A blog reader wrote, “The topic of posting a rough draft of a novel has become a hot topic with my writing friends. Some of us do it and others don’t. I’ve heard different opinions on this when it comes to publishing. Some folks claim an agent wouldn’t touch the project, while others say having a blog with many followers is a feather in the cap. What is your perspective for writers seeking to be traditionally published?”
I receive this question rather frequently, so I decided to answer on the blog. Other agents or publishers would answer differently, but here are my thoughts, which only apply to those who want a publisher. If you’re going to self-publish your novel, then of course you may choose to put it on your blog or do whatever you like with it.
1. Immediate feedback. Some people want the validation of knowing people are reading their work on a regular basis, which might make it easier to keep going. It can also be a way of testing the commercial appeal of your work.
2. Accountability. Establishing a schedule of posting portions of your novel at regular intervals gives you deadlines and word-count goals. It can spur you to keep writing.
3. Building a readership. Of course, if you come to a publisher with a ready-made fan base, that can be a good thing. So blogging your novel and building an audience of devoted fans would be advantageous.
4. Just for fun. If you simply enjoy the idea of posting your novel in serial form on your blog, go for it! But be aware of the possible drawbacks.
1. Immediate feedback. People on the Internet are often unhelpful at best, downright cruel at worst. Do you really need to hear people’s opinions on a chapter-by-chapter basis? You may be hoping for validation along the way, but you might not get it, and when you do, you’ll wonder if you can trust it. Additionally, it’s likely you’ll receive contradictory feedback, which can make things worse. Bottom line, I wonder if you want to be dealing with the random opinions of strangers while you’re in the process of trying to create your masterpiece. Crowd-sourcing may not be the best approach to novel-writing.
2. It’s really hard to build a readership. There are stories out there in Internetland of authors who have built a fan base by giving away their stories for free on their blog. But these situations are few and far between. It takes a tremendous effort and a significant investment of time to get people to come and read your blog on a regular basis. Plus, most people are not reading blogs and websites for “novels” but are looking for other kinds of information and entertainment on the web. It’s not true that “if you write it, they will come.” I would expect that after six months of blogging your novel, you’d be lucky to have 50 regular readers. That might be fun, but it’s not the kind of fan base that sells books.
3. Once it’s blogged, it’s “published.” There are varying perspectives on this, but technically, a blogged novel is already published which will make some publishers decline to consider it, which is why many agents would be hesitant. A way to overcome this would be to show spectacular blog stats, with several thousand visitors to every single post, and a growing audience over the course of the novel.
4. Creating a novel is not a linear process. As all novelists know, the creation of a novel usually involves going back to edit and rewrite portions that you previously wrote. It can involve cutting out sentences or pages or whole chapters; adding new scenes to earlier chapters; or rearranging sections for a better flow to the story. If you are blogging in rough draft, you’re limited to a linear process, and you’re not showing your best work to your readers.
5. It’s extremely annoying from the reader’s point of view. If you are able to gather an audience to read your blogged-novel from day one, then they can keep up with you and read each segment as you post it. But what about those coming in halfway through? If someone wants to go back and read your novel from the beginning, they have to keep clicking to open new pages to read each portion, which detracts from the continuity of the reading experience. Each time someone has to stop and open a new page, you’re risking them giving up on your novel.
Overall, whenever I hear of people blogging their novels, my first thought is “why?” I just can’t see a compelling enough reason to do it, unless you were getting paid for it like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain in the age of serialization. Or unless it’s just for fun and you’re not seeking publication.
Should you blog your novel? @RachelleGardner lists some pros and cons. Click to Tweet.
“Once it’s blogged, it’s published.” Thoughts on blogging your novel. Click to Tweet.
Building a readership through blogging your novel is harder than you think! Click to Tweet.
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