Monday, January 9, 2012

Opinion — To Blog Or Not To Blog

Reading the posts on the blog “Murderati” is almost always provocative (in a good way). And not just the writers’ posts. The comments on those posts are thoughtful, often funny, as well. It’s an active, rather interactive site, and it’s great to witness writers and readers talking to each other in such a highly spirited manner.

I am kindly envious. I haven’t been able to generate the kind of debate and commentary here. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted a blog.

There were a number of other reasons as well. One was that I enjoy writing and there are times when I don’t want to work on the draft of whatever novel I’m working on at the moment. I have other things to say — about writing, publishing, and the city I live in and, perhaps, an occasional rant on politics. As a former magazine and newspaper editor, I miss putting words and pictures together and commenting on current events. But I’d be misrepresenting myself if I didn’t acknowledge that I was encouraged to create a blog by the popular notion (Maybe it was a commandment: Thou shalt create a blog.) that this piece of the “social media” was essential if I wanted to continue to sell books in this all too modern world.

But, somewhere on the blogosphere — and I’m sorry I can’t give proper attribution — someone recently suggested that, for writers, having a blog might be counter productive. The rationale was that while one may like your books, allowing readers to get to know you might not be a smart marketing move. In other words, someone, who might otherwise have read your book, checks out your blog and discovers you are a pompous windbag or possess any of number of less than admirable qualities. That thought was provocative too, but uncomfortably so. I know who I think I am. But do I know who people think I am, especially those who read what I write. My books are one thing. My personal opinions and observations, as they are revealed here, are something else. And I may be something else altogether.

Here is the final verse of Robert Burns’ poem, To A Louse.

O would some Power the gift to give us

To see ourselves as others see us!

It would from many a blunder free us,

And foolish notion:

What airs in dress and gait would leave us, 

And even devotion!

So, now should I write the blog, looking back over my shoulder? Questioning. Does using a poem to make a point make me a pompous ass? Will people think that the person they see on these blog pages somehow relate to the books I write? Should they?

One of the writers I’ve admired over the years is Truman Capote. I think he may have created some of the most elegant English any American ever wrote. I have seen him interviewed many times. I’ve seen him speak in person. (He arrived at the small auditorium drunk and incoherent.) I’ve read a few books about him. If I’d had the chance to have dinner with him, I would have. I’m sure it would have been interesting and educational. I would have been honored. In the end, though, I don’t think he was the kind of guy I’d pal around with. (He would probably feel the same.) I thought he whined a bit too much and only a fool would trust him with a confidence. On the other hand I’ve read all of his books and would read anything they’ve yet to unearth. I would have read his blog had he lived long enough and felt the need to create one.

But the larger point, I think, is that the writer is not the same as the story or the characters he or she creates. The proof is not in the pudding maker but the pudding itself. Was that pompous? Trite? Second-guessing isn’t fun.

At any rate, I’d love to hear from you about whether you think author’s blogs (not mine necessarily, though it is fair game too) actually help sales or hurts the writer. Or if, in fact, it makes a difference. Also, and perhaps even more interesting, what can you tell, if anything, about an author by the books or blogs he or she writes?

CAPTION: Portrait of Truman Capote by Horst P. Horst


Anonymous said...

Do you discover more than you really desire to know about an author by reading their blog and does it hurt their book sales?

This is an interesting theory, but can’t the same theory be applied to attending an author’s reading at a bookstore. Most authors read some pages from one of their books and then elaborate on the book idea, discoveries they made during their research and they spend time answering audience questions, which can turn more personal.

What about authors who participate in workshops or conferences as guest speakers or instructors. Similar to an author’s blog these activities could help or hurt sales too, right?

I don’t believe that reading an author’s blog will hurt the author’s book sales. Each author has a voice, a tone, style and attitude which are softly spoken through out the pages of their books. This voice is always part of any writing and either the reader enjoys it and buys the authors books or not!

Ronald Tierney said...

What you say makes me feel better. Though I think that while I'm writing a book I'm seeing the story unfold through the characters — almost an altered state of my reality, at least, in the end I think you're right. The writer's voice is always in there...somewhere.

Maddy said...

I've heard similar debates this week. e.g. should an author chime in [comment] on a blog that has reviewed their book? The general consensus seemed to be no. However, that's not the same as an author having a blog and writing about a whole range of matters that aren't necessarily book related.

As to your concerns, I wouldn't worry about it overly. There will always be readers who don't care for a writer's tone or interests or subject matter, but they'll also be a whole slew of other readers who appreciate getting to know their favored author on a different level, just as we all do when we read about author interviews etc.

Dana Fredsti said...

I like finding out about authors beyond their books. I think a lot of people enjoy the cyber-induced "personal" connection. Personally I stay away from religion and politics as topics on my blog because I don't think it's relevant to what I write ... so I would say for me it's nice to have some separation between a writer and his/her work (too much information can be a bad thing), but I think there's value in some sharing of personal life/opinions/cute cat pictures...

Other Lisa said...

agreed! the only way I think that a blog could really hurt an author is if said author has some kind of a crazed melt-down on said blog. Otherwise, I think, "Can't hurt. Might help."

Ronald Tierney said...

To Maddy, Dana and the Other Lisa...These are encouraging words. I agree as well; but there seemed to be some substance to the question. Thanks.