Agent turned writer Nathan Bransford speaks out against the whole author branding mania and says that there is no such thing as personal brand on the internet.
In a similar vein, J.A. Marlow tackles the myth of the author online presence and particularly the notion that writers should blog about something other than writing, because only writers are interested in writing and writers don’t buy books.
I’m not sure where the whole “Don’t blog about writing” mantra has come from, though John Locke’s book seems to be a significant source as well as his Why I love my Mom and some football coach post that he promotes as the ideal promotional blog post. Now I actually had to google the guy he mentions in the post to find out that he was a football coach, because John Locke doesn’t tell us. Apparently, he assumes that we already know or at least that the readers he wants to attract already know. Which means that I am obviously not part of his target audience.
You have to buy John Locke’s book to get his advice on author blogging. But Livia Blackburne sums up John Locke’s author blogging advice here.
The blogging advice offered by Justine Musk at Tribal Writer is similar in nature, though it concerns fewer references to obscure sport figures.
In a tongue in cheek post, Paul Jessup claims to have found the secret mathematical formula for creating a successful writing blog.
Meanwhile, Janice Hardy has another angle on the question whether writers should blog about writing, namely that blogging about writing can help writers improve their craft even if it doesn’t sell books.
At my main blog, I blog about writing, because I am passionate about writing. I also blog about books I read and TV shows I watch, I blog about ongoing genre discussions, I blog about teaching, I blog about German politics, I blog about the deaths of obscure celebrities who meant something to me. And yes, I am fully aware that some of these topics interest very few people apart from me. Would blogging about American football coaches gain me more readers for my blog and my books? Probably. But since I don’t give the slightest damn about American football coaches, any attempt to blog about that subject would likely come across as fake to the people who actually do care. What is more, my blog, including the offbeat topics, reflects who I am.
Besides, readers are always free to skip posts that don’t interest them. That’s one of the beauties of blogging. I follow the blogs of several writers and all of them write posts about things that don’t interest me at all, e.g. certain sports, dieting and weight loss regimes, frequent political ranting on subjects mainly of interest to Americans, the fact that their dogs are cute, etc… If a post like that comes up, I skip it. If the ratio of stuff I care about versus stuff I don’t give a damn about shifts too far towards stuff I don’t give a damn about, I may stop following that particular blogger.
Besides, having a blog post go viral via a link from a popular blog or just a strange case of serendipity does not influence sales at all in my experience. I’ve had a few posts that went viral, including the accidental Strunk and White fanfiction traffic spike, one of my posts on the wave of academic plagiarism allegations against German politicians that was picked up by VroniPlag, the hub of the German anti-plagiarism movement, or my post on the challenges facing international writers that was picked up by a couple of high-profile (in my corner of the internet) blogs. Most recently this post on culture and diversity was linked from a popular blog. And while these posts and the resulting traffic spikes may well have gained me new readers, they did not translate into increased sales.
I also have a couple of slow but steady burners such as this post (a personal favourite) on A Clockwork Orange and its surprising similarities to the British TV show Misfits, which got very few hits when it was new but has been steadily collecting hits ever since. Have any of these hits translated into sales? I don’t really know. And neither does anybody else.