Publishing, Avant-Garde continues with topic number two: BLOGS & ONLINE JOURNALS.
Assuming that you read any manner of blog or online journal—including this one—then you are more likely than not familiar with the concept. However, for the less initiated, we’ll turn to the trustworthy Wikipedia for a complete definition:
A blog (a contraction of the term "web log") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.
Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs.
Popular hosts and providers of blogs and online journals include Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, LiveJournal, Movable Type and Blogware. Some are free, some paid, and each offers a different mixture of features, applications, widgets and communities. It’s a matter of preference that determines which provider you use.
The reason I want to spotlight blogs and online journals for writers is their twofold function: a place from which to build a platform as a writer, and a place in which to showcase your work.
As to platform—it has become expected, if not an unwritten rule, that a writer should continuously develop a web presence. This is an extremely important aspect of platform-building, especially as more and more people every year begin to rely upon the Internet as a source of information for all things, including entertainment. Which means books. Which means you.
You can find some great information about the basics of blogging (and specifically author blogging) here:
- Start Blogging Online
- wikiHow: How to Start a Blog, 8 Steps (with video)
- ABA Feature Comparison of Major Blog Providers
- Online Journalism’s Review: Are you using the right blogging tool?
- Petrona: An overlong post about blog providers
- Daily Blog Tips: Copyright Law, 12 Dos and Don’ts
- Lorelle on Blogging: Should Authors Blog?
- Marketing Tools for Authors, Writers, and Entrepreneurs: Why Should Authors Blog?
- suite 101: Blogging is a Marketing Tool for Writers
- Bob Baker’s Full-Time Author Blog
The focus of this article is the ‘showcasing your work’ aspect. This is as equally applicable to established authors as it is to beginners. What it means is that people can visit your blog and get a taste of your writing style, tone, background, genre. Essentially, they can get a feel for you.
I’ve visited author blogs that have posted writing across the gamut: excerpts of published novels, segments from drafts of unpublished ones, research for nonfiction works, character descriptions, story outlines, book trailers, audiobook links, e-books, and more. This is in addition to observations about writing, art, culture, the business of publishing, and posts on everyday life. In essence, blogs act as public journals of the creative process of writing.
A few examples of author blogs:
- The Temp, The Actress and the Writer (Adrienne Kress)
- Neil Gaiman’s Journal
- Laurell K. Hamilton
- Seth’s Blog (Seth Godin)
- Tess Gerritsen’s Blog
- Mad Woman in the Forest (Laurie Halse Anderson)
- A Writer’s Life (Lee Goldberg)
You may be wondering: Does ‘showcasing your work’ on a blog or journal mean that it is considered published?
The general consensus is that for legal purposes, publishing excerpts of your work online is not considered publishing in the traditional sense. While I would not recommend posting the entirety of your unpublished work on your blog (in the event that you do plan on submitting your work to publishers), there are other options for those who are considering a strictly self-publishing route—this includes downloadable or e-book content hosted on your blog. For published authors, it is best to check your publisher’s contract with you before posting to your heart’s content, but small segments to interest potential readers seems to be acceptable pretty much across the spectrum.
Having writing samples posted on your blog in addition to regular ‘blogging’ (the commentary, opinions, links and etc. mentioned above) also allows potential publishers and agents to peruse more examples of your work then you may have sent with a query letter, and lets them know that you are working hard on your platform. In this sense, it is crucial that your blog is active. This does not mean writing a research paper daily. You can segment pieces of your writing and set them to auto-update, or write several posts in advance and then spread them out over the course of a few days or weeks. Once you’ve explored a few approaches, you’ll find a natural rhythm—whether it’s short updates daily or longer pieces once or twice a week. The more you post, the more interesting the posts are, and the more you share, the more followers (and hopefully fans and readers) you will gain. And why say no to any extra chance to refine your writing skills?
In essence, blogs are an invaluable enhancement to your credentials—a portfolio that demonstrates your talents like any other artist, including those in visual and media arts. It’s a resume, a curriculum vitae both artistic and practical. It can be as intimate or business-like as you please. You can share as much or little as you want. The blog is the gift of the contemporary author, so use it to the best of your advantage.