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02 October 2010 @ 05:30 pm
on promotion  

Michelle Sagara has written some very fine posts about promoting oneself online as a writer: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. In a nutshell, don’t be an ass and don’t expect to develop a Scalzi-like following without a decade of hard work put into it. Only she says it better, so you should go read what she said while I investigate my navel.

I freely admit to envy over Scalzi’s followers. I also clearly haven’t got a *clue* how to get that kind of following, since I’ve been keeping an online journal since long before ‘blog’ was a word, and I think at most there are maybe a couple thousand people reading this. (Which is actually sort of mind-boggling, but it’s not the fifty thousand or so that hit Whatever daily.) Michelle rightfully points out that starting a blog with the purpose of getting 50K readers is probably useless, because then you’re doing it for the end game, whereas Scalzi built Whatever out of love of the job. Which is also why I blog (that, and because I kept seeing friends I hadn’t seen in months. We’d say to each other, “What’ve you been up to?” and “Oh, not much,” seemed like a ridiculous answer, so I started keeping a journal so they’d know what I was up to, if they cared to read.)–but that’s what my ‘blog’ is: a journal which more or less recounts the days of my life. That is, indeed, what most people’s blogs are, although I tend to think of those as journals because in my mind blogs have a specific focus or purpose or topic.

And really, I don’t have any idea why I know some writers who have thousands of LJ followers (I mean, ursulav, yeah, I get that: you come for the art, you stay for the hysterically bizarre weft and weave of her life, or sarahtales, who pens outrageously funny write-ups of the absurdities she gets up to, but there are others who, as far as I can tell, heap abuse upon their readership and people line up for more), and others who have at most a few or several hundred followers despite being a friendly, cheerful public persona.

There are days–more than I care to admit, perhaps, although it’s not like it keeps me up at night–when this bothers me. Partly because of the popularity contest aspect of it, I suppose, but just as much because it leaves me with this uncomfortable feeling that I’m doing something wrong. That I ought, somehow, to be doing something else, something better, something wittier, something cleverer, in order to draw more readers to the blog. Except this is just my life, and it’s not that exciting or strange, and I’m not clever enough to make it seem like it is.

There. This is my version of writer neuroticism, displayed for all to see on teh intarwebs. And it’s just not dramatic enough, is it? A few years ago somebody said “Your picture makes you look like some kind of broody cyberpunk goth chick, but really you’re just really wholesome and nice, aren’t you?!” (It must be noted this was said with relief, although it did sort of feel like a double-edged sword. :)) And I am, but as the reality-TV episode of Doctor Who said, “Does this seem like a world where the audience is going to vote to keep the nice girl in the house?” So I quite doubt I’ll ever get much beyond the nice-girl level of blog readership, and I will continue to be vaguely neurotic about it, but I promise not to do so in public again.

Or maybe I should. :)

(x-posted from the essential kit)
Current Mood: artisticartistic
Laura Anne Gilman: citron pressesuricattus on October 2nd, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
oh good; you said it all so I didn't have to (being too busy feeding my neurosis to blog about it)
S. L. Grayshadowhwk on October 2nd, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
I already spend time going wow, I posted and no one said anything. This is only going to get worse if I publish a book the general public will read, eh? Joy! :)
kitmizkit on October 2nd, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
It depends on how neurotic you want to be, but yeah, it can get under your skin if you let it. :)
T. Revst_rev on October 2nd, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
I only write about what strikes me as interesting, on the theory that if it's not interesting to me, it's probably not interesting to anybody else1. I don't have thousands of readers, though.

You could come up with a way to write up AmberMUSH logs that gets millions of readers! That worked for Jim Butcher, anyway.

1: This is a total lie. I write about what's interesting to me because that's...what interests me. I'd love to have thousands of readers, but not enough to actually do anything different2.

2: So, yeah, I don't actually have anything useful to say.

Edited at 2010-10-02 05:20 pm (UTC)
kit: gaming_rynnaenmizkit on October 2nd, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
You could come up with a way to write up AmberMUSH logs

*looks shifty*
Lady Doomlithera on October 2nd, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
T. Revst_rev on October 2nd, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
I'd let you steal some of my characters, but Longshot took them all.
kitmizkit on October 2nd, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
I'm coming from such a different place for my stories they wouldn't be the same at all even if I stole them! :)
T. Revst_rev on October 2nd, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
Mister is always the same! That's his thing.
kitmizkit on October 2nd, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
No one could possibly change Mister. :)
Bryantbryant on October 2nd, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC)
I'm never going to stop being amused that Raptre Thanlis is a pregen in Neverwinter Nights.
T. Revst_rev on October 2nd, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
Wasn't Raptre one of Corin's own characters, though?

Edited at 2010-10-02 08:01 pm (UTC)
Bryantbryant on October 2nd, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah. It's complete legit.
T. Revst_rev on October 3rd, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
Not that I'm annoyed about Mister and Jonathan showing up in the books. The real Mister died years ago, it's nice that he has a weird kind of permanent memorial. Kind of like my dad being secretly famous for his role in Porky's; it beats being forgotten completely.
ex_rolanni on October 2nd, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
I have the opposite problem; my pictures (like the one above) make me look wholesome and nice, when in reality I'm bad-tempered and sarcastic.

I started my LJ as a personal blog, and that's what it mostly is: I talk about writing sometimes, sure, because that's part of what I do with my life, but I also spend a fair amount of time talking about the cats, the day-job and living in Maine, because those things are part of what I do with my life, too. It would freak me out to have Whatever's readership -- sometimes it freaks me out to realize how many people actually do read my blog.

But, yeah, the popularity contest aspects are troubling.
kitmizkit on October 3rd, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
*laughs* Do you need a t-shirt that says "Warning: I Only *Look* Kind-hearted"? :)
(Anonymous) on October 3rd, 2010 02:19 am (UTC)
Of course everybody loves you. People not reading your blog is because they (a) haven't found it yet, or (b) haven't realized just how much they love you. :)

Onward and upward with the shameless self-promotion!
kitmizkit on October 3rd, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
*laughs* I'm not suffering from a dearth of affection, fear not. I love my readers. :)
T. Revst_rev on October 3rd, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)
A couple things set Scalzi apart, I think. First, he has a lot of practice writing short, general-interest pieces--he was an editor and columnist at the Chicago Maroon at the U of C in the late 80s, and a film and humor columnist at some paper after he graduated. He also wrote a lot of material for the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader books and other chunky nonfiction.

Second, he got a huge boost from blogs like Instapundit early on.

tl;dr version: Scalzi is a blogger who made it as a novelist, not a novelist who made it as a blogger.

Edited at 2010-10-03 11:35 am (UTC)
kitmizkit on October 3rd, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
Scalzi is a blogger who made it as a novelist, not a novelist who made it as a blogger.

Oh, that's an interesting way to look at it. Hadn't considered it, yeah. Huh!
Bryantbryant on October 3rd, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
So anyhow, I sort of feel like there are two controls on how much people flock to an creator's blog. One is how exposed the creator's willing to be. If you give people the feeling that they're on the inside, people like that. EBear's very open, Ursula's very open, etc. The downside of this is fairly obvious.

The other, which come to think of it is a variation on the first, is how much the readers identify. Charlie Stross is pretty standoffish on his public blog, but he's a geek and his audience (until Halting State) was pretty geeky. So there's stuff there to identify with even if he's not talking about a lot of personal life detail.

Friendly and cheerful is important, but people want to feel like they're insiders.

And St.Rev's right about Scalzi.
kitmizkit on October 3rd, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I generally think I *am* fairly open, although I've certainly got nothing on Ursula's level of, um, sharing, so perhaps I'm wrong. Of course, yeah, flip side of that is, I'm as open as I'm willing to be/feel is appropriate, so. Hnh.
T. Revst_rev on October 4th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC)
It occurs to me that a better example to consider would be Warren Ellis, as someone who went from writer to King of All Media. But he networks like mad, puts a huge amount of work into researching new media, building sites, and hawking his wares, and he has built a persona that gets people to work for him and feel like they're the ones being done a favor. You'd also have to start consuming lethal doses of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.
kitmizkit on October 4th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, he's the master. But I cannot imagine putting the effort in that he does. I fear and admire him, but I could not emulate him.
T. Revst_rev on October 4th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
Not the whole package, no, but consider for example the curatorial model, which is something he gets a lot of mileage out of at his forums. Instead of trying to provide content to attract a passive audience, ask questions and try to build an ongoing conversation. People like to listen but they love to talk. If you can get people to talk to each other under your roof, you can get a lot of blog-mojo for relatively little work. I'd do it a lot more if I were trying to build my audience and if I didn't basically hate and fear everyone.