This latest kerfuffle has made me consider that very question. Do people blog because they’re “attention whores”, hungry for notice? Do they blog because they’re trying to sell you something, be it a book or a new skin care product? Do they blog because the publicity department in their publishing house told them they must?
I can’t speak for anyone else. I can only tell you that my own answer is: none of the above.
When I started my blog, back in 2005, I didn’t harbor any illusions that it would help me sell books. And I still don’t believe that blogging is all that effective a promotional tool. People don’t buy your books because you blog; rather, they come to your blog because they already know your name, and want to know more about the author whose books they’ve already read. Maybe you’ll pick up a new book reader here and there, who wanders onto your site through some random link, but I doubt those numbers are very significant.
I suspect that the opposite happens just as often — that something you write on your blog so offends a visitor that they swear never to buy any of your books. That happened to me last year, when I wrote a post about an author who behaved badly, and I confessed that I understood the human impulses that drove her. I was soundly condemned as being just as guilty as she was, because I wasn’t ready to pick up a rock and join the stoning party. From there it only got worse, with bloggers soon spreading the false rumor that I had dispatched my fan-minions to threaten anyone who disagreed with me. (Which begs the question, where are these amazing fan-minions, anyway, and could I get them over here to wash my windows?) By the time the rumors finished percolating through blog sites, I possessed horns and cloven hooves. The thing about rumors is, you can’t stamp them out. You can’t do anything but endure them and hope that people realize, over time, that they’re false. And that the people spreading them are liars.
The whole experience made me shut down my blog and walk away. I decided I would use it only to announce book news and media events. It was no longer a blog, but a publicity bulletin board.
For a few months, it was wonderful. No blogging! No blowback! I felt a burden had fallen from my shoulders. As it so happened, I was dealing with a family crisis at the time as well, and not blogging gave me time to deal with that crisis. I got supportive emails from other ex-bloggers, telling me: “Ending your blog is the best thing you can do for your own peace of mind. It’s vicious out there, especially for someone who doesn’t have the claws to fight back.”
So why did I come back to it?
Because I missed connecting with the people I’ve learned to know through this blog. And I missed talking about the book business. Even after 22 years as an author, I’m still hearing things, learning things about publishing, and whenever I do, I want to tell someone else about it. I live an isolated life, and seldom get to mingle with other writers. And my non-writer friends here don’t really care about the latest buzz on advances or Amazon.com. So whom do I go to with the latest publishing gossip? Who wants to hear about it?
Other writers. Who were reading my blog.
That’s why I came back to it. Not because it sells books. Not because it gets attention. But because I can’t think of any more effective way to share news and information, to compare notes, and to commiserate over our common frustrations, than through blog sites. That’s why I visit the blogs of so many other writers — I’m comforted when I read that Annie Author is banging her head over writer’s block, because I know I’m not alone. I get a sympathetic twinge when Wally Writer says he can’t find his latest book in Barnes and Noble, or Nick Novelist agonizes over the lousy review he got in PW — because I’ve been there too. These universal experiences link writers into a caring, sharing community — but we can’t link if we don’t hear about them. And that’s where blogs come in.
But there are blogs I’ve learned to avoid, blogs that reflect the personality of someone I would not want to associate with in real life. And they’re almost always written by people who are not published authors.
If you call another writer (and I apologize for writing these words) a bitch, slut, whore, prick, or asshole, I think I know what kind of person you are.
If you tell another writer or blogger to “STFU,” I know what kind of person you are.
If you encourage others to gang up and attack another writer, or actively work to destroy that writer’s career and livelihood, I certainly know what kind of person you are.
It may be the point of YOUR blog. But it certainly isn’t the point of mine.