When I was a kid, I loved to write letters to authors who’d impressed me. They were typed on an old manual typewriter, on clean white paper that I folded and slipped into a long white envelope, addressed to the author in care of his publisher’s address, stamped and sent away. I didn’t really expect an answer, you know. Authors were famous people in mansions somewhere far away. They wouldn’t deign to think about a mere reader of their books, right? But the worlds they’d given me to play in made such an impact, I just had to tell them. On the rare occasions that an author wrote back, the response was weeks later – it took a while for letters to be forwarded from the publisher’s offices. Some of them did write back, of course – E L Konigsberg, Philip Jose Farmer, Marguerite Henry and my very favorite, Alexander Key. Those letters were a brief glimpse into the minds of people that created whole worlds just for me, lovely reminders that the authors were real people who were touched enough by my childish admiration to make the effort to respond. These days, no one much writes letters any more (except for my extraordinary friend John Broadfoot.) When people read a book and decide to tell the author they loved it, they go looking for the author’s email address and website. They’re looking to make that same connection I wanted with my typewritten fan letters.
At Ravencon, I sat on a panel called “Blogging for Writers”, in which we talked about the need for writers to establish a web presence. The easiest way to do this is, of course, through blogging. Most of the well-populated sites are incredibly user-friendly, even for those writers who think the hunt&peck typing method is the height of technology. The two most well-known sites are Livejournal and Blogspot, but there are many smaller options available as well. Some writers even take the leap and buy their own domains from which to blog. How ever you decide to do it, I think it’s important for writers to have a web presence that allows interaction with their readers.
The thing is, blogging isn’t comfortable for everyone. I’ve met a lot of people who claim they don’t know what to write about when they sit down to write in their journals. They say it turns into a huge waste of their time because they spend so long thinking of what to say. Trust me, I understand that. It doesn’t have to be a time-suck, though. Every post you make doesn’t have to be profound, or memorable, or even on the subject of writing. It doesn’t even have to be longer than a sentence or two. When a writer blogs, knowing his readers are looking, he should remember they’re just trying to make a connection. They want to know that writers are real people, too. So post about whatever’s on your mind. If you don’t have anything to say about writing, talk about something else. Did you like the new Star Trek movie? Tell your readers. Spend the day taking nature photographs? They want to hear that, too. Having trouble staying awake in front of the computer screen? Sure, even that’s okay, as long as you don’t post that every day.
“But Misty! I’m not published yet – no one wants to read a blog from me!” Actually, they do. If you relax and write things in your blog that make people laugh or think or nod in agreement, you’ll find yourself gaining a following. Cleolinda (a LiveJournal blogger), is published now, but before that, she had a big following because she created Movies In 15 Minutes, which were snarky recaps of movies she’d watched. She eventually sold a book of those recaps, but it all came from the silliness of blogging.
Eventually you can attempt to brand yourself a little, if you like. Back during the election, David posted once a week about dreadful behavior from players in the political circus. People on either side of the argument read his posts and chimed in on the comments. I begin every blog post with a bit of interesting history. These days Cleolinda posts the continuing adventures of the dolls on her shelf, and I’m utterly hooked.
Branding yourself isn’t necessary, though. The best thing you can do is be yourself. Your readers want to feel as if they know you. Blogging is an easy way to give them that connection.
And it’s way cheaper than stamps.
Tune in tomorrow, to meet our special guest, writer and editor Valerie Griswold-Ford! And the winner of our contest will be announced tomorrow too – it’s just going to be a bang-up day!