Saturday, May 19, 2007

Do Blogs Sell Books?

As a preliminary matter: my big trial was postponed a month which means another month of late hours and not a lot of time for writing. I was kind of hoping to get this trial over with so I could take some time off and play at being a full time writer. Ah well... I'll know more about my time this Weds when the court rules on a lot of really important motions. This weekend I hope to tackle the dread middle revisions of WIP. I haven't even looked at it for weeks! Maybe I'll also play with post-its to see the arc of the story. It's JP's* birthday this weekend, so that will take some time :)

Moving on... people have blogs for different reasons. One reason, I think, that writers have blogs is to form a community, share knowledge, be accessible to fans, and as publicity - to sell books. Natch, there are other reasons, but these are just some off the top of my head. But, many authors wonder, do blogs sell books?

I'm here to tell you, they do. After lounging around this morning reading, I began to think about my TBR pile and how I find the books I read. Right now I'm reading An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. I picked this book up a few months ago when I first heard about the Printz Prize, but it's languished on the TBR pile since then (to be honest, I'm generally not a road-trip-plot kinda girl, but now that I'm half way through this book, I realize that it's not really a road-trip book - go figure).

So, ok, a blog had nothing to do with that particular purchase. But I'm also listening to John Green's Looking for Alaska on tape right now. And yesterday I wanted nothing more than to sit in my car in my driveway all afternoon to find out what happens next (my computer speakers don't work). This particular purchase was purely motivated by John Green's blog - sparksflyup (and Brotherhood 2.0). Justine Larbalestier** talked about Brotherhood 2.0, wondering if video blogs worked and I commented that I had a problem with video blogs because I can't watch them at work and I can't watch them on my computer (again, the speaker issue). But then I purloined JP's computer, started watching Brotherhood 2.0 (and reading the archives of sparksflyup) and became a big fan. Big fan.

So I bought John Green's first book. I wanted to know about it. To see what this writer wrote. Perhaps, because it is a Printz Award winner, I would have purchased Looking for Alaska anyway. But really, I got it cause of the blog. It felt like buying a friend's book. Like I would be disloyal no to.

Same thing with Maureen Johnson and Bermudez Triangle. When all the stuff came up about that book being banned, I wanted to show my support by purchasing the book. I wouldn't have known about the banning if I hadn't been reading her blog (I think I got there from Justine's blog and also John Green's blog too). I got both Bermudez Triangle and Devilish - both because of reading her blog.

Speaking of Justine - I got her Magic or Magic trilogy partly because of Diana's blog (where I heard about her) and partly because I started to read Justine's blog.*** And speaking of Diana, I became a huge fan of hers after reading her blog (and then reading her books and becoming friends - but the blog came first).

Does this work on a massive scale? I mean, does having a blog get you lots and lots of sales rather than just a few fans? Is it worth the time that some authors put into it? Probably not if you're only blogging for the sales. But it does seem to work to build a community. And I tend to think of those communities as mini sales forces. I would think that every person who comes back to your blog day after day, comments, gets to be friends, then hits the streets when your book is out and goes to work. We turn books face out. We talk books up to our friends. We make sure our local bookstores are stocked.

Because sometimes, I think, that fans like that feel like the book kinda belongs to them too. I mean, when I read a blog for a looong time (or even just go back through the archives) and watch that book get written, submitted, sold, edited, etc., I feel like I'm invested in that book. I want to watch it do well.

And I think that sells books. It reminds me of talking to a politician who said that when he gets a letter from a constituent (not a form), he tends to take it seriously. Because if that constituent took the time to actually write a letter, then that constituent cares enough to go out and drum up support from another 100 constituents. That constituent isn't the voice of one person, but rather 100 people.

I think it's the same with loyal blog readers. Or rather, it's the same with me (I guess I shouldn't speak for others). If I read a blog, I buy the book. If I'm a fan, I buy the book for my family. I make sure it's turned out. I make sure it's stocked and I talk about it to others.

What about you other blog readers? Do you think a blog helps to sell books? Do you buy books of the blogs you read?****

Here's a list of other books I bought and read this year because of blogs:*****
  1. Allison Brennan's books
  2. Rumble on the Bayou
  3. The Rest Falls Away
  4. Angel's Choice (recommended on Diana's and someone else's blog)
  5. Foul Matter (recommended on Kristin Nelson's blog)

* formerly known as The Boy.

** Who just won a Norton for Magic or Madness which is just so cool!

*** There are lots of reasons that people buy books and I'm not going into all of them here. For example, I also bought Justine's books because, frankly, they looked good. But for this blog entry, I'm only finding connections between blogs and purchases...

**** I'm a lazy linker. There were lots more places to put links in this blog and I didn't put them there. For that I apologize. Kinda :)

***** I'm also too lazy to list the books I read last year because of blogs - but there were a lot.


Erica Ridley said...

I have found authors through blog recommendations, too (such as Bam's review site) and I also make it a point to buy the new releases of my writing friends, whether my "real life" chaptermates or the pals on my blog roll. And so I've been introduced to new books that way, too. In fact, I never would've become an e-book reader had it not been for blogs. So, I agree! It can and does make a difference! =)

P.S. Urgh on the trial crapola... Am thinking of ya...

Patrick Alan said...

I think it is a promotional tool which can go either way. I certainly looked at it as only a sales tool, but ROBIN insisted I start one. Now, keep in mind that Robin didn't start hers until she had a book deal. And look at the buzz she is generating. Same with Rachel. Their books aren't out yet, but it appears that they get more traffic than a bunch of the aspiring authors.

But really, it comes down to the book. I read Diana's book because I found her in blogoshpere. And I read the second because the first was good. If it wasn't good, I wouldn't have read book two.

There are author blogs I read where I haven't bought a book even though I am entertained by the blog and there are authors I adore that I don't read their blog.

I would say it is as much of a promotional tool as being a conference presenter is. It's sort of sad that we would make a book decision based on whether someone is a good public speaker or writes an entertaining blog.

I've struggled with my own blog to find an identity and a purpose, since I'm not selling/promoting anything. I stand by the fact that Robin made me.

JP = Justice of the Peace? :)