Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Your Professional Blog

In a continuation of yesterday’s post about making the decision to start a blog, I wanted to take from a number of discussions I’ve had lately, both live and online, about what a blog should be, especially those belonging to professionals. Having a blog has been an interesting experience, and while I think a number of writers enjoy the inside look at an agent’s world, I know there are just as many who feel that the inside peek into an agent’s world and, sometimes, an agent’s head, leans toward the unprofessional.

So what should your blog be? That depends entirely on what you decide to use it for. Is it a family blog that you’ll use just as a way to share family news, photos, and events? Or do you intend for your blog to be another way for you to market your work? And by the way, if you are an author who is writing a blog under your pen name, you should assume that’s nothing less than a professional blog. As an author your name is your profession.

If you decide that your blog (and your blog name) is meant for professional purposes, then is it really appropriate to discuss your children, the state of your underwear, or whether or not you’ve cleaned the house? Since this is a very, very new medium it’s still being tested, and what’s right and what works can only be proven by the reader. My belief is that a professional blog is a way for people interested in you, your work, and your business to get to know you better: it is a little peek into your soul. There’s a fine line though. I think that the blog needs to remain professional, and that means that you should only post the same sorts of conversations you are willing to have when pitching your work to agents and editors or talking with booksellers or fans. In my case, it should only be information that I would be willing to discuss with my clients or talk about in front of a room full of aspiring authors and colleagues. In other words, is this group really interested in your laundry pile or would you be better served discussing your writing?

When making the decision to blog you need to always keep in mind why you made that decision and who your audience is. I really don’t think visitors to the BookEnds blog would be interested in hearing about my efforts to create the greatest chocolate chip cookie ever. No, if I want to write about that I should probably start a food blog. My assumption is that readers of the BookEnds blog are interested in hearing about Jessica Faust the agent, not Jessica Faust the cook, the mother, the dog owner, or the traveler.

So, when starting a professional blog, bear in mind who your readers are and why they are there. What do you really want to know about literary agents, editors, or your favorite author? Is it her day as Girl Scout leader, soccer coach and mom, or is it her day as a writer with maybe a little mom thrown in?

—Jessica

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

And Jessica, I believe you have kept this professional. You have shown us a little bit of your personally (like what frustrates you in general) but overall, this has been a very helpful and professionally done blog. I am thankful I have found it. There have been postings I've passed infomation on to other writers and since I like to research and help others, I feel that every little bit on my part helps someone else - by reading blogs and passing on information as I see it or understand it - then you are doing your job - thanks for this blog - E :)

Anonymous said...

I never thought of myself as one of those "blog people," but I must say that since I first read your blog 3 months ago I now read it everyday. Thanks for doing it.

Liz Wolfe said...

When it comes to an author's blog, does the reader want to have aglimpse into the author's personal life along with a look at her professional life? Does it make the reader feel closer to the author? And is that a good thing? I just started my author blog and I'm very mindful of every word I post. I want it professional but not dry to the point of boring. I've read author blogs wehre they balance the personal with the professional so that it really works. The Lipstick Chronicles comes to mind. But it's a delicate balance.

Virginia Miss said...

As a novelist aspiring for publication, I read all the literary agents' blogs. I much prefer reading entries that relate to reading, writing, and the business of publishing rather than an agent's love life or laundry piles. Kudos to Bookends for providing such an informative, professional blog.

Kate Douglas said...

I read very few blogs, though I really enjoy this one. Lack of time's the main factor, but I also dislike some of the "snarkiness" in blogs, and it has made me realize just how dangerous blogging could be to an author's career. Some opinions are better kept to yourself, but for some reason, when people start blogging, they spill a lot of crap out into cyberspace without any thought of who might be reading--and offended. The last thing I, as an author, would want to do is anger a potential reader by stating something on a blog that they seriously disagree with...and I just reread what I wrote, and as convoluted as this is, you'll see another reason why I have no business blogging! MORE COFFEE!

monkey 3 of 5 said...

Whole-heartedly agree with this post. I used to read nearly a dozen agent/editor blogs, but have winnowed that down to about 4 or 5. These blogs focus on writing/publishing/agenting. I found myself growing frustrated by those which detailed an agent's personal life. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own and my friends' personal lives; I don't need to know if an agent is sick, in love, additcted to onion bagels, watching the rain fall down their window, behind in their holiday shopping, etc. Please keep the pertinent and practical information coming.
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The blog site I use has a variety of filters, so I can have public/professional posts, and a little more personal posts to my friends under the same name. I'm always careful about what I post, no matter what though, because you never know who might be reading, and Google is a very powerful tool. (;

Maria said...

Well, now just a second here! Posting the actual cookie recipe wouldn't be unprofessional. Not at all, not at all. Just the winning recipe, you understand, none of the sweat and tears behind it. :>)

It's impossible to be off-topic when discussing/providing the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I'm sure of it.

spyscribbler said...

You know, there's one author who I absolutely adore, but I can't read her blog. No big deal. It doesn't make me avoid her book. I just don't read her blog.

Jill Shalvis talks almost exclusively about her personal life, but she's so gosh-darned adorable and funny that it turned me into a fan of her books.

Constant promoting is boring, and how many "inner workings of a writing life" can you read? (A ton of them, evidently, if you take a peek in my google reader, LOL.)

A good mixture is the answer, I guess, along with what you agents always say. Voice, maybe? A spark? That something special that sticks out and you, and makes you want to keep coming back.

Anonymous said...

I agree with spyscribbler. I like a mix, in author, agent, and editor blogs--especially author and agent. While info on submissions and stuff is wonderful, interesting, and helpful, part of the author-agent relationship is personality mix as well. So I like to know if our tastes mesh, if we think the same things are amusing, etc.

And I agree recipes are always appropriate.

Anonymous said...

As a writer with a few short stories on my resume and a hoped-for-novel in the future, I have what would be called a semi-pro blog. Mainly it deals with writing advice, writing blogs (like this one...great job with it!), news pertaining to writing, publishing, agents, etc. Every so often I'll do a more personal bit...but even then it's often an opinion piece on some book, speculative fiction movie, or otherwise. Yea, when I read an author's blog, I enjoy learning about them a bit, but I also love getting little insider bits on their stories and books, like deleted chapters, extra maps, cover art, etc. That's what I hope to provide when those events come my way. Until then, I keep myself in the writing current and try to encourage and inspire others in their writing efforts.

www.jrvogt.com

Anonymous said...

I second the semi-pro blog. I started a professional blog and realized, well, outside of posting rejections and daily word counts my blog just wasn't very personable. Plus, I know there is a difference between an author blog and an agent/editor blog. Writers got to the latter two for tips and hints and clues (and maybe a positive mention of their query). But people who go to a writer's blogs are often friends, family, or fan who want a little slice of their life. How many "Got another reject today"s can you post and still keep an audience? That's why I chose to do a mix of both. I'm a real person behind the stories.
Oh, and since I write horror people can read my blog and realize I'm not a horrible or gothy or weirdo person. That's nice.

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