Why Blog?

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Murderati is a little more than a month old now. It’s a perfect time to reflect on, well, just about anything.

Me? I’ve been thinking about blogs and why authors take time away from writing their novels to pen nonfiction on a regular basis.

Part of my recent interest stems from discussions on various listservs where reader-respondees avow that they’ve never read blogs, won’t consider looking at them, and never will. I’ve also encountered authors who are adamant in their disapproval of this new form of communication — as if it’s a cheap or stupid way to spend time.

There’s also the sheer number of web logs; it’s enough to make your jaw drop on the floor and slink out of the room. In his missive summing up blog activity for the 1st quarter of 2006, David Sifry, founder of Technorati, brings up several points. Here’s the one that caused my oral catastrophe: "On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day."

Sheesh. That’s just too many to think about.

In an entirely nonscientific way, I decided to ask around to see what authors might have to say on the subject. I posted on listservs and got responses from folks I know and some I don’t. My questions were:

1. What were your goals for starting/participating in a blog?

2. Has the blog met those goals?

I’ll admit — given my 20+ years working in pr/marketing — I thought I knew the answer to question #1. Obviously, people blog to sell their novels. This goal, I was certain, was misdirected. M.J.Rose has written extensively on the pitfalls of creating blogs solely for this purpose on her own blog. Still, I knew my cohorts in mystery marketing had it all wrong.

Picture me with raw egg inching its way down my face and plopping onto a nice new silk blouse . . .

" . . . Our books are listed in a side panel, so there is a little PR there for them, but he [Eric Mayer] feels a blog people visit to read for interest is better than one set up purely for advertising." Mary Reed

"Well, if someone like my agent, or my editor, or perhaps my mother asks why I spend time blogging, I would, of course, assume an air of virtuous industry and explain that it is a form of promotion . . . a way to connect with my readers between books . . . " Donna Andrews adds with a grin in her tongue-in-cheek comments.

"I started a blog because I imagined my readers wanted to get to know me as a person, at least a little bit . . ." Charlaine Harris

Samantha Ling notes the same goals. Sandra Ruttan, whose book won’t come out until this fall, is making all kinds of great contacts even as I type. She started a blog simply to begin to log her experiences trying to get published.

So, yeah, I think that connecting with readers — telling them what you’re up to, what you’re thinking — is, indeed, a form of promotion. It’s a good method to build community and loyalty. However, it’s pretty subtle; you’re not going to fill any off-shore bank accounts this way.

Authors gave additional reasons for blogging. Ami Reeves comments that blogging gives her ". . . an outlet to do some ‘fun writing’ (i.e. Who cares if it’s not perfect? I don’t have to sell it, there’s no pressure)." That’s also why author and publisher Dindy Robinson does it.

Like them, I like having to write nonfiction on a regular basis. It hones my skills and keeps me fresh. (Harley Jane Kozak also commented on this, but more about her in a sec.)

Blogging also creates community amongst authors (who, lest we forget, had better be readers, too). I know this is true of my experiences with Murderati. Both Harley Jane and Judy Clemens find this satisfying. Judy writes, " . . . It’s also a great way to link to other authors’ blogs and help other authors in that way. Another fun thing has been to have guest bloggers . . . hopefully it’s a nice little plug for the guest."

Marcia Talley brought up a practical reason for blogging. She posts about trips, her reactions to life and about family. "For this kind of stuff, the blog is perfect, because it allows me — through a blog link on my webpage — to keep my info. fresh and current without having to go through my web maven."

But, do you know the number one reason the authors blog? It’s why I blog too — even though some of my topics (this one, for example) take a hell of a lot of work.

FUN. Yep. That’s it. That’s what authors kept telling me. Blogging is fun.

"I started my blog four years ago this coming August," writes Bill Crider. "I did it for my own amusement . . . Doing the blog is fun for me, and that’s the only reason I do it."

Frankly, I hope that blogging increases the number of people who’ve heard of me — of all of us at Murderati — and everyone else who takes the time to post their thoughts/experiences/perspectives on a regular basis.

But even if it isn’t doing much of that, it’s still a blast.

———— Enough of the serious stuff.————-

I got blogtagged by Donna Andrews last week and since I can only respond on Mondays . . . here it is. Unfairly, I’m tagging my listmates — other than J.T. because she already did this on Friday.

4 movies you would watch over and over

    The Little Princess (The most recent version: I love the scene with the Indian servant and the little girl greeting the wonder of the snow.); The Princess Bride (Wit, period.); Fanny and Alexander (What a visually rich, emotionally layered movie.); Spirited Away (I can’t get enough of this marvelous animation.).

4 places you’ve lived:

Tours, France; Hong Kong; Ann Arbor, MI; Takoma Park, MD.

4 TV shows you love to watch:

Medium, Law & Order SVU, reruns of Roseanne, Without a Trace.

4 places you have been on vacation:

Carlsbad, NM; Morgantown, WV; Macau; Antibes, France.

4 of your favorite foods:

Japanese squid salad, green chile, dark chocolate, bulgoki with kim chee (damn, I’m getting hungry).

4 websites you visit daily:

Nope. I don’t have four. I use Google daily and visit Murderati as often as I can . . . everything else is much less consistent.

4 places you would rather be right now:

Actually, I adore New Mexico . . . but I won’t cop out on this. Antibes, France (eating fresh strawberries, overlooking the Med. Sea and hanging out at the Picasso Museum); Virgin Gorda (snorkeling); Washington, DC (at the Freer); Puerto Rico (swimming at night in Phosphorescent Bay)

4 people who you think will respond (sorry, guys)

Deni Dietz, Naomi Hirahara, Elaine Flinn, Jeff Cohen (he answered some in J.T.’s comments–but not all), and Simon Wood . . . Okay, that’s five . . . but they didn’t know I was gonna do this.



18 thoughts on “Why Blog?

  1. Sandra Ruttan

    Marcia Talley touched on something that I think is also true for people who blog who aren’t authors – just to record the general things of life. When you have family living far away, this is a simple way, without even having a web site, for people to stay in touch, find out what’s going on.

    And let’s face it – if it wasn’t fun, there’s no way I’d be doing a solo blog. Even with it being fun, it’s still a lot of work sometimes! If I didn’t really enjoy it, I’m sure I’d have dropped it ages ago.

  2. Pari

    Sandra,That was a point that echoed throughout the responses as well — recording thoughts and day-to-day experiences.

    In spite of what may appear on various listservs, I do think readers of our books (and your soon-to-be-published book) want to know the person behind the story.

    Somehow, admitting that, or focusing on it, makes some people feel that blogs are unseemly, that they’re merely ego outlets. From the responses I got, I believe most authors are doing them for all the right reasons.

    And fun? Well, yes indeedy. It’d be stupid to work so hard if it wasn’t fun. I’d say the same thing about writing novels. If there weren’t satisfaction, it wouldn’t be worth it.

    Frankly, blogs allow us novelists the chance for immediate gratification–and that’s something we don’t get when writing 80,000+ word pieces of fiction.

  3. JT Ellison

    This is a great piece, Pari.I think blogging gives us access to people who don’t reside on the list serves. There is more to marketing than posting to a list, and MURDERATI and other author blogs give us a platform to reach out to the non-list people who still read voraciously. It’s another tool in the war kit, so to speak.And the instant gratification is fun too.

  4. Brett Battles

    Nice post, Pari.

    Initially, I think I started blogging because I thought it might help get my name recognized. But what has kept me blogging is the people I’ve met and the fun I’m having.

    It’s also a great way to force myself to write down what I’m thinking and occasionally talk about what’s going on in my life. I’ve started dozens of journals in the past, but have never been able to keep it up. Blogging is allowing me to do that. Maybe it will get old some day, but not yet.

  5. Pari

    It’s wierd. I know several people, like you, Brett, who consider this a kind of journaling — and I think that’s mighty cool.

    For some reason, I feel like I’m writing for an audience here. That compels me to write in a different way than when I journal. Of course, I think people might get tired of the poor-poor-pitiful-me entries of my journals in the past .

  6. Pari

    J.T.,Don’t worry about ego; we authors need a helluvalot of it to want other people to read our stories in the first place.

  7. Elaine

    Why Blog? Why did I join this illustrious group anyway? Well, for one thing-I just can’t say no to Pari. Although, I must admit I almost did. I wasn’t sure what I could contribute. I’m rather shy, not very interesting, am actually rather dull, haven’t broadly traveled the world, run for political office or made a best seller list. Oh, and I’m a lousy essayist to boot. So – what to do? Hey, maybe I can round up a slew of my favorite pals and let them do the talking? That might work. Thankfully, they’ve taken pity on me and so far, the gang here at Murderati are letting me hang around.

    Now, to Pari’s tag game. Didn’t I tell you I can’t say no to her?

    4 Movies:King of HeartsThe Red ShoesCasinoThe Godfather

    4 Places I’ve Lived:Oakland, Calif (I was born there)Pebble BeachDan DiegoKaua’i

    4 TV shows I love:Mystery on PBSMysteries on BBC America60 MinutesJudging Amy (when it was on)

    4 Vacation Places:MauiMauiMauiMaui

    4 Fav Foods:PastaMashed PotatoesHawaiian Box LunchJapanese Food

    4 Fav Websites:Too many to list

    4 Places I’d Go Right Now:MauiMauiMauiHonolulu

    4 People I Think Might Respond?Are you kidding? I get into enough trouble as it is.

  8. Elaine

    What? You never had one? Da kine box filled with SPAM (!), red beans & rice, potato salad, Kim Chee and what ever the hell else is the special of the day. Sometimes Kailua pig, maybe a little poi, a few lau lau’s thrown in? Most ono I ever had was at a little stand in Lihue on Kaua’i.

  9. Rob Gregory Browne

    Actually, a plate lunch is better than the box lunch (or bento as it’s often called).

    I grew up eating teri beef plates, chili plates, boneless chicken plates and the like from various drive-ins like Rainbow’s or Grace’s in Honolulu. The plate lunch with its meat entree and two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad and a little tossed salad as well is heaven on earth.

    Now, re: the blogging question: I can honestly say that if I didn’t blog and didn’t participate in blogs like this one, nobody on the face of the earth except for my publisher, my agent and my family would know I had a book coming out next year.

    The blog was my way of sharing my experience of getting a publishing deal at St. Martin’s and to help get my name out there. I love blogging — and especially love the comments I’ve gotten from so many great people.

  10. Pari

    Hey! I’ve had Bento platters and love them.

    Re: bloggingRob, I think it’s cool that you’ve been able to use a blog to develop name recognition. For some, the results aren’t noticeable.

    To me, this new experience of blogging resembles other forms of creating community. Like attracts like. With enough goodwill, we learn and grow from knowing and supporting each other.

    Wow. That sounds pretty syrupy, doesn’t it?

    I’d better get back to editing . . .

  11. Elaine

    Hey, Rob- Brah! Is Rainbow still open? Last I heard (haven’t been back to Honolulu for a few years) it was closing down.

    I can handle box lunch, but my heart still belongs to that little stand in Lihue.

  12. Elaine

    Ohmygosh! I should have noted on “Websites”the one I click on every single day:http://www.thehungersite.com One click a day helps feed children-and from there – you do the same for breast cancer, child health, literacy, rainforest and animal rescue. So please do visit and be a part of making a difference.


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