Buy “Runway”



Are You Blogging Too Much?

Kristen Tracy

Kristen Tracy describes herself as a “poet who also writes young adult and middle-grade novels,” but that’s an understatement. Her first two teen novels, Lost It and Crimes of the Sarahs, were published by Simon & Schuster, and she has three more forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion, including A Field Guide For Heartbreakers, due out June 1. She also published her first middle-grade novel with Random House, Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus, which was selected by School Library Journal as one of the Best Children’s Books of 2009. She has three more middle-grade novels forthcoming from Random House, including The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter, due out in January 2011. Her poems have appeared in Threepenny Review, AGNI, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Southern Review. In 2009, she was selected by Tom Sleigh as the poetry fellow for the Writers@Work Conference in Park City. She has an MA in American Literature, an MFA in Poetry, and a PhD in Poetry. She lives in San Francisco where she tutors at 826 Valencia and is a volunteer gardener on Alcatraz.

You may remember Kristen from her interview with Alan Rinzler. What intrigued me most about Kristen’s interview with Alan was that one of the mistakes she admitted to was not blogging or social networking, and yet, when I talked to Kristen, she wasn’t apologetic at all:

Your first book was published in January 2007, but you didn’t put a website up until nearly a year later. Why the wait?

I am a private and shy person. The idea of having a web presence didn’t appeal to me at all. I didn’t want to have any photographs of myself online, and I didn’t want to have biographical information about myself floating around the electronic world either. I just wanted to write books. I really like being anonymous. I sort of get bummed out when I run in to people I know at the grocery store and stuff like that. Being a more public person has been a big shift for me. I’m not totally comfortable with it, but I’m getting there. (And I think my website, which includes four photos of me, is proof of that.)

You don’t have a blog, and you’re not on Facebook or Twitter. Why not?

Well, I don’t do those things for several reasons. First, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter appear to be a total time suck. I am not at a point in my life where I can afford to have my time sucked. Maybe after I’m retired I will become the world’s most active Twitter person. Today, not so much. Also, for me, writing is something that I have a physical and emotional urge to do. If I wrote a blog and wrote on my Facebook wall or other people’s Facebook walls (That’s how it works, right? You go around writing on everybody’s walls?) I think it would lessen that urge. I want to harness that motivation and use it to complete my books. If I spent writing energy on social media, I’d feel like I was wasting it. And then I’d feel bad about myself. I see the use in social media for building an audience, but I also think you can build an audience by writing the best books you can, while maintaining a small web presence. My agent, Sara Crowe, has a blog and she asks all of her writers to contribute to it a couple of times a year. I do that. But it is not my favorite, and it feels like work and those infrequent semiannual blog entries are one of the few things that I actually procrastinate writing. I don’t like it. If you like it and it helps you write, and it helps you connect to your readers, then that’s great. But that stuff isn’t for me. (I should say that in June my publisher is sending me on a book tour with two other writers and apparently we will be blogging and tweeting our way across the nation. My plan is to do this. Then pretend like it never happened. And then go back to living my social media-less life.)

Do you think having a small online presence has hurt your career in any way?

A small online presence has probably cost me book sales, but I don’t feel like it’s hurt my career. Maybe I’m being naive. Not blogging hasn’t weakened the actual books I’ve written. On the contrary, by not expending my creative energy on anything but my actual writing, I think I’ve gotten further faster. For me, it’s really about the writing. That’s where I put everything. I think I’m growing my audience book by book. After I sold my first novel, I had the choice to either become a promotion machine or write the next book. I chose the latter and it’s always felt like the right choice. My next teen novel, A Field Guide for Heartbreakers, comes out in a couple of weeks. I have a middle-grade novel, The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter, coming out in January. And I’ve got another teen novel about a group of twins who end up adrift at sea and get attacked by sharks due out from Disney next summer. I am ferociously busy. The whole debate on whether or not I should do more online to promote myself sort of seems like a moot point. I’m too busy to do much else besides write, garden on Alcatraz, hang with my cat, and live a little.

What advice do you have for an unpublished author who is told to “build an author platform”?

I have no idea how to build a platform. Instead of worrying about this, I focused on my own strengths and interests—funny and event-driven fiction set in Idaho and other places I’ve lived. The first short story I ever wrote (spoiler alert) was about a girl who digs up her dead cat in order to reassemble its bones for a fourth-grade science fair. It turned out to be a chapter in my first middle-grade novel, Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus. I paid attention to what I wanted to write, and I realized that I’m drawn toward humorous fiction for a younger audience. So that’s what I pursued. But I was reading teen stuff at that time, too. And the idea hit me that I should write a funny story about a girl who loses her virginity, because so much of what I was reading was dark and dangerous, sex with consequences stuff. So I wrote Lost It about a girl who loses her virginity underneath a canoe. And I’m really happy with that book. Thinking about platform doesn’t help me generate a story, so I don’t think about it. I write the books I want to write. And I also think about entertaining my audience.

What advice do you have for an unpublished author looking for an agent?

When I was an unpublished author looking for an agent, I read a lot of books that were similar to the books I was writing and when I really connected with a book, I looked in the acknowledgments and saw who they thanked and looked for their agent and editor. I kept a list. I learned a lot about children’s publishing this way. Some people get a subscription to Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Lunch. I didn’t do that. Using the Internet, I Googled people from my list, and I tried to figure out who were the younger agents at the bigger agencies. That’s how I found my agent. She was at Trident Media, just getting ready to move to a smaller agency, and she liked my query and my first three chapters and my manuscript, and now she’s my agent. It’s about the fit. You want somebody who really likes your writing.

Why do you think it’s important to maintain some privacy online?

Sometimes my readers email me and that’s great. I really like hearing from them. But I also get nervous that they approach me with the expectation that we will have repeated electronic correspondence. I don’t have time for that. And I hate disappointing people. Maybe this all boils down to the fact that I have boundary issues. I’m not sure. But I know I like having a limited online presence. It feels right to me.

14 comments to Are You Blogging Too Much?

  • "My plan is to do this. Then pretend like it never happened. And then go back to living my social media-less life."


    I think it's great and cool that she's confident in her choices and isn't going to buckle to pressure (perceived or real). Part of me wants to be more like her (the self-contained writer who saves all her words for her fiction, not social media) but part of me also thrives on the human connections I make online. So I don't know. For me it's about finding the balance between the two. I guess her "balance" is much more heavily weighted on the self side, and that's cool. I agree with her assessment: it obviously hasn't hurt her career. 🙂

  • I loved this interview. The whole social networking thing is a lot of work. It's about balance. I don't FB anymore, even though I have an account. I twitter, but not as much as I would like. I prefer to blog, though that's a huge drain on my time. I do it because I love it, and have made so many friends because of it.

    I have something on my blog for you. 🙂

  • Hi!

    I just discovered your blog and really enjoy it. I remember reading this article when it came out and being flummoxed that she can do it this way. Don't we all wish we had this option? I'm published with a small press that relies on their authors to assist with marketing by having a strong social media presence. I notice that Kristen does WHAT HER PUBLISHER REQUESTS OF HER. If the publisher is ok with her not blogging, then lucky her she doesn't have to except for the special requests of her publisher. But if I refused to do it, then my publisher's marketing efforts would be hurt, my books wouldn't sell and it's not likely they would work with me further. They just don't have the dollars and the clout like the big guys do, so authors are needing to build a platform and get themselves known through social media.

    So it's really important that each author work closely with their publisher, as Kristen is doing, to follow through with their requests and guidelines for marketing. As time goes on, I think it will be more and more essential that authors develop an online presence.

    Again, thanks for posting this interview! (And sorry for such a long comment!)j


  • I really like what she had to say. I blog every two to four weeks, which is perfect for me, but I like to post something interesting on my Facebook page and/or Twitter status almost daily. I think social networking, like any type of promotional activity, can be a huge time suck, and it's critical to find the balance between writing and doing promotion. And exercising. And spending time with family. And working at our day jobs… 🙂

  • Elena


    I've been lurking around your blog and not commenting for a while. I love it! This is a great interview. Keep up the good work!

    Elena (from grad school)

  • Kristan – I love the connections, too, but I do think it cuts into my writing time. I'm trying to find that balance, too.

    Stina – I agree. And I am heading over to your blog in a minute!

    Karen – interesting point that smaller publishers may need their authors to blog/Twitter, etc. more while the bigger ones have more money for advertising.

    Jackie – ah yes! And exercise, and family, and … it's always about balance!

    Elena – welcome! And thanks for commenting! Kristen's interview really makes me want to get off the Internet and write, write, write. Which is a good thing, but difficult, too, because I love blogging and I love connecting with other writers.

  • blogging definitely cuts into my writing time and it is taking me longer to finish my novel, as a result. right now, that's not a problem because I don't have a deadline or publisher to please but, eventually, if I want to do this writer thing, I have to wean myself off. or at least try and discipline myself! Great interview, thanks for sharing!

  • So good to know you can still have a blazing career these days without a massive web presence. I was starting to freak that I wasn't doing enough online, that I was blogging too little, tweeting hardly at all. But I'm too obsessive with my writing, too focused, and I just hate taking time from that just to tweet because everyone says you have to. While I still keep up a blog and Twitter, and even Facebook, I don't have it in me to do it on a daily basis–my writing just suffers too much. I think it's great if you can do it all, but I'm too impatient with my writing to take too long to finish a manuscript in order to blog every day.

    Great interview! And I'm so glad I stumbled upon it! I'm in awe of Kristen's experience and education. What a fabulous writing foundation.

  • Sarah – as I near my deadline I am blogging less and less because every minute of my writing time is so precious now. Of course, it's a self-imposed deadline, but I need those to stay on track.

    Carolina – I know – isn't Kristen's resume impressive? And I think it's great that you're putting your energy into writing instead of blogging and tweeting. It's great to have SOME web presence (it's always shocking to me to google an author's name and find NO website), but all the web presence in the world means nothing if you don't have a great book to sell.

  • […] Are You Blogging Too Much? […]

  • Interesting. I think social networking can be time consuming but I also think it takes balance. A smart writer knows when to abandon their blog/twitter/facebook, etc. for the sake of their WIP. If you get sucked up in the networking and forget your writing you are doing a disservice to yourself. When my WIP comes to a bump in the road, sometimes writing for my blog gets me over the hump. My social networking has really taught me the publishing industry. In a very short time I have learned an amazing amount which has escalated my writing. To each their own.

  • Dana – you're right, it takes balance, and great point that blogging can help us get over bumps in the road. I also think that it can be an excuse to procrastinate when we hit those bumps, and that the key is being honest with ourselves about why we're really doing it. I, too, have learned a ton about the publishing industry from being online.

  • Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I am inspired! Very helpful info specifically the final section 🙂 I handle such information much. I used to be seeking this particular information for a very long time. Thanks and good luck.

  • Howdy – I must say, I sure am surprised with your site. I had no problem navigating via all the tabs and the information was in actuality simple to gain access to. I discovered what I required in no time at all. Truly splendid.