This blog post is going to have ALL OF THE LINKS. So I’m really sorry if you’re reading it on a phone or something.
Some social media experts believe that blogs don’t sell books. Others believe that they do. They have advantages—unlike Facebook, which is constantly changing, they’re at least under the author’s control. And they’re less likely to disappear than a social network. I mean, anyone who tried to build a platform on Myspace must have been bummed out when literally everybody stopped using it simultaneously.
I’m not a social media expert, other than by virtue of being a teenager, part of the early digital generation. (We got the internet when I was five. I do remember floppy disks and Windows ME and all that, but computers have generally been a fairly constant part of my life.) I didn’t grow up coding and I’m actually useless when faced with anything more complex than basic HTML or BBC code, but I’m more capable of modifying and customising my laptop than people I know who are ten, twenty years older than me, just because of my age.
Lack of social media qualifications aside, I will say that reading people’s blogs can often decide, for me, whether or not I buy their books.
Take Chuck Wendig for example. I’ve enjoyed his 25-part writing advice for ages, and bought a kindle collection of some of it a while back. However, only recently did I actually subscribe to his blog. I know he’s written three books of a quartet about a character called Miriam Black—and he definitely gets points for the name—but I haven’t read them.
However, he writes so accurately and astutely about women, refusing to deny the discrimination they face in films because pretending it’s not happening isn’t going to help. He talks about what movies do wrong about female characters. He doesn’t try and say that he’s anything special for caring about this, and he freely admits that as a man he’s lucky. He accepts that he’s privileged:
I’m a certified HWD [heteronormative white dude] who has all kinds of secret little prejudices and unrecognized bullshit I’m probably not even aware of. I don’t want to try to play the hero and drum my chest and say, “Now that a white guy has brought this up, we can canonize it.” This is all very easy for me to say, and I’m going to get stuff wrong from time to time because of all this baggage and privilege
And the thing about this is that now that I know how he thinks about women in media and fiction, and now that I see he’s aware of all these potential problems, I can buy his books with confidence that his female characters are going to be interesting. They’re not going to be love interests, they’re not going to be some weird male fantasy, they’re not just there for show. They’ll be real, interesting characters. With awesome names.
Why haven’t I bought them yet? Well, I actually have no money. But don’t worry, I plan to.
Then there are other authors, like Maggie Stiefvater, whose books I read long before I started reading her blog posts. But she presents a side of herself in those posts, a sort of mischievous, creative wild side, that comes across so clearly in her books. I know because I’ve read them that her blog is a good taster of what’s important in her books, and if I hadn’t already devoured the lot, I’d have gone out and bought them by now.
I’m aware with every blog post that I write that I’m presenting to you something about me. I’m telling you what I think is important, and in doing so, I’m probably giving a pretty good indication of what I tend to write about. If I blog about feminism and LGBTQ issues and adaptation of old stories and music and fairies and moral issues and philosophical points, it’s a fairly good bet that those are things I have in my books too.
Particularly fairies. I can’t escape them. They just creep in everywhere.
You know from my blog that I’m unlikely to have uber-romantic plots, because I find them uninteresting. When I do include relationships, there’s absolutely no guarantee that anybody in the novel will be straight because to be perfectly honest, there is way too much heteronormative YA in the world already and I decided about 18 months ago that I was fed up of contributing to it.
I’ve discussed faith in relation to fiction. I’ve discussed how I deal with my own life via my writing. So you know that that’s likely to be a theme. I’ve talked endlessly about my desire for change and to be part of a revolution, since way back in 2010 and 2011 with the student protests to recently when I’ve talked about Catching Fire and Les Miserables. Is it therefore a surprise to any of you that several of my novels feature revolutions of some sort? Because it shouldn’t be. It really shouldn’t.
In other words, with every blog post I’m trying to put across my values, my ideology, my beliefs. And I hope that one day, when I have books available, that will inspire somebody to pick them up because they can see how I’ll deal with something they care about. It also goes for the opposite event: if somebody were to come across my blog who had entirely conflicting ideology to me, they would know from my posts that they wouldn’t enjoy my fiction, and therefore hopefully I’d avoid offending them.
So blogs probably do sell books. More than that, though, they show the personality of the writer. And let me tell you something—I’m far more likely to read a book if the author seems hilarious, interesting and socially aware of things I care about than if they’re disconnected from the world or say things that I perceive as offensive, just because I know I’ll enjoy the book more.
If you’re going to blog, make sure it reflects your values. Because that’s kind of the point, isn’t it: to show people who you are?
(So far, I guess what you’ve learned about me is that I wear silly hats a lot.)