Monday, March 25, 2013

Is Blogging Necessary?

Photo Credit kpwerker
I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with blogging. I've done it inconsistently for years. I know that to be "successful" at blogging you have to do it on a regular basis. However, I find that hard to do. Possibly, it's because I'm not the sort of person who just blogs to be blogging or to share my life. I treat blogging more like writing a column or an article. Regardless, I am not a "consistent" blogger. 

Why am I telling you this? Well, it's because there is a belief that ALL writers MUST blog. Some publishing companies require their authors to blog regularly. There is an assumption that blogging is a major part of marketing success for the writer. 

Recently, though, some writers are challenging the popular wisdom. A recent article by L.L. Barkat (ironically published in a blog) contends that experienced writers should stop blogging. Barkat argues that the impact on sales is so low that it is pretty useless as a marketing tool. 

In this, I have to agree. Think about the time involved. This post will take at least a half hour to write, possibly an hour. I'll probably want to find some sort of graphic and maybe tweak a few things before posting. Although, I admit that I do only very basic editing for these. In an hour, I can write 1500 words on a novel, write the copy for a web page for a client, hit a half dozen social media sites with a few thousand followers. Meanwhile, on a good day, my blog will draw a couple of hundred readers. 

In advertising, we talk about cost per thousand for advertising. Considering that my base pay is $25 an hour, even if I get 250 readers, that's a CPM of $100. Hardly a bargain. Okay, if I spent more time I might build up that readership, but again that's time spent marketing that I am not being paid for. The increase in readership will likely cost me the same CPM because I will need to spend more time promoting the blog. 

Does this mean a blog is useless for writers? Far from it. Even Barkatt notes "No. I encourage new bloggers, just the way I always have. It’s an excellent way to find expression, discipline, and experience."

Of course  you can do the same thing in other ways. Editing a church or club newsletter, writing a column in a local newspaper, writing for a website or ezine. Even journaling can develop those skills without the angst of feeling like a failure if no one comments. 

(Note: If you do blog, do not judge your success or failure by the number of comments you receive. Only a small number of people reading a blog will comment. One to two percent is a good response. Readership and interaction are quite different critters. Some who interact don't read as closely as some who do not.) 

For the nonfiction writer, blogging probably is more useful promotionally than for fiction writers. A popular blog can establish the writer as an expert in his or her field. However, the blog posts must contain useful information that readers can apply to their lives, hobbies, businesses or families. But this is a different type of animal than much blogging that focuses on providing personal insights into the writer's life, reviews of books the author likes or even interviews with other authors. This type of blog is more like a series of how-to or journalistic articles that explain or instruct the reader in some way. 

A final value of blogging is that of personal expression. So much of what we do as writers is filtered through the lenses of someone else - an editor, client, reviewer or reader. In a blog post, you can be yourself. Once, you forget about the idea of the blog being this killer piece of marketing, and accept it as a place for personal expression, you can use it to get out all those things that don't really have a market anywhere else. 

So, does an author NEED a blog? No. Can a writer benefit from a blog? Yes, but it depends on the writer, the writing and the expectations that writer brings to blogging. 

I don't know when I'll post another blog post. I enjoy writing them, but I do have paying work to do. I have a small readership, I trust you enjoy these little missives when I write them. I'll keep blogging on my terms when, and only when, I have something to say and not out of any sense of authorial obligation. I hope you will do the same. 


  1. Terri,

    I read this last night, but my computer has been acting crazy. I tried to comment, but gave up after the third try.
    Your article came at a good time. I agree with you. I've been stressed. I just developed a schedule for my writing,but I couldn't blog because of computer problems. Fixing my computer has taken up all my writing time.
    I understand what you're saying. I was letting down my few followers and accomplishing nothing. I had my blog posts written ahead of time, when the computer went down. They needed to be posted on the exact date or they were no good. Talk about stress. There’s a lot to what you said. Thanks for the email.

    1. Just a note. You can set up blogger to publish blog content using email. So, if you have a smartphone or tablet, you can use it for blogging. Not the best tool for the job, to be sure, but an alternative if your computer goes out.

  2. Again, I'm not saying don't blog, but I am saying to think about it no so much as a marketing tool as something you do for personal enrichment and to serve your blog followers. Also, if people don't care for blogging, not feel like they HAVE to in order to sell books.

  3. Thanks for this post. It affirms what I've felt for a while about blogging. If someone LOVES to blog, that's one thing. I don't, and I want to focus on writing more fiction. As a result, I've recently pulled out of contributing to a handful of blogs—including group blogs. I admit, though, I vacillated for months before I made the decision, weighing the pros and cons. I figured that if I didn't enjoy blogging and it seemed to gobble up an enormous amount of time with little return, why do it? Once I made the decision to go blog-free, indeed, it was very freeing. I’ll continue to post snippets on my website's "Blogette" as a form of personal expression when the mood hits me, and also to inform my readers of news regarding my books--which is mostly what they seem to want anyway.

    Incidentally, I rarely read blogs, too. I read yours, though. : )

    Thanks, again.

    1. Tessa--

      I think this is the point. Blogs are good vehicles for personal expression and can provide practice and discipline for new writers honing their skills. Of course, the same can come with editing a newsletter for the church, writing magazine articles or journaling. However, unless you just have a blog with thousands upon thousands of readers such as being a staff blogger on a major news or tech website, it's not really an efficient way to market your writing.

      It has some value maybe as a sample of your writing ability to a potential client or publisher, but again, a web page or a really well-written query letter can do the same.

      It is a tool, but not the only tool, and not really the best tool for marketing in terms of ROI (return on investment) in this case the investment is time. However, for personal self-expression, teaching, giving back to the community, etc., it is useful. Blog because you enjoy it, not because you think it is going to make you a buck or two.

  4. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I blogged for the above reasons, including my friends wanted me to contribute to their blogs. But it's exhausting...and stressful. I shouldn't feel so relieved that I don't HAVE to do it anymore. Proof enuf that I never should've started in the first place.

  5. Hi Terri,

    I am not a blogger, nor do I even read blogs regularly. I saw this link on FB and was intrigued by the concept. I am a non-fiction writer. I work at it nearly every day. Being a farmer and shepherd my writing time is precious and limited. So I have to budget it very judiciously. You have given your readers so very good food for thought and for that we thank you.

    Have a great day!