Michelle Sagara makes a very cogent observation here about a small detail people often miss when they use me as an example of how a blog can help you sell your novel, that small detail being that I had a Web site a decade before I sold that first novel, and had been accreting an audience all that time (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). As Michelle notes:
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.
This is something I’ve touched on as well, but I really like the way Michelle’s said it, and it does continue to amaze me that people can look at Whatever and say “look! He did it! I can do it too!” and sort of miss that I’ve been doing it, in one form or another, for a decade and a half. I don’t see any reason why you can’t do what I did; just remember how long it took me to get where I am at the moment, and that for most of that time I was just another schmuck with a blog, not someone with a career writing novels.
Also, you know. It’s pretty obvious that I’m not blind to the idea that talking about my books and writing here might get people to try the books. But I’m allergic to the idea that Whatever should be about marketing my books, or that I should frame the way I talk about the books here with an eye toward getting all y’all to buy them. Jo Walton mentioned recently she knew a writer who was told by her agent to be upbeat about her next book in her blog; I think that’s a really excellent way not to engage your readership. I’m pretty sure that if all I said about my books here was along the lines of “OMG!!!1! Theyz excellent!” people would blot out anything I said about them. People really do know when you’re marketing to them.
Personally I think people think about all this crap too hard. The reason to do a blog is because you want to. If you do it for any other reason, people will be able to tell, and it’s probably going to fall on its ass. The reason I think Whatever does well is because I like doing it, and I’ve liked doing it all the time I’ve done it. Simple enough.