I started this blog one year ago today. I began with only a vague idea of what I might have to offer, but being motivated by the solid advice that I needed to build a readership in order to promote my soon-to-be-released novel, I forged ahead in the comforting knowledge that no one would actually be reading my posts. I started out with about four followers and close out the year with 489. I’m glad I didn’t know that would happen when I started, because the only way I could get over my extreme self-consciousness and fear of exposure (paradoxical, isn’t it?), was to assure myself only those four friends were reading my blog. Then I was Freshly Pressed after a mere month of blogging and had over 1600 views in two days. So there went the bubble of anonymity. Luckily by then I’d discovered that I actually have a bit of a knack for this blogging thing. Go figure. So here are some theories about blogging I’ve developed this past year:
- Followers are elusive and possibly mythological creatures. This is sort of a disappointing one. I’d prefer to believe I have 500 3-D people out there anxiously waiting to buy my next book and write glowing reviews about it when they do. I first noticed the ‘hollow follow’ phenomena on Twitter, where people started following me even though I’d never tweeted anything and I wondered, WTF? So I checked them out and was duly impressed by their 40,000 followers. Then I noticed that they also followed 40,000 themselves. Okay, what percentage of those tweets do you think they even see? So, even though I’m now consistently gathering followers every day, when I check them out, I have to admit many are unlikely to ever actually read my posts. True, just because their site is entirely in Tagalog doesn’t mean they might not be reading English language blogs, but I have my doubts. Then there are the ones selling religion, insurance, life coaching, their own ever-so-precious fabulousness, etc. I do not auto-follow. Life is too short and my inbox/newsfeed/reader is too crowded. I want to have a chance of catching the posts of bloggers I find interesting and talented. Our word game has morphed into a numbers game, and a fairly meaningless one at that. What does it matter if you have 40K followers if no one is paying any attention?
- Like invisible friends, invisible readers ARE REAL. I call this the ‘ghost reader’ phenomenon, which I discovered while speaking to acquaintances, family members and co-workers who casually mentioned something I wrote in a blog. I had no idea they read my blog, as they do not Like, they do not Follow, they don’t do Facebook or LinkedIn, and they certainly don’t retweet. This is the frustrating, non-participating wild card in the ever-pressing pursuit of NUMBERS. Oh well, it’s comforting to think about an invisible army of readers, isn’t it?
- I am not unique. Imagine my surprise to find the blogosphere densely populated with aspiring, emergent and struggling writers like myself, all seeking to establish a presence in the vast unfeeling expanse of the Internet. Rather than viewing these others as competition, I prefer to think of them as allies and fellow travellers in this strange new world. That’s why I try to read their posts and share what I like. We’re in a battle against a glut of information and words and images, so one service we get to provide as readers is sifting through the morass and giving a good writer or artist a bit of a boost.
- I am unique. Okay, we all know perfectly well every story has been written and probably every topic has been blogged. But not by me! I have to have supreme confidence that my voice is my own and that I do have something new, fresh, and bizarrely intriguing to offer the over-stimulated world at large, for no one lives in my head and sees out of these eyes except me. Our personal experience, strength, weakness, hope, despair and humor have value. It’s up to me to present mine in an engaging fashion.
- Patmos Island is part of Greece. I’m embarrassed to admit that when I got a follow from Patmos Island I had to look it up on Wikipedia. One of the most fun things about blogging is making connections with people from all over. My cyber trip around the globe began when I blogged about a disastrous train ride in the Czech Republic. Because of that, I think, I picked up followers in Bulgaria, Hungry and Greece, and then as if following a cyber silk route of sorts, the United Arab Emirates, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. I eagerly follow those who post in English to sate my curiosity about life in other countries.
- I must go to Greece immediately. Nothing like photographic updates to trigger the old wander lust. I am a sucker for photography blogs.
- Inspiration usually strikes in the shower, or Non-Fiction doesn’t have to be a soul-sucking drag after all. I resisted the idea of blogging for years because, dammit, Jim, I’m a novelist, not a journalist! I could never quite wrap my fantasy-addled head around the idea of sticking to the facts. Bleh. Of course, truth is usually stranger than fiction, especially once it is passed through the sieve of my dented and warped brain. Once I started listening to the rants in my head with an ear toward writing them down, I discovered little kernels of interesting stuff. Over this past year, I’ve learned to recognize the flavor of a promising soliloquy as it gains in momentum. If you had a secret camera installed in my house, besides being very creepy, you’d witness me often scuttling in a mole-eyed rush to my desk in order to quickly jot down my latest incredibly insightful string of real-life inspired gibberish.
- Everything is better with donuts, or Blogging is one of the least painful ways to self-promote. Like most reclusive, overly-sensitive, nerdish writer types, self-promotion gives me the heebee jeebies. It’s easier for me to write a whole novel than craft a blurb for it. With blogging I get to focus on what I love, writing, rather than begging for reviews or doing the dreaded author interviews or (OMG) making video trailers for the book. My new favorite BS term is “enhancing your discoverability”. That sounds so much nicer than selling yourself. I like to think of my blog as a strategically placed crispy crème donut on the sidewalk of cyber life, as opposed to the net and taser method of lassoing readers with an aggressive marketing campaign. I know, I know. If I want readers to find my book, I have to become an expert at Amazon rating algorithms and ninja marketing and all that, but here at least, I can enjoy myself.
- A shoddy blog is like going to a speed-dating event wearing cat hair covered fleece pajamas and those big plastic curlers in your hair. Looks matter. Presentation matters. Grammar (dang it) matters. Nothing puts me off a blog quicker than an abundance of misspellings, typos and errors, especially on blogs that claim to offer writing or marketing advice. I also love going to a blog and finding the generic Word Press message still up on the about page. Why go public before you’re ready? Why would anyone follow a faceless and scantily thought out blog? Oh, yeah, to get the auto-follow. But why, I wonder? I forget that not every blogger has a novel or art or something else to promote professionally, but I have to assume there is an underlying need to connect with others.
- Lists are the free coffee and donuts of the blogosphere. I don’t know what it is about a list, but I’m a sucker for them so I assume everyone else is too. Perhaps my brain likes the idea of the simplified information delivery system promised by a list. Of course, the lists I usually read cover topics like: The 10 Cuddliest Sci-Fi Villains, 17 Interesting Things To Do With Rutabaga, and 5 Sure-Fire Ways To Make Your Cat Hate You, but 11 Things I Learned While Blogging would also lure me in, and if you got this far, it worked on you too. Bwahahahaha!
- This post is much, much longer than it should be. In a carpal tunnel afflicted society, scrolling is a lot to ask of anyone.
Thanks for reading my blog. It has been a most interesting endeavor. Those of you who take the time to drop your cloaking device and Like and/or comment give me the boost I need to keep going. Have you learned anything strange or noteworthy while blogging? (Bonus #12- Ending a post with a question encourages comments! Do you feel encouraged, or merely annoyed?)