As I started to get serious with my writing, I spent more and more time online looking for resources to help me improve my craft, and to learn more about the complex process of becoming successful as a published author. Along the way I discovered numerous websites devoted to these subjects, and quite a few of them were blogs. Initially I jumped on any blog I came across – adding it to my favorites, signing up for their mailing list if they had one, and checking back frequently for new posts.
But as time went on, I naturally discovered that not all blogs are created equal. And it’s not just a matter of quality. The other key factor I noticed was the motivation behind the blog. Ultimately I decided that writer resource blogs fall into three broad categories – the well-meaning amateur, the professional blogger, and the true writers’ resource. The blogs in the final category are the ones most worth seeking out, but sadly they also seem to be the least common.
For this week’s blog post I wanted to discuss these three different categories. Please keep in mind that this strictly my own take on the blogosphere, and you are welcome to disagree with me. Also, because I get a little bit critical (especially with the first two categories), I’m not going to site any example blogs. I’m sure anyone reading this has likely spent enough time on other blogs to have their own examples – and their own opinions on this topic – and there are way too many blogs out there for me to pick on just the random few I’ve come across.
So here are my descriptions of the three general categories of writer resource blogs as I see them:
The Well-Meaning Amateur
Firstly, let me just state for the record that this is the category that I firmly put my own blog in. Because while I’d like to think that someone will gain some insight or enjoyment from reading my ramblings, I am all too aware that I am far from an expert. But that being said, I have also never presented my blog as offering advice or expert insight. It is simply a record of the writing process as I’ve experienced it. And hopefully anyone reading my blog doesn’t take it for more than that.
The problem I often run into with other blogs in this category, is that the blogger either doesn’t realize this is the category they’re in, or they choose to write the posts as if they were an expert, despite the fact that they’re really not. And I honestly don’t care how many novels you’ve published or how successful your writing career has been so far – that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the person to go to when it comes to helping other people move forward on their own writing journey. I’ve known plenty of people successful in their field who had no real talent for instructing/enlightening others.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this sort of blog (it would be awfully hypocritical of me if I did, since I’m in this category too). I’ve read many well-written, interesting posts from these types of blogs. At the same time, however, I’ve also read posts that were on an interesting topic, but ultimately the blogger doesn’t say anything worthwhile that hasn’t already been said before. Or they’ll skim the surface of the topic, but not really delve deep into it, likely because they don’t have the knowledge/experience to be able to really delve into the topic.
So while I can enjoy these blogs (certainly more so than the next category), and would never discourage writers from following – or writing – this sort of blog, I have learned that once I identify a blog as belonging to this category, I adjust my expectations accordingly. They also get lowered on my priority list over those blogs that I feel give more expert advice.
The Professional Blogger
These are the blogs I have the most problem with – the ones where the blogger generates an income, or even worse, makes their living, from their blog. And the problem I have is that even if they provide worthwhile content, it always goes hand-in-hand with them trying to sell you something. And because they ultimately want to sell you their content (or their affiliate’s content that they get a referral fee on), they’re never going to really give you information you can fully utilize. Instead, they’re going to tease you with the high points of a useful article, then tell to buy their book to learn more.
The even more annoying trend that I’ve seen of late are the free webinars. “Sign up for a free webinar to learn all about <subject>!” (and I’ve seen these for a variety of topics). But then you sit through the webinar, and it’s 45 minutes going over the high points of the topic and telling you why the topic is important to you as a writer, and why you really need to know more about it. Then, of course, comes the sales pitch, and you spend the last 15 minutes of the webinar hearing about the special sale they’re having on their book that covers this very topic (or even worse, the course they want to charge you hundreds of dollars to attend that covers the topic).
Okay, I admit that it is very possible that what they’re selling is worth every penny they’re charging for it, but my budget is tight as it is without dropping money into books and courses that may or may not help to improve my writing skills or help me successfully publish my book (or market it, or develop my author website, or build my email list, or any of the many, many other areas that writers eventually needs to delve into when they reach that stage where they have a completed novel in their hands).
More importantly, like many people out there, I don’t like to be sold to. If I’d wanted to spend money to learn more about a topic, odds are I would have explored paid courses or gone to Amazon to look for books to buy on the topic. The reason I’m perusing blogs instead is that I’m looking for advice, insight, and information to help me along that isn’t going to cost me money. And when you setup a blog that promotes itself as being all about helping authors, but is really just about you trying to sell your advice/products – or those of your affiliates – I start to feel like I was looking for a library and somehow wandered onto a used car lot instead.
More and more I’m moving away from these sorts of blogs, because even when they do provide worthwhile information, or have free blog posts that truly do have value, there’s always that “buy my book” addendum attached to the end, which sours the experience for me. I get it – your blog and the products on it are how you earn your living. More power to you on that front. And for those readers who are okay with buying your books and paying for your courses, more power to them as well. I sincerely hope they get their money’s worth, and are able to improve whatever area it is your book/course covers. But that’s just not what I’m looking for when I go to a writing blog.
The True Writers’ Resource
These blogs are the gold standard. They are the blogs that combine the two key things that us aspiring writers are looking for. Firstly, a blogger with enough expertise/experience in the area they write about to truly be helpful, with in-depth, insightful blog posts worth reading (and sharing with other writers). And secondly, a blogger who isn’t using their blog as a primary source of income. Instead, their blog is a way for them to help other writers by providing them with insight and guidance about aspects of the writing/publishing/promoting process that the blogger has been through and has experience with.
One of the common traits I’ve noticed for this sort of blog is that the blogger is very often first and foremost a fiction writer. This means their income comes from their fiction, and not from their blog. Sure, there’s going to be links to their novels on their blog (as well there should be). But because these are not directly related to the advice they are offering, and they’re not trying to make money off their advice, there is no reason for them to restrict that advice, or only offer you a taste of it, in the hopes you’ll pay them for more. And the better ones make you aware of their fiction works without having to blatant “buy my book” feel when it comes to those works.
One day I would love for my blog to reach this level. If I gain enough skill/experience with my craft, or somehow manage to successfully publish a book or two and learn more of the ins and outs of making a book successful, I would love to share my experiences and my lessons learned with other writers. And not in the hopes of making money off my blog or selling a resource guide or how-to book, but simply so I can give back to the writing community in the same way that other authors have helped me. If along the way I convince a few of my blog readers to buy my novels, all the better, but I can’t imagine that being the only reason for maintaining my blog.
And so ends my rant for the week. What do you think? Can you see blogs that you follow fitting into one of the above categories? Am I being unfair in my assessments? Are there other categories that I hadn’t thought of? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!