Another topic that came up in the comments on last week’s thread about crime fiction writer Mark Bertrand was brought up by J.L. Lyons who suggested that “the burden of responsibility for connecting to readers fall on [authors].”
Not to knock Bertrand, but I was just curious what his site looked like so I Googled him. Aside from a post today about the Weekly Standard review, the last post was in February. The one before that was in September 2012. Also, low social engagement on those blogs. While “fiction writers should blog to build a platform and get published” has been debunked, the basic fact remains that continued online exposure requires fresh content that is of value to users. Perhaps Bertrand used to blog but no longer feels he needs to. That’s fine as well, but then why does his site still prominently feature his blog (which is largely outdated)? Why aren’t his books, and his identity as a novelist, front and center?
Admittedly, his publisher and agent should be advising him on this, but again they don’t own the Bertrand brand. He does.
So is it possible that I’m pointing the finger at the wrong party? Perhaps religious publishers aren’t negatively affecting the sales of certain genres. Could it be that sales, at least partly, lies NOT with the religious publisher or the religious market, but with the author who is not performing due diligence in marketing himself?
First, let me say I appreciate J.L’s courage to address this issue. It’s pretty easy to tack fault on “the industry” rather than a specific individual, especially the author himself. But to be clear, I was the one who started that ball rolling by insinuating that religious publishers were more to blame for poor sales. Nevertheless, looking at “the numbers” — in this case, an erratic blog schedule and limited social media presence — is definitely worth considering when it comes to factors in book sales.
There’s basically two schools of thought when it comes to author blogging:
- Blogging doesn’t matter. It’s what’s between the pages.
- Blogging builds and maintains a platform that can result in sales.
Without hard numbers, this is a difficult issue to quantify. From my experience, my blogging definitely affects the sales of my books. Mind you, I’m not ready to retire and become a full-time writer. Not close. And only two of my books, both self-published, provide any real-time gauge for how my social media presence might be affecting sales. My first two novels are controlled by the publisher, meaning
- I have no control over the price of the paperback or the ebook
- I have no immediate access to sales figures
For the record, I have contacted my publisher about lowering the price of the ebook and/or offering them free as means of promotion. Other than a temporary reduction in the price of The Resurrection ebook several years ago, the prices have remained relatively the same.
All that to say, the only real measure I have of how my social media presence and/or blogging affects my book sales is my self-pubbed novels. The reason is,
- I am solely responsible for selling those books. Other than buzz generated by other bloggers / readers, I control the image, presentation, price, promotions, and the amount of time I invest and the technique I use in attempting to do so.
- I have the numbers at my fingertips. Unlike my trad published novels.
Since my website and social media presence is one of the ways I get my books seen / sold, I feel responsible to draw attention to myself. That means, among other things, regularly blogging. I realize that’s uncomfortable for many authors. Tough. Unless you hire a marketing firm or have someone out there championing your books, the pitch falls to YOU.
Even then, there’s scant evidence that any one post / Tweet / Share / Update has pushed someone from lurker to buyer status. Occasionally someone will write and say they “found” me through this post or that, and will purchase one of my books. But by and large, it’s totally incremental. Yes, my blogging numbers are good. My Google page rank is 4 (you can check yours HERE), which is quite good for a personal blog. My Unique Visitors and Subscribers have continued a steady climb. Nevertheless, it’s a slow process, an aggregate of years and years worth of work.
Which is why I subscribe to the “Snowflake Effect.”
Holly Robinson, in her article Does Blogging Sell Books? Not Exactly, but Here’s Why You Should Do it Anyway, put forth four reasons why authors should blog. Her first point was this:
Each Blog Post Is a Snowflake — Your blog post on Tuesday might not sell any books, but if you post blogs for a year and gather followers, eventually those readers will know your name and put it together with the name on that book they see in Goodreads or the NYT Book Review.
Despite never being reviewed in the NYT Book Review, this jibes with my experience.
So does “the burden of responsibility for connecting to readers fall on [authors]“? If you have a built-in platform, if other big name influencers are buzzing about your books, if Hollywood is knocking at your door and publishers are elbowing each other out of the way to contract you, then “no.” Probably not. Pay someone to set up a static website and maybe Tweet once in a while and post pictures of book signings and rabid fans.
Unless, like me, you’re just an “average” writer. If so, a blog can only help.