What makes for a good blog? What do people want to read? I think a lot of authors struggle with this at one point or another — I know I do. Obviously, I hope this site provides a connection point between myself and my readers. I hope that it’s entertaining. And yes, I hope that it sells some books. Hey, I’m being honest.
So what really works? Chuck Wendig’s blog works because he primarily focuses on the art and craft of writing, and he has a great following among writers. John Scalzi’s blog is largely whatever (pun intended) comes out of his brain, and as one of the most venerable blogs on the Internet, his following has grown organically through the years.
More than three years into blogging, I suppose I’m still looking for something of an identity, though this year’s stats do point toward some interesting things. I think most importantly, though, is that this stuff can’t be forced. I don’t want to up and declare my blog to be “X,” because I may have readers who don’t want to read “X.” I’m still evolving as an author, and I think this blog should evolve as well.
So what worked in 2015? Here’s a list of top posts, in order of popularity:
Tom Mison is a great guy. I thought I would give the star of Sleepy Hollow some props for treating fans in a most generous, excellent way. (I got an autograph from him for my wife; he ended up calling her on my cell in a surprising and very boss move.) Well, as it happens, Mr. Mison has fans, and I had no idea just how many would come to read about this fun moment.
Outlining in Excel. Here’s a very writing-centric post, one that emerged organically from comments on Reddit and Chuck Wendig’s blog. There were a lot of questions as to how I used Excel to outline, and so I answered — and found a ton of interest in the subject. There are worse things to be known for than Excel-based outlining.
Don’t be a starving writer if not-starving is an option. Being both an author and someone who works for the financial services industry, I’ve always taken issue with the notion that privation, either physical or mental, is an important road for a writer to travel. Starving artists are starving, and that sucks. So I ranted a bit.
Women and POC in historical fantasy. I very much had MAJESTIC-12 in the back of my mind when writing this thinky bit about depicting women and persons of color during historical periods where they were oppressed. It’s something I still come back to, and I thought the comments on this one were very thoughtful.
Speaking out on issues. This is something I’ve wrestled with from time to time, and this post is as close as I’ve come to wading in on controversial topics. I’m not sure this post had a point, other than do as thou wilt, and don’t judge others if they decide to opt out. It felt good to write at the time. But I still have to tamp down on the urge to enter the fray from time to time.
Star Wars! I’m grouping these up, because each of these movie reviews (the first six, and the new one) garnered a fair amount of eyeballs. I really enjoyed writing these, and I’m glad folks enjoyed revisiting these films with me.
The Modern Man. The New York Times ran a strange, pretentious piece that may or may not have been satire, but didn’t work well either way. And so I riffed on it, and folks thought it was funny. This post was very much about me amusing myself, rather than anything conscious or planned. Nice to see folks liked it.
Tweeting for a short story sale. This was just a fun retelling of how I sold “Crisis of Faith” to Paizo, before I had even written a word of it. Thanks to friends and fans of my work on Twitter, I got noticed. It was a beautiful thing, and the resulting story was pure joy to write.
Money matters for writers. A bit of a riff from the “starving artist” thing, I put on my financial hat for a bit and talked about approaching one’s writing career with a bit of common sense about money and living and not-starving.
MAJESTIC-12 revealed. Finally, the only “hey-I-write-books” post to crack the top-10 list was the sale announcement for my new MAJESTIC-12 series and the title of the first book, MJ-12: Inception. The new MAJESTIC-12 page got a lot of traffic, too.
So what didn’t work? The biggest flop in terms of effort-to-readership has been my weekly NFL picks column. I always knew there wasn’t a massive overlap between SF/F readers and NFL fans, but I kind of thought it would be bigger than this. And I’ll admit, I’ve had a few weeks this season where it was far more of a chore than a joy to do. I’ll finish out the season, but next year’s is TBD whether it happens again or not.
Those small periodic updates about book releases and charity stuff don’t get a lot of traffic, but I think that’s the nature of the beast — plus, they’re usually all on the home page (rather than requiring a click-through to keep reading) so it’s tougher to measure. As regards the charity stuff, I’ll keep doing it because it’s right and proper, and if even one person clicks through and bids or purchases something, then it’s worth it. And as for the book releases/interviews/reviews/whatever, same thing goes, just with more enlightened self-interest.
In the end, original, thoughtful writing is what works. Come for the fun, engaging posts, stay for the necessary promotional stuff. This isn’t revelatory, of course, but it’s worth mentioning and repeating. Riffing off of comments on guest posts and stuff done for other sites is good, too. All this is time consuming, and the blog isn’t a full-time job — heck, being an author isn’t my full-time job! But the stats tell me that when I sit down to write something good, you all respond. So thanks for that. I’ll try to write more of that next year.
Oh, I also learned that when you blog about Tom Mison, you get a huge traffic spike. But that’s not likely replicable for 2016.
Many thanks, of course, to everyone who has stopped by the site this year. This was a record year for visitors, page views and posts, and I’m glad you folks found stuff you liked.
As for 2016, you’ll see some interesting changes here. We’ll be properly launching the MAJESTIC-12 series site, MJ-12.net, in the spring, and I’m thinking this author site and blog could get a redesign over the summer. I’ve very much enjoyed the Daedalus trilogy motif here, but…the Variants are coming next year. Best be ready for them.