Group Blogs: Do you read them?

Yesterday I was involved in a lively discussion about group author blogs with two other writers. Among other things, we discussed best practices for running group blogs, existing group blogs, and their efficacy in terms of promotion and, ultimately, author awareness and sales.

Personally, I don’t think group blogs are effective sales or marketing tools. When I think about the group blogs I read, only BoingBoing, Lifehacker, and GeekDad come to mind, and they aren’t run by authors trying to promote their books. I am actually a member of two group blogs — SFNovelists and the Apocalypsies — but I am in both of those groups for professional support more than promotion, and rarely post.

Ultimately, I don’t read any group author blogs that I’m not a member of. If friends of mine are in group blogs, I will occasionally read their posts, but not always. I generally prefer the more personal posts they are likely to make on their own blogs.

I’m wondering if other people feel the same way, or if I am just hopelessly out of touch. If you’re an author participating in a group blog, do you feel the group blog has been worth the time and effort you’ve spent maintaining it? If you’re a reader, do you read group author blogs? Do you read the posts by every author, or just the ones you already know you like? What interests you about this sort of blog?

In case it’s not clear, I would love to be wrong about this. I would love to discover that group author blogs are amazingly effective and well-loved by readers everywhere, that they’re a great way of gaining a wider audience for no money and very little time. Yes, I would dearly love to be wrong.


Comments

Christine Ashworth 7 years ago .

Oh see, now you're making fun of me, lol!

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    How do you see that in this post??? I am *not* making fun of you, I'm trying to collect data to prove that I'm wrong. I'm sorry that you see any sort of mockery in this — it was sincerely unintended.

DoubtingSarah 7 years ago .

I have been in a group blog made up of writers in the midwest. It was intended to be a supportive community and not for selling our books. Most of the others didn't have books out, anyway. It existed for a little while, then the main organizer developed other interests and it sorta fell apart. Plus I posted a couple of times on SFNovelists, then bailed. I've been invited to join other ones and have declined. My own blog is enough to keep up with.

Anyway, nope I don't read 'em. They mostly seem to be craft-oriented, and I'm not interested in improving my craft via a blog post. Or they seem to be promotion-oriented, and you already know my opinions on that, lala!

Have you been invited to join one?

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Nope, I don't believe they are worth the time and effort for me, but the conversation was lively yesterday, and I thought I'd get a few more opinions.

Christine Ashworth 7 years ago .

Oh sweetie…sorry, didn't mean to upset you! I thought the lol would have been a giveaway that I was joking…

I've sent the link to this blog to the three lists I'm on, because I'm interested in the feedback, too. And plenty of folks on those lists are a part of, or go to, group blogs – so it'll be interesting to see what kind of feedback you get that's not a part of your normal circle.

Cheers hon! And seriously – I really was joking. Honest!

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Okay — I just couldn't stand the thought that I'd hurt you, when I chose my words very carefully for this post!

    Thanks for passing the link around! I wish I could get to some more readers — not just writers — but… that's the problem with this blog, too. It's mostly just read by other writers.

Suzanne Johnson 7 years ago .

I'm on two group blogs as well as my personal blog and I have to say that, so far, nope. The group blogs don't seem to draw well, although I love interacting with the other authors. In theory, each blogger brings her "followers" to the group and everyone ends up with more readers. Not sure it's really working that way, though! Interesting to hear someone else say this.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Suzanne, thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences! I think you raise a good point, though — that group blogs can be valuable to us for the connections they forge. Maybe that's not why we start them, but it's certainly a worthwhile side effect!

suzanne lazear 7 years ago .

I have a couple of group blogs I lurk on, but not many. However, I run a very successful group blog. We aren't in it for moral support or to promote our books, rather we're out there to share our love of Steampunk (and writing it). I have a feeling most people who read it aren't writers, but Steampunkers. Pictures of my raygun I made get far more comments than a post on characterization (that said, a guest post on world building was our most popular post ever).

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Your situation is one of the few that I can think of where the group blog thing really works and makes sense. But it's because your books/writing are so closely linked with another art/culture movement. I don't think that's the case for most writers, and I find the group blogs that try to create a unified theme (where one does not naturally exist) sometimes end up homogenizing their entries… or the entries don't have that spark of passion.

    But thanks for your take on it — it's good to know that group blogs can work given the right set of circumstances.

Beth Caudill 7 years ago .

The author blogs I read now are almost exclusively Group Author Blogs. While I will occasionally read individual author blog posts, I like the group blog better.

The Goddess Blogs are a favorite as well as Midnight Moon Cafe and Odd Shots. I've followed several others but they've become inactive or have disbanded.

I think with any blog, you have to want to put more out there than just your writing and find a way to engage your readers. If you don't do that, then the blog will fail.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Hi Beth! I see that you're a writer, too. I do wonder if people who are just readers are as interested in our author blogs. Sometimes it feels like we're just talking to each other — to other writers — and not actually connecting with the wider audience of readers out there.

Kate Willoughby 7 years ago .

I have belonged to group blogs and don't think they're a valuable use of my time. I don't even think my personal writer blog is worth it. I think there's a tipping point where you become so famous and have so many fans that the time and effort it takes to make the connection makes sense. What that point is, I have no idea, except that I'm not there yet. LOL At this stage in my career I think the best thing I can do with my time is write more/better books.

As a reader, There's only one author's blog that I still keep up on (Patrick Rothfuss) because he's an amazing writer and his blogs are hilarious. He's been amazingly successful with his first novel. (The second comes out in a couple of months.) And it's been fun living vicariously through him. Otherwise, other romance writers' blogs are of little interest to me even (sorry!) if they belong to friends.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Hi Kate! You said "At this stage in my career I think the best thing I can do with my time is write more/better books." SO TRUE! I think every writer should have a website where folks can learn about their books and get contact info, but beyond that, I think writers should only engage in activities that they actually enjoy. I keep a blog because I love having a blog, but I'm not kidding myself about what it's doing (not doing) for my career. I know it's a labor of love and nothing more. I completely agree with you that the best thing I can do for my own career is to write more/better books.

    I haven't read Patrick Rothfuss' blog, but I really enjoyed NAME OF THE WIND and am looking forward to the sequel! I've only heard good things about him as a person, too.

Rachel Firasek 7 years ago .

I love Suzanne's idea of bringing in followers to a community rather than a snare and sell tactic. I'm eager to learn and this was a great post to help in all of the decisions needed when building a group blog.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Hi Rachel! Yes, I think Suzanne's blog is a great way to go. I'm just not sure that works for most of the rest of us, who don't have an existing movement/hobby/craze/way-of-life to tap into. I'm eager to see what you come up with!

Pj Jough-Haan 7 years ago .

I generally do not engage with blogs, I'm more a loop-group type person. I'm not published, so perhaps when I do publish, I might have a different opinion on marketing/networking techniques.

I've read all of the comments. Each one, including the clarification-of-intent-ones, made great points. I'm on in-take mode because I have a lot of the same questions, thoughts, and worries.

One last point; I'm becoming aware that if everyone's blogging and starting to filter blogs for ANY particular reason – then that probably means there's electronic overload. Meaning – blogging has developed on similar or parallel issue that e-mail systems have: SPAM.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    I absolutely think that information overload is an issue for folks starting new blogs and group blogs nowadays. How can you find topics that aren't already being discussed on dozens of other existing blogs? How do you set yourself apart from all the other people in exactly the same spot you're in? I have no idea, frankly. I wish I did!! But I know that as time goes on, I'm becoming more and more picky about the blogs I read. Sad, but true.

Madeleine Drake 7 years ago .

I don't follow particular blogs, but if I see someone mention a particular blog post on a topic I'm interested in, I'll check it out. (For example, I saw someone mention this post on the Savvy Authors yahoogroup, and since I've been considering joining a group blog that one of my CP's is in, I was interested in a discussion of the pros and cons.)

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Hi Madeleine! I also follow links to blog posts that look interesting, but in most cases, I have to say that I do not start following the author of the post unless it's something I *really* respond to. I do not necessarily even look to see if they've published books, or add those books to my to-be-read pile. So even if a person writes a great post and lots of people view it, I wonder how often that translates to a new "fan" or reader for the post author.

Maeve Greyson 7 years ago .

I have to admit that I'm more inclined to visit an author's personal blog – especially if it's one that covers a variety of topics. If I want craft information, I've got Savvy Authors or there's a plethora of workshops and writer's loops just exploding with information. I've always viewed blogs as the author's chance to chat with the reader – kind of like inviting them in their home to share a cup of tea. But I understand why some authors band together and form group blogs – after all, it's very difficult to continually come up with intriguing posts when it's just you, yourself and you. :-)

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Hi Maeve! I'm totally with you on favoring authors' personal blogs. I like to get to know people as authentically as possible… given our medium of the Internet of course… and personal blogs tend to do that more than group blogs for me. I guess I was thinking of authors having a personal blog *and* a group blog in this post — you make a good point about energy savings for folks who only want one blog and want to share the burden of maintaining it.

Erin 7 years ago .

I *want* to read group author blogs, but most of the time I don’t. I do read SFNovelists in binges, and then go for weeks without looking at it, but that’s just how read most blogs.

Ultimately, which posts I skip, and which I take the time to read doesn’t have anything to do with whether the author is a favorite of mine. It has to do with the content of the post. Is the content interesting or useful to me? When the posts are about writing, sometimes the answer is “Yes!” but when the posts are about pushing their latest books, or about publishing, I usually just skip over it. I don’t need to know anything more about publishing than what I already know–I used to devour agent and publisher blogs, and have since decided I can’t do that anymore. I can’t think about publishing until I’ve got something I’m ready to publish–so I skip those articles. There are exceptions of course. A post about what the typical publishing process looks like is of no interest to me. But a post about something that happened to the author while in the midst of the publishing process may well be interesting since the focus isn’t on teaching me something–it’s a personal reflection. And if there’s statistics, I usually read it. I like reading the posts where people talk about their advances, or how their stats have affected their careers, or really any other stat (but I’m a geek like that).

An example of how this works–I haven’t read anything by Tobias Buckell. I know of him through you and Steven. I’m sure he’s a great writer, but I get so many book recommendations I usually just let them bounce off me. He may well finally make it onto my “currently reading” shelf once I’m out of grad school. But I still read his blog (occasionally), and I still follow him on twitter. Sometimes he writes interesting entries, and quite often they have nothing to do with writing. Where that will likely succeed with me is that I haven’t forgotten that he or his books exist, and will likely read them one day (albeit not at his convenience).

Bottom line–on your blog, be your own main character.

    Christine Ashworth 7 years ago .

    I really like your bottom line, Erin. That's great advice.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Sounds like you aren't into "brand/author loyalty" as much as following your interests at any given moment? Which makes perfect sense. If I take my friends out of the equation, I think that's how I read blogs, too — links to good articles don't necessarily make me read any more than that one good article.

      Erin 7 years ago .

      On a blog, a good article might prompt me to subscribe to their RSS feed. I end up reading only about half of my RSS subscriptions, and about once a year I go through them and clear out the ones I didn't end up reading at all. Occasionally a blogger may publish something or sell something that I end up buying. These are few, and usually this only happens for me when I've been reading the blog for years already. I've had time to build up trust in the brand at that point.

      But no, brand/author loyalty for me is rare. Brand/author loyalty is usually about what I can do for someone else–following them on Twitter, reading their blog, passing on links, buying their merchandise even if I don't need it… I reserve that kind of loyalty for my friends, and for those few public figures/brands who have had a real impact on my life.

Lisa Kessler 7 years ago .

I have a hard time keeping up with blogs! I’mlucky to get mine posted once a week, and I try to visit my friends’ blogs at least once a week…

So I guess my experience would be, no I don’t visit group blogs unless a friend or writing group member is posting on it and I go to support them with a comment.

Are they effective marketing tools to find new readers? I doubt it. I think mostly they attract other writers and friends.

I would love for them to work though! :)

Lisa

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Thanks for weighing in, Lisa!

David Moles 7 years ago .

I don't read group author blogs. The ones I have run across mostly come across like the authors' hearts aren't really in it and they're only there — as in the hopes you express — for the publicity. The group blogs I do read semi-regularly — Crooked Timber, The Valve, Cosmic Variance, This Recording — all have some sort of Topic, or at least some group editorial voice, and they feel like the writers care about them and the blogs seem like more than the sums of their parts. The group author blogs I've read seem like less.

There may well be new group author blogs out there that are good, but if so, nobody's told me about them, nobody's been passing around links to their outstanding posts. I wouldn't join a group blog that I wasn't already reading enthusiastically, and even then I'd only do it if I thought I could commit to regularly delivering the same quality.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    I think most of us read group blogs about topics we’re interested in (for me, World of Warcraft, Healthy Eating, Martial Arts, etc.), but that a group of writers rarely have any common passions besides writing, and we just don’t need more blogs about that. Up in the comments sections, Suzanne Lazear talks about her steampunk group blog, and I can see how that would be interesting and successful for people, since that’s an entire lifestyle these days.

    For me, it boils down to authentic passion on a topic I’m interested in… and I think few writers manage to find that.

Sasha White 7 years ago .

I think it all depends on the blog, and the people involved in it. I've been involved in ones where the goal was promotion, and honestly, it sucked, and we didn't get a lot of traffic. I totally understand why too, As a reader of blogs I'm not interested ingoing to a blog only to see post after post of promotion, even if it is for different authors.

I'm currently involved in the GENREALITY group blog, and I love it. Our mission isn't to promote our books, but to share the realities of writing genre fiction. We have 6 authors involved, and we all write in different genres, and we're all best selling authors in our genres.

We talk about the ups and downs of writing life, our thoughts on it all, and our lives. While we might mention a new release or release date, we do very little promotion. And so far it's worked. We have a very loyal following because we offer valuable content.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Were you already best-selling authors before you started GENREALITY, or do you credit the group blog with creating some of your success? Because I do think that's a different animal — people who are already successful writers have a built-in blog audience that most people considering starting a group blog don't have. That's what they're trying to get, and it looks like you guys may have had it to start with?

Diana Renn 7 years ago .

What an interesting post and discussion; sorry to be weighing in late. I don't read many group blogs because, like many who've responded here, I'm more interested in the voice of particular writers, or more drawn to useful content than blatant promotion. Nevertheless, there is one group blog I read daily, called Beyond the Margins (http://beyondthemargins.com). It's a large group of writers who all met in a class years ago, some published and some not. They write about craft, yes, but always seem to have an original, interesting angle on tried and true topics. Or they find an unusual topic related to the reading or writing life. Or they find connective tissues between writing and current events. The quality of the writing is consistently superb, and you get a nice sense of camaraderie from the group. What I especially love about it is the writers are from all different genres — journalism, literary fiction, kidlit, graphic novels, etc. (And no I'm not on it or involved with it personally; just championing this group blog because I genuinely love it!)

Marie Andreas 7 years ago .

I actually love group blogs and have a few on my “blog roll” on my own blog. I like them because it exposes me to more folks than just the ones I “know”. I often get more interesting writing information on a group blog, rather than an author’s personal blog. I guess I’m an odd duck here-LOL. ;)

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    I like odd ducks!! Seriously, it's really nice to hear such a wide variety of opinions. I'd be shocked if we all wanted to use the internet in the same way. I especially love that you're *looking* to discover more writers. Why can't everyone be like you??? :-D

Cara Bristol 7 years ago .

I write erotic romance and I do read group blogs. I follow maybe half a dozen regularly. and I have bought authors' books because I saw the author on a group blog. But I'm an author. If I were only an erotic romance reader would I read those blogs? I don't know.

With promotion it's hard to know if ANYTHING works to draw readers. Basically you try different stuff in the hopes that something works.

So many author blogs (whether group or individual) seem to focus on things that matter to writers, i.e. craft-oriented subjects. As an author, I find it interesting, but why would a reader care about plotting, or character development or how to use a blog to draw readers?

So many promotional venues remind me of singles' parties…you show up hoping to meet men and the only people there are other women hoping to meet men! The only people at yahoo groups, reading groups, blogs, chat loops, are other authors seeking to promote their books.

Maria 7 years ago .

I am a reader first, then a writer, and currently pre-published. I don't read any blogs consistently. I read friends' blogs when they remind me that they posted recently. I have many friends who are only readers and I would have to say that most of them do not follow blogs at all.

I do think that the only way a blog works is if you have some type of platform. Suzanne's group's is Steampunk. I know another group that is Regency. I know an author whose current works feature a pet rescue heroine. Her blog should focus more on pet rescue, animal rights and the like because then it will appeal to people outside of her writer friends.

I think that Kate made a very good point about blogs being a way for well known authors to connect to their fans. However, if you have a blog that has to do with something other than your writing or your personal opinions or your life, then it may appeal to people outside of the small world of writing. I am far more likely to read a blog that is about someone's passion or hobby than I am another author's blog including the well-known author. In fact, I have had to stop reading a well known author's blog because I have discovered that I think said author is an eejit and I was afraid it would affect my enjoyment of the fiction.

For me the final answer on any blog – group or individual – write what you know, write what you are passionate about but don't write about writing because that is just boring to anyone other than another writer.

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