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Meghan Ward

I'm a freelance writer and book editor represented by Andy Ross of the Andy Ross Literary Agency. You can read an excerpt of my memoir, Paris On Less Than $10,000 A Day, and visit my website for more info about me.

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Is blogging a waste of time?

The weekend before last, I attended a publishing panel at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto during which literary agent Andy Ross of the Andy Ross Literary Agency said, “Publishers say they expect you to blog and to use social media. I blog and I get about 100 hits a day, and I’m relatively famous, and that’s not enough to impress a publisher.”

So, of course, I wondered, “What IS enough to impress a publisher?” I e-mailed Andy to ask him, and this is what he said:

“It is going to take quite a bit to impress a publisher on how many hits you get on a blog. Probably 100,000 unique views a month is the ball park. But even that isn’t good enough. You are still going to have to convince the publisher that you have a good book in your head, and that it is not just recycled material from the blog that people can get for free. That said, regardless of the size of your blog, if you are trying to sell a book to a publisher, they really expect you to blog and to mine the social media. Even if you only get 100 hits a day (which is more than most people get).”

100,000 hits a month? I don’t know any writer/bloggers who get that many. Are we all wasting our time? I decided to ask Daniela Rapp, editor at St. Martin’s Press, what she thought. Here is what she said: “A hundred hits a day is indeed small potatoes, but I would argue that 100,000 is way more than we generally expect or see. Somewhere in the middle, I think. Twitter followers upwards of 10,000 are impressive. FB fans in the thousands.”

Hmm. Somewhere in the middle. So that means somewhere between 3000 (100/day) and 100,000 hits/month. So let’s say 30,000+. That’s at least a thousand hits a day (I’m talking page views, not unique visitors). I bet every blogger with 1000+ Google Friend Connect followers gets that. That’s achievable. But 10,000+ Twitter followers? Thousands of Facebook Fans? You have to be Nathan Bransford to make those numbers. So are we all wasting our time?

Roni Loren wrote a post last week titled Is Blogging Dead? And she drew her inspiration from a post by Wendy Lawton at Books & Such Literary Agency titled What’s Not Working? in which Wendy lists beginning a blog as one avenue writers should not pursue as a means to market their books. Her rationale is that the market is already so saturated, it will be nearly impossible for a new blogger to make waves in the blogosphere.

Yet there’s a difference between having a platform so tall that you can snag a book deal based on your reputation alone and having a really well written book with a little social media behind it to show agents and publishers that you’re out there making connections and that you’re book-marketing savvy. The key is to make sure the book-writing comes FIRST and the blog, Twitter, and Facebook second. I say this to remind myself more than anyone because there are weeks when I feel like I’m spending more time on social media than I am on my book, which is counterproductive. Because without a great book, what’s there to market?

I don’t think blogging is a waste of time. I think blogging poorly is a waste of time. The key is to find your niche and delve in. Don’t just write about writing. Write about what interests you, what makes you unique. If that’s rock painting and speaking Swahili, then that’s what you should blog about because people with those interests will find you and follow you and read your work. As someone who writes about writing, I don’t practice what I preach, but I think about it every day. I think about the things I would blog about if I were to expand the subject matter of this blog: parenting in Berkeley, my previous life as a fashion model, rock climbing, speaking French, Geocaching, Settlers of Catan. What about you? Do you blog about writing, or do you have a particular niche, something that makes you a little different from all the other writer/bloggers out there? What makes you unique?

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73 comments to Is blogging a waste of time?

  • mainecharacter

    What makes me unique is I don't have a blog. But I'm really glad for those who do, 'cause it creates such a supportive community, and when you live in the country, such connection is priceless.

    And yeah, the writing comes first. As Steve Martin wrote, "Angry at myself for finishing my novel instead of tweeting today."

    • meghancward

      Great quote by Steve Martin! And that's great to hear that other blogs are creating a connection for writers who don't have blogs. Makes me feel like this is NOT a waste of time.

  • Blogging's a waste of time if you're not doing it because you want to blog–in that case, you'll probably find it hard to build a big and loyal readership. I've been blogging since before it was called blogging, in the early 1990s–and though I've tried to take breaks, I always come back to the blog. My blogging community has been an incredible source of community, friendship, and it is a place where I write about just whatever I want to write.

    At one point, I did have an anonymous blog where I chronicled my recovery from a stroke, and I think that readership was very strong and very supportive of my recovery, and the blog in fact became very popular; this I attribute to the sincerity of my quest. These days, I write about whatever it is I want to write about, but I find that most posts link back to my writing process. But always, I try to be sincere and open, because the most valuable thing for me is not my writing platform, but my writing and the connections I find through my writing.

    Great questions, Meghan!

    • meghancward

      Christine – THAT is the right way to blog! With sincerity. And honesty. And openness. That's why you were my example of a blogger who keeps it real :) http://bit.ly/eRjuMX

    • Kristan

      110% ditto to everything c(h)ristine said (except the stroke part).

      Also ditto to this: "Yet there’s a difference between having a platform so tall that you can snag a book deal based on your reputation alone and having a really well written book with a little social media behind it to show agents and publishers that you’re out there making connections and that you’re book-marketing savvy."

      I know ditto comments aren't that exciting, but y'all captured my thoughts on this exactly.

  • So glad you asked that follow up question of Andy, I was curious too. Now just intimidated. But it's good to know.

    There is one other benefit to blogging that I've found – the simple act of having to produce posts every week (in my case only two, but still) means I write more. And the more practice I have at writing, the better I'm going to get. I try to think of my posts as free writing exercises and I really try to limit the time I spend tinkering with them, if it means cutting into time I should be working on the larger body of work that I'm hoping will spring from the blog. I'm successful about half the time – there are weeks when I spend WAAAAY too much time perfecting the blog posts and using social media to get the word out. Onward and upward.

    And ditto on the community aspect mentioned by C(h)ristine and mainecharacter. Some of the biggest cheerleaders I have for my writing are people who have come across the blog. So even with my relatively low profile, I'm sticking with it for now!

    • meghancward

      Nancy – You're so right about blogging being a great way to freewrite for longer pieces. I have a student in my social media class who came up with a big long list of blog post ideas last week, and those will serve to jumpstart longer feature pieces and personal essays. And it's fun! Blogging is fun! We can't forget that.

  • I plan to blog on this soon, so I'm glad to have your input. Those numbers the Big Six marketers are quoting are insane. I doubt even Nathan Bransford makes those numbers on a regular basis. Marketers want one more excuse to blame writers for their own 90% failure rate. "I don't care if you've got the next Jane Austen, if she doesn't have Bieber's stats, throw her back in the slushpile."

    They're right that "blogging doesn't work" for turning an unknown writer into Justin Bieber. But Justin Bieber fans aren't regular book buyers.

    Marketing experts don't get bookselling. Bookselling isn't about broadcasting a message to hundreds of thousands. It's about making friends and handselling to each friend, one at a time. Bookstore clerks used to do that. But we don't have many of those any more.

    Blogs are a way of being available to connect with your readers. Blogs are about making friends. People with friends sell more books than people walking around with sandwich boards saying "buy my book" even if they're walking in the middle of effing Times Square.

  • karenselliott

    I blog consistently, but I rarely mention my service. When I go to a new blog – one I've found or has been recommended – and it's all about the writer, their books, their accomplishments (I toggle down a bit), I close it. I want to see a blog that contributes something, that helps me learn something, that makes me feel something. This was a wonderful blog, Meghan. I've shared in a couple places.

  • Meghan, Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I wish I could have taken your social media class at the Grotto! Is getting Google Friend Connect the solution to more hits? What about Twitter? What are your secrets to gaining more followers? I love blogging because it forces me to find my voice and put something out there each week instead of becoming paralyzed by things like where to put commas, but I would love it even more if I knew I was reaching thousands of readers.

    • Hi Katherine! I think Google Friend Connect is a waste of time, honestly. I think Twitter is great, as is a Facebook page. But the number one way to get more followers is to get out there and comment on other blogs and guest post on other blogs and spread your name far and wide. I don't have time to do nearly as much of that as I'd like to, or need to.

  • I write about writing issues. Stats? I have ventured to look at them once or twice. Sigh. No where near these numbers even in my dream. This year, I decided to blog more consistently and write and submit more. I'm on way to continuing this goal for the year. I've met a few new writerly friends, etc. So, for me it's worked out OK. I wish I had a niche.

    • "I wish I had a niche." I bet you DO, Stacy, you just have to figure out what it is. Start making a list of all the things that interest you, that you would enjoy writing about, that you know a lot about, and I bet you'll see a pattern. I would write out 50-100 blog post ideas and see what develops out of that.

  • One of the reasons I like your blog pieces and why YOU should continue to blog is that they are always well thought out and have research or quotes. The quality of the posts here make me want to try harder.

    As for my blogging, it is something I love/addicted to. I have written every day for almost 22 months. It is the best part of my day and I'm very proud of my consecutive days streak. Are there days where I would rather not write? Sure, but on those days, when the muses are scoffing in my general direction, I find some of my best pieces emerge. If I ever stopped writing or skipped a day, I'm not sure if I would ever write again. So my blog keeps me motivated and helps me find the occasional reader of my novels. I get over 100 visitors per day and a couple of thousand unique per month, so it won't get me a book deal. But, I'm not really looking for a book deal either.

    I just like to write. And after 3.5 novels in the last 20 months, it is still fun. So I have little to offer except to say, for those who like it (me) or those who are exceptionally good at it (Meghan), I think blogging is a positive. :-)

    • Brian – That is a HUGE accomplishment to have written every day for 22 months! I wish I could say I've done that. And 3.5 novels in 20 months is amazing, too. I'm nowhere near that prolific. But it's refreshing to hear from someone who isn't concerned about getting published and is writing for the love of it. Keep writing!

  • Interesting post. I like the part about keeping it unique, and not just about the writing. I try to use my blog to explore things I'm researching, and to make connections with others. I'm a new blogger, and I think you're absolutely right about the competition. It seems like everyone has a blog these days.

    • Hi Jennifer, I really do think it's important to 1) Write about what interests you and what you know about and 2) Be sincere. What was the name of that best-selling self-help book? Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow? I say "Blog about what you love and the people will follow." And I have to admit, although I sometimes long to write about parenting and raising my kids bilingual, and I feel like I SHOULD be blogging about fashion since that's what my book is about, what I'm really passionate about is writing. So that's what I blog about.

  • Anthony Lee Collins

    As I just posted over at Roni's blog (posted here with fewer typos -) ):

    Is blogging dead? That seems like a silly question. Ask Tavi Gevinson if blogging is dead. She's 15 years old and she just started a magazine. I think blogging has done pretty well for her. But I blog because I want to blog (6+ years now,usually once a week), not because I think it's going to make me famous. I think "brand" didn't even have its current meaning when I started. :-)

    I do think it's important to blog about more than one thing. The blogs I drop are usually the ones that are pretty much the same topics every week (or the ones where somebody blogs every day for a few weeks, then once a week, then almost never). And it's important to really enjoy it. If you're blogging because you think you should, but you really don't like it, it's best to stop. Your blog probably won't be any good anyway.

    Oh, and I agree with Karen. Blogs that are all about My Book, My Promotion, My Tour, My Sales, My Fans, that gets old real fast.

  • andyrossagency

    Meghan, this was a nice post. And sorry I freaked you out with that 100,000 hits number. I will defer to my friend Daniela Rapp who says she is impressed with a mere 50,000. So I guess we are left with getting published the old fashioned (and out of fashion) way. Writing a good book.

  • Hi Meghan,

    It is important to be unique. But let's not discount blogging as a method to break writer's block, challenge yourself, compare notes with other writers, and become a member of the blogging community.

    I agree with you (and hope you'll let me borrow these lines some time — with proper attribution, of course); "I don’t think blogging is a waste of time. I think blogging poorly is a waste of time."

    Should we, as bloggers, focus on how many views or hits we get? I'm as guilty as the next blogger of checking my stats. Okay, sometimes hourly. But that seems like the age-old dilemma of quantity over quality. I see a lot of blogs and tweeters (couldn't resist) who don't write well, and the content is insipid. Yet those writers have a lot of followers. Does that make them successful? Good writers?

    I hope you'll keep blogging, and writing that book. Great post!

    –Feisty Cat

    • meghancward

      Feisty Cat, I know that frustration all too well. I have come across SO many blogs with a gazillion followers and a lot of comments and the content is just crap. I'm guessing they have a lot of friends, or they spend a lot of time out in cybersphere commenting on other blogs. And there are some fabulous blogs out there that don't get the attention they deserve. Anyway, thanks for your feedback!

  • [...] Is blogging a waste of time? – How many hits a day does your blog need to impressive a publisher? One source suggests 3,300 [...]

  • awcsb1

    Please, please start a Settlers of Catan blog.. that would rule.

  • shiftersseries

    Interesting post. I tend to agree with you that trying to make waves in the blogosphere is really challenging at this point. Still, I have been enjoying keeping my blog. It is serving as a journal of my experiences as a baby author–and like a good journal, I am the only one that seems to read it. Still, I will look back in the years to come and be glad to have this record of my experiences.

    P. S. I would do something unholy for 100 hits a day. :-)

    • meghancward

      shifteresries – What is your blog? Something annoying about IntenseDebate is that it doesn't link to people's blogs. If you're something out of your blog, that's all that matters. Maybe it's therapeutic for some people. Maybe it's a way to generate story ideas, or to free write every day. Or simply to keep in touch with friends and family. Every blog has a different purpose!

  • CG Blake

    Meghan,
    As usual, this is a well-researched, thought-provoking post on a topic of concern for all authors. I agree with the comment that you have to want to blog to be successful at it. The key is to look at your blog as part of an overall strategy to build your brand as an author. It's one of the many tools available to authors, and clearly the most important, because it really showcases who you are as an author, your abilities, your intellect and your capacity for writing. Jane Friedman has a lot of great insights into social media and I have relied on her advice in starting m own blog. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    • meghancward

      CG – Excellent point that blogging is one of many tools writers should use to build his/her author platform. Other ways: getting published in journals and magazines, winning contests, teaching, public speaking, Facebook, Twitter, and the list goes on.

  • Christy Farmer

    Meghan, this is a wonderful thought-provoking post. It's nice to see *some* numbers on what publishers might expect. Although it is more important to put far more emphasis on 1) writing an excellent book and 2) the importance of blogging on what you love. Thank you! (now following:) )

    • meghancward

      Christy – Thanks for the follow! I'm following you back. And yes, I agree that writing an excellent book is the best way to get published.

  • Yes, fascinating. The numbers expectations of publishers are crazy, I agree. In other words you have to already BE successful before you get a book deal. With that many hits you'd earn a bigger percentage from self publishing your book on Kindle at half the price a publisher would. I think we can get too caught up in social media numbers. As you say, Meghan, spending more time on social media than on your actual work is … er … thought-provoking. Maybe we should trust more in simply doing things for the love of it and let that work its magic. Great example: My brother and his wife make "home" videos miming to pop songs just for fun and post them on YouTube. Their video to Goodness Gracious Me has had more than 251,000 hits! No pushing. No "platform". No fame. No publicizing. No anything! Just FUN. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28QbMROQ5eQ Yet Shirley Horn's incredible You Won't Forget Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUWNhW-WNEI less than 2,000 hits. I'm not sure that, in the absence of having a ton of money to throw at it, there is anything you can actually DO to self promote. Better to do things because you love them or can't NOT do them and free yourself of having to have them "work" for you as well.

    • meghancward

      Great advice, Tessa! And your brother's video is HILARIOUS. So great to see people doing creative projects just for the fun of it. I'm fascinated by the trajectory of your career, too. You gave up writing to become a professional musician? Do you think you'll ever write another book? Your "Anything I Can Do You Can Do Better" looks like a great read! Now I'll have to listen to your music …

  • [...] Meghan Ward: If you are a blogger/writer or are thinking of becoming one, Meghan’s post on Is Blogging a Waste of Time? is a must read! Meghan’s post provides insight about some expectations of the publishing industry while reminding us the importance of being unique. [...]

  • SavoryFemme

    Meghan,

    As a writer I constantly feel overwhelmed and bombarded with choices and ideas about what my next move is as a writer. But often I just need to stop and listen to my own voices and hear from other people who understand how hard it is to pinpoint your voice, focus, and act by act how to create your own path. This information is all really helpful. Thank you for the blog and continuing to blog.

    • meghancward

      SavoryFemme – Thank YOU for stopping by and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it. And yes, writing is a daily choice – to write or to blog, to write or to do the laundry, to write or to get exercise. It's not easy to be self-disciplined, but I do believe that those who are will eventually reap the benefits of all their hard work.

  • Debbie Johansson

    At first, I too, balked at the stats, but then it got me wondering. I know of an author who got her book published to critical acclaim who created a blog and joined social networks AFTER the book was published. So, yes, I completely agree with you in saying that the book comes first. I have a blog that gets a few hits, but it gets me writing and helps me to think of new creative ways about what makes me unique. I enjoy doing it and I've met some great people along the way. Great post Meghan – I'm now following. :)

    • meghancward

      Debbie – Thanks for the follow! What is your blog? One of my favorite reasons for blogging is all the great writing and publishing people I've met. It makes all the late nights worth it :)

  • christicorbett

    This post really hit home for me.

    I decided to put my blog on hiatus over the summer so I could focus on having fun with my 6yo twins and do more writing. I've just recently returned to the blog-o-sphere and have to say, I didn't miss it much.

    As a result, I've lowered my posts per week to only one and am spending much less time blog-hopping. The changes have done wonders for my productivity, but it's hard to see my daily hits slide downward :(.

    Great post!

    Christi Corbett

    • meghancward

      Christi – I know the feeling. I took a month off this summer while on vacation and my Klout score plummeted. It was hard on my ego, but it felt great to take a break. I did enjoy coming back to it, though. I think it's all about pacing – finding a posting schedule that is doable and taking breaks now and then. Great to have you back, by the way!

  • Sorry I missed this post last week. I'm just catching up. But these numbers seem very pie-in-the-sky to expect a non-celebrity to get. I've been blogging for two years, have about 2000 followers (google connect and rss subscribers combined). I would consider my blog successful in this little corner of the writer world. I know I have the biggest web presence of any my agent's clients. And I only get about 10k hits a month. And that's taken two years and 500 posts to get there. So saying someone needs even 30k hits a month is a huge stretch goal.

    Now I understand if they mean for someone to get a book deal *based* on their blog, then sure. But for the regular author, I can't see how they would make that a factor. I can tell you that though my agent is impressed with my web presence, my publisher (Berkley/Penguin) doesn't really even ask me about me about it. It's not really a big issue or "must have" for them. They know I'm doing my social networking, but really all they care about is me writing the best books I can and getting those to them by deadline. :)

    So I guess I would say to people looking at those daunting numbers that they shouldn't freak out over it. Unless you're writing non-fiction, a publisher isn't going to turn away a fabulous book because the author isn't a superstar in the blogging world.

    As for blogging about writing, well I'm guilty of that too. *shrug*

    • meghancward

      Roni – Thanks so much for this feedback. It's great to hear realistic numbers from a writer/blogger who has found success both as a blogger and a published author. 10,000/month sounds like a much more reasonable goal than 30,000+. And interesting that your publisher doesn't ask much about it – maybe because they already know you're doing it. And I very much agree that what matters most is writing a great book!

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  • With the popularity of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of Social Media I consistently get asked the question is there still value in blogging. At first blush, I got to admit to you it does seem a little "old world" in comparison, but a waste of time it is not. Blogging is alive and well and it has its place in the panacea of Social Media options. In fact, it provides benefits that can not be found or leveraged through other Social Media channels.

  • Peter

    Blogging: trying really really hard to come up with fresh, useful and interesting content… then giving it away for free. Thanks, but I'll stick to writing a book.

  • [...] Meghan Ward: If you are a blogger/writer or are thinking of becoming one, Meghan’s post on Is Blogging a Waste of Time? is a must read! Meghan’s post provides insight about some expectations of the publishing industry while reminding us the importance of being unique. I also want to give special mention here to @annerallen for first sharing this on twitter! [...]

  • joeteevee

    Thanks for this great post Meghan.

    What makes my blog unique is it is the first scientific and empirical apptoach to the study of screenwriting.
    e.g.
    http://storyality.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/storya

    Cheers
    JT

  • Nope not a waste of time for many reasons. Content is king. Every blog should have a personality and soul.

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  • Thanks for the post and you perspective, keep it up! :)

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  • bradenhixson

    I'm really enjoying your blog posts! This is also a bit reassuring to me because I'm starting, ever so slowly, to garner more views of around 100 a day and I feel like MAYBE I'm doing something right. Blogging is hard, as is finding your audience because it's so saturated.
    The hardest part is just getting it out there and hoping people are actually reading what you're putting in.

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