An interesting article was being passed around by fellow writers and industry folks this week entitled, It’s Time For (Many) Experienced Writers to Stop Blogging. The author’s basic point was that blogging is a waste of time without a big audience.
Last spring, an author approached me via Twitter to get my advice about blogging. How could she make it work for her? Was it worth it? Should she move to WordPress, get a new design? What did I think?
I told her to forget about blogging. And one week later, after a Skype conversation about writing and platform-building, I hired her as an Editor for Every Day Poems, a publication of the site where I currently serve as Managing Editor. “How many people are visiting your blog per month? One hundred?” I had joked gently. “Work with us and serve a much larger audience. This will be more worth your time.” (bold mine)
This is probably good advice… assuming that you can get a gig at a high profile site. Not everyone can get an article on Jane Friedman’s or Nathan Bransford’s site. But the logic’s a bit circular. I mean, it doesn’t answer HOW to get a larger audience, other than blogging where there already IS one. Even then, when/if you acquire new followers by blogging on bigger platforms, what are you doing to keep them?
But it still begs the question: How does any individual blogger get a larger audience? The author suggests it’s partly anomalous to “timing and sheer cyber-longevity.” There’s a lot of truth to this. If you find yourself in the right place, at the right time, producing timely, high quality subject matter, and you do it consistently, you’ll probably find a following. But with the number of blogs constantly increasing, this still doesn’t guarantee you a hearing.
Almost inadvertently, the author references something that I believe is a key to building your blog audience.
Does this mean I would recommend that everyone stop blogging? No. I encourage new bloggers, just the way I always have. It’s an excellent way to find expression, discipline, and experience. But if writers already have experience, and they are authors trying to promote themselves and their work, I tell them to steer clear. If they’ve already found themselves sucked into the blogging vortex, I suggest they might want to give it up and begin writing for larger platforms that don’t require reciprocity (an exhausting aspect to blogging and a big drain on the writer’s energy and time). (bold mine)
Let me illustrate what I think of when I hear blog reciprocity. Several years ago, I spoke to another writer who commented often on my site. They were trying to get their name out there, establish a bigger platform, and drive more traffic to their site. But they were frustrated. Part of their frustration was with me, because I wasn’t commenting on their site. They commented on my site, but I didn’t comment on their site. It seemed to violate some unspoken blog ethic:
Thou shalt comment on my blog if I comment on your blog!
It was an eye-opener.
What I’m about to say is going to sound arrogant and snooty, so please forgive me ahead of time. But at this stage in my “blogging career” (if you could call this that) reciprocity is not as important as producing good content. Right now, I don’t need to try to drive traffic here as much as I need to ensure it stays.
This was not true when I started blogging in 2005. I had ZERO audience. So I commented actively on high profile websites. And when I did, I took time to put my best foot forward, to leave a good comment*. Listen, you’ve got to move traffic to you. And a good comment on a high profile site is one of the best invitations for someone to visit you. (Of course, when they do visit you have to give them reason to stay. But that’s another story.)
The author of the above article suggests that the established author should “begin writing for larger platforms that don’t require reciprocity.” This is a valid point. My question is, When does an author / blogger become established enough to NOT be required / expected to reciprocate? I mean, if I leave a comment on Jane Friedman’s, I don’t expect her to reciprocate. Do you?
So reciprocity declines in proportion to traffic. The more you get a self-sustaining audience who are interested in what you have to say, who Tweet and Share your stuff, the less need you have to reciprocate. And the less they expect you to! This doesn’t mean you should become insular and egocentric. It might just prove you need to “begin writing for larger platforms that don’t require reciprocity.”
Which leads me to a confession: I really struggle with this blog reciprocity thing. Frankly, I’m usually so burned out after working / blogging / writing that I don’t give sufficient time or energy to following-up on comments and leaving comments on commenters’ blogs. I feel bad about this. Especially because I get so many great comments and commenters here. So I’ve been trying to give a few more shout-outs, provide linkage to cyber-friends who really deserve a bigger following. And I sincerely hope they build their own audience from all this. But as much as I’d like to disagree with this article’s assertion that reciprocity is “an exhausting aspect to blogging and a big drain on the writer’s energy and time,” I can’t.
So let me ask you: How much should a blogger reciprocate other bloggers? If someone comments on your blog are you required to comment on theirs? At what point should a writer / blogger forgo reciprocation for a bigger platform?