Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blogging - vanity publishing for the impoverished?

Is blogging a form of vanity publishing for writers too poor to be able to afford the services of a vanity publisher? Let's look at the facts:

1) Bloggers write in the vain belief that our words and views may be of interest or use to others.

2) Bloggers write with unrealistic expectations of how many people are going to read our work.

3) Bloggers sometimes believe that their blogs will make them rich (hence the number of blogs on how to get rich through blogging.)

4) There are people who claim to be able to make your blog a success if you pay them. Their dark arts include Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), e-mail shots (spam) and Twitter (more spam).

On the other hand, here are two good reasons why blogging can be more like self-publishing:

1) No money needs to be paid to a third party.

2) If the writing is good enough and useful enough the blog will gradually attract an audience. If it is not, it won't. It would be the most brutal form of publishing if vanity was your driving motive.

As to the question of my driving motivation for writing this blog - I really haven't figured it out yet. I am certainly enthused by the possibilities of digital publishing. I believe the separation between different media and between different forms of writing are being re-cast at present, but can't yet see where we are heading. I believe big changes will come at the point where reading device for digital text become as pleasant as a book to use, robust enough to take to the beach and cheap enough to replace if you accidentally drop one in the bath (ie not yet but soon).

But at the root of my blogging habit is the same drive that animates all my writing - whether it be prose, poetry or screenplay - an intense curiosity about the world and a compulsive desire to communicate.

Many thanks for sharing the journey. Below is a graph showing the daily readership of this blog (the blue line) and the number of posts per week (the red line) going back to September last year. Sorry about the x-axis labelling. I still can't drive that Excel database package!


Mosher said...

I can go along with most of the points. I blog because I need an outlet at times. Sometimes it's just good to rant and putting words on paper isn't much fun unless other people are going to read them.

I also simply just *enjoy* writing. If I get a steady stream of people reading my blogs, then they must be enjoying it. I hover around 40 to 80 hits per day on the two main blogs (and still a few popping through on the stagnant one I did for my charity walk). That's enough for me to keep going. Actually, 2 or 3 would be enough.

I'm also glad to say that my blog posts *have* been useful to some people. It's nice to get comments and even checking the hits on individual pages prove that they're useful to some people. The most popular page on my "anything and everything" blog is how to uninstall Windows Search 4.0. At a peak, that was getting 80 hits a day alone.

I'm not going to get rich blogging. But I enjoy it. So I'll keep on doing it :)

Katy said...

I blog therefore I am? :-) What an interesting post, Rod, and a question that is well worth asking.

I started blogging at the beginning of this year to "get back into" writing after an 18 month gap of not doing so following a very difficult personal time. It was (writing per se, not just blogging) part of a raft of challenging new year resolutions I set myself. I felt that the self-imposed structure of a blog - whereby I would write an entry every day (or most) - gave me a framework to hang that particular resolution on. What I wrote about didn't matter - just a commitment to writing something, no matter how random, every day.

It has worked for me - I'm now writing loads besides the blog - but I have discovered that I also really enjoy blogging just for its own sake and will continue to do so all the time that is the case. That it has brought me into contact with lots of people that I'd never have have 'met' otherwise is a wonderful side effect that I hadn't anticipated. Having the opportunity to get a glimpse into others' lives through their words is brilliant :-)

I don't know how many people read my blog - I don't have any stat tracking things, don't really know how to go about that - but getting comments, feedback, suggestions, e-mails etc is always absolutely wonderful and again something I'd never thought about in advance.

Sam Hayes said...

I'm on that graph, Rod :-) I read your blog and really enjoy it. Of course, I'm going to take over the world with my little blog. In fact I already have. It's made me incredibly rich. Wanna see how?
(haha my word verification is 'psycha'. Psycho, morelike! Me, not you!)

Paul Lamb said...

Curiously, I just received word that a short story I submitted to an online magazine has been accepted and will appear this summer. The magazine uses the blogspot function and is essentially, a blog itself. In this case, it's actual publishing.

As for keeping my own blog, I'm not sure why I do it. Several other commentors have noted that it keeps them writing, which is important to me. I suppose I use my blog to rant sometimes, thought I'm trying to back away from that. Does it increase my profile as a writer. Hardly at all, but the visit count has been creeping up over the months, so fame and fortune can't be too far off.

Pam said...

I started blogging to have a formal place to house my writings. I don't think I rant - rather, I think my blog is a result of my finally being willing to share the journey I have taken with ths thng called stuttering, which for so long had a tight grip on me. I was so ashamed for so long, and now that I am finally becoming free, I feel compelled to share.
Yeah, there are lots of stuttering blogs. Check for your self. Many of them promise quick fixes, which there isn't. I hope that part of my struggle might help another person living a lonely life, out of fear and shame of social punishment. Or maybe a parent, worrying that their stuttering kid is doomed to an awful, meaningless life. I think when you have a message, you are called to share.
Thats why I started blogging. I don't really get the stats and hits, but its intersting to note, that after putting a counter on my site not quite 4 weeks ago, I've had over 2200 hits. Someone's reading, and I am getting comments. I hope some of you folks come over and check out what I have to say. Its important stuff!

Rod Duncan said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. And here, of course, is one more difference between blogging and vanity publishing. With blogging, as some have mentioned, there is feedback.

Mosher, you've been keeping me company on line for longer than most. I really appreciate it. Your point about having some really practical pages (uninstalling Windows Search 4.0) is a good one.

Katy, one of the things I try to get my students to do in creative writing classes is set up a regular schedule for writing. Even if they throw away what they have written at the end of each session. The practice of regular writing is a process that will usually lead to a great increase in your capacity to write. It's like any form of exercise, I guess. And I guess this is another of the useful things that blogging gives us. I hadn't thought of it in those terms before. Thanks for that.

Sam, lol. :-) I often get that on Facebook - when I try adding someone as a friend, it throws up a phrase for me to type in, which leaves me thinking - was that random or did the machine search our profiles before suggesting those particualr words?

Paul, I do think platforms such as blogspot can be excellent as a no-fuss publishing tool. I'm just at the point where I'm considering migrating to a system that gives me more control over the page layout. But moving is by no means certain.

Pam, as you know there is a similar side to my blogging. The dyslexia aspect is a reflection of my personal journey. I won't say 'struggle', because most of the struggling has been left behind now. But having come through a lot of pain, I do want to share the road I have taken that has led me to a better place, and the blog is one way for me to do that. (Online forums are also very useful in that respect.)

Huge thanks for all this input - it is very much appreciated. It is helping me to understand more about the variety of ways that blogging is used. Blogging is it seems a very versatile tool.

Mosher said...

Well, the predominant reason I come back is for the "useful" posts here. One of these days I will around to adding to the 3-4 chapters of a book I have written, and where best to get tips than from a published author?

Oh, and if you need to get texting on Skype going under Ubuntu, I have a popular page detailing that as well ;)

Rod Duncan said...


If you ever have specific questions about the process of getting published, that might make a good article on this blog, just let me know.

I do requests.


Mosher said...

Let me finish the book first. Reckon you'll still be blogging in 2036?