Over at http://www.dreamfarmer.net/?p=433
(which I'm following on my LJ friends page through some mysterious RSS-feed magic) Chrysoula Tzavela wrote, "I don’t like the popularity of the idea that you have to blog to sell fiction. I don’t like the focus put on crafting the perfect query, either. They seem equivalent to me. It might be helpful, but a lot depends on the audience and persistence and luck and patience and focusing on something that isn’t your fiction."
Part of me agrees with her. It's the story that matters, right?
But we all can cite award-winning stories that were rejected time and time again, from A Wrinkle in Time to Harry Potter. This is nothing new--plenty of people rejected Van Gogh's paintings in his lifetime. He didn't find his audience, though eventually his paintings did. I wonder, if he'd had the internet, might things have been different?
Another part of me chimes in, still wanting to simply agree with her. I want to say, "I don't like
the popularity of the idea that you have to dress for success. Your work at the day job should stand for itself!" Even after all these years, it bothers me that putting on a costume (a suit is definitely a costume!) can be enough to convince people to take you seriously. But I know that, so long as the suit's message (that I'm professional and intelligent and competent) is true, it works
The suit isn't what makes me good at my job--but it matters because it facilitates creating the business relationships that I need so I get to do the day job.
So, what does this have to do with blogging? Over at crowdfunding
, I hear again and again that people are more likely to fund a project or tip an artist if they feel a connection with the writer or artist. I hear this from the occasional patron who's not too shy to speak out in public, and I hear this from the creators who see, over and over, that people are more likely to click on that virtual tip hat if they like and feel welcomed by the creator. Like the people who need a lawyer, who want to meet and shake hands with someone before hiring them, many readers and viewers like to get a sense of who they're dealing with before they spend their money on the work itself.
Will a blog sell your stories or art if the work isn't good? I doubt even the greatest blog has that power. After all, the most expensive custom suit won't convince a client to keep a lawyer if they find the lawyer isn't doing a good job. And unlike the law, when it comes to creative ventures, each viewer is the only expert on whether they liked a painting or enjoyed a story. If you don't give your readers their money's worth, they'll send that money to someone who does.
But there's lots of writers and artists out there. A blog can help a reader to decide if the stuff you write is likely to be something they're interested in spending their time on. And a blog gives people a way to tell their friends how to find you, if (like Van Gogh) you don't have a
publicist to help you find your audience.
One of my current favorite books is Feed by Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire. It's a zombie book, which is normally the kiss of death for me--zombies are icky, ugly, and stupid. I don't see the attraction. But Seanan was blogging, while she wrote the book she was then calling Newsflesh, about epidemiology. Epidemiology isn't about beauty--but it's complex and fascinating. I look at a book inspired by epidemiology quite differently than I look at "a zombie book". Seanan's blog helped that book to find at least one audience member who would have ignored it otherwise.
Is it worth spending time on a blog instead of your primary art form? That's a question each person has to answer for themselves. Certainly a blog is not the only way to be persistent, and it is also not the only way to try to luck into finding the right audience.
However, when it come to "expected" ways to present yourself to people who might hire you, I have to say blogging beats the heck out of wearing a suit!