QUIBBLES & BITS

Deni Dietz

A couple of weeks ago Sarah Weinman talked about blogging. Her whole post was interesting (Sarah is always interesting), but then she said: "Think of it this way: if the entire population of my native Canada – roughly thirty-three million people – each had a blog, that’s still less than the total number actually out there…"

Sarah started me thinking. First I thought about the population of [my adopted country] Canada. Only 33 million? What’s the population of California? Anybody Know?

And then I thought about "when I was a kid."

When I was a kid I hated writing essays, so I didn’t. There would oft be essay contests with subjects like: "What Memorial Day Means To Me" (it meant riding in a parade, in my dad’s Impala convertible, along with my fellow Girl Scouts, my beauty-pageant-banner badges gleaming in the winter sun, and — the best part — being rewarded for being a "good scout" afterward with bubble gum and an ice cream soda, not necessary in that order). Or the essay would be called: "Why your Teacher [policeman, Lifeguard, Best Friend] is your Best Friend."

The winners would be published in the Bayside Times.

Friends, especially adults, would come unto me and say, "Deni, you write so good, why don’t you enter the essay contest?"

And I would respondeth, "Jeeze, I hate writing essays.’"

It has now suddenly occurred to me that I write an essay every week.

So…why am I doing this? Certainly not because I "write good." Hey, maybe there’s a dim hope in the back of what’s left of my mind that people will like my "voice." And maybe if they like my voice, they will check out the excerpts on my website, then call their libraries and request one of my books and try it on for size.

Maybe.

This week my Quibbles & Bits designation is: DO BLOGS SELL BOOKS?

That very question was asked on one of my email loops by, I presume, an author who was thinking of starting up a blog [well, duh!] and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Do they? Sell books, I mean?

Or do the people who read my weekly Quibbles & Bits already own my books? Or borrow them from libraries, which is great — as you may have noticed, I pitch libraries as often as I can.

Blogs are hard work — at least writing mine is. I try to be somewhat amusing week after week (which, in truth, keeps me from being politically hostile), so I keep setting the bar higher and higher. In the olden days, it would take me 24 hours to write and edit a letter to my mom, and unless I’m pissed off — whereupon I almost always open mouth, insert foot — I "draft" every email I write. Which is to say that I start writing my Tuesday Murderati blog on Wednesday. So…

Do blogs sell books?

Or do they have the opposite effect and over-hype an author?

I’ll be honest. I usually read blogs by authors whose books I already own [and adore]. Case in point: Paul Levine. If I ran into an author I adored in a public place (oh, say, the ladies room – well, I probably wouldn’t run into Paul there, so let’s add an elevator), I’d either be tongue-tied or gush. I shared an elevator with Walter Mosely, just the two of us, and I was tongue-tied; I ran into Susan Isaacs in a restroom and gushed (poor Susan).

But reading a blog by one of my favorite authors is different. I’m rarely tongue-tied because I write my comments rather than talk out loud, and gushing is limited to how many words I can fit into the "comments square" before my fingers tire or my brain fries.

So, let’s do an informal poll. How many people have bought — or borrowed — books because they like an author’s blog?

And/or how many people have been tongue-tied [or gushed] if/when they’ve met a favorite author?

And what the hell IS the population of California?

Next Tuesday, just for fun, I think I’ll blog an essay about a real live actress — my sister Eileen — who played The Demon and many of the possession scenes [for Linda Blair] in The Exorcist. And I’ll include photos. And a movie poster for Eileen’s latest film.

Maybe the Bayside Times will print it.

Over and Out,
Deni

13 thoughts on “QUIBBLES & BITS

  1. Lorraine T.

    Yes, I think they do. You, I’d read before Murderati, but I’ve read 2 books since because I liked the blogger. One by Murdurati’s Pari Noskin Taichert and another by Maggie Sefton who does a cozychicks blog. And I expect to read others by the authors I’ve read here as I find them and get my TBR whittled down.I never meet authors in person, but suspect I’d fall into the tongue-tied category.Can’t help about CA’s population. I’m on the other side of the country with 3,400,000 other Connecticut folks in an area that would fit comfortably in CA several times over.A fun posting, as usual.Lorraine

    Reply
  2. Chris Well

    Experts say it takes five-to-seven impressions to sell a book. Blogs are just one spoke in the wheel …

    For a specific example, I just bought my first novel by J.A. Konrath (BLOODY MARY). I feel like I got to know him through his popular blog, “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” http://jakonrath.blogspot.com . But I also read his spotlight in in Book Pages and saw the story in Wired … and met him in person when he came to Davis-Kidd in Nashville.

    But it all started with his blog.

    Reply
  3. Pari

    Deni,I wrote about this a little — with a different spin — on Murderati a month or two ago. It was interesting to speak to a variety of authors and get their takes on the blogging adventure. Most didn’t blog (yeah, I know it’s not a verb, but . . . )to sell books; they did it to connect with readers and potential readers — to personalize this overcrowded market a bit.

    I’ve noticed that the people who respond to my posts are now forming a small community. Others — strangers — will pipe in from time-to-time, but most are people with whom I’ve have some kind of previous contact, or with whom I’m connected by one or two degrees of separation.

    IMHO, I don’t think blogs sell many books — but I do think, like Chris so eloquently stated, they are one of the spokes in the marketing wheel.

    Though blogging may take mucho work, I like the deadline of writing nonfiction once a week and feel as if Murderati is adding in a positive way to the world of ideas.

    Sheesh, how’s that for profundity? I think I need another cup of coffee . . .

    Reply
  4. Rob Gregory Browne

    I have absolutely no idea if blogs sells books, but I can tell you this: if it weren’t for my blog and those I visit, nobody on this planet would know who I am.

    Now I’m getting ninety-five thousand hits a month and wondering where they’re all coming from. That at least puts me on SOMEBODY’S radar and will, hopefully, translate into book sales.

    But who knows? I enjoy blogging, so I’d do it anyway.

    As for getting tongue-tied around famous authors, I seemed to have no trouble at ThrillerFest except once — when Doug Preston said to me out of the blue, “So, what are you working on?”

    I’m sure I mumbled something in reply, but I doubt it made much sense.

    Reply
  5. Pari

    Holy crap, Rob,95,000? Zowie. Yeah, you’re on “somebody’s radar.” A lot of somebodies.

    It’ll be interesting to see if these high numbers translate to high numbers in book sales.

    Like you, I simply enjoy the process . . . and, so, would probably be doing it no matter what.

    Reply
  6. Beatrice Brooks

    Re: Comments from y’all (and what a treat to find them upon checking in this morning):

    I think almost all bloggers have written, in one form or another, my designated subject matter. Because, at one time or another, we can’t help wondering. IMO, it’s an “if a tree fell in the forest…” thing. Or, in my case, “If a Mime fell in the forest, would anyone hear?”

    Lorraine, I look forward to your comments, and I promise I’ll be first in line to buy your first book.

    MJ, welcome. And you prove my point. I’ve been reading MJ Rose books since way back when (Lip Service, followed by In Fidelity – which has one of the best covers I’ve ever seen!) and I tune into “Buzz. Balls & Hype” when I can. So, since I already own MJ’s books, I read BB&H for the fun of it (and, admittedly the hype part), not to buy her books, because MJ Rose is an author I admire.

    Chris, well-put – thank you. Not only does Konrath have a fun-to-read blog, but I “met” him through his website, and found he has my brand of wit, and have since read his first two books [# 3 is on my wish list].

    I love Pari’s blog, but had “read her” before we attached the Murderati umbilical cord.

    As for making friends (and forming a small weekly community), I can’t wait for Rob’s comments and consider him a new [best] bud. Or as the Canadian Anne of Green Gables would say, a kindred spirit.

    I hope y’all tune into my “Eileen/Exorcist” blog next week. I promise it won’t be scary, just (if I do my job right) fun.

    Hugs, Deni

    Reply
  7. Elaine

    Maybe Rob ought to bottle whatever the hell he’s doing right and sell it!

    Like Deni said – blogs ain’t for the faint of heart -at least for anyone who isn’t an ‘essayist’ – and I’ll go to the head of the line on that. I’ve taken the easy way out-I decided to do the interviews and let my favorite authors do all the hard work.

    Whether or not a blog increases book sales, it does at least keep many of us in touch – and meeting new writers and readers. That has great value in itself. Besides being a hell of a lot of fun.

    Reply
  8. Rob Gregory Browne

    Don’t get too excited for me. That’s 95,000 HITS. Unique visitors is more in the 27,000 range. The amount of hits just indicates that people are at least coming back.

    Which is, hopefully, good news.

    But, as I said, who knows whether this will translate into sales? But I don’t think it hurts in terms of name recognition.

    I’m such an idiot about this stuff it isn’t funny.

    Reply
  9. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Pari writes: “I try to be somewhat amusing week after week (which, in truth, keeps me from being politically hostile)”

    Now THAT made me laugh.

    – I have never bought a book because of a blog (a lot of alliteration, there). I’m actually getting pretty blogged out (there must be a saturation point, right?) but I can’t seem to check the obsession with a few like Murderati. And Rob’s. And Tasha’s new one, which is another great time suck, damn it.

    – I am finding I get tongue-tied around a few authors, but I have discerned no rational pattern to it (attracted, sometimes. In awe, sometimes. Other times I may have been drinking.)

    – Population of California – I’ve lived here all my life and have not a clue. Isn’t California more a state of mind?

    Alex

    Reply
  10. Beatrice Brooks

    Alexandra, actually it was I (Deni) who said that bit about “politically hostile.” As for you, I can’t wait to read ‘The Harrowing.’ My kind of book!Hugs, Deni

    Reply

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