I’d like to talk about blogging for the next few days. Blogging is alleged by many to be a great way for a novelist to market himself or herself. It’s also alleged by a shrinking (but still vocal) minority to be a colossal waste of time. It’s just possible that it’s both. I’ll be interested in what you think on the subject.
I’m evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they’re letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.
- The best blogging techniques.
- How to get traffic to your blog.
- How to turn your blog into money.
I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it’s still free.
My friend, Mary DeMuth, who often posts comments on this blog, has launched a new blog, “So You Want To Be Published,” just in the last few days. I had a look just now, and there’s some very good info there for pre-pubbed writers. Mary is giving away three copies of her e-book on how to write a nonfiction proposal to folks who leave comments on her blog. I’ve already got this e-book and it was quite useful to me in writing a fiction proposal — I found some of her formatting ideas to be a step ahead of the format I was using. In general, of course, a fiction proposal has a lot of differences from a nonfiction proposal, so I’m been encouraging Mary since November to write an e-book on fiction proposals too.
I want to wrap up one last question that carried over from last week before we move on to talk about blogging.
I have a question about a project that’s been (as you put it) composting for several months. In narrative nonfiction, memoir, essay, etc. (Think Gretel Ehrlich’s “The Solace of Open Spaces) how do you deal with stories about people, dead or alive? If, for example, you have a great tale about Joe Schmo that might embarrass or infuriate him (or family members, if he’s dead). Change the name? Seek permission/approval? Write it factual and hope?
Randy sez: First, I am not a lawyer, so nothing I write below should be construed as legal advice. I think I have just covered my hindquarters so now I can tell you my opinion without being sued if I am wrong.
As I understand things, you cannot libel a dead person. And in general, if you tell the truth about a living person, then it’s not libel. In the US, the libel laws are pretty toothless, and writers have great leeway in writing about people. This is NOT true in many other parts of the world, notably Great Britain, where the libel laws are much tougher on writers. If you have any question about whether you are libeling a living person, you should consult a lawyer with experience in libel law.
Libel is not the only issue, of course. Invasion of privacy is also a serious problem. As I understand it, you are not allowed to expose your next door neighbors to public embarrassment, even if what you say is true, and even if they are dead. Private citizens have the right to privacy, and they have a right to NOT have their sins exposed in public. If they have broken the law, call the cops. If it’s a matter of “moral turpitude” (whatever that is) or even something merely embarrassing, you’d better keep your lips zipped. Unless they are public figures.
Politicians, rock stars, athletes, and other Important Folks lose most of their expectation of privacy when they become famous. (This is the hazard of being famous.) And be aware that the more famous you become as a writer, the less expectation you have of privacy. It’s a good idea to not only “be legal” in what you write, but treat other people the way you’d want to be treated.
Back to Parker’s question: If you can get permission, then you are likely to be OK. If you can’t get permission, then change the names and change any other identifying characteristics that might enable readers to guess who it is. If you can’t do that, change the story enough so that the person is unrecognizable. If you can’t do that, drop the story.
Again, I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take my opinions as legal advice. Ask a lawyer with experience on the question. I am sure at least one lawyer reads this blog, so here’s hoping we’ll hear from him/her on the question.
Gerhi Janse van Vuuren says
I blogged for a while (about two months). It took a huge amount of time and brain space.
My argument to myself when I started was that I’m writing so it’s good practice. But it wasn’t amounting to anything in particular. Eventually I stopped. Not because it was bad but because I had better things to do.
I would rather spend my blogging time on developing my craft. My most important goal is to write a novel from beginning to end and edit it, finished. Once that’s done I can start blogging as a novelist. Before then I’m not just pre-published, I’m pre-novelled.
What I do suggest is to get a website. Build it slowly. Write a good article when you have something to say but don’t put the pressure of blogging on yourself yet. Get up a contact page and info and stuff. Once you are ready, have the time and have something to say that you can keep talking about regularly and informatively for a long time, then add a blog to your established site.
Daan Van der Merwe says
I believe that the laws of defamation in South Africa, where I have been practicing since 1981, is pretty much the same as in the USA, both having their roots in Roman Dutch Law.
I have no doubt that the relatives of a deceased person who is “libeled”, have no course of action whatsoever.
Where the person is still alive, I agree that the ideal solution would be to obtain that person’s permission. However, if permission is refused, there’s a danger of waking up sleeping dogs.
Over the years, even if the offensive publication was the truth, it was not good enough. The truth also had to be in public interest. Recently however, this has been changed to allow for “fair comment”. In my opinion, this is still risky.
I therefore agree that without permission, the person’s particulars should be changed as far as possible, with the usual disclaimer on the very first page: “This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between any of the characters and real persons is purely co-incidental, etc. etc.”
A last consideration: I don’t know publishers well but I’m sure that even the slightest chance of legal action will discourage a publisher. I also believe that publishers are well aware of the fact that under certain circumstances, they could be successfully joined as co-defendants, in which case the wronged person’s lawyer will, without doubt, go for the publisher, as his bankroll would probably be much thicker than that of a fiction writer.
Lynn Squire says
A friend of mine encouraged me to blog over a year ago as a way to communicate to friends and family. The blog was closed to only those I invited. That was a great introduction.
Just recently I started a blog http://faithfictionfunandfanciful.blogspot.com/ (hope you don’t mind me giving it out here) to map my road to publication. I decided this would challenge me to take at least one of the novels I’ve written to the next level – actually attempt to have it published.
I would never have attempted this project had I not encountered a number of quality blogs. Recognizing that the blogs I would return to had a theme and content worth reading, I prayed about it for some time before chosing this topic. Randy, this is the blog I emailed you about regarding your Snowflake Method.
The other thing I discovered was that I tended not to return to blogs that didn’t have some system of telling me what their next post would discuss. So I used FeedBlitz for subscriptions.
I’ve not come across any blogs that are money generators, except through advertisements. I would interested in how that works.
Sally Ferguson says
I agree with Gerhi that blogging takes an enormous amount of time, however, I am finding a whole new arena of comradship through blogging. I am learning a great deal from other sites about the craft of writing and life in general. And I am becoming more confident in the sound of my own “voice” on my blog. It’s definately a worthwhile endeavor.
Kristi Holl says
Randy, thanks for the information on the free blogging course. I will certainly go there ASAP. I just started a blog a month ago, and I quickly went from daily posts to 4X a week posts. It takes a long time to write something with meat in it, which is the only kind of blog I read. Mary’s blog for prepublished writers discusses the craft side, and mine handles the emotional side. (That was the thing that most often derailed my students, I found.)
Pam Halter says
Randy said: It’s a good idea to not only “be legal” in what you write, but treat other people the way you’d want to be treated.
I say: There is the heart of it.
As for blogging, I enjoy participating on other blogs right now. It’s quite time consuming, but I’m learning good stuff and getting that comaraderie Sally mentioned.
Mary E. DeMuth says
Thanks for the plug about my new blog.
As to the efficacy of blogging, my belief is that you can certainly make a go of it if:
*You are a fast writer.
*You are disciplined enough not to let blogging (which includes reading of blogs) usurp your actual writing time.
*You have learned ways to garner traffic, newsletter sign ups, or to generate income.
*You believe you can offer fresh and relevant contact.
*You are willing to update regularly.
As to libel in characterization, it really shouldn’t be an issue if you write three dimensional characters. Don’t take the lazy way out and completely fashion a character after someone you know. Vary them. Give them different motivations, a different physical make up. Take one or two traits from a woman you know and shove them into a male character.
Mary E. DeMuth says
Oops. Typo alert. Fresh and relevant CONTENT not CONTACT. Sorry folks.
I’ve made contacts through blogging that I never would have if I didn’t start. It’s been both a blessing and a curse, and I’d love to learn new techniques to maximize my productivity and reach the more people in my target audience! Look forward to reading more!
I enjoy blogging but I need to learn how to use it as a marketing tool and to blog more regularly. I also need to know how to do html so I can add e-mail service for people to click on, etc. I have no clue how to do any of that. I need to learn how to build an audience, too.
Tiffany Colter says
Actually I think blogging is very important. As part of my Writing Career Coach Course that I’m revamping I actually spend almost 1/5 of the entire course telling my students how to blog, what to blog, and why to blog.
I am a recent convert. I found it boring and wasn’t very committed but since I started with new vigor right after the ACFW conference in September I have had great traffic to my site and I’m really enjoying it. I really think the key is what you’ve taught us all along: Content. That is why so much of my course is committed to blogging. Many people just don’t do it right.
Thanks for covering this Randy. And once again, freaky that you and I are on the same wave length. 🙂
See you at ACFW this Fall.
I am a fairly new blogger, less than two years, and have gone from blogger to wordpress, and now am reading that web based blogs generate more traffic than the free blogging sites.
I feel that I am still learning and growing in the blogging arena, and enjoy it very much. I have met wonderful people like yourself on the internet. If it were not for blogs, all that I plan to do and desire to do would take much longer.
Yes, blogging can take time, but it boils down to discipline. At the beginning I read every blog I can find, and then narrowed it down to just a few that I read.
I would like to know if web based blogs do generate more traffic, and I would like to learn how to make money from your blog.
I agree with Gerhi- blogging can distract from novel writing- it takes tremendous discipline to not feel “done” with writing for the day once a blog entry is posted, and it can really pull the focus away from thinking about the novel as well. Also, if you are writing a mainstream novel, how does one become an “expert” in anything related to the novel- as opposed to a genre novel? I stopped blogging once I started writing my novel. The only way I can see it working and/or being useful would be if I blogged on a topic not related to the novel, but then how does that establish my street cred as a novelist? It does seeom to make more sense to have a solid website (I do) and to start blogging once the novel is sold- perhaps about the process of becoming a novelist?
Andie Mock says
Author of the book, The Four House Work Week, Tim Feriss says that optimal blogging is every three days.
You can find more discussion about this on his blog 🙂
ML Eqatin says
Blogging interest me. this last year I have been studying the medium in preparation to starting one myself. I have learned a lot reading other people’s blogs. Commenting and reading has sucked up a lot of time, but for the first round, I count it research. It has slid over into nin-productivity at times, tho, and I am getting wary about that.
Here is a lesson I learned from my old business of selling llamas and wilderness packtrips. The internet is a very broad brush. We were one of three websites on our topic in the ’90’s and I wasted a lot of time educating people from Maine to China on my field of expertise. That was why I wrote my first book. (But, on another topic, it had too many personal stories about people who were easy to identify, tho I did not use names, some of which were very true but unavoidably non-complimentary since I was talking about real problems in real genetic lines.)
I did not make one sale of a packtrip or a llama from all that activity. Fortunately for me, I yanked the book after a few people gave me grief. Thank God I didn’t post it; that stuff hangs around forever to haunt you.
When we stopped breeding and focused mostly on wilderness trips, our contacts with other llama folks outside of our area didn’t do a thing to sell our product. They didn’t want our product; they had lots of it themselves. And this is the problem with writer’s blogs from a marketing standpoint: they are all frequented by other writers or would-be writers. That’s great if you are Randy Ingermanson, who sells products to writers. But if I blog, I want to reach readers.
So offering insights on how I write will not interest 90% of the readers I have not yet reached. My blog has to offer content that has value to the people who would enjoy my books. So I am gathering stuff to post on working animals, the renaissance,trade, and the history of religions of the time, especially Christian-Muslim relations. Writers who don’t write that period won’t be interested, but hopefully people who read my ‘brand’ will be.
Now how do I attract them to my blog once I get around to setting it up?
I’m waiting with bated breath for what you have to say on this, Randy.
Andie Mock says
Sorry for the Five Finger Fumble – that’s Four Hour Work Week, not Four House Work Week. My nine year old was pestering me with questions.
The way I blog, it is mostly a waste of time. I’ve been at it almost a year and last month I made $70.00 through Pay Per Post… which won’t ever pay me what my time is worth, but was fun. I haven’t done any paid adds since then but I probably will in the future.
I can see that blogging could be a good way to market. This blog, for instance, shows me how much worth I would get out of your workshops. A lot of writer’s blogs seem to be filled with posts about characters I don’t really care about and fictional situations I’m not yet interested in. Maybe after you have published something a blog would be more interesting.
bonne friesen says
I have a little blog (just click my name) about the experience I’m gaining as a writer. This includes comments about the college writing class I took, discussions of what I’m learning from Randy’s recommended writing craft books (I always include a link), some personal musings and a few of my writing samples.
It’s nothing earth-shattering, but I like having the platform to share insights. One reader friend got really turned on to writing from following the link to the Snowflake article and hearing about Nanowrimo from my blog. That’s just cool.
The way I see it, having some presence online is better than having no presence. Even if it doesn’t develop into something huge on my own, future publishers will see that I am interested in promoting myself and have at least half a clue about how to go about it. I’m content to begin small, and grow gradually.
Susan Cogan says
“’m evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology.”
If this isn’t a scam it’s utterly deceptive. I put it on my blog in good faith, but when I went to the site I couldn’t find a “multimedia course on blogging” so I deleted it off my blog. I’ll look over their materials but with such a dishonest beginning I don’t think I’m going to trust them for anything.
I’ve just started blogging as a part-time job/small business and am looking forward to any wisdom I can glean.
I guess I’m with Bonne – I started a blog that didn’t offer a lot of content to start with, thinking it was better to be out there than not at all. What I can benefit from it currently is that it allows my hoards of fans to learn a little about me, my style and what I’m writing.:)
I would like to get it rolling strong one day, but obviously that needs to wait until I have something important to offer. I’m in no hurry to add another blog on writing to the gobs that already exist. And to be honest…I haven’t found a large number of blogs that I can’t live without.
My focus right now is on writing a novel, so the only blogs I have time for are those that will help improve my writing. Guess what the number one blog on writing fiction is???? Take a guess. I also subscribe to feeds on a couple of other must-read blogs that are giving me plenty to chew, more than I can digest, actually.
But to be very honest, there are tons of writing blogs that review books and interview authors, and while I’m interested in hearing and learning about them, there is a glut of the same info out there. I don’t want to glut, so I’ll keep marinading until I come up with that special something that will make a must read for someone besides my mother.
Andie Mock says
What content can an author blog or write about that would really sell potential readers of one’s fiction books?
This problem has consumed my thinking for ~six months.
Not to put Randy on the spot, but I wonder what the conversion rate of readers of Randy’s blog (RORBs) or non-fiction products buy his fiction?
Not that there should be any percentage as Randy’s blog/website are not setup to do this converting but how would one go about getting non-fiction writing to sell one’s fiction books?