANYTHING for marketing?"

This is my dream. I want to be an author who has to do NOTHING to market. How awesome would that be?

At 4/18/2008 9:46 AM, Blogger Heather Moore said...

Blogging can definitely be time-consuming. I love to read about other authors, etc on blogs because writing can be such a solitary occupation. But I have to limit myself to maybe one blog-surfing session a week.

At 4/18/2008 12:16 PM, Blogger Josi said...

I do like that stuff--the social networking and blogs and things, but it's definitely something I've 'matured' into. I've let them completely consume me to the point where I'm not writing at all, and then I back off and grow up a little. Great post, Jeff, it's definitely something someone should only do if they want to, otherwise you won't enjoy it or be effective with it.


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