Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Blogging Every Day, Part 1: Why Blog Every Day

I'm blogging every day. Here's a short series on the why, how, and what's of it.

  1. Why Blog Every Day (this post)
  2. How to Blog Every Day
  3. What to Blog Every Day

Back in 2008, I asked the question how much time should professional writers spend blogging? The answer to that became my mantra. Which is to say writing novels always took precedence over blogging, or to think of it another way, any time spent writing blog posts is time better spent working on my novels instead.

Recently, though, I decided to try something new: Blogging every day.

I'm not removing the emphasis from the work on my novels (progress on the second book in The Alchemancer series is going quite well, by the way), but I'm also re-emphasizing the importance of my blog by taking up this regime. I won't literally be writing a new blog post every day--I'm giving myself Sunday off as well as holidays. But, so far, I've been going strong since October 26 when I blogged about my Smashwords eBook sale. By the time this post makes it out I'll be over 30 days straight (minus days off as mentioned). While this is a great pace for this little experiment of mine, I don't know that it's sustainable. It seems like eventually I'll run out of ideas or time or simple desire to keep up with it. But, for now, I'm all in.

So why blog every day in the first place? Here's 3 reasons:

1. It promotes good writing habits

By blogging every day I'm injecting order into my daily routine. I work at home now, which sounds like a panacea (and is at times), but when I've got something going on at the day job that I know is going to consume my day, having other commitments really pushes me to prioritize and do those first. There are all kinds of other distractions too, so having a daily deadline keeps me focused. Also, by having a blogging schedule, I'm committed to writing something. What I write about is not so much as important as the act itself.

2. It pushes me to write better

The only way to become a better writer is to practice. Blogging gives me a medium to explore my skills, take chances, and try new things without anyone criticizing me for it (no one's going to leave a crappy review of one of my posts on Amazon, in other words). You can argue that writing a blog post isn't the same thing as writing a story, which is true. That's why I hope to also start blogging writing samples—short excerpts of what might someday become a tale unto itself. These are the sorts of posts I'm most looking forward to.

3. It provides alternative creative outlets

Blogging allows me to break away from my fantasy world and write about "other things". This is important first and foremost to keep from getting burned out writing the same content all of the time. Second, it pushes me to continue to learn about the craft because the blogging form is so much different from telling a story.

Next post in the series I'll jump into the "how's" of blogging every day.

More Reading

The site evolves… again!

Given my habit of changing things up on this site about every year I'm actually overdue for a new look. The biggest change this time around is that I've gone back to the 2 column layout. The 3 column layout was fine, but there were times when I thought it was just too busy. I was trying to get a lot of information in front of people but maybe sometimes less is better.

The 'About Me' box is back at the upper right, the 2 column layout allowed me to increase the width for each post, and the Silverlight tagcloud which lived beneath the two right-hand columns is gone. Silverlight was a good technology despite never really catching on beyond the Microsoft-centric developer audience, but it's time has come and gone. The advent of Windows 8, which has no support for the Silverlight browser plug-in model, proves that much. Besides, Silverlight was never supported in the Safari browser which means users of iPhones and iPads were never seeing the tagcloud, anyway.

The header image, which I love, remains the same, as does the general top menu layout.

Here, then, is the newest look, as well as an assortment of past images depicting previous designs.

image

image

image

image

New look

old look

image

Choosing an Audience

When I started this blog, I always considered my audience other writers. Part of that was because I was just getting started myself and it was (and still is) the collaborative thing to do. Also, I didn't have any readers, so who else was I going to target with this stuff?

I started this blog back on January 17, 2008. Prior to that, I had a blog hosted on BlogSpot which ran for maybe a year. So, I've considered the majority of my audience to be writers for 5 years now. Along the way, I figured if I ever picked up some readers and started taking this writing thing seriously enough to turn it into a viable secondary (or dare I say primary) source of income, then maybe I would need to change the focus a bit. Instead of writers, maybe I would start writing posts with the reader, prospective or otherwise, in mind.

I'm starting to think that time might be now.

I've got some other places I'd like to take this site. It'll still be a blog, but start focusing a bit more on content related to my books themselves. Things like the world they're set in (did you know The Five Elements and The Hall of the Wood are set in the same world and that it's called Uhl?), the people, the places, the races, the nations,… you get the idea. This is stuff I think readers would enjoy, and it's something I know I would enjoy.

What got me thinking about this whole audience thing is a recent post by author Zoe Winters on eBook pricing. It wasn't the post's topic which left an impression, but this comment she made:

I’m really interested in attracting READERS. I know occasionally I do attract writers when I make posts like this but I just don’t want my blog to be a writer hang out.

That, and I've been getting some nice (i.e., encouraging) comments from readers of late. Yes, I have readers. It's a bit staggering of a thought. I know I don't have a fan base, but I can see this thing blossoming. The only way it's going to blossom is if I can attract more readers. Writers are fine, but there comes a point where you have your tools and you know how to use them. You just need to find people willing to pay you to use them. I think I'm at that point, especially as I begin to invest more and more money into advertising, time into writing, and ideas into the larger world in which my books take place.

The 2011 Year In Review

It's fast becoming a tradition around here to reflect a bit on the previous year both as a writer and a blogger. Previous bouts of reflection spilled out of me in 2010 and 2009. But, here we are now, in 2012, so let's dig in.

In terms of blogging, my posting decreased dramatically. In 2010, I wrote 144 posts. In 2011, only 44. This reflects an attempt to refocus myself on my novel writing and my self-promotion as an indie author. I'm not giving up blogging; I find there are important topics that, as an author, I need to know. Topics such as the growing alignment of paperback and eBook prices is one of those things that can change (and is changing) an industry. Also, Amazon's eBook strategy remains paramount for nearly every indie author out there. I can't guarantee that every post I wrote in 2011 is going to be beneficial to everyone, but they are at least beneficial to me.

In terms of what others found most useful, here are the "hottest" posts written in 2011 (numbers in parenthesis represent the total number of views for the year):

  1. Pricing: eBooks vs Paperbacks (2241)
  2. Contribute (1807)
  3. The Five Elements - 12. The Four Elements (1780)
  4. Free Kindles for Everyone! (1439)
  5. An introspective on Borders' liquidation (1187)
  6. The Five Elements - 21. The Fifth Element (888)
  7. The Five Elements - 18. Amongst the Clouds (842)
  8. How to ruin your writing career in 1 easy step (773)
  9. Book Review: Honour of the Grave by Robin Laws (747)
  10. Classic Reread: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles (714)

Now, let's look at the most popular posts overall:

  1. Tor Free E-books: The Complete List (17746)
  2. eBook File Formats (14890)
  3. Book Review: The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb (13571)
  4. Publishing’s Big 6: Who are they? (12717)
  5. Tor Free E-book: Old Man's War by John Scalzi (11120)
  6. Tor Free E-book: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (8955)
  7. Tor Free E-Book: Starfish by Peter Watts (8045)
  8. Has the fantasy genre become stagnant? (7791)
  9. Weekend Links - 7/3/08 (7544)
  10. Recommended Reference - The Synonym Finder (7178)

The #1 spot still belongs my list of Tor's free giveaways from a few years ago. I think the word "free" in the title has something to do with that post's longevity. My review of Hobb's Soldier Son Trilogy fell one place to #3, making room for a new #2. My post on eBook file formats spent most of 2010 skyrocketing through the ranks and really only missed the Top 10 for that year by a few places. Seeing it at #2 (and eventually #1 is my guess) is no surprise.

Other notable additions to the Top 10 Posts for 2011 is my post on the publishing industry's "Big 6". A lot of writers come by to take a look at that one, and it's even gotten linked to from several other sources as reference material. That's gratifying.

As far as writing… where to start? Lots of self-promotion via Twitter, GoodReads, and this web site. I gave away a lot of free eBooks, serialized The Five Elements, and purchased some professional art to use as the cover of The Hall of the Wood. I even re-vamped the cover for The Five Elements. Also, The Hall of the Wood went free on Amazon and I'm happy to say it's racking up over 100 downloads per day, went as far as #11 in the Kindle Free Mythology category (it's at #26 as I write this), and remains in the Top 100 Free Fantasy category for Kindle. It's even driven some sales of The Five Elements (but not enough).

Clearly, there's a lot going on right now for me on the writing front. I think I'd like to address some of these points separately in their own posts.

That being said, I'll close this up with my usual statistics:

  • Total number of posts at EOY: 407 (at end of 2010: 363)
  • Total number of posts written in 2011: 44 (at end of 2010: 144)
  • Total number of views for all posts: 716639 (at end of 2010: 450,053)
  • Average posts/month: 4 (at end of 2010: 11.9) 

The 2010 Year In Review

Another year has passed and so I'd like to take a look what's been happening around here.

I blogged a lot more this past year than in year's past. I also undertook LibraryThing's 50 Book Reading Challenge (results of that effort will appear in another post). Also, I made the decision to self-publish my fantasy novel, The Five Elements. That decision included serializing the novel, chapter-by-chapter, on this blog; giving it away for free in PDF format; and selling it in eBook format through Amazon and Smashwords. Making sales and collecting reviews on retailers' sites remains a challenge. I do have some things planned for the upcoming year in this regard, but I'll save that for another post.

Moving on to some numbers, here are the most popular posts written in 2010 (along with the number of views for each and the post's placing with respect to all of the 360 or so posts currently on this blog):

  1. Publishing’s Big 6: Who are they? (3907, 15)
  2. Heinlein's Rules for Writing (1828, 54)
  3. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu (1768, 57)
  4. Book Review: The Dying Earth by Jack Vance (1739, 59)
  5. Buy Me A Book (1718, 61)
  6. How long should it take to write a novel? (1559, 75)
  7. LibraryThing's 2010 Book Reading Challenge (1548, 78)
  8. Kindle: First Impressions (1401, 94)
  9. Book Review: The Alchemist's Code by Dave Duncan (1208, 123)
  10. Book Review: Lord of the Fire Lands by Dave Duncan (1066, 156)

I'm not surprised to see which post came out on top. My post on publishing's Big 6 was one whose view count I saw rise steadily. Also, the fact that three of the ten positions are held by book reviews is not surprising, either; I wrote quite a few book reviews in 2010.

Now, let's look at the most popular posts overall along with their view count:

  1. Tor Free E-books: The Complete List (12876)
  2. Book Review: The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb (9718)
  3. Tor Free E-book: Old Man's War by John Scalzi (7872)
  4. eBook File Formats (6656)
  5. Has the fantasy genre become stagnant? (6635)
  6. Weekend Links - 7/3/08 (6519)
  7. Tor Free E-Book: Starfish by Peter Watts (6396)
  8.  How Much Time Should Professional Writers Spend Blogging? (5813)
  9. Locus Online: 2007 Cover Art Gallery (5746)
  10. Recommended Reference - The Synonym Finder (5678)

Compared to last year's results, the top 2 positions remained the same. My post on eBook file formats, which was not in the top 10 at all last year (but which was #2 in views for the year itself), is now at #4. That post was also the only newcomer.

I'll close with some statistics (that are probably only of interest to myself):