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papersky said something very good here which I wanted to address, and while I started a rant in her LJ, I realized that it was going to be a rant, so I moved back to here.

Why do nebulous people feel that just anyone can get on-line and start blogging their way into the public awareness (and one assumes the higher sales that come with higher profile)? No, really. Why? Because just anyone can get on-line?

This is one of those things that just makes me crazy. And cranky.

People point to Scalzi or Cory as a proof of concept... and you know? Maybe it is. So let's just look at the concept.

I've been reading The Whatever since roughly 1995; he's been writing and posting there since, according to the site, 1993. His first novel was published in, let me check, 2004. Yes, I know he wrote Agent to the Stars before that. But it's not a book that one could reasonably expect could be blogged to fame and fortune, given that the readers of the Whatever could not go hunt it down in bookstores and pay for it.

Or, to put it another way, no one was nagging him to get out there and promote Agent to the Stars.

Scalzi was talking about his first novel sale on The Whatever when he made it, which would obviously have been before 2004, but it certainly wouldn't have been in, say, 1993. Or 1995, which is when I started lurking. Mostly, he wrote a funny blog – well, if you like his style of ranting or humour, and I do – about whatever he happened to feel like writing about at the time. It wasn't always daily, to start, but I really liked it, and I did return to it, reading a bunch all at once if I'd fallen off-line, as I sometimes do.

I am not the only person who found him funny; I am not the only person who found his blog. And 'lo these many years later his blog is its own community with a lot of daily unique hits. Over the years, we've gotten to "know" him; we've seen him get things right, and wrong, and we've seen him take it on the chin when he's wrong. He moderates his comment threads with a very light hand, he responds to various comments or questions; he can be intemperate, but is almost always fair – for a value of fair that is often a touch sarcastic. Those people who post frequently are known by him, and are known by each other. I mostly lurk, so I'm far less visible.

So when Scalzi's first novel came out, he had an entire community full of people who were willing to give the book a try. This happens in real life as well – your co-workers, your cousins, aunts and uncles, and all your friends, are both curious and willing to buy-in to at least one-time support. It's just that in Scalzi's case, his "friends" were among the 20k or so unique hits a day his site now gets.

I have nothing against using Scalzi as an example of a person who leverages his blog to bump sales, I really don't. But I take exception to the people who don't understand that if you want to build Scalzi's blog, you need to spend 10 years amusing, outraging, and moderating people, for free, and because it clearly amuses you, and you must do this before you have something to sell. But if you have a spare 10 years, you too can achieve this.

ETA: "Michelle gets the date of the beginning of Whatever wrong — it came online in 1998. But it’s true I had a Web site of one form or another dating all the way back to ‘93, and that I regularly put new content on it during that time."


Feb. 23rd, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
An excellent point. Blogging and maintaining a sufficiently interesting online presence is such hard work that it should by all fairness be considered a real job -- part time or in some cases full time.
Feb. 24th, 2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
An excellent point. Blogging and maintaining a sufficiently interesting online presence is such hard work that it should by all fairness be considered a real job -- part time or in some cases full time.

Yes -- or a hobby, which is something you do for fun, but something you don't expect to make money doing. I think if you looked at it as a job, it might be easier -- but while writing novels and meeting deadlines, you've already got one. Imho.

I don't know -- I just resent the stress it places on writers whose work I admire.
Feb. 25th, 2008 06:57 am (UTC)
Blogging for profit is a full-time job. Often, in the beginning, done in conjunction with a second full-time job, or multiple part-time jobs, because it takes years to build the audience---when I look at just the blogging side, at the big blogs like doshdosh, ProBlogger, Skelliewag---those all took years to build, just like Whatever or BoingBoing.

It's kind of like writing fiction in that sense. :)

Doing both at the same time is indeed insane, especially if you're still in the building stage, because that means you have at least one paying daytime job(s) that add up to a full-time job, and two non-paying full-time jobs on the wayside.

I blog seriously and have a full-time, hard day job. I literally have no free time, and I still write fiction (a little bit) on the side. But it makes me happy, because this is what I like doing.

If you ain't blogging for the love of it, it's not going to turn out well.
Feb. 26th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with you. I was lucky enough to spend a week around Cory Doctorow, and he spent the vast majority of his time keeping up his blog, and I got the impression that much of the rest was mostly about his family and writing.

But he also made this same point in person when asked about how to build a web following, and his response was along the line of "Well, we were there first. You aren't going to be."