TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG?
That is “the question” facing pretty much all of us involved with the world of books today. Although I’m pretty good at maintaining an author website…it remains to be seen if I could maintain the large commitment of energy and time required to make a splash in the every-expanding universe of the internet blog-o-sphere. Since I working on the answer to the question myself, I’m tossing it out to those who have bravely gone where this writer is just now treading. Some of the answers are below. Kudos to all those who have pulled off this balancing act in their business and creative lives!
Cynthia Leitich Smith
I believe that blogs are having a steadily increasing impact on sales, though I’m not sure how we could quantify it. The content quality of many blogs is as high as you’ll find anywhere in the industry, and by the very nature of the Web, there are fewer barriers to diversity of point of view. Blogs help raise name recognition for authors and titles. They shine a light on quality books that haven’t been blessed with large marketing budgets. That said, I don’t recommend thinking of blogging first as a sales tool. Instead, think of it as a venue for making a contribution to the conversation of books. Consider the interests of your readers and the needs of the youth literature community. Enjoy the experience. Big-picture, the kidlitosphere is an inspiring, thought-provoking, uplifting place to be. If sales follow, that’s a happy side effect.
I don’t have any solid facts or figures about blogs equating to higher book sales, however my gut tells me that it certainly can’t hurt. For many authors, it could be a long time between books. What blogging does is keep you out there and in touch with your readers. I certainly couldn’t publish a book a week, but I can blog that much or more”
Every Sunday we recommend a book via our Unshelved Book Club (http://www.unshelved.com/bookclub.aspx), and many of our readers indicate that they take said recommendations religiously. This surprised me at first – we pick a pretty random selection of books, fiction and nonfiction – until I realized that the only reason someone would read our comic strip is if they shared our point of view. And if they share our point of view, they’ll probably like the books we like. And that has proven to be the case. Unshelved is not a blog (though we do have a blog) but I think the same basic premise holds. I read several opinion blogs having nothing to do with books. When they speak highly of a book, I give it serious consideration, because my opinions are already highly calibrated with theirs. Really, aside from bestseller lists how else do people find out about books than by the recommendations of those they like and trust?
Rebecca Grose, SoCal Public Relations
I think book blogs have much more of an impact on the YA market than for other children’s books. Teens love to interact with authors, and each other, about their thoughts and feelings and why a book has affected them, or not. A blog is a great way for fans to find out more about their favorite authors, but it’s also a wonderful way for the author to keep their fans informed about what they have coming up next. This translates to building more of a buzz about their books, which leads to an increase in sales. Anything that heightens awareness of an author and his/her work is a good thing.
This is not to say that authors of other types of children’s books shouldn’t start a blog, but it may take more effort, and more time before any effect is felt. Bottom line, if you’re comfortable with writing a blog, and have the time, you should definitely explore this option. And if you do, be sure to get the word out about it in as many ways as you can: postcards/bookmarks, jacket flap, link w/your publisher, alert libraries and bookstores (especially locally), etc.
Debbi Michiko Florence
Author of two nonfiction activity books for kids – China: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book (Williamson Books/2008) and Japan: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book (Williamson Books/Summer 2009). She is currently working on a YA novel. You can find her at her website http://www.debbimichikoflorence.com where she interviews children’s authors.
I do think some blogs have the ability to influence books sales positively. I wonder if anyone has done a formal study? A friend and I have done a very unscientific, informal study by watching our rankings on Amazon. When I ran a contest on my blog, asking others to mention my book and contest on their blogs, my sales ranking dropped (this is a good thing). When my friend’s YA novel was mentioned in several articles, her sales ranking, also, dropped. Recently, I ran another contest on my blog, promoting my book, and my ranking dropped again. But since my book is about China, and the Olympics are going on right now I can’t be sure how much my contest affected sales. Of course, we have no real way of knowing what exactly influenced the change in ranking, and I have no clue how the rankings are determined.
Additionally, I have purchased books solely on the recommendations or buzz on other blogs. Often, it’s a book I’ve never heard of, but seeing it blogged about several times does influence me. I have also purchased books after reading about the author in a blog interview. I make a point of blogging about books I love and cheering on my friends by promoting their books on my blog.
But in order for blogging to equal sales, I think it’s important for a blogger to gather a following. If a blogger doesn’t have a regular audience, then blogging about any book won’t make a difference. Bloggers should keep audiences interested and keep them coming back. Some blogs have a very specific focus – either discussing the writing process, interviewing children’s authors, or promoting a group of authors’ works. There are a couple of author blogs I read solely for the tickle factor – they consistently make me laugh. Other blogs, like mine, dabble in many topics – books, writing, family, travel, pets, and more. Posting regularly also makes a difference. If weeks/months go by between posts, a blogger can lose his/her audience.
As long as a blog is fun to read and/or informative and the blogger comes across as friendly and knowledgeable, I’ll keep going back to read it regularly and should the blogger recommend a book or promote his/her book, chances are, I’ll look for it!