A plateful of overcooked cabbage or a performing flea?

Over the past few days I’ve found myself musing on a single question.  It’s about this blogging business.  And it came about when someone was quoting some movie which I had not (of course) seen which said something about a blog being…well, it had something to do with ex-lax or prunes for the mind or something.

To which I replied that bloggers were rather more like newspaper columnists, only unpaid. 

Which sequed in nicely with something another author said recently, about authors now being a combination of a travelling salesman and a performing flea what with all the talks and literary festivals they must perform at in order to sell books…and all the traipsing about with a bootload of books, hoping for some (any) sales…

But that got me thinking a bit.   

I had always assumed–in the case of bloggers–that such people blog because they believe they have something to say.  That at least is the impression I’ve gained from things like that film Julie and Julia.  And there’s this presumption that there are or should be lots of people out there who want to read these cyber-outpourings.  Which may be true.  I don’t know.

I, on the other hand, don’t feel I have a great deal to say.  I’m not an extrovert and I don’t believe I’m interesting either.

So the reason I blog is that I was told by an interested literary agent and subsequently by my publisher that a blog would establish a platform for self as a writer.  Which came as news to me, because I thought a platform was the thing one used for drilling for oil in the North Sea.  Or, at a pinch, a platform was the bottom part of David Bowie’s shoes in the Seventies.

My ignorance was corrected and I was informed I must do this thing. 

Hence, pretty much weekly, I dump some facet of my rambling intellect onto the screen, generally about something historical because that takes the least amount of work–it’s just stuff I know, accrued over a lifetime of research–but occasionally I put in some effort and ramble about something else–music or horses or poetry or writing. 

And allegedly…allegedly, I say, a blog also sells books.  Because it allows the readers and potential readers to connect with the author.  Which would be a good thing–the selling more books part, I mean.  That would be a very good thing.

But despite what they say, I don’t think a blog does that.  (Frankly what they say frequently appears to me to be nothing more than a plateful overcooked cabbage.  Make that two-week old, cold, congealing overcooked cabbage.)

Because I get search terms of all sorts–mostly to do with history–but there are other favourites. 

The most frequently used search is for Paul Sandby.  The artist.  I’ve had over 100 searches on his name in the past three months.  And I feel a bit guilty about that because I think I ought to have made a greater effort, since obviously there’s so little on the internet about him and I do, very much, admire and appreciate his work. 

But the others? 

La Conciergerie facts.  Inexpressibles.  A gentleman’s education.  Pride and Prejudice romance.  Napoleon treasure.  Cravats.  Waistcoats.  Neckcloths.  18th century expletives. 

Those are the most popular. 

Though there are the others, some of which I have no idea what is meant and cannot fathom what on my blog could possibly be a match:  life history of the see see partridge tree; slap a redcoat day; naval bennetts. 

But you see, here’s the thing, and here’s the question I’m stuck on–for all these hundreds of searches, these many historical questions answered or partially answered, there appears to be no responding leap of links to buy the books–May 1812 and Of Honest Fame

There seems, in fact, to be no correlation between this, er, platform and the purchase of wares or sales figures or anything.  And I rather like my books and I would wish for more of my internet browser-researchers to at least make their acquaintance.

Not that this is a complaint about my book sale figures.  Or perhaps it is.  I don’t know. 

But it does appear, at least to me, that I am become simply another online personalised wikipedia.  And I’m not certain I like that.  

Because I’m a writer, you know…an historian, yes.  But always I hope and trust that I can effectively communicate this passion I have for history with my readers so that they want to further immerse themselves in the Napoleonic era–the age in which my books are set.  Even, perhaps, that they find my writing so engaging that they desire to read more.  Because otherwise, really, what am I knocking myself out for?

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18 comments on “A plateful of overcooked cabbage or a performing flea?

  1. I really like this blog. You sound like my thought process and you are so honest and engaging. I think it’s great that underneath all the historical know how, you just want to say ‘I’m here, I love writing and I want you to love what I write.’ – An honest author if ever I heard one speak (which is rarely unless it’s through the pages of their books.)

    Well done for the honesty.

    Speak soon,

    P x

  2. Thank you. Thank you so very much.

  3. You’re completely right. Blogging has no correlation with book sales…at the moment. The only reason to do it, that I can see, is that when you have four or five tomes out there, and people DO look for you, they’ll find you’re an expert. And experts who’ve written things get asked to do other stuff. Your name appears more frequently in the media, more people notice, more requests come your way, etc, etc.
    You become, in short, a celebrity. But one with substance. The road is long and hard, but at least you don’t have to shag a footballer, write a memoir at aged eighteen or put your name on a cookbook (unless you want to, of course). That’s wot I rekon, see?

    Taken from ‘A Cynic’s View of the World’ by Nathanoj Snikpoh

  4. linda collison says:

    Ha! Great post! Not to mention the time this blogging takes away from our true calling, writing books — not blogs!

    However, one reward I’ve gotten from blogging and following a few blogs is connecting with other writers and historians in a sort of virtual guild, (or support group might be a better term!) Since I’ve been blogging and twittering and facebooking I haven’t gotten as much real writing done but I have connected with some interesting writers and historians like you. And that makes it worthwhile.

    • M M Bennetts says:

      I think it’s true about the connecting with others in one’s field or related interesting fields…that’s the bonus, obviously. And there’s also great joy in finding amongst one’s comments new people who’ve read a book or two and are excited about it.

      It’s the silent majority who never leave a comment, use the blog as an easy encyclopaedia site that…well, I don’t know. I know nothing about them. Who are they? Is the site useful? Do they ever buy a book based on reading someone’s blog? Or is there a mental disconnect between an informative blog like this one can be and a work of fiction?

    • Very true! It frustrates me not to be writing as much but it’s so good to talk to other writers and learn different points of view etc

  5. Why didn’t I see this on FB earlier?

    Your blog is a source of great mirth and interest. Hopefully specialist online bookshops will happen soon and your work will feature prominently there.

    • M M Bennetts says:

      In answer to your first question, FB occasionally acts peculiarly.

      And I’m not fussed about sales particularly, I just think that perhaps once in a while those who use my blog as a resource might pause to recognise that there is something beyond just the blog or a convenient reference section for them.

      In case you wanted to know, the word search of choice for this week seems to be ‘inexpressibles’. Obviously a source of great fascination…

  6. mandyeward says:

    If people come to your blog for the knowledge and stay for the entertainment, then you are reaching the right people. Eventually that will translate into book sales… apparently!

    I don’t spend enough time blogging… or writing… the procrastination station that is facebook seems to have most of my time! That’s why I do NaNo every year – at least I spend one month out of twelve doing what I’m supposed to…*grins*

    For myself, you teach me a lot about a period of history that they seemed to forget about in school!

    • M M Bennetts says:

      Don’t get me wrong–I love talking about the history. I think history is just the coolest thing. (I love doing talks at schools too–getting the kids really engaged by bringing in artefacts and letting them handle them and then giving them all the context…It’s such a joy!)

      But I do think, in general, that there’s a large body of browsers who see the web as ‘free’ and seem to imagine that authors don’t care about book sales and that we live off grass and air and don’t need to pay our heating bills…

      • mandyeward says:

        I know exactly what you mean… Maybe one day those people will make the connection between the books that we talk about on our blogs and the fact that they can be bought, but until then, we have to keep plugging on!

        you know, stiff upper lip and all that… *grins*

  7. You’re blogging so that I have someplace to put my sword articles, dear. Everyone knows that.

    Next question. 😉

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