‘Build an author platform’, we are told. As an author platform, is a blog economically viable?
If everyone put a penny in a virtual pot, one for each article they had read in August on Daily Echo, and if I added in any royalties from book sales attributable to the blog, there would be a grand total of £126 in there this month. Divide that by the hours spent writing, researching, finding and editing photos, posting and reading other blogger’s work… and the associated time on other social media, not to mention the writing of the books themselves … and the legendary riches of the author with the cushy job comes to a grand total of rather less than a halfpenny an hour in ‘wages’. From that deduct the electricity, internet subscription, the not insubstantial cost of maintaining the blog itself… not to mention the necessary supply of coffee… and you have to ask yourself… why?
Especially as this pot is imaginary, there are no pennies and thus the vast majority of the ‘funds’ disappear into thin air…
Why would anyone with a modicum of sanity spend so much time and effort on creating a blog in the first place, let alone writing for it every day?
Of course, the first thing that comes into question is that little phrase, ‘sanity? We are writers…
But that is always a purely subjective definition…The sanity, that is.
What, however, can possibly justify that kind of expenditure of time and effort for so little monetary reward? It isn’t as if it is a hobby… not something you are just doing for fun, even if you do enjoy the whole process.
If you blog as advertising, then it is not cost effective. You might as well invest the cash elsewhere…
With walls lined with books, it isn’t as if you are stuck for something to read and with other time consuming irons in the proverbial fire, plus a job to hold down, a dog to walk, or children to mind and a garret to maintain.. all whilst tearing your hair out trying to fit in some decent writing time…it certainly isn’t because you are bored…
Of course, there are the friends you make through blogging. But if you had never blogged, there would still be people to meet… and you might actually get out into the fresh air to do so. Which also brings the added health benefits in terms of exercise too…
…and less caffeine.
And more sleep.
So why would you blog? What is the answer to that eternal question, ‘What’s in it for me?’
I can’t speak with any certainty for anyone else, of course, but there are a number of things that, to me, are priceless and worth every unpaid moment invested…especially for writers.
• Find your voice. – It may be little more than a timorous whisper to begin with, but blogging is a public exercise and you have a different writing voice than you would use in the privacy of a journal, even though you write with the same honesty, from the heart. With its use, it is honed, toned and takes on a richer tone.
• Grow in confidence. Honestly, where else would you find a worldwide network people willing to read and comment on what you have written? Even, perhaps especially, when family are loath to do so!
• Learn. From your own mistakes… from other bloggers…from reading, writing, from the information shared by others who have walked this way and learned before you…or who have the technical know-how that you lack. Learn about editing, proofing, formatting and book covers… all those things the Indie needs to know…
• Share. There is a whole world of readers out there with whom you can share your work, your ideas… odd bits of amusement or sparks of inspiration that wouldn’t fit into a book.
• Preserve. Ideas get lost. Usually on the scraps of paper stuffed safely in a pocket and put through the washing machine…or eaten by the dog…A blog is a notebook full of ideas, not just a phrase long but expanded, explored… and written.
• Practice. When I started learning to paint the best piece of advice I was ever given was to paint a sky a day. Not a masterpiece… but a ten minute sky to explore techniques, adding daily to the knowledge of how to manipulate paint. Writers work with words. A blog post is not a magazine article or a masterpiece of literary art. It can be… but it doesn’t have to be. But it allows us to practice the way a musician practices their scales. Words are the notes of our song and the colours of our sky.
• Play. You can have fun with a blog. There is no pressure, no deadline… no requirement to stick to a single theme or topic. You can post a gratuitous picture of a llama if you wish.
• Experiment. If the llama wasn’t enough, you could try a random chicken… or a sheep… or maybe let the romantic novelist write a chilling bit of flash fiction, the thriller writer pen a poem… try something new, see where it leads and broaden your skills.
• Build. If you are going to write a book, you are likely to want someone to read it. Eventually. Possibly. You could just hope that someone will stumble across it on Amazon… or you could try and build at least a possible readership… (Yes, I know, this is where the author platform thing comes in…) Just be aware that numbers don’t matter. You can have as many followers as you like, but only a small proportion of those followers will actually come to your site, read your posts and take notice of the fact that you have a book… even fewer may read in your genre… fewer still will choose to buy the book. But when Amazon tells you that you have sales after writing a promotional piece, or you see the ‘pages read’ count reach the end of that e-book… it all seems worth it.
• Find inspiration. Inspiration can be found in anything and anywhere… but it often comes from the words you read or write. The more you read of others’ work, the more words go down on ‘paper’, the more likely they are to spark off a string of ideas… There is a sub-point here of value to all writers: Procrastination. Blogging is an excellent way of wasting time usefully…particularly when the book is reaching the editing stage….
And then there is the other side of blogging… Not the side that looks at what it can gain, but the people. Blogging is an excellent way to meet and engage with people. The other bloggers… the writers, poets, reviewers and humourists. The ones who make that moment when you press ‘publish’ feel like a worldwide party. The ones who leave that surprise review that makes you feel like a million dollars. The ones who ‘get’ what you are saying. The ones who share your stuff unannounced and give your flagging belief a lift. The ones who rally around to help when things are tough and who celebrate the high points with you. The community that over and over shows it has a heart of gold.
Blogging may be part of a writer’s promotional toolkit these days. But without people, we might as well put down the pen and disembowel the keyboard. People are our listeners… our readers… the ones who hear what we write and bring it to life. Without people, our words are dormant, our efforts mute…The most important part of your book is the person who reads it.
Is blogging worthwhile? Hell, yes!