Saturday, 22 October 2011

Who reads writers' blogs? - Anne Rooney

In the late eighteenth century, the French Royal Academy of Sciences and the American Patent Office were so overwhelmed with proposed perpetual motion machines that they banned further designs. I wonder if writers' blogs are a form of perpetual motion machine, where we each comment on one another's blogs in a constant cycle, but there is never any input from, or leakage to, the outside world? Or like a snake eating its own tail?

We are all busily blogging away, encouraged by publishers who want us to have a platform, and buoyed up by good stats and interesting comments. And it's all great fun and we enjoy each other's writings. But who's really watching? We can see who comments, but we can't see who reads and doesn't comment. One of my recent posts on Stroppy Author has had 250+ hits and 8 comments. So I don't know who 242+ of the readers are.

I have a horrible fear that many of the people reading writers' blogs are other writers. That's OK for blogs actually intended for other writers, such as mine, and Nicola Morgan's fine Help! I Need a Publisher. But what about the more bookish or personal blogs? What about this blog? We hope they reach readers, librarians, teachers, publishers, agents, parents, booksellers, and other lovely people who are interested in books, read books and - sometimes - even buy books. But is it true?

If you are a silent reader who never comments, we can't know if we are saying things that you like or not. Or what you would like more of, or less of. So I'm investing my posting slot today to say - please, silent readers, let us know what you like to read on ABBA (and elsewhere). Because we really want to write things you want to read! Which posts do you like best? What do you like to read about? And who ARE you? Thank you!


catdownunder said...

I am afraid I miaou rather loudly at times! You know I am here but I have to agree - I wonder if people who visit my blog even read it or whether they are just searching for something else and happen to come across my witterings instead. There is no way of knowing.

JO said...

I'm a writer, and for me all your stuff about writing is wonderful.

But I'll be really interested in your replies - I, too, blog and suspect my followers, who are wonderful and loyal and interesting, are also writers. I hope someone will crop up here to tell us how to reach the readers. I'm not convinced they drop by writing blogs.

Susan Price said...

Excellent point, and one that bothers me too. I think you have to take the view that, with a blog, you reach some people - without one, you reach no one.
I search for people who share my interests on Twitter and Facebook, and try to connect up with them. And my hits and followers are - very slowly! - climbing.
BTW, I'm over at

Juliet said...

I am one of your (mostly) silent readers. I am an English teacher in a secondary school and I read all your posts for personal interest, but you may like to know that I have also:

forwarded particularly interesting posts to school librarians or colleagues

used some of the discussions as a basis for a lesson activity or classroom display

bought books on the basis of reviews/recommendations

followed up links and discovered much food for thought on other blogs (including yours, Susan)

given a list of these blogs to friends in my book group (all parents)

and more!

I hope this serves to reassure you that you're not only in a circular conversation with other writers!
Also, Anne, I think I was taught by you at York University many years ago (possibly 1987?) so it's good to "meet" you again!

Stroppy Author said...

Juliet - yes, York! How fantastic! It's wonderful when students reappear years later and are doing something actually related to their degree, I am so pleased you owned up to that connection. Do feel free to email me and update me on what you're doing.

And it is most reassuring to hear that we are not shouting into a void. I am *so* glad you find so much useful stuff on ABBA, and that it feeds into your teaching. That's superb.

Penny Dolan said...

And there's plenty more of us glad! Thanks, Juliet! You've given us hope.

I know I often pop into blogs but haven't then got the time to think up or decide on any comments.

Thank you - I think - for raising this topic, Stroppy Author! :-)

Rebecca Clare Smith said...

I'm one of the silent readers who lurks, I'm afraid. I'm also a writer. I do, however, forward links to blog posts I find interesting to friends who are and are not writers and both seem to find them just as engaging.

madwippitt said...

Is that a real snake? Poor thing ...

I'm an occasional commenter. Sometimes things interest me and I want to add my tuppence - or else I have nothing more to add to what has already been said. Maybe in such instances I should just add a 'hear, hear'?

Katherine Roberts said...

I am usually silent these days, since blogs often swallow my comments when I've spent ages writing them! But I do dip in and out of my writer-friends' blogs for "fun" as well as those that comment on the publishing business for "work".

Buying books? Yes, I've bought books recommended by book bloggers.

Blogging myself? It can be hard work and gets neglected when you also have writing deadlines. But between contracts, it can be a creative outlet that exercises the writing muscles and gives a platform for promoting older books and trying out new things.

I think blogs are great, because they are easy and free. It's just the commenting that's difficult...

Have no idea if this one will get swallowed!

Stephanie said...

I think writer's blogs get a wider readership i.e. at least some non-authors!, than the various writers' forums and indie author promotion sites. I've given up with those since it was definitely only writers there who only wanted to talk about their books and didn't seem to listen to anyone else! It's so hard to get to readers ... but we need to keep trying!

Olivia Pope said...

I literally found this blog a week or so ago and have been on here daily since; the things I have found most interesting to read are the entries about struggling to get going during writing because it's nice to know other people are in the same position!! I also liked blogs about notebooking because it's nice to see that other people do the same little things as I do. :)

Jan said...

I'm a reader, a writer and an editor, and I find writers' blogs of interest for all three activities. I love to read about 'writerly' things (because all three are solitary activities, and it gives a sense of community), I like to know how writers go about their work, and I also like the little personal insights. (And I have often bought books on the recommendation of bloggers I have come to trust.) But since I've been blogging I realise how precious comments are. So I've resolved to add my two penn'orth whenever possible - even if it is only 'Hear, hear!'

Stroppy Author said...

Thank you, everyone. It is encouraging that not everyone is a writer! And yes - please keep on commenting; it's great to know what you think of our reflections on our rather insular (and yet at the same time infinitely expansive) doings

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