When Jennifer invited me on to her blog, I had no idea what I should write about. I wasn’t even sure if I should take up her invitation. I’d just been reading that blogs don’t help authors sell books and we should all be careful about spending much time on them. As I blog on my own blog (http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/) more than once a week on average, this was alarming advice.
The thing is that all writers nowadays spend an enormous amount of their time blogging or on Facebook or Twitter or (for reasons I’ve never understood given that they are selling books and not photographs) Instagram. And we all agonise about the hours that we are wasting.
But what’s the alternative? At the moment I am republishing the first three of my books in my series about James Burke, a spy in the Napoleonic era. I’m doing this because I have two new books in the series coming out and I want people to remember who James Burke is and to remind them that they want to read the next books. There’s been a long gap because of worries about rights issues (and if you want to hear something that authors worry about even more than their social media presence, it’s how they deal with the awfulness of a situation where they lose the rights of their own books). Republishing, for me, has meant having very pretty new covers and trying to raise the profile of the books on social media. So it’s not terribly good time to tell me that I shouldn’t even be writing this.
But what else is an author to do? People say that the answer is newsletters but, though I don’t try particularly hard to play the numbers game, I have over 400 people following my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams/) and over 1,500 on Twitter (https://twitter.com/TomCW99). I put most of my effort into the blog on my website that gets well over 4,000 hits a month. By contrast I have fewer than 20 signed up to read my newsletter. (You can join them at http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/newsletter/.) I think I’ll be blogging and on Facebook and Twitter for a while yet.
What I am not doing while I write this is, of course, writing my next novel. I’m incredibly impressed by people like Jennifer who, before everyone cut back on everything because of covid, could turn out beautifully written blog pieces on an almost daily basis and has written more books than me. Even Jennifer, though, would presumably have produced yet another wonderful series like ‘Time for Alexander’ if she had concentrated on that rather than chatting to us on her blog.
It’s a quandary. The fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of books produced every year (amazon.co.uk offers over 100,000 books in historical fiction alone) and, however brilliant your book is, nobody is going to read it unless they’ve heard about it, and they won’t hear about it unless you tell them. (Your mother might tell them too, but mothers are notoriously unreliable sales agents.) Hence all the blogs. And Facebook posts. And tweets.
Generally I really enjoy blogging. My blog features a lot of historical material as well as random stuff loosely associated with writing (there seems to be a lot about cover design at the moment) and the occasional thing on tango, because I like tango and people seem to enjoy reading about it. I get a lot of satisfaction writing about history. As I mainly write historical novels, this is a good thing as my life would otherwise be very sad indeed.
On the other hand, I am a firm believer that my blog should be positive and upbeat and that can be a bit wearing. Jennifer’s blog is also a joy. But sometimes I just want to point out to people that continually producing free stuff online takes a very great deal of time. I suspect I am not alone in occasionally feeling that there is, perhaps, a touch of ingratitude from those who regularly read what I write for free but who have yet to shell out £2.99 for one of my books. (I know they don’t, because if everybody who read my blog in a month bought just one copy of any of my books, they would be in the bestseller charts and they aren’t.) I’m going to carry on blogging anyway. It’s writing and writing is what writers do. And, after a brief hiatus, I’m sure Jennifer will be back as well. It would be nice, though, if after you’ve read her blog, you bought some of her books. They really are very good.