The "blogosphere" problem

At this point, this link is a little old, but I think it’s too important to just skip: “What are we doing to YA?” by Hannah Moskowitz. If you’re a writer, of any genre, READ IT.

In a nutshell:

I’m starting to wonder if YA is turning into something written by/for the internet community under the guise of writing for everyday teenagers, and that who likes you on the internet is more important to your career–or, if not to your career, to your psyche and your perception of your success–than if teenagers are picking up your book.

Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes! YES.

I don’t have any stats to back me up, but I have friends, and we have blogs, and Twitter feeds, and works-in-progress. And I have seen us all step up to the edge of this problem, and stare down into the abyss, and then look at each other with fear in our eyes.

To be honest, I don’t know that I can add much more to the conversation beyond the questions that Hannah posed and the discussion that ensued in her comments. (READ THEM.) But I do want to say that I see this problem, and I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t blog to amass “fans.” I don’t comment on agent/author sites to make connections. I don’t write books to impress anyone. If that happens, awesome. But to me, it’s just icing on the cake.

(And for the record, I scrape 80% of the icing off all baked goods. It’s just not my thing.)

I blog because I’m a chatterbox. I comment because I’m overly opinionated. I write books to tell great stories, to move and entertain people.

(And for the record, I’ve been doing this stuff since I was 9 years old — way too young to have an agenda.)

Yes, I want to be a successful, life-long author. But I think the best way to do that is to write fantastic novels. And fantastic novels can only come out of (never-ending) hard work, perseverance, humility, passion… Not from kissing butt in the “blogosphere.”

I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t blog or Tweet or join online groups. On the contrary, I think the online writing community is wonderful! It’s a great resource for information and support. Without it, I wouldn’t have made so much progress in the past couple of years.

I’m also not saying that authors who blog are “playing the game.” Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. I try not to make assumptions, and either way it’s none of my businses.

What I’m saying is, I’m not playing the game. I don’t want to, and now I know/remember that I don’t have to. (Just look at J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins!) Playing the game doesn’t sell books. Playing the game doesn’t guarantee you a long career. In fact, playing the game may hurt the very industry we love…

So I’m really glad Hannah blogged about this. Because once you discover this world, it’s easy to get caught up, to forget your true motivation. Sometimes we all need a reality check, a gentle reminder, to help us re-focus on what’s really important.

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  1. I blog because I’m a chatterbox. I comment because I’m overly opinionated. I write books to tell great stories, to move and entertain people.

    I don’t think it needs to be any more complicated than that.

    I seriously wonder what authors used to do with their time before they started podcasting and whatnot. It’s very strange.

  2. Well, but… I know I’ve read “how to query” advice from *agents* and *publishers* where they want to know if you have a successful online presence, and if you get so lucky as to get signed with them, if you don’t have a successful online presence, they want you to get cracking on that – before your book comes out. So I don’t know that it’s accurate to say that having a successful online presence isn’t instrumental to your success as a *new, unproven* writer. You pointed out Rowling and Collins as examples of how it’s not necessary, and that’s true too – although I might point out that Collins was a television writer in 1991 so she already had her foot in the door, and HP1 was published in 1997, and 13-19 years ago is an eternity in the “blogosphere” which barely existed back then. I might also point out that it’s not necessary for me to buy a lottery ticket if I want to win the lottery. After all, someone might give me a lottery ticket or I might find one on the street. However, the chances that I’ll end up with a lottery ticket (and therefore the chance to win the lottery) are more likely if buy it myself.

    Now, my stat counter will and number of twitter followers will tell you that I’m not chasing the golden cow that is internet popularity. But I refrain from chasing the golden cow not because I don’t believe it would be advantageous. I refrain because of 1) laziness and 2) my own issues around pursuing popularity.

  3. Todd-
    A lot of thumb twiddling and apartment cleaning, that would be my guess. :P

    Oh, it’s definitely not “instrumental.” Helpful, maybe, but not essential. I think if you asked those agents/publishers, they would say it’s wonderful, maybe even preferred, if you have a successful online presence already (a “platform,” if you will), but for FICTION, it’s not a requirement. (For non-fiction I believe it is.)

    Furthermore, there’s plenty of time between getting signed/ getting a book deal and actually having a book on shelves — plenty of time during which an author can get that online presence going.

    Yes, the times are a-changin’, but I don’t think your lottery ticket analogy is really apples to apples, because if my goal is to get published (win the lottery), I DO have to write a book (buy a ticket). I don’t, however, have to tell everyone about it (join the blogosphere). Popularity does not increase the odds of that machine picking my numbers.

  4. True, then again back in the day they used “typewriters” instead of computers. That would explain a lot.

  5. I think a lot of writers get caught up in blogging and popularity. I appreciate when these writers are up front and transparent about what they’re doing, but not many are. Hannah is right–having a blog does not sell books. Not in great numbers. It doesn’t hurt to have a brilliant online presence, but if the book is good enough and you’ve got some great marketing strategies (outside of social networking)in place, then that’s more valuable. Especially for YA. I don’t see a significant amount of teenage readers going around the blogosphere–they do seem to hang around The Twitter, though. :)
    I blog for an instant reaction to my writing. I get a thrill out of someone reading my words and then commenting on them. I like that connection it creates between others out there like me. It’s motivation for while I’m still writing/revising my novel. I don’t like the whole contest thing and awards–that reeks of desperation–but it does work in gathering followers. I would rather just post a link to something good I read and point people in someone else’s direction. Eventually, someone will point back to me. Give and Take. Connect. Write. Motivate. That’s blogging to me.

  6. I guess this is another “agree to disagree” situations about the benefit and usefulness of having an online presence.

    And my lottery ticket analogy is apples to apples if you read it the way I intended. You’re making it into something else. Writing a book and getting it published are two completely different things. My lottery ticket analogy was speaking to the publishing part. It has nothing whatsoever to do with writing a book.

  7. Sarah-
    Exactly! I couldn’t have said it better.

    Well… I’m not saying it’s not a benefit or useful. I never said that. I’m just saying it can be taken too far, and that that’s detrimental to everyone. (Really, Hannah’s post and the ensuing comments get into it brilliantly.)

    I did misunderstand your lotto analogy, thanks for clarifying. I still think the ticket to winning is having a good book, though, and querying it. Not having an online presence. Having an online presence is maybe like knowing 1 or 2 of the numbers in advance, though?

    Anyway, shouldn’t your lazy butt be HAPPY to know that you don’t need a big online presence to get published?! :P

  8. I think anyone who reads you blog can tell you aren’t playing the game, you just are just doing what you love to do. The “game” scares this shit out of me, the fact that authors can become successful by ass-kissing…not that it’s not always been available, but it’s a lot easier with the blogging world.

    I don’t LIKE when authors have too strong of an internet presence. You would be hard pressed to find much info on my favorite author and I like it that way – he’s a mystery to me. I don’t want him to be my friend, I want him to be my idol.

    I also sometimes wish the internet didn’t exist and we could go back to the good old days, so what do I know? ;)

  9. You covered it all with this entry, so I’m just going to say ditto to everything. We should write because we’re passionate about it, because we love it, because we can’t imagine NOT writing. We should write because there are stories we want to tell, stories we can’t NOT tell. Like you said, it’s essential to focus on what’s really important!

  10. Krista-
    Thanks, I sure hope so! And I think you’re right: favoritism and networking is nothing new. It’s just easier now. I don’t know about giving up internet… :P BUT yes, I do wish we could learn to integrate it into our lives/world better, rather than letting it take over. (That’s something I struggle with daily!)

    Right on! And I do think MOST (if not all) authors are TRYING to do that. It’s just so easy to stray from the path sometimes. Hannah’s post is like a road sign, warning us and pointing us back in the right direction.

  11. Jon

    I like that some writers have great websites, too, but some of the best authors (Jonathan Franzen, Fyodor Dostoevsky) don’t have webpages. And that’s cool too. I really try to sort out which authors I like online versus in the real world of reading. There’s a difference there. “Trust the tale, not the teller” after all.

    And not to be pretentious or anything…but I went to high school with Hannah Mosk, ha.

    Great post.

  12. Oh, I remember you telling me that! Haha, cool. I mean, I don’t read her blog regularly, and I’ve never read any of her writing, but I definitely admire her accomplishments and guts.

    Also, yeah, I’m with you: as a reader, I don’t care if writers have websites or not (although if they do, cool) because I fall in love with the “tale,” not the “teller.” (But in this day and age of celebrity mania… I wonder if we’re the norm?)

  13. I am one who read the ‘Plug Your Book’ book and jumped into blogging to ‘play the game’. What I did not anticipate are two payoffs that keep me in the blog ritual: 1) Most of the blogs are instructive and I learn a lot from other authors and 2) It is great writing practice. Helps me get in my ‘thousand strokes a day’.

  14. Found this post super refreshing! I think it’s healthy to ask myself WHY I am writing on a regular basis. Keeps me in check. :)

  15. Amen to all of that, sister! :) Couldn’t have said it better myself. Writing for myself is always top priority.

  16. Alex-
    Based on what you said, it sounds to me like you may have started out because you wanted to play the game, but now you’re just in it for the genuine pleasure. :)

    Oh really? I thought hot vampire boys were your top priority. ;P

  17. I’m so glad you had a link to that post. It’s very interesting and it’s part of the reason I left Facebook. I love blogging and I’ve learned so much from it. But yeah, all of the online distractions can take away from the real point of writing.

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