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?
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?Pin It