Is This Seriously What Readers Care About?!
I found an blogpost full of blogpost suggestions for authors that are not only supposed to improve your novel (some in ways that seemed to me to be quite a stretch — like the writer of the post came up with the subject line and then had to make the content fit any which way she could), but also supposed to help engage with readers and make them want the book.
Some of them were logical enough . . . sharing excerpts and short stories, for instance, but some . . . do you really want to know about the research I did on stab wounds to the lung to write the Quinn and Renata thing? Is that really going to help you decide whether or not to buy the book when it’s out? Is anyone really going to go “Wow, she really knows her shit when it comes to what happens when you’re stabbed in the lung; I’ve got to buy her romance novel where that happens to someone!”?
I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Please tell me if I’m wrong. I did do a lot of research on it, so if it really would help sell the book to blog about what I learned, I guess I could.
This, I suspect, is one of those bits of advice that works much better for certain genres than others. If I was writing something that involved researching, I don’t know, Greek Christmas celebrations or something, maybe it could actually be interesting to share with my readers. But I write space opera. Space opera which will — to hopefully avoid more reviews like I keep getting complaining that it’s not hard sci-fi enough — contain the disclaimer at the beginning that “Scientific realism is tied up in the corner wishing it could remember the safe word.” So I don’t research science-y stuff. Research tends to be of the “Okay, so what’s the longest they could survive that without medical treatment?” variety. Or the “I know what the British coronation ceremony is like, but what are others like?” (The answer to that one could have been an interesting blogpost, I admit . . . if most of the info I found hadn’t been so poorly written that I couldn’t make sense out of it.)
This blogpost, like the last one I ranted about, also said that readers want to read posts about ordinary days-in-the-life of writers. I seriously doubt that. I very, very seriously doubt that. On the off chance you do, here is my day so far today: I got up around 10, played some games on my iPod while I had tea, had the battery go dead midgame because I’d forgotten to charge it last night, ate leftover pizza for lunch, had a brief rpg session that was in the middle of something so it would make no sense to anyone who wasn’t there for the beginning so I’m not about to try to explain it, opened Pinterest and couldn’t remember why, got annoyed at seeing atrocious grammar in writing advice so often and considered blogging about that, found this blogpost I’ve been ranting about, tried making a blogpost about one thing it said all by itself but that ended up way too short so I’m writing this one instead. Later, I’ll be making a grocery list and then going to the store. I assume dinner will be on the agenda for this evening too. If this makes you want to read any of my books or more interested in me as a person, please explain how. Oh, somewhere in there I had a brief nosebleed too. Does that make the day more interesting? It certainly made it more uncomfortable.
Hmmm . . . I was curious how they’d made a “day-in-the-life” post interesting, so I clicked their example of one of their own. It wasn’t a day in the life. It was pictures of and quotes from a book she was reading, along with stuff about how beautiful or whatever they were. I guess I could do that. I haven’t been reading much lately, but I could share my favorite Doctor Who quotes from episodes I’ve watched recently, along with screenshots. Except I think Tumblr is probably a far better medium for that sort of fannish geekery than my professional blog. This might be one of those things that works a lot better if you’re into more literary/highbrow stuff.
Another suggestion is to take inspiring quotations from your work and make wallpapers and such of them to offer your readers for free. I, uh, don’t produce much that has much in the way of inspiring quotations. Humorous quotations, sure. Inspiring? I’ll leave that for the people who aren’t writing about a ninja/spy/assassin with a knack for pissing off his girlfriend. Lots of snarky quotations in No More Lies, but offhand I can think of only one line that might be sort of inspiring, and it’s so generic that I’m sure someone else has said it better. Pretty sure this is another one that only applies to certain types of stories.
What about my favorite writing tools and programs? Does anybody really care about that? I mean, it’s interesting to learn that George R. R. Martin uses an ancient DOS word processor still, but he’s mentioned it in passing, not devoted a whole blogpost to it, you know? I assume there’s a reason for that. That reason being that nobody gives a fuck! (Except the people who are somehow convinced that if he switched to more modern software he’d somehow write faster. I really am beginning to think Scrivener sends out mind control waves because it’s always it that people are suggesting in conversations like that.) Will you be more likely to read my books if you know that this is my most favoritest pencil in the whole universe? Is that really the sort of thing anybody gives a damn about?
Or maybe I could blog about the themes of my novel! That’d take whole seconds. If there are any, it’s not intentional. There. That’s that whole post! Is this a lit class or an author’s blog? Does anyone really come to an author’s blog for a discussion of the themes of a novel?!
Or about what my purpose is in writing a novel! That one is two whole words! To entertain. There. That’s it!
In further thinking about it, I’m coming to the conclusion that the real problem isn’t the suggestions in that blogpost, so much as it is the author of said post assuming the advice she was giving was universal when it clearly is not. If you’re writing some literary thingy, full of themes, and meanings, and you’ve got a purpose beyond entertainment, then maybe the kind of reader you want to attract will care about that kind of stuff. If you’re writing something set in the real world, maybe you can share recipes and other stuff the characters make . . . another of her suggestions.
I’m not though. I’m writing things full of spaceships that go whoosh, smart ass protagonists, alien/Human crossbreeds (within reason), sword and fist fights, damn near a whole cast that fails some Mary Sue tests spectacularly, and other stuff like that. I’m writing good old-fashioned pulpy space opera, in other words. (With modern sociopolitical sensibilities, though, because I’m me.) This does not lead itself to deep discussion of things like themes, nor to fascinating posts on things I’ve learned, nor to me penning inspirational quotes to share.
And when I think about it, none of the author blogs I follow at all do I follow because of what they tell me about any previous or upcoming books. Nor because of anything they have to say about the craft of writing. Hell, one of the authors whose blog I follow recently wrote a post that was specifically writing advice type stuff, and I saw the first line, rolled my eyes, and didn’t read the rest! This has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not I’ll buy her next book, amazingly. I follow one author’s blog despite thinking his books are incredibly overrated! Why do I follow his blog then? Because he has interesting opinions on things like politics and various things going on in fandom . . . and regularly posts kitten pictures. (And probably every sci-fi fan reading this knows who I’m talking about now.)
I really don’t think the relationship between blog readership and book readership for any given author is all that high. Maybe for GRRM, since a lot of people seem to be reading his blog under the weird notion that he’ll announce the next book there first. But for most of us? No. People read blogs for all kinds of reasons. Some of you reading this may have no interest in my books. That’s cool. I hope I’m entertaining you anyway. I hope you’ll at least give my stuff a try . . . the stories are free, after all. All you have to lose is time and a tiny bit of hard drive space. But I’m very rarely writing a blogpost to try to convince you to read my books.
Why, then, am I blogging? Often, to be bluntly honest, because Jaye’s sick of listening to me rant about something so I’m ranting to a broader audience. Or because I have an opinion and the written word is how I express myself best and, hey, I might as well share what I wrote with people. I have no grand scheme. Blogging isn’t part of some overall marketing strategy of mine. Hell, I can’t even write a book with an eye on the marketplace; I sure as fuck am not even going to try when writing a blogpost!
Besides, if readers really care about the shit like these articles keep saying they do . . . then I’m screwed anyway. Because I don’t want to write about this shit any more than I’d be interested in reading it.