I was at a writery-type meeting a few weeks ago and the question was raised: what’s the point of social media? And, following on from that, what’s the point of blogging?
Over the last few years it has become an article of faith: if riches and fame an author doth seek, let them face the public at least once a week. It has become not just common but required; anyone seeking a publication deal must have an ‘author platform’. A webpage, a blog, or merely an active ‘soapbox’ on Twitter or Facebook.
What if this accepted wisdom is wrong?
It’s easy to see the problem. If we’re spending time lovingly crafting these tiny essays, carving and paring our Tweets or telling all our friends what we’re up to (‘just burned the toast lol #toastfail’) then we’re not doing ‘real’ writing. Beyond that – and this is the point of the abovementioned conversation – it’s almost impossible to reach any actual potential book buyers through social media. With so many voices clamouring for attention, and no big product to back up your words, there’s no way to get through to the general public. You end up with a circle of people in your position: other authors, in other words, and all the time you’ve spent ends up shared only within an almost incestuous group of people in the same position as you.
An example is some of these ‘blog-tours’ that I’ve been involved with, hosting and promoting other writers on this platform. Let’s be honest about this – although I’m absolutely delighted to have been involved in these, I seriously doubt they’ve really raised profiles, either mine or other people’s.
Well that’s still better than nothing, right?
When I first set up this blog I was explicit about my motives: I wanted to build up my profile so that I would be more attractive to potential publishers/agents. But over the year and a half or so I’ve been going my reasons have changed. I realised pretty early on that I wasn’t going to get thousands of followers all desperately hanging on my every word, who had been entranced by my witty author-voice and were now itching to get their grubby little mitts on my writing. Instead I found I enjoyed the discipline of working out something to write about, of spending my Monday morning writing-time trying a different style of communication. It’s a place for me to muse about writing, my own and other people’s, and to break down in my own head some aspects I wanted to consider myself. Writing is learning. And what better way to learn then by sharing with other people?
And this little incestuous group I’ve formed – it’s actually quite a nice place. I’ve found a lot of blogs, some of which I have great respect for. Finding other perspectives, other people in the same place as me, is a good feeling.
Now I have a backlog of writing that, should I ever actually achieve my goals and get something published, Josephine Public will be able to find once she discovers me via another outlet. I’ve got a history and a personality online, free for everyone to see, that shares a little of my story and my character. This will hopefully stand me in good stead for the future.
Whether this demand for authors to have their voice is a passing phase or the secret to a prosperous future – well, who can answer that? I know I don’t have much faith in ‘interactive fiction’, with its videos and links and electronic wizardry – don’t people realise that the whole point of books is that this already happens inside the readers’ head without having to step outside the adventure to click on the link?
All I know is that I quite enjoy my little bubble. I like the challenge of trying to be interesting. I don’t think that people should be forced to do the same as me, I don’t want to be a statistic or invisible or a lone voice shouting in the void and to those who have made a career in the field without resorting to Twitter I say ‘kudos’. But I like it here. I’ve made my blog and I’ll lie in it.
What do you think? I know many of my regular readers keep blogs themselves (incest!) and I’d be interested to know whether you consider bloggeration a success or a distraction.
But now it’s time to put my toys away and get on with some real writing. Ciao!