What Does It Take to Sell Books?

by Jami Gold on October 13, 2011

in Writing Stuff

Old-fashioned cash register

Subtitle: Über Blogging, True Fans, or ???

In case you haven’t heard, recent statements by agents have started a kerfuffle over whether blogging is a waste of time for most writers.  The first I heard of it was through agent Wendy Lawton’s post, What’s Not Working, where she says:

“I wouldn’t recommend a writer start blogging in order to publicize his book in today’s climate.”

Agent Rachelle Gardner followed with her post on how big an author’s platform needs to be to do the job (bold text is hers):

“[S]hoot for … 15,000 monthly page views to your blog. …

You only need a platform if you want to sell a lot of books.

Wow.  Talk about pressure.  That makes it sound like if we don’t have a blog with 15,000 page views, we won’t sell a lot of books, and therefore, blogging is a waste of our time.

Most of us don’t get anywhere close to that volume of page views, and most of us never will.  Should we be worried?  After all, I respect Rachelle’s no-nonsense blog.

Then agent Andy Ross followed up with numbers that are enough to make us choke:

“It is going to take quite a bit to impress a publisher on how many hits you get on a blog. Probably 100,000 unique views a month is the ball park.”

*waves arms*  Hold it!  I’m calling a time out.

Ignore the Numbers (and Not Just for Our Sanity)

First of all, let’s all acknowledge that everyone throwing out numbers of “what it takes to be successful” is pulling them out of you-know-where.  The fact is that success can never be predicted in a by-the-numbers way.

90% (or some crazy percentage like that) of the books put out by NY publishers don’t sell enough to make their money back.  That’s an insane losing streak.  And it just goes to show that no one knows the secret of success.

Secondly, we know from our own experience that we don’t buy fiction books the same way we buy toothpaste.  The awesome-dipped-in-glitter (TM) Kristen Lamb explained the disconnect between traditional marketing and book selling by pointing out that although books are cheap in price, they are expensive in the time required to read them.

Fiction Author?  Über Blogging Is Not the Answer

Non-fiction authors have to pay attention to the marketing idea that only some percentage of people exposed to our message will follow through with a purchase, because their books are trying to solve a problem (education, how-to, etc.).  However, fiction books merely solve the problem of a reader wanting to be entertained.

Then the question becomes why would someone choose our book when they want to be entertained?  Either because of us as a person, or because of the type of story they’re in the mood for.  The more books we have published, the more options we have available for the variable moods of those potential readers.

In other words, being an Über Blogger might be the goal for non-fiction authors, as their platform is essential for their success, but that approach is not necessary for fiction authors. And beyond that, chasing big follower numbers takes time away from why readers come to us: our stories.

Okay, What about True Fans?

A year or two ago, the big marketing trend was to find 100 to 1000 True Fans.  Those numbers look like the opposite of an Über Bloggers’ goal, don’t they?  (This is why I ignore trends and bandwagons. *smile*)

So are True Fans the answer for fiction authors?  Not in the way the marketing people explain this idea.  The True Fan concept is about trying to find 1000 people willing to spend $100 on you every year so you’d make $100,000 per year.

Hmm, that might work for musicians who can sell concert tickets and whatnot.  But even the most prolific author doesn’t publish $100 worth of books every year.  And of course, those numbers don’t include the percentages taken out for the publisher/distributor/agent/what-have-you.

Also, this marketing idea fizzled after people discovered it was more difficult to find True Fans than they thought.  Imagine that.  The idea of wanting to take without giving anything in return didn’t work in the long run.  *rolls eyes*

So What *Does* Work?

Let’s take the commitment of True Fans and mix it with the broad reach of the Über Blogger and what do you have?  What Kristen Lamb has been preaching about the power of tribes.

Unlike the True Fan, tribe members support each other, giving as well as taking.  In return, we get to tap into our tribe members’ networks, expanding our reach.

Kristen started the #MyWANA hashtag on Twitter (WANA stands for We Are Not Alone), and writers have been using it to forge connections.  Yes, most of the members are fellow writers, but we all know those elusive non-writer readers in our real life.  If we feel a connection to another writer and their book is something to crow about, we’ll spread the word on and off social media.

This connection idea is the true purpose of blogs (and social media in general) for fiction authors.  Blogs for fiction authors aren’t about direct sales but about giving us a home base to form connections and create opportunities.

Both Anne R. Allen and Roni Loren had fantastic posts in reaction to the recent pressure to be Über Bloggers.  Anne listed all the ways her blog has opened doors for her.  Roni pointed out that she wants to be a writer who blogs, not a blogger who writes.  Those posts are both must reads for any writer who questions whether they should blog.

One last bit of proof that all those numbers are bogus for fiction authors.  Two years ago, YA author Bree Despain assembled a Street Team to get the word out about her debut book, The Dark Divine.  She ended up on the NYT bestseller list.  Guess how many members she had on her Street Team?

Nineteen.

I don’t mean to imply that it was easy.  Bree’s Street Team literally hit the streets with events to take advantage of potential readers attending the Twilight New Moon premieres.  Street Team members had to apply for the job by coming up with a promotion plan.

But my point is that it’s not about the numbers.  It’s about the quality of people who are willing to do something for us.  And how do we “make” them want to do a favor for us?  First, by writing a book fabulous enough that people are dying to tell others about it.  And second, by forming connections and becoming friends.

I know I have nineteen friends from Twitter and blogging that I’d be willing to go above-and-beyond for.  And if I honestly 5-star-loved their book, I’d go way beyond the basics.  I hope to eventually reach the point where I have nineteen people willing to do the same for me.

It’s about quality, not quantity.  And that’s why the pressure to aim for some arbitrary number is completely unhelpful.  *smile*

Had you heard of the recent Über Blogger pressure?  Had you heard of the True Fan concept before?  What do you think of those approaches?  Do you consider yourself a member of a tribe?  Do you have nineteen writer friends you’d be willing to go above-and-beyond for?  Do you think you have nineteen friends who’d be willing to reciprocate?

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91 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Marc Vun Kannon October 13, 2011 at 6:13 am

I formed a bookstore. When I realized that the bookstores on LI (mostly Borders outlets) wouldn’t carry my book I made my own. I go to craft and gift fairs, and lately cons and book festivals. When I found that lots of people wanted to read but not fantasy, I started carrying every book my publisher made, so I’d say I’ve gone above and beyond for far more than just 19.
It was many years before I got into blogging and twittering, and I never tried to go for the uber notion of either. Like my writing, I say something when I’ve got something to say. I don’t post a lot, but when I do I want it to be interesting.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

Hi Marc,

Thanks for another example of how to approach the issue. I hope some reciprocity comes your way. 🙂

And that goal you mention is another reason why I post only twice a week. Like you, when I post, I want it to be interesting. Thanks for the comment!

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Nicole Basaraba October 13, 2011 at 6:25 am

Jami quick! Make an small edit, its Rachelle Gardner not Rachel.

I read both Roni’s and Anne’s blog on the topic. I think I’m part of the tribe of writer bloggers who support each other and find an online network of buddies to talk to, share information and opinions as well as cheer each other on in our work.

I think having high numbers in the blog stats could be helpful, but I also think 15,000 hits is pretty high and not an easy task to achieve. I think if you have 19 quality/dedicated followers, they have the potential to achieve a lot more than say 1,000 not-so-dedicated followers.

A great debate Jami!

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 9:05 am

Hi Nicole,

Thanks! I knew that didn’t look right, but after typing that 1200 word essay, my brain was too fried to figure out why. 🙂 (Yes, everyone, my blog posts are near-first-draft quality. Sorry. 🙂 )

And I agree. High numbers won’t hurt us–as long as we’re not sacrificing our writing to get there–but that alone shouldn’t be a goal. My goal is about trying to make connections. There are people I’ve met in blogging/Twitter that I’d love to meet in real life. 🙂 And who’s more likely to start a word-of-mouth wildfire, those who are dedicated to helping you, or those who aren’t? Thanks for the comment–and the correction!

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Nicole Basaraba October 14, 2011 at 4:16 am

Wow Jami. You write some damn good first drafts!!

I have also met a lot of people on blogs and twitter that I would love to meet in person. Maybe one day down the road at a conference hopefully.

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Jami Gold October 14, 2011 at 8:22 am

Hi Nicole,

LOL! Um, thanks, but lest you think I have no weaknesses… In fiction writing, my plots are tight out of the gate (even when I pants). It’s the emotional stuff that I have to go back to add in. And since blog posts rely more on the logic side of things, I usually don’t have too much trouble knowing where I’m going. 🙂 (Which is a good thing, because my blog posts are often long, so they take me forever to write as it is. 🙂 )

Oh yes, conferences are a great idea for ways to meet up with friends. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Lynette Benton October 13, 2011 at 6:51 am

Thanks for this thoughtful post.

Are these agents trying to tell us that the author of The Help had 100,000 unique page views before she got a publisher? Or that the doctor/author of How Doctors Think (nonfiction) had 15,000? I doubt if he even had a blog. (Too annoyed to check right now. These agents’ random numbers are insulting to our intelligence. It’s a reason so many, even established authors, are bypassing agents these days.)

Anyhow, I appreciate your putting all this in perspective.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 9:08 am

Hi Lynette,

Yes, and many (if not most) newbie writers hold agents in such high esteem that they consider every word agents utter to be gospel. I’m not trying to slam agents here, but I am pointing out that they’re as human as the rest of us. And fortune-telling isn’t in their list of job prerequisites. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Susan Sipal October 13, 2011 at 8:00 am

Jami, I think this is one of the best posts I’ve read on the argument of why and how to blog for writers. You’ve pulled together some great links and resources. And I love your idea/summation of how we can support each other.

Count me as part of your Street Team! 🙂

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 9:13 am

Hi Susan,

Count me as part of your Street Team!

Aww, thank you! Seriously, I’m tearing up now, my friend. Drat you. 🙂 And you know I love your work too!

I hope this post helps bring some clarity and sanity to the pressure for writers to do and be everything. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Lisa Gail Green October 13, 2011 at 8:29 am

Awesome as always! YES! I value the relationships I’ve forged online. Yes, I honestly dare to think of many as friends. And you know what? I’m no uber blogger or anything, but I have noticed that the bigger the following, the harder it is to keep up with the personal replies and such as I used to, so there’s also that catch 22 factor. I do it because I love it and I love other writers. They get me. 😀

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 9:18 am

Hi Lisa,

Oh, do I hear you. I used to love when I could keep up with my All Friends list in Twitter. I tried keeping up with it long after it was practical (around when I was following 1000 people), just because I didn’t want to give it up. It was so easy to be part of conversations. Now it’s a crap shoot of whether I see things or not. *sigh* And that makes me sad for the connections that aren’t as deep or as frequent as I want them to be. 🙁 Thanks for the comment!

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Bob Mayer October 13, 2011 at 8:36 am

I agree that people are inventing these numbers. Everyone’s situation is unique. Also, social media really doesn’t sell books. It builds platform. the two are different although connected.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 9:34 am

Hi Bob,

Yes, exactly. Platform is not about direct sales. Thanks for the comment!

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Lena Corazon October 13, 2011 at 8:41 am

Jami, this is another insightful and excellent discussion of the whole blogging-for-writers kerfuffle. You, Roni, and Anne have all made some valuable points, and inject a bit of sanity into the debate.

I love the idea of tribes, and slowly but surely, I feel like I am forming one. Yes, I think I definitely have 19 writer-reader friends who I can (and will) promote the heck out of once their books launch, and I think they’d do the same for me. As writers, honing our skills and our craft is always the number one priority, but it does help to have a support system of people who are positive and encouraging along the way (which is, of course, the entire concept behind Kristen Lamb’s #myWANA project). I’ve been seeing other indie authors mobilizing similar efforts, too, like Sarah Ketley’s #authorlove project, which encourages people to leave comments and show a little love for indie authors who have written good books — simple, but I think it’s incredibly effective for morale and, hopefully, for sales.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hi Lena,

Yes, and this goal of forming connections is one of the main reasons I encourage non-published writers to get involved in blogging and/or social media. If we wait until we’re published/near-published, we won’t have that network of friends at the ready. Just like in real life, it takes time to build up friendships. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Sonia G Medeiros October 13, 2011 at 8:50 am

Love this post! 5-star love it! It’s stressful and discouraging to hear the big numbers. 15K hits a month? Umm…I’m barely past that after 9 months of blogging. I can’t imagine hitting that monthly. It reminds me of the whole thing about how “you” will never be a published author because “everyone” wants to be one and it’s a one in a million shot. Love how Kristen Lamb shot that one down. Yeah, a million of us may say we want to be authors but how many will actually hold on to the very end of the ride? The numbers dwindle rapidly as the work gets harder.
It seems to me that maybe that 15k hits is true in the sense of, if you have 15k hits a month, you’re much more likely to reach those folk who’ll love your stuff enough to tell all their friends. Buuuuuut…you only have to strive for 15k hits/month if you’re shooting in the dark. If you know how to build a solid community/platform, you don’t need nearly that many. Your reach can be smaller but much more focused.
I still want to believe that, if your inentions are in the right place (build community, reach out to people, and encourage others), you’ll build the “right” platform. I hope that’s true anyway because I’d much rather genuinely cheer others on than try to go on a hunt for “true fans.”

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 9:52 am

Hi Sonia,

you only have to strive for 15k hits/month if you’re shooting in the dark.

Love this! Yes, and this is why I haven’t ever required people to sign up for my newsletter or Google Friend Connect/Networked Blogs or whatever in order to enter a contest. I’ve never even asked people to sign up. I’ve mentioned those widgets exist and that’s it. I figure volunteers are better than draftees. 🙂 (And this is another reason why I don’t compare my numbers to others.) Thanks for the comment!

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Laura Pauling October 13, 2011 at 9:15 am

Great post, summing it all up. I’m actually getting burnt out on the whole issue. The focus really should be on our writing, even though these hot topic issues are fun to discuss. Because no matter how great our social media is or how many followers we have- if we don’t have a great book – it won’t matter. There are too many big sellers with little or no platform to make me think social media can make that much of a difference. And too many big bloggers that didn’t make it, even with their platform.

So that tells me it’s the book.

But I wouldn’t trade the social media experience for anything. I do believe in it. I do believe in making connections and the giving and the taking, even if it’s peripheral to the success of our books.

I think after a writer develops a fan base then the social media allows interaction and increases the loyalty – and that’s wonderful.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 10:04 am

Hi Laura,

The focus really should be on our writing … Because no matter how great our social media is or how many followers we have- if we don’t have a great book – it won’t matter.

Absolutely! And that’s why I mentioned that we can’t expect our tribe to crow about our book unless it’s something they love. We’ll be supportive to our friends no matter what, but going out of our way requires real commitment. I wouldn’t ruin my reputation with my friends by shouting from the rooftops about an inferior book.. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Jacquelyn Smith October 13, 2011 at 9:55 am

It’s crazy some of the stuff you read, telling writers to publish blog posts every day, follow aggressively on Twitter, etc. to gain a following. I’ve always been skeptical that all that excessive blogging and following leads to high-volume sales. (When do these people have time to write, anyway?)

I love the idea of having a tribe and I’ve definitely made connections online. People who come up with these wild numbers obviously aren’t taking into account the power of synergy.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 10:08 am

Hi Jacquelyn,

Exactly. Blog every day? Nope. Follow aggressively? Nope. I’m very much a quality over quantity kind of gal. 🙂 Quality blog posts and quality connections. Thanks for the comment!

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Anne R. Allen October 13, 2011 at 10:38 am

LOVE the idea of the “Street-Team 19.”

Quality, not quantity seems to be a foreign concept to publishing industry marketers. They don’t know what makes a book a bestseller, so they are trying to work it backwards–“if you’re already a superstar, then we’ll publish your book.” But it doesn’t work that way. JK Rowling wasn’t a superstar before she published. Neither was Suzanne Collins or Stephanie Meyers. That’s why I think right now is a good time to stay away from the big 6 and the agents who still feed at their trough (not all do.) Get your core ‘true fan” readership first through indie or small press publishing–NOT through trying to become an uberblogger.

Great piece. Thanks for adding to the discussion. (And thanks for the linkage!)

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 10:44 am

Hi Anne,

They don’t know what makes a book a bestseller, so they are trying to work it backwards–”if you’re already a superstar, then we’ll publish your book.”

And beyond that, they say they won’t promote a book unless it’s a named author that doesn’t need promoting. *sigh* Bass-ackwards for sure. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Roxanne Skelly October 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

I kinda wonder about whether blogs and twitter really have that much of an impact. 15000 hits a month translates into probably 5k blog readers, if that, depending on how often you post, how often they check whether you post and so on. They probably buy your book, and get a number of other to buy your book, so that may make the publisher happy and sell 10k books. Still, that ain’t much money in your pocket. If you write 5-6 books a year, then maybe you can talk about making a living.

I even wonder how many people read book review blogs.

I’d focus on putting books where people buy books. Amazon. B&N, Book stores. Used book stores (which may translate into real sales once you release more books.) Airport newsstands. Grocery stores.

That’d get your book in front of many more people.

Get your book to come up in the ‘also bought’ or ‘you mike also like’ parts of Amazon. Have your street team sneak your book into prominent positions in bookstores. Convince bookstore employees to read your book and recommend it. All old-school, but it’s all about getting your book in front of as many eyes as possible.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Hi Roxanne,

Good point! I know I read hundreds of blogs, does that mean I’m going to buy all their books? No. I might, might, buy books from 10% of them. So if a book has to sell 10K copies to be “successful,” we can see where the figure of needing 100K blog hits/readers comes from. But…

That’s not how fiction buying works because that’s treating the blog like a storefront – which it’s not. And that’s ignoring the word of mouth factor, which is huge with fiction. One person recommends a book to their book club and 20 sales might be made that day. It’s much better to concentrate on writing great books that people will want to tell their friends about.

Thanks for the thoughts about how to get our books in front of more people, and thanks for the comment! 🙂

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Christine London October 13, 2011 at 11:26 am

Absolutely agree that having a street team can do wonders. The trick is finding those folks who are willing to tear themselves away from their own life and concerns to go to bat for you and your book. This is the elusive special soul we all hope for.look for as authors. HEck–anyone trying to sell a product want those types.
The problem is finding them. In my experience they do not generally lie among friends and family. Most of them already think we are slightly unbalanced for spending the time we do to launch our writing into the universe. It’s a case of chicken and the egg. If our little eggs would hatch and do even a bit of work on behalf of the chicken, she would have so much more time to lay the golden egg. Most people are trying to lay their own eggs and might talk a good game, but when the rubber meets the road, they are not even willing to buy a book (they want a freebie because, after all, they know the author). *sigh*
If this street team were to become known they would be smothered by the hordes of author wanting them on their team. It is a quandary for sure.
I applaud Kristen’s #MyWANA and hope it grows more than authors wanting to find the team. We can’t all be chiefs. We do indeed need some Indians. If we chiefs would crow a bit more about our fellow chief’s work, that is a start.
Thanks for the great post, Jami.
Regards,
Christine London
www**dot**christinelondon**dot**c**o**m

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hi Christine,

LOL! Yes, many of our family and friends do think we’re unbalanced. 🙂

And you’re right that many who “know” us think they deserve free copies. I don’t have a problem with giving away copies to my supporters, but I’d want them to do something in return. Months ago, Jody Hedlund posted 10 Simple Ways to Support Authors You Love. This is a great list of easy things family and friend and tribe members can do to show support. One of the things on the list is to buy copies of the book to give away to their friends/family. Then everyone is happy. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Ava Jae October 13, 2011 at 11:35 am

Lovely post. You’re so right about the importance of connections–not only is it what makes putting time into social media worth it (whether it’s your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, etc.), but the connections enhance the entire experience even further. The friendships, the support groups, they’re all so immensely helpful not only after you publish, but before.

I don’t remember where I read it, but I read recently an answer to some talk that writers shouldn’t blog about writing because then you’re reaching out to other writers rather than readers–but writers read too, and not only that, they love to support each other.

We’re all in this together–traditionally and independently published and those who aren’t published yet at all.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Hi Ava,

Yes, call me a kumbaya Pollyanna, but I love the idea of writers supporting each other. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Breeana Puttroff October 13, 2011 at 11:51 am

What a great post, Jami. This is the first post I’ve read from your blog (so all of the links on Twitter aren’t a complete waste of time, at least). 🙂

I think that most of these people who are throwing out these random numbers are doing it because they need to have a strategy to sell. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that it’s about the book, and it’s about the connections – and those two things are inextricably linked. And, it’s mostly about the book.

If you write a book that really connects with someone, they’re going to be willing to go to the mat to help promote it, but even that is based almost purely on human connection — a reader promotes your book for you because they want to share the world they’re mentally inhabiting with someone else. If they truly love the book, the story you’ve told and the characters you’ve created, they’ll nag their friends to buy the book (have you read it yet? I’m dying to know what you think about such-and-such character). If they don’t really love it, the most you’re going to get is “so this person I know wrote a book. You should buy it.”

We have to be writers, first and foremost. Not promoters.

Then (and only then), as authors, if we’re open and accessible, and we respond to comments and e-mails, and join that community WITH our readers, we become a tribe that can accomplish something.

Of course, sales are nice (and important, if we want to do more writing and less day-jobbing), but you can’t SELL the magic of what happens when human beings connect over a story.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Hi Breeana,

I glad you found this post. 🙂 You’re absolutely right about how human connections work. I know I’ve had those nagging “Have you read it yet?” conversations, and it was exactly because of the reasons you mentioned.

Humans love shared experiences. Probably 90% of blogs across all topics and niches are really about sharing experiences and thoughts. We want to share the mental experience of that story with the author, other readers, and our friends. And when we really connect with a story, we want to invite everyone we know into this world that means so much to us. As you said, that’s the magic. 🙂 Thanks for the great comment!

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Roni Loren October 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Great wrap-up and thanks for linking to my post. 🙂 Obviously, I dumped my on feeling all over my blog yesterday, so I agree with you. And my agent agrees with this too, so not everyone is expecting those crazy ass numbers.

Be real, connect, communicate, and write great books. That’s all I’m going to focus on.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Hi Roni,

Ditto to your approach. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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M.E. Anders October 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Oh, yes. I’ve read all those articles about the recent pressure for and against blogging. Funny how these trends start out with one blog post/idea, which has usually been in the background of our collective minds.

I think that writers who really dislike blogging should…not blog.

Those writers who enjoy creating community through social/online media should…keep blogging.

Trends go up and down, and nobody can predict the future. Focus on your strengths and unique outlets to connect with your audience, whomever they may be. 🙂

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Hi M.E.,

writers who really dislike blogging should…not blog.

I agree with you. If we keep in mind our real goal of connecting, then we’ll know which method will work for us to form those connections. Facebook doesn’t work for me, but I love Twitter. I don’t love blogging, but I love sharing my thoughts and what I’ve learned, so I compromise with limited twice-a-week blogging about things that my brain won’t let go. That’s what works for me, but others need to find their own method. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Gene Lempp October 13, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Apparently I have a penchant for missing bad trends because I’ve never heard of either of these doomed schemes before today. They seem more bent on discouraging people to write in order to leave the market open for their clients or themselves. 100k hits a month? This is using carpet bombing to hit a fishing hut, maybe hit it that is.

The numbers I’ve seen show what Kristen Lamb and others have been preaching which is that social media is about building relationships and when we have sufficient depths of titles (like Bob Mayer) then we will begin to see some results. Brand/Platform over mass.

Klout is a good example of this. On Klout you can see how many of your followers actually act off of your advice on say, retweeting blogs. For me that is about 40%. So if I put a tweet out to my 1800 followers then it would be expected that 720 will do something with it. Add this to Kristens tribe-influence concept. Let’s say one of those acting on my tweet is Elizabeth S. Craig with 11k followers. If her influence was the same as mine (and it is greater) then 4400 people will act on it. Add in Kristen and Piper Bayard and we have between 8k-9k people influenced from just our four circles. (Note these are general numbers and will obviously vary).

The point here is not that we have 15k blog hits a month, it is that by working together in a system like Kristen’s WANA we can reach over 15k, or 100k in a short period of time. And not as carpet bombers but as friends, associates, etc. by the influence of our reliable and good names to friends that respect our opinions. Social media and especially Twitter allows for a rapid spread of information by word of mouth that is unprecedented in any era before now.

So, screw the unbackable statistics, the reality is, work together, build friendships and relations, be a real human being and you will find not just 19 people willing to help out but hundreds. And. You’ll be willing to help them out as well.

Thanks for an uber post, Jami. Count me among your 19 🙂

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Hi Gene,

Count me among your 19

Aww, thank you! *sobs* You know that even though I don’t do ROW, I still want to call you my ROWBro, right? Just because you and Kerry are some of my favorite people. 🙂 Maybe I could be the adopted sister? LOL!

It’s interesting that you mention Klout. I haven’t done a post about Klout here before because I’m very conflicted over it. Between my dislike of “have to”s, twisted statistics, trends, and math in general, I ignore my numbers–numbers of blog hits, Twitter followers, etc. And Klout is numbers on steroids. 🙂 I find the analysis interesting, but I don’t want to be judged by my Klout score because that doesn’t measure the depth and quality of connections. It’s still a numbers game based on quantity. (Any service that recommends that I unfollow people to improve my score doesn’t understand the point of being social.) Hmm, sorry, did I go off on a rant? Maybe a little. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Gene Lempp October 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Feel free to rant, it’s your blog 🙂

I should have been clearer in my example. I am no fan of numbers or statistics. True influence is not measurable although it can be seen. My main point above was this: Brand/Platform not mass.

The Klout example was meant to show that if the numbers being thrown out of 15k-100k were true, then those could be obtained more easily by combining forces. The reality, and this is Kristen’s point of genius, is that relationships are the key. As Bob Mayer points out, “social media really doesn’t sell books”, good emotion for a writer and their work sells books.

Thanks for helping me clear that up Jami. And, yes, you can definitely be our honorary ROWsis. I know Kerry and I both adore you 🙂

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Hi Gene,

Yay! *group hug* 🙂

And I hope my little rant didn’t seem like I was coming down on you or your thoughts. I absolutely agree with your point about compounding, and I knew that’s what you were getting at. I’ve just had that Klout grumble simmering for a while. 🙂 Thanks again, Gene!

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Kerry Meacham October 15, 2011 at 5:16 am

Woot-Woot. I never had a little sister. Wait. You’re taller than I am, (physically and writerly) so maybe I’m the little brother. 😉

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Jami Gold October 15, 2011 at 7:56 am

Hi Kerry,

Wow, are you a smart man. 🙂 You never once brought up the age factor. LOL!

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Rachel October 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Jami,
Thank you so much for this post. I have only been blogging for two weeks and I’m already feeling like a whore. I hate talking about myself to strangers, I don’t want to waste people’s time, so I’m still learning how to create content that reflects who I am, what I have to say, without sounding like a pompous ass.

I agree, it is the only way to create buzz and word of mouth. Seth Godin says that the big publishers are trying to sell your books to strangers. Why don’t you sell your books to your FRIENDS. That means we just have to make more of them. Treat them well and remember we are all in this together. Thank you so much!

cheers,
rachel

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Hi Rachel,

LOL! I hear you. Some people may want to sound like a pompous ass because that’s who they are. I’m not one of them. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Melinda Collins October 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Hi Jami! AWESOME post!!! This is honestly one of your best — in *my* humble opinion *smiles*

Blogging for me was a way to make a connection with the community of wonderful writers that are out there. It was never a way for me to ‘sell’ books when I became published. Similar to Roni, I’d prefer to be known as a writer who blogs vs. the other way around.

The friendships I’ve forged via blogging and twittering (is that a word now?) are ones that I cherish. I also have several writers out there that I would go to bat for any day of the week and I consider to be great friends – you would be one 🙂

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Hi Melinda,

Thank you! 🙂 Yes, and I wonder if those authors who hard-sell in social media are the ones who never took the time to build a network for themselves, and now they’re scrambling to catch up in numbers, as they look at that indication of our involved-ness and think that’s the goal in and of itself. I’m like you – I’m in it for the friends I’ve met, like you! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Stacy Green October 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Jami
Thanks for such a great post. I’m trying not to get caught up in the blogging numbers and approach it as a way to make friends and hone my writing. The idea of marketing my book – whether I manage to go trad or self-pub-is the most intimidating to me, so thanks for giving us some great marketing examples.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Hi Stacy,

Yes, the pressure only adds to that panicked “we don’t know what we’re doing” feeling. I hope this “time out” adds some clarity to the conflicting advice. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Todd Moody October 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I have a total of less than 7k hits for a year, but I feel like that’s not horrible considering a year ago I had a big fat zero. I never started blogging to sell my books, I started blogging because I wanted a space to share with any fans I might get once my book is actually out. I know I like being able to connect with my favorite authors.

It morphed into a sorta-kinda writing blog because that’s what interests me. I love how Roni put it, I want to be an author who blogs. I try not to sweat the numbers, but I do look at them. I do love it when people comment, then the connection becomes a conversation, not just me monologuing. I try to post a minimum of once a week, just to keep the few readers I do have, more when I can. I’m hoping when I quit my 50 hour a week job I’ll have more time for blogging on top of writing.

I love the concept of creating a network of friends to help each other, and I’ve tried to do that, by RTing links to posts and buying their books. I also give book reviews when I like them, which actually helps sales I think. The friends I’ve made on twitter and blogging are the best part of it by a long shot, even if it never helps me sell a single book.

As always, you hit it out of the park! I have great respect for your ability to write great posts on a regular schedule. I hope you know you can count on me as part of your network!

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Hi Todd,

Aww, thank you! And I feel bad that I can’t visit all the blogs I want to on a regular basis. As Roni’s said, my blog reading is more of a crapshoot now, and I’m not happy about that, but I’m doing the best I can. *sigh* Thanks for the comment!

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Shannon Mayer October 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Fantastic post! Loved it and will be RTing it momentarily. 😀

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Thanks, Shannon! I appreciate that. 🙂

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Debbie Johansson October 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Hi Jami. I also read this post regarding those figures and couldn’t believe it. That’s just madness! I know an author who published her book to critical acclaim and only began blogging and joined social networks afterwards because her publisher recommended she did so. It just goes to show that writing the book is most important.

I’m an unpublished author who blogs and is involved in social networks. I do this because I enjoy it, meet other writers (and make friends) and learn by their experiences. If my fellow writers think my work good enough, then they may eventually help spread the word to other non-writers and I’d be sure to do the same.

Thanks for an informative post and some more great links. I’ve enjoyed the discussion.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Hi Debbie,

Yes, and authors who start with social media only after their contract/publication are more normal than those figures. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Jemi Fraser October 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Those are some scary numbers! For me blogging has been about building connections with other writers, learning from them, sharing the bits & pieces I know, and finding out about this whole publishing biz. It’s a fascinating journey.

I don’t have a book to sell yet, but I’ve bought at least 4 dozen books by blog buddies, so I think blogging is at least a little effective for selling! 🙂

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Hi Jemi,

Yes, I have a similar story about books I’ve purchased. But here’s the point I want to emphasize: You called them “blog buddies.” Not people who happened to have a blog that you just happened to read. These were people that you probably felt like you had some amount of interaction with (or at the very least, someone you interact with recommended them). So it’s not about the readership, it’s about the interaction. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Piper Bayard October 13, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Great blog, Jami.

I’m a MyWANA girl. I generally don’t listen to the “experts” because none of this has been around long enough for anyone to know for sure. So I go with who makes sense to me, and that would be Kristen Lamb. I’m not concerned that I don’t have 100k followers, because the followers I have are awesome, and those who market for me every day reach well over 100k people. And I love Roni’s point about being a writer who blogs rather than a blogger who writes.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Hi Piper,

I generally don’t listen to the “experts” because none of this has been around long enough for anyone to know for sure. So I go with who makes sense to me…

Exactly! Those conflicting numbers just tells me that there’s no “right” answer, so I pay attention to rational logic. 🙂 And I’m with you – I have awesome followers/friends/readers, and I’d never trade them for 100K people who didn’t really care. Thanks for the comment!

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Kerry Meacham October 15, 2011 at 5:23 am

Your followers are awesome because you’re awesome PB. Hey, if the two of you wrote something together it could be Piper Bayard and Jami, or, wait for it….PB&J!!! HaHa – ahhhh I kill myself. Sorry.

Seriously, the two of you are so great on social media because your “want to help” comes across as being so sincere. You both go out of your way to help newbies (raises hand) when they come on Twitter, and it is something that won’t be forgotten….ever. I’m in both of your 19, that’s for damn sure.

Rock on ladies.

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Jami Gold October 15, 2011 at 8:01 am

Hi Kerry,

“PB&J” LOL! Thanks for the big smile this morning. 🙂

Aww, thanks for saying you’re one of my 19. *hugs* You’re the best!

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Amber Keyser October 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm

At SCBWI-NY this January, I kept asking agents and editors if there were any data to show that social media (i.e. # followers) actually sells books. They all got glassy-eyed and mumbled, “No.” I think your post is spot on as is the Wendy Lawton post you referenced.

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Jami Gold October 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Hi Amber,

Yes, I agree with many of Wendy Lawton’s points. We shouldn’t be starting blogs for the sole purpose of publicizing our books. However, there are many other benefits to blogging (and social media) than just as a direct sales tool. So I don’t think anyone should do blogging/social media if it’s really not for them, but I also think people should try do it to the extent that it doesn’t hold back their writing. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Katie M John October 14, 2011 at 12:38 am

What a brilliant post! Really interesting and I totally agree with the notion of a supportive tribe.

I have a wonderful group of ‘reader’ ladies #TeamBlake who I met on Twitter. Over the last year they have grown from ‘fans’ to true friends.
I have been overwhelmed by their support and generosity of spirit and time in their promotion of my book. They have blogged, tweeted and word of mouthed my series which has given me the opportunity to share my story with more readers.

It’s really easy to get dragged into the world of blogging and social media which completely eats into the writing time.

Kristen Lamb’s #myWANA is a really great concept and I have seen the wonderful sense of community it creates. I also love Kristen’s insights into the indie world. For me #myWANA is another example of Twitter supporting a global writing co-operative.

Thanks for a wonderfully insightful post.

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Jami Gold October 14, 2011 at 8:13 am

Hi Katie,

I’m so glad you’re finding success with the tribe concept! And like you said, these are genuine friendships, so yes, they take time to build and develop. I think too many of the spammy, direct-sale-oriented folk are just looking for the quick answer. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Ali Dent October 14, 2011 at 3:40 am

20 years ago, I stopped working outside the home to care for my children. Last year I jumped back into the writing/publishing world and it was like I’d been sitting in a warm sauna for 20 years and suddenly I was plunged into an artic ice bath. The shock almost killed me. I’d say I’m still a salmon swimming upstream with my knowledge and skill surrounding social media. Kristen has been an awesome help and your post today helps too by reassuring me that the work I put into the blog actually helps people and is a better way to build a tribe. Later today I will read the other blogs you suggested. I’m slack with writing on my WIP for all the time it’s taking me to learn blogging, Twitter and FB. I’m trying to get myself balanced out. Thanks for posting other help here.

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Jami Gold October 14, 2011 at 8:15 am

Hi Ali,

I understand. 🙂 That’s a balance I still struggle to find every day.

Good luck in your trial by fire and let me know if you have any questions. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Kelley @ With Eager Hands October 14, 2011 at 4:23 am

I loved this! I found it very helpful and informative. As someone who is both newer to blogging, and new on the writing scene, I’m not even sure what I want to write yet, but I’ve always felt Fiction, and Poetry were my thing. It was nice to read a post that included info for Fiction author’s…seems like much of what i read is aimed at non-fiction authors.

For me, I think of it like this…Writers are like Musicians (which I also happen to be a vocalist) they are a dime a dozen…many of whom are talented. I don’t blog to try to become a writer, (or a vocalist for that matter) I blog to show that I am more than that to my readers, and to relate and connect with them.

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Jami Gold October 14, 2011 at 8:30 am

Hi Kelley,

Great point! Yes, writers really are a dime a dozen, and blogging is a great way to stand out from the crowd – not to get sales attention, but to show what makes us a unique, interesting person to get to know. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Charissa Weaks October 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Hey honey! Wow…I live in a writing cave, LOL. I’ve never heard any of those statistics but I totally agree that they are definitely pulled out of the air. There is no magic number of followers that will guarantee an author success. I do love the idea of Street Teams though! I have lots of Twitter and blog friends I would definitely go above and beyond for and I’d hope they’d do the same for me 🙂 We all have to support each other and form a sort of Writer Web. This is a fab post, Jami! You are totally rockin’ it my dear.

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Jami Gold October 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Hi Charissa,

LOL! Sometimes obliviousness is good. 🙂 Especially when it comes to things that can negatively impact our writing. Thanks for the comment!

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Nancy S. Thompson October 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I love this post. It boils it all down for me. Thanks for always doing such great research on these types of topics.

I must admit, when I read those stats on Rachelle Gardner’s blog a few weeks ago, I almost fainted. (I did a mini post on the subject the day after.) They seem completely unattainable. I mean, I hardly have enough time as it is and I’m trying to fit in writing and blogging and connecting with others. But what I’ve found is that blogging allows me to connect with others on topics that are relevant to me, my work, and my life. And that’s what matters most.

This platform thingy is just gravy after all the friends I’ve made and knowing that folks come by to read what I’ve written and comment. That makes me feel pretty special. If I manage to get an agent and land a book deal, then perhaps this will become more important. But for now, I’m enjoying it for what it is.

I will not let the establishment dictate to me what I should be doing or what I need to achieve. Like you said, it’s the quality. I’ve never heard of that True Friends stuff before and 19 is a big number, but as my number of followers expands, I’m meeting all kinds of folks who have become very important to me. Maybe 19 isn’t such a big number after all.

BTW, thanks for coming by and commenting today. That was like a super WOW moment for me! I love your blog and I’ve learned a lot, which is why I listed you in my Pay It Forward post today. I think others who don’t already know of you really should take the time to read your stuff.

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Jami Gold October 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Hi Nancy,

This platform thingy is just gravy after all the friends I’ve made

That’s a great attitude to have. 🙂 If we made blogging our focus, we could increase our traffic and followers, but then we’d be a different kind of writer. Thanks for the comment (and thank you for including me in your Pay It Forward blog list 🙂 )!

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Emma Burcart October 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Great post! It was something I needed to read. I feel like this whole debate started the moment I decided that I want to blog. Maybe bad karma for something mean I did in 5th grade? Your post helped me decide that I am going to launch my blog next week because it is something I am excited about, not because it’s smething I have to do. It has actually taken a lot of pressure off. Thanks for that!

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Jami Gold October 14, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Hi Emma,

Welcome to the blogging world! 🙂 And nah, don’t take it personally. Issues like this pop up every so often in the blogosphere until everyone gets tired of talking about it. LOL! I’m glad this helps ease the pressure for you. Thanks for the comment!

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R October 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

As someone who was a part of Bree Despain’s Street Team in 2009, let me tell you…it was a ton of fun. I loved handing out bookmarks and lending my ARC to my friends (we’re college student so free things are super exciting). While, at least for me, the ST has kind of died down…I still talk about Bree’s books and I still read them as a fan. It was a great experience and one day I’d love to do it again. 🙂

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Jami Gold October 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm

R,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It’s great to hear that it was as cool for you as it was for her. Thanks for the comment!

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Haley Whitehall October 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Great analysis, Jami.
I’ve never cared much for numbers. I have my own personal goals. If everyone listened to the discouraging articles out there no one would bother to become a writer. That said, authors do have to market their books. If they believe that blogging is a waste of time then they need to devote that time into another outlet. I believe the next marketing revolution is Skyping with fans and podcasts.

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Jami Gold October 15, 2011 at 7:55 am

Hi Haley,

I have my own personal goals.

Great point! And this ties into my posts from weeks ago about avoiding the publishing kool-aid. We need to decide what our goals are and aim for them – not what someone else tells us we should aim for.

I know that Jody Hedlund did a Skype meeting with a book club when they read her book, so you might have something there. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Kerry Meacham October 15, 2011 at 5:31 am

You’ve had so many great comments that I’m just going to say, “Thanks.” There are only so many hours in a day/week/month/year/life to spend.* If we’re writers, which we are, we damn well better carve out sufficient time to write. We also need to build a platform, participate in social media, read craft and fiction, and then the non-writing things in life too. However, if we don’t prioritize the writing, it just doesn’t get done. I am adjusting my ROW80 goals tomorrow because I know NaNo is going to consume my November. If I don’t adjust other things, it will never happen. Thanks so much for the post ROWsis. 😉

* I’m really looking forward to “In Time” with Timberlake. What a brilliant concept, i.e. in the future you pay for everything with minutes of your life (4 minutes for a coffee). That’s one of those concepts where you wonder, “Why the hell didn’t I think of that?”

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Jami Gold October 15, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hi Kerry,

Yay! I’ve been adopted. 🙂

Ooh, yes, I think I talked about that movie on G+ back when the trailer first came out. I said that it might turn out to be horribly written, plotted, acted, etc., but that it had the best premise I’d ever heard of. Talk about a high-concept hook. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Christy Farmer October 17, 2011 at 3:23 am

Hi Jami-Yes, I have been hearing about the debates and the expectations of high numbers. I have always thought that there is no one size fits all. Books do no sell because of large followings-they sell through word of mouth (Thank you Kristen Lamb!) The last several books I have purchased came from word of mouth advertising alone. Jami-you have served the writing community well with your posts. I’m now following you on twitter and it is a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

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Jami Gold October 17, 2011 at 8:36 am

Hi Christy,

Good point. Our books are different, our audiences are different, our potential readers are different, so there is no “one size fits all” marketing approach that will work with everyone. And like you, my book purchases have been because of the friendships and ties to the author or word of mouth recommendations. We all know that method works. 🙂 It’s nice to meet you too and thanks for the comment!

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Heather October 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I actually checked out your blog due to your comment on Rachelle Gardner’s, about the pub. industry letting people down, etc. I, too, was shocked at both Wendy Lawton’s blog about NOT needing blogging, and conversely at Rachelle’s about needing the 15,000 hits. I like your idea of having that loyal core group of followers–that much I know I have. If people like how you write, they get behind you all the way so they can read more! I have to check out that writer’s hashtag linkup you gave. Nice “meeting” you in blogland!

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Hi Heather,

It’s nice meeting you too! (Rachelle Gardner’s latest post: bit.ly/p1t9es – My comment is at 10/18/2011 7:58pm) The idea that authors should be direct sellers of their books is wrong. If they sell some, that’s great, but it’s much better to get others to sell on our behalf. That’s how word of mouth happens.

My reaction on Twitter over this post has been that the publishers don’t get it and the agents are enabling them. *sigh* I feel bad for the newbie writers who will take that advice as gold. That’s enough to make almost anyone give up. Thanks for the comment!

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Maryanne Fantalis October 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm

See, this is why I keep coming back here. Bravo, Jami, for having the courage to question the perceived wisdom that comes down from on high which we are all supposed to obey without question.

I too am out here to make connections, but real CONNECTIONS with real people, and not just to ask, “What can you do for me?” I’ve found writers who are published who have tweeted back to me in friendship (no advice sought, none given); unpublished writers who I now consider friends though we’ve never met; writers who I’ve begun working with as critique partners… and yes, I feel like I’m building that “tribe.” What a perfect word! Would I like more hits on my blog? Sure. Do I think I need a million of them to be successful? Not a chance.

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Jami Gold October 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Hi Maryanne,

That sounds great! I’m glad that method is working for you. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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