How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog
by Susan (lying about that "stop worrying" part)
It’s wild to think I’ve been blogging for nearly a year. Yep, as of May, the Lipstick Chronicles will be celebrating its first anniversary. When we started this thing, I had no idea what to expect (much less what to do), or what the end results would be. Like anything else, sometimes you just dive in and figure out the details later.
Needless to say, I’ve learned an awful lot, about people, about myself, and my writing. I’ve figured out that I honestly love doing short essays every week, and I’m like a kid on Christmas, waiting for comments to go up. In my opinion, the best blog pieces share information or experiences that may prove helpful to others; or they throw out some commonality of everyday life that we all understand. It’s such a blast when a column gets the conversation rolling, and the comments turn into dialogue between strangers and friends.
Or strangers who become friends. Yes, I’ve met some wonderful folks out there in the blogosphere; people who are talented and funny and who've become like neighbors I want to hang over the fence and chat with everyday.
I’ve also been introduced to other blogs that I enjoy reading, many written by pals who regularly visit Lipstick. I read these blogs in the morning with my OJ, like I used to read the paper, and I find out things going on in the book world that I otherwise wouldn’t know (thanks to places like GalleyCat, Beatrice.com, and Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind). A peek at Manolo’s Shoe Blog always gets me chuckling.
I’ve discovered, too, in my year of getting around the blog world, how revealing some bloggers are about very personal aspects of their private lives. At least, they peel back the curtains far wider than I ever would. Call me bashful, but I’ve read things that have made me blush and shake my head, wondering what the person was thinking. I’ve learned details about surgeries, Brazilian bikini waxes, and sexual escapades…mostly people I don’t know from Adam, except in the blog universe.
Although, some I know well.
I’ve occasionally had to warn Ed, “Please, don’t let your mother go to Lipstick today,” and I’ve found myself grateful my mom can barely get online to email. Those are the days I’ll get notes behind the scenes, asking, “How could she say that? Why did you let her?” And I’ll remind folks that that I never know what’s going up on the blog until everyone else does. Every blogger at Lipstick--including the guests--is free to write about whatever he or she chooses. We certainly don’t censor each other. So, if you’re surprised by a particular piece on a particular morning, chances are, I am, too. But just because there are places I will never go in my columns doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for others to explore topics that intrigue them.
Like, well, sex (since we're talking about it already...okay, I'm talking about it).
You’ll never catch me spilling pillow talk on Lipstick. But others bloggers often do. In Ayelet Waldman’s case, it landed her on Oprah. And who’s that ho’ in D.C. who blogged about servicing the politicos and got a book deal out of it? If sex doesn’t sell then why are Jessica Simpson and her DDs still on the covers of so many magazines?
Sell, sell, sell.
Isn’t that what it’s all about these days?
It’s a topic that recurs frequently on author-driven blogs, namely how to peddle faster than a Lycra-clad zealot in a spinning class. What’s working to sell more books? How do I get my name out there? What’s the secret for hitting the best-sellers lists (besides getting a stratospheric advance and all the press that goes with it)?
I’ve seen a host of opinions on the subject, some wonderfully informative (particularly when it’s advice from business insiders, like booksellers) and the rest a bunch of blather that doesn’t offer up anything new, except the old “you have to spend money to make money” mantra. Ho-hum.
It’d be nice, for a change, if readers blogged on the topic of how they found new authors. What makes someone pick up one book versus another? Is it the cover art? The jacket copy? The blurbs? A review in the paper or online? Did a friend say, “You have to try this series! It rocks!”
Now that’s the kind of information I’d love to hear.
Lately, I find myself increasingly dwelling on this: for all the time spent fretting over the blog and writing pieces for it, does it actually sell books? Does it create greater reader awareness of a particular author or series? Does it increase an author’s web site traffic? Does it give you exposure in ways that appearing at conventions and book stores can’t?
I’ve been checking my web site stats to see if visitors and hits correlate with the appearance of my essays on Wednesdays. You’d think that would be the case, right?
I did, and I was dead wrong.
Wednesday is typically the third or fourth most active day of the week on my web site in terms of visitors and hits. Hmmm. And while the blog does send me traffic, it’s nominal. Hmmm again.
So should I be spending time writing books rather than blog pieces? Is it worth it professionally? Or should I just be happy for the personal pleasure I derive from doing these essays and interacting with the wonderful folks who come to Lipstick?
I’d really love for y’all to weigh in. Have you discovered new authors via blogs? Does getting TMI from some writers on their blogs actually turn you off to their books?
And, finally, who might you want to see on Lipstick in the future? More authors from all genres? Non-authors? This inquiring mind wants to know! And not because I’m constantly asking questions like a three-year-old (okay, that, too, not to mention my tendency toward overanalyzing everything...but you probably already know that from my past blogs, don't you?).