Question of the day: Should I mention that I have a blog or am part of a network of blogs in my query letter to an agent?
My initial - and very strong - reaction to this question is a resounding NO. That is, unless your blog has a big enough following, like my pal Jen Lancaster's, to merit it, in which case, hell yeah. But the thing about blogging is that everyone can do it. In fact, nearly everyone IS doing it, so mentioning this doesn't mean squat to an agent. I'd go so far as to say that it might actually highlight your lack of other strong credits. I mean, if you've written for journals or magazines or won short story awards or what have you, then THAT's worth mentioning, and if the only thing you have TO mention is your blog, the agent might wonder why you don't have anything else.
(I'm not trying to suggest that you have to have other credits. You don't for fiction, but certainly, if you have them, highlight them. And highlighting your blog might instead draw attn to your lack of them.)
Now, if yours is the rare case of having a huge readership, then yeah. That's considered part of your platform, and by all means, mention it, mention your target audience, mention how it can help you land this book deal and how it will help you market the book. But in other situations? I'd leave it alone.
Anyone have other thoughts on the matter?
Monday, February 23, 2009
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So what do you think about the flurry of posts about blogging over at editorunleashed.com? I suppose the take-home message is that a blog can be a useful marketing tool, but not a "credential"? I think I remember you said once that we should only start a blog if we have something to say and the time to say it, and I thought that was useful advice.
That said, I actually just started a blog! It's called "How to Be an Israeli" (howtobeanisraeli.blogspot.com) and I'd love it if any of you would click over! You're the first to know it exists. :) I linked to your blog from it, Allison!
A publisher at a conference I attended said that she wants to know what could an author can bring to the table in addition to a great book. A platform is essential, according to her. I am unconvinced that it matters all that much. I know writers who didn't go online with blogs or social networking until after the books came out. But if websites are on business cards (I don't have business cards by the way), why not on a resume or query?
I don't know. I guess I have read too many really good writers on the web to discount blogging entirely.
According to Christina Katz's book, it is vital for your platform. I am building my blog and Twitter following (I'm in the top 2,000 of Twitter users overall, top 25 in Seattle proper) because I believe that it will help me when I do sell a book. I'm sure if the fact that only my mother read my blog wouldn't qualify it, but if one has a readership (even as minimal as mine; so not like Jen Lancaster's or even yours, A), I'm going to mention it. :)
That said, I am well-aware that possible agents and editors will be reading my blog at some point, so it does at some sort of pressure to produce a decent blog. Some days I feel like that's about all I can manage. Writing a novel? What? :) (I have taken active steps to fix that just in the past week.)
You guys raise interesting points. I guess my feeling is that yes, of course having a blog is critical to your platform, as I've mentioned before. But what does this blog DO for your platform? Saying you have a blog isn't enough. Because everyone has one already. How does that set you apart? You def don't need to be Jen Lancaster (I was using her name to make a point), but having a blog alone does not equate a platform, in my mind. It needs to have a relative following because agent (and publishers) WILL ask you about your stats - how many people visit each day/week/month. I speak from experience, as I've been asked this for marketing purposes. If you say that you have 100 readers a month (or whatever), it doesn't really do much for you.
(And I'm not saying that blogging for 100 people per month isn't totally valid or worthy. It's just that it's not the same thing has having a big following, in an agent's mind.) Again, just MO.
I agree that having the blog isn't enough. I am actually suspicious of writers who go online after the fact, blog a bit during the initial push for sales and then abandon the effort - or nearly so - because it makes it seem as though they don't regard blogging and bloggers as "real" writing/writers.
You have to have a good blog and a steady readership to impress and a good network. I write book reviews for an established book blogger, for fun but mostly because I like getting free books, but in the back of my mind, I don't think it will hurt to be known in those circles when I have a book of my own to promote someday,
At the end of the day, "plat-forming" should not be a primary concern for an unpublished author. Writing the book, querying and getting published should be the main preoccupation.
I started blogging to work on my writing. I was long out of practice. I continue because I really like the genre. I think it is a valid writing form and the mental equivalent of interval training. A little daily writing exercise never hurt any writer, imo.
Allison, I'm glad your initial reaction was "no." Reading agent, editor and publisher blogs and websites ad nauseam, it's clear that novices mention their personal blogs. If you have thousands of hits per day, it's something to highlight. Once you get an agent who's selling your book - tell him or her about your blog so you can "work it" for your book once (hopefully) published. Platform is key, but for fiction your writing IS your platform and stands on it's own. Or it should.
I delete the mention of my writing blog on the bottom of my email for some professional correspondences - because I know it is not always viewed as professional, which I leave the link to my single mom site, because it gets a lot of traffic.
I know my own limitations well enough to know that I can't blog right now. It would suck away all the energy and creativity I need to reserve for writing my novel. Instead, I write a monthly newsletter that is sent to my subscribers, and I give away a book and chocolates every month in a drawing. I know a few other writers -- Marian Keyes comes to mind -- who do monthly newsletters instead of regular blogs. I'm sure a blog would help me with name recognition, etc., but if it gets in the way of my novel, it's not worth it. My priority has to be the book. I really admire writers who manage to do both. Allison, maybe you could do a post about time-management and everyone could talk about how/when they fit in writing time? For example, do people who blog and write books have a schedule -- blogging first thing in the morning and writing at night, for example?
I wouldn't mention it in a query. The blog becomes important once you've sold the book. There's usually a long timeframe between contract and publication; that's a great opportunity to blog and make friends in the blogsphere who will be excited about you and your book when it comes out.
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