Writers blog for many reasons: some do it to express their ideas and thoughts, others want to belong to a guild and discuss a variety of subjects, but a big number seek to create a platform through their blogs. My main concern here is whether or not blogging is an effective self-promotion and marketing tool for unpublished writers.
A few years ago every checklist for the author-to-be included creating a platform via blogging, updating it regularly, finding a niche, etc. This advice included fiction writers. I remember the resolute words of an editor I met at a conference a few years ago. She said that a platform was essential for any writer.
“They tell you a fiction writer doesn’t need a platform, but they’re lying to you,” she said. She mentioned celebrities who write fiction and pointed out how quickly and easily it is for them to publish a book, no matter the quality of the writing or the genre. “It is about who’s in your Rolodex,” she repeated again and again. “It’s all about platform.”
Fast forward to last April. I attended another conference and had the opportunity to speak to a NY agent during lunch. I asked her the following question: what is a significant number of blog followers to make it worth mentioning to an agent or editor? Her answer left me cold. She told me not to even bother mentioning my blog unless I had a minimum of 30,000 followers. Kindly peek at the column in your right and you will see that it would take most of us an entire lifetime to achieve those kind of numbers (unless we post a video of us engaging in activities that involve naked body parts!)
Honestly, I’ve never seen a blog with such a large following.
Another agent who shall remain unnamed told me that a blog is NOT indispensable unless you are a YA writer (since teenagers are so in tune with the internet and technology) but no so much for authors of adult fiction. This makes sense to me, but I also see a lot of adults participating in blogs.
And what do we make of the fact that most of our readers seem to be writers? Do we, writers, represent a following that could truly translate to readership? Or are we just trying to support each others’ efforts? Sure, most writers are also readers, but does that mean we will read anything other bloggers publish?
There is yet something else to consider: competition. According to Wikipedia, two years ago there were over 156 million blogs in existence. Whether we want to or not, our blogs compete for attention. That is why we break our heads trying to come up with interesting subjects, appealing photos and eye-catching titles. If getting an agent or getting published also requires standing above the rest, should we devote the same amount of time and effort we do with our novels to enhance our blogs?
My conclusion is that it all boils down to motivation. Figuring out what you want to get out of your blog is what determines whether or not you should have one. If your goal is to have an exchange of ideas with like-minded individuals and peers, to build your non-fiction resume with articles/interviews or perfect your writing skills, then blogging is the perfect venue for that. If your goal is only to build a platform, then you’d better come up with a very unique concept that will make your blog stand out and attract a substantial readership.
So my question here today to all of you successful bloggers, published and unpublished, is this: can a blog create a significant platform for unpublished (fiction) writers? Has your blog helped you in your publishing endeavors? Why do you blog?