Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Networking, Blogging, Etc.

I don't know if you've noticed, but I seem to have a rather huge following for an unpublished writer person. I get asked about it a lot now—how to build a following, etc. I even got asked to teach a workshop on it, since I'm apparently knowledgeable in this area.

To which I answer: Huh?

To be honest, I don't really know why people keep coming back to my blog. (Feel free to tell me in comments, if you'd like.) It baffles me that anyone would like what I have to say enough to sign up and get my frequent updates emailed to them or whatever.

But I have learned a few things from blogging these past few years, and it's time to share:

1. It's Not An Overnight Thing
I've been blogging for about three years. It started with a family blog, and then when my writing took over that one I made a writing blog. It wasn't anything special—I just wanted a place where I could report about my writing. Having it public made me feel more accountable to my goals.

I was blogging before the whole followers thing, but I know I got maybe 10 hits a day. Those hits were from me. Or my mom. Maybe an occasional friend who came over from the family blog. I was fine with that—I never intended my blog to be popular.

Then I started finding other bloggers I liked and commenting on their posts. Then they came to comment on mine. Then we became friends. Links started happening. I got an agent. And somehow a few years later here I am. Magic!

Or, you know, a lot of time and dedication.

2. Network Because You Like It
Not that you have to air your dirty laundry or anything, but people can smell phonies from a mile away. Lately it seems like everyone is getting on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. just because they're supposed to.

But here's the thing—networking outlets like these don't work if you don't genuinely like them. Who cares if you have a Facebook page if you're never on there? (Yes, I'm guilty there). You actually have to network for it to be effective.

I blog a lot because I honestly enjoy blogging. I'm on Twitter because I love the atmosphere and quick response times. And I hope it shows.

Of course, I'm a tad embarrassed that my lack of Facebook excitement also shows...

3. You Can't Do Everything
No, really. If you spent all your time on networking sites, you'd never get anything done. You can't just say you're a writer—you actually have to write.

It's a fine balance, and networking is a distraction that is easily justified. "I'm building contacts!" "I'm connecting with people in my field!" Yeah, I'm not guilty of that at all...

You have to choose a few outlets and be good at updating those. Take John Green for example—he mostly Tweets and vlogs. He's GREAT at it. Occasionally he blogs, but I don't think he has to. His presence on Twitter and YouTube is more than enough. He puts a ton of work into his videos, and they are freaking awesome. Which leads me to...

4. Do What You're Good At
Play to your strengths, not what you're supposed to be doing. If you don't know how to make an engaging vlog, don't spend your time doing that when you already have a great blog presence. If you don't enjoy blogging, don't waste your time. If you are amazing at face-to-face networking, do it!

And then leave all the rest for someone else to do.

5. Be Yourself
Or at least as close as you can be. Networking, like most everything in writing, isn't about getting people to like you. It's about finding and connecting with people who already like you and don't know it. It's about finding your existing audience, not making an audience. That probably sounds like a small difference in mentality, but it's huge. Promise.

It's the difference between selling yourself and just being yourself. One turns people off. The other draws the right people in.

So go forth—network. Just do it wisely.


  1. I'm going to start telling people "You already like me and just don't know it!"

    (But all good points ; ))

  2. I think that being yourself, and only doing it because you love it, are extremely valid (and unfortunately, often ignored).

    I follow your blog because I relate to a lot of what you post about. I have kids, I write, and I'm goofy. :) You also have a lot of life and personality in your posts... some blogs feel like I am reading a text book. Blah!

  3. I knew I "Already liked you"--LOL but so true! Great points. I've been blogging for two years (before "followers") and my blog took twists and turns with me as well. But my bloggy friends are true ones and I hope they think that of me. And I like to add new ones to the bunch whenever I can.

  4. I follow your blog because you're down-to-earth and funny. Plus I love that you're an anime geek like me, so I connected with that. :) And I love your sketches too.

    Great advice today--it's all about doing what you like and being yourself. I think that's why you have so many followers.

  5. Twitter, thus far, is an evil, evil trap.

    I like networking because it gives me the chance to "meet" and interact with people that I otherwise never would-- and I've found some really awesome people here on the internets. I have new writing friends because of it, and I'm excited about who else I might meet and what I can learn from them.

    But at the same time, it's work to maintain, and keep the interest of your readers, that's for certain. It definitely means more excuses not to write when I'm having a hard time with something.

  6. Some other useful tips:

    Walk around the blogosphere. Leave comments. People who agree with what you say may check your blog out.

    Join a writing platform like Writer's Digest or Absolute Write or Nathan Bransford's forums. Same as above.

    Follow others. People you follow may return the favour, especially some of the smaller bloggers.

    Be consistent. You're going to have a hard job piking up followers if you only post once every two weeks. Unless you're Stephenie Meyer or James Cameron.

    Lastly, don't get discouraged. Remember that blog growth is exponenetial. The difference between 500 and 600 is smaller than the distance between 0 and 20.

  7. LOL to Kiersten's comment, and this:


    Or, you know, a lot of time and dedication."

    For serious.

    For the record, I am addicted to your online presence because you are genuine, helpful, and funny at the same time. Also, I want to read your books someday, because your ideas are awesome!

    Great post, and #3 is particularly good advice for people who are just jumping into this crazy pool. It's easy to get caught up and carried away. It's smarter to tone done -- participate and be informed, but don't let it take over your life/time.

    Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything...

  8. Natalie, this is such a great post! I'd started feeling discouraged, but it's always wonderful to be reminded that these things don't happen overnight, and you have to persist and work hard.

    I come back to your blog because you always have fun and interesting things to say, and I love your sketches. Wish I could draw.

    Claire Dawn: that's such a great point about blog growth, I never really looked at it that way before!

  9. I follow you because I too am a YA writer, and you've got very practical advice written in a comfortable, easygoing voice! It's a pleasure to read your blog.

    I've been blogging for almost one year now (feminist pop culture), and I've found that it definitely helps to comment on others' blogs. I write for other websites as well, and all of this writing is "linked up" on my own blog.

    What also helps? Engaging your readers. Respond to comments, do contests, listen to reader feedback and requests.

    Hopefully someday my following will be as strong as yours, Natalie!

  10. I come here because you always have so much good stuff to say and it's always a joy to read what you write.

    I hear ya on the don't do it if you're not into it thing. I got jaded with blogging so I took some time out. Now I'm back it's all shiny, new and exciting again.

  11. Thanks for your insight, Natalie. Blogging can move from Fun to Chore pretty quickly if you don't know why you're doing it and how it fits with who you are.

  12. I come for your doodles ... I just like to see those hearts and flowers on your background ;) LOL


    I love how I feel when I leave your blog. I don't forget about you 5 seconds after I click on the next blog post ... it lingers.

    But seriously ... I know you like me, you gotta like me, I love chocolate and if I like you enough - I'll even share :) So you know you gotta like me :)

  13. This is a great post, Natalie, obviously indicative of the quality of all of your posts that have brought people steadily into your blog. I've been blogging for a little over two weeks, and really like it. I started blogging because my publisher said I needed to make connections since I can't travel to promote my upcoming novel. But, I've discovered how much fun this is and would blog even if I weren't publishing a book, especially because I have met some wonderful people therefrom!! But do it wisely, as you say. This is the key. And your comments about whether to get into Twitter and Facebook are helpful. I simply can't figure out Twitter, and my mind goes dead when I try to. So I've decided to check into Facebook for just a few minutes every day. I can do Facebook. And this is where I can find my children and grandchildren and many, many old friends. But blogger is my favorite. However, I've been pondering how to do this so I'm not spending too many hours away from other things I need to do. And so I'm not letting it keep me from writing! I read one writer's blog where she said she blogs from 8 to 10 p.m. every day. Good advice--setting a specific time.

  14. I find the blogging community so supportive, it's hard not to get more involved! but finding the time to balance writing and blogging, that I have a problem with.

  15. I blog because it keeps me writing. I visit you because I like you.

  16. I love the idea of meeting friends who don't know they like me yet. Well said!

    Thanks for the tips! I'm nearing the 100 follower mark, and it's exciting! :D

  17. Natalie, I would have to argue that your attitude, your optimism and your fun sense of humor probably also have a little bit to do with your popularity.

    I follow plenty of blogs by writers who have no agent at all, some who don't even have a finished MS, but I wouldn't keep going back if I didn't enjoy reading their writing.

    Yours is one of the most fun to read of all. If I can have a laugh, learn something about writing, and feel encouraged about my own efforts, all in a few short minutes, I'll be back early and often.

  18. Your post was the perfect timing for me. I've been getting SO exhausted trying to keep up with everyone's blogs, trying to network and get followers and comment and etc etc etc. It's mind-boggling how big the writer community is, and sometimes I feel like shutting myself up in a box and only going online to send queries.

    But, here I am commenting, so obviously that's not going to work!

    Also, you asked for ideas as to why you have so many followers? I think having an agent like Nathan attached to your profile helps a lot. When I first came across your blog, I decided to follow you because if you're repped by Nathan, you're obviously doing something right. or write. =)

  19. Thanks for posting this! when I see bloggers with huge followings, I'm always so curious -- it was like you answered the question I WANTED to ask.

  20. I totally agree! You have to enjoy it and find others in the blogging world. Excellent advice. =)

  21. Good advice! I can definitely get distracted by everything. "What? I haven't written anything in 2 weeks? But I was blog networking! Doesn't that count?!" lol

  22. Excellent points. I thought this part in particular was made of awesome: Networking, like most everything in writing, isn't about getting people to like you. It's about finding and connecting with people who already like you and don't know it. It's about finding your existing audience, not making an audience.

    It's the difference between selling yourself and just being yourself. One turns people off. The other draws the right people in.

    Great post! I'll have to bookmark it.

  23. True advice!

    I follow your blog because it inspires me. Seriously. I love your artwork, you give great advice/writing life exposes, and I'm DYING for you to get published so I can read all these awesome stories!

  24. Holy Hanna! I come back from the dentist and there's too many comments to reply to! Dang it.

    I like you all too! *Tosses out cookies and cupcakes*

  25. Great post. I agree with being yourself.

  26. I am so happy you posted this. You know how badly I wanted to come to that class!

    It was great to meet you. You are lovely and fun and funny.

  27. The reason I keep coming back is your personality. You are funny, quirky and a little nuts (in a good way) and I really connect with that.

    You aren't afraid to be YOU out here in the big scary web-world and I think people really respond to that.

    Keep it up. *hugs*

  28. Ally, I hope that helped some! It was rather vague. Also, right back at you:)

    Pen, HA! A little nuts—for sure. Thanks. I appreciate your honesty, hehe.

  29. Great post Natalie, I recently had to unplug from the world of networking because it was slowly taking over all my writing time.

    I haven't successfully written anything since completing my NaNoWriMo novel back on November, isn't that sad?

    Social networking can be a wonderful thing, but as writers, we have to be resilient about it not taking over.

  30. Although I haven't been reading our blog all that long, I guess I come back because your posts are very informative about YA and writing in general, without being a total snore-fest.

  31. Thank you for today's post. I have been writing for years but only recently started blogging. I agree it is helpful because I simply do it more often. As soon as I gave myself permission to write I felt like I could fly!! When I was young, my parents discouraged me from writing. They didn't think I would make money and therefore shouldn't do it. That experience paralyzed me...only recently have I allowed myself to write. It has been wonderful...and wonderful to meet fellow writers. Thank you.

  32. I come here for lots of reasons. I like you. You're funny. You're smart. You're real. You talk about interesting things and funny things. It's fun around this place. It's motivating around this place. You listen to good music and watch good shows. I guess it totally sounds like I have a blogger crush on you and I'm not too ashamed to admit that I totally do. Because you rock like that.

  33. and dude! I forgot that you play AWESOME games too! Can't believe I almost let that one slip...

  34. This is a great post, I also wished I could have stayed to go to your class. Hopefully I can apply all of your advice and get a following of my own someday... he, he :-)

  35. I follow you because you're awesome, nat!

    You're funn, sweet, and you like anime. What's not to love? I love your writing style, and yearn for more. I was at Barnes and Nobles yesterday telling the librarians to stock Paranormalcy and to be on the look out for when you get something published. The world NEEDS your books!

    I satisfy my Natalie Whipple book cravings by reading through your excerpts from back in the day. It's so cute to see how you've grown and there were only one or two comments on those early posts.

  36. Great points. It amazes me how some people can have thousands of followers. I like that I "know" most of my commenters. I like that when I see there comments on someone else's blog it's like, "Hey, I know them!"

    I lurk on occassion on twitter, but I don't ever really say anything. I "listen" because we are supposed to. Perhaps that's why I don't tweet much.

  37. Brilliant post, Natalie! I've been a bad, bad follower in that I lurk most of the time, but I'm going to try to come out more in the future, because your posts are always so informative, educational, and full of your personality (at least, that's what I can draw from just knowing you through your blogging). Keep it up, please! :)

  38. These are some great points! It's so easy to want to keep up with all forms of social networking, but there just isn't enough time in a day. I love blogging and reading others' blogs, so that's what I focus on. I also tweet, but I listen more often than not. And Facebook... er, I have a page, but really, I never visit it. Sometimes, I'd feel guilty, but then remind myself that forcing it will show. :)

  39. This was a great post :) Thanks for sharing.

    I've noticed a jump in followers once I started posting regularly, commenting regularly and just enjoying myself.

    You definitely have to enjoy yourself. Because if you don't care why should anyone else?

    You're whimsy and voice are so great and I love coming over here :)

  40. "It's about finding and connecting with people who already like you and don't know it."

    That's my favorite line from this post. Thanks for this.

  41. you're absolutely right about phonies; you just smell them out