Monday, January 08, 2007

Blogging Isn't Temporary

Stay tuned! After some brief commercial messages, JA will make an important point about the Blogosphere...

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My friends Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover have debut novels coming out this month. You've no doubt heard about them on KILLER YEAR and THE OUTFIT.

Visit THE OUTFIT today to enter their pretty cool writing contest. They're offering seven signed books to the winner--one from each member of that blog. I'll also throw in a signed copy of THESE GUNS FOR HIRE. But you have to tell them that JA sent you. ;)

If eight free books isn't enough, I encourage you to sign up for the free ITW newsletter, where you'll have a chance to win 150 thrillers by the top authors in the field. I'm not one of them---I was on tour when they collected the books. But you should have already bought my books anyway, so that shouldn't matter. Besides, there are plenty of other great books in that collection, and you know you want it. Visit www.150thrillers.com.

Can you stand another blog about mystery publishing? Even if you can't, go check out HEY, THERE'S A DEAD GUY IN THE LIVING ROOM. Jeff Cohen promised he'd give me a dollar for every person that goes over there and comments. So tell all of your friends, because I already spent the money on beer and tacos.

For the thousands who frequent this blog but still aren't sick of reading about the importance of self-promotion, check out JANA OLIVER and you can hear me preach about it in a podcast. A whole hour's worth. Normally, I try to be funny during live interviews. This one is more of a "beating reality into the heads of newbies" interview. Besides, how cool is it to get your daily dose of inspiration on your iPod?

Finally, if you live in or near the Big Apple and want to harrass me in person, go to Unbound: Advancing Book Publishing in a Digital World. It's an all day conference, sponsored by Google, at the New York Public Library on 5th and 42nd. Hear me wax prolific about the future of publishing, then hear some really important people disagree with me. Should be fun.

Coming soon: an annotated index for A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, with over 200 useful entries described, detailed, and organized. Thanks to Rob Siders, who must be some kind of masochist, for doing this. You'll no longer have to hunt and peck your way through dozens of previous blog entries to find the one paragraph you're looking for.

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Okay, the commercials are over.

Blogging, like newspaper and radio, is often mistaken for a disposable form of information. Yet I get lots of hits from Google on old blog posts, and many of them continue to accrue comments.

Pay attention to what you're posting today, you bloggers of blogland. Because it will still be around tomorrow. If your posts are topical, or without purpose, you're not doing yourself a service.

Let me repeat that: Blogging Isn't Temporary. What you do now may one day be surfed by someone who isn't even born yet, and that path will lead back to you. Do you want that path to result in interest or apathy?

Think about why you blog, and what purpose it's serving. Look at your last fifty entries. Will they be of any interest to someone in 2017? If not, why do you think they are of any interest to anyone now?

That's why I don't do memes. That's why I don't blog about personal stuff. That's why I don't push my own books constantly---no one ever seeks out ads. And that's why, except on rare occassions, I don't blog about events, peers, friends, family, or what I watched on TV last night.

Your blog is a tool. But too many people are using hammers to scratch their asses rather than drive nails. If you blog as a form of entertainment, that's no problem--have fun. If you blog to increase your name recognition, you may be doing more harm than good.

Now I'll take questions.

Q: But JA, if this blog isn't about promoting your own work, why are you doing it?

A: Go to www.foodnetwork.com. What do you find? Recipes. Lots of recipes. Do they help raise the Food Network's Nielsen ratings?

Q: What exactly are you saying?

A: If you provide a service, or information, or entertainment, it leads to brand association and name recognition in a positive way---much more positive than you could ever get from a commercial or an ad.

Q: I still don't get it.

A: People have so many choices concerning what to buy and what to do with their time that they've become very selective. They don't want to be sold anything. They prefer to cater to their needs by seeking out information without being battered with it. Then, once they find something that works, they stick with it.

Q: How does this apply to author blogs?

A: It's about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell. Content brings people back, makes them talk about you, and continues to be relevant years later, leading more people to you. And unlike advertising, you don't pay for it, and it lasts longer than a few newspaper issues.

Content leads to name recognition, and more opportunities to promote yourself. A certain number of these people who discover you will become your fans, and help spread the word. You don't link to an ad. You don't tell your friends about this cool billboard you saw. But you pass along content, and how to find content, all the time.

Q: I've often wondered why only a few people link to my blog, or post comments...

A: Are you telling the world something they want to hear? Or are you telling the world something you want to say?

Q: Has this blog helped you sell a lot of books?

A: I've sold a few books thanks to this blog--books that I wouldn't have sold otherwise. I've also gotten a lot of press, speaking opportunities, and publicity from this blog--opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise.

You can travel the world and spend a lot of time, money, and energy hunting for mice. Or you can bait some traps, sit back, and the mice will come to you.

Q: You keep ragging on advertising. Doesn't advertising help spread name recognition?

I don't believe that name recognition alone sells books. I can name hundreds of authors, and thousands of products. That doesn't mean I buy them.

But name recognition PLUS a positive experience does sell books. And that's what I'm trying to do with my blog, my website, my MySpace, my newsletter, my articles, my free e-books, my short stories, and my career; provide a positive experience.

Advertising isn't a positive experience. Sales isn't a positive experience. Climbing to the top of a pole with a megaphone and shouting "ME ME ME!" isn't a positive experience.

Offering content in the form of information and entertainment is a positive experience. Personal interaction is a positive experience. Word-of-mouth is a positive experience. Providing a service is a positive experience.


Take a close look at your blog. What kind of experience are you providing?