According to Janet Reid, renowned NYC literary agent/blogger, a.k.a. The Query Shark, I don’t need to write a blog! (And no, she is NOT afraid of the competition.)
I am an unpublished novelist. No one is scanning the web for me. No one is interested in what I might say. Does this fact hurt my feelings? Of course not. This was the case before I started blogging and it remains the case now that I blog.
So why did I ever start a blog?
It was the panelists at a series of James River Writers Shows. They persuaded me. They kept pounding away about “building a platform” via Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler (whatever that is), Snapchat, etc. — but especially — The Blog. This all seemed to me like putting the cart before the horse. You might be curious about your favorite author and follow his/her blog but you are not going to be curious about me, not your favorite author and not published.
Having a Platform, the advice went, will help a writer get a literary agent for a manuscript. The bigger your platform, the more prospective buyers there are for your book. As a blogger, the greater the number of your followers, the greater the interest in any book you might write. Hordes of followers look good to agents, right?
It seems to me it might be easier to Built a Platform for a non-fiction writer with a narrow field of focus. Writing on a specific topic attracts readers interested in that topic. Spiders or the history of asphalt or the genealogy of prize swine. Or maybe you start out as a blog — and because you are a clever person with a clever idea — say Noah Scalin — you generate so much interest you turn your blog into a book.
I am not that clever, or that focussed, and my doubt about my ability to Build a Platform ahead of possible publication was well founded. There is no public interest in me or my opinions or expertise (if I have any expertise besides knitting socks). Most reasonable people who aren’t public figures — and there are SO many of us — would share this doubt about being up to adding anything substantial to public discourse, let alone to inspiring hordes of loyal followers.
Janet Reid, NYC literary agent, probably does have hordes of loyal followers. But unlike me, Janet Reid can bestow the wit and wisdom of experience and expertise gained from years of focused hard work. She Entertains — Educates — Engages — Inspires. (Those are bullet points from various instructions on how to write a successful blog.) Earlier this week, Janet Reid magnanimously invited her readers to submit 15 word elevator pitches for their unpublished manuscripts. She lured her followers in with the promise that she herself, and her other followers, would ruthlessly critique the offerings.
What a hook! As one of the legions of unpublished authors, I wanted to bite, but honestly, FIFTEEN words!? I’m still refining a query letter of 280 words.
Reading the submissions and critiques is truly educational. Also, a bit crushing, as in: OMG! I will NEVER be able to do this! Luckily, I am not standing in an elevator next to the literary agent of my dreams and only have this one chance to pitch my book with the perfect fifteen words. Nor do I anticipate this ever happening.
Janet Reid’s blog may well be an example of The Perfect Blog. She offers something many people are looking for. Her readers become followers because she delivers expertise. Those among that group wise enough to apply her advice will be better for it.
My blog rambles about all over the place. It tends to bump into different readers as it wanders about, and then, most often, waves good-bye to them as it trudges up the next grassy slope.
So there you have it. An example of an effective blog — Janet Reid’s — and an example of an ineffective blog. Will my blog become more like Janet Reid’s if my manuscript for Thrift Store Daze ever materializes as a book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble?
Don’t bet on it.
In the meantime, is anyone interested in my thoughts on knitting socks? I can recommend a good blog.