Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ghost in the Machine

I usually have a difficult time coming up with a new blog topic.  Not so this week.  I’ve had one thing—writing related, of course—that’s been bothering me:  My blog.  Now, some of you may already know this, but I have a few new followers who may not:  I do not particularly like blogging.  It just seems to get in the way of what I really want to do and that is write, and by that, I mean my novel.  But blogging is part of that whole building a platform thing that agents seem to rag on about, and maintaining an Internet presence is one way in which to do so.  I also use Facebook and LinkedIn, and though I have a Twitter account, I’ve never used it and don’t even remember what my Twitter name is.  So blogging is just another method to build a platform on which writers can put their words out there for whomever to see.  And this is where the whole bothering thing comes in.
First off, the idea of building a platform means you have to try to gain readership and in the case of Blogger (or Blogspot,) those readers are tracked and presented to the blogger as stats.  I try hard not to pay too much attention to my stats.  I try even harder not to check them too often.  It tends to make me feel kind of high school-ish, like how popular am I today?  Or how many followers do I have this week?  And it never fails to disappoint because, just like in high school, I don’t seem to be all that popular.  I do hate that feeling, that there’s something lacking in me somehow, but I’ve never been one to dwell on that sort of thing.  I mean, I may not be popular, but I get all the attention I need and I’m happy with that.  Then something weird happened:    My stats took a flying leap skyward, at least by my standards.  (Most of you would probably laugh at my low standards.)
This started a week ago when I first heard of Alex J Cavanaugh’s It’s All Fun & Games Blogfest via fellow blogger and follower Bryce Daniels.  I chose not to participate because I’m not much of a game player, but through Alex I met Kittie Howard and my blogging life changed considerably.  I know this platform building thing takes time.  It requires effort and patience to garner an audience and even longer to gain followers, those interested enough in what you have to say to hit that little button and paste their face on your page.
I don’t post to my blog very often, only once a week, and I certainly don’t say anything that hasn’t already been said, so I knew I wouldn’t be a loud voice in the large crowd.  But every once in a while someone would come along and give me a tiny piece of advice and another follower would pop up.  Boy, how excited would I get when that happened?  It’s kind of like that whole Sally Fields "You Like Me, You Really Like Me" scene at the Oscars.  Not a pretty sight.  But it told me that my blog was becoming more important to me and that I really did like it when someone actually paid attention. 
I know I have a few non-writer friends who pop in and read my posts and even a few writer friends who do the same, but none of them are actual followers.  And that’s fine.  I never want to pressure anyone to follow me, after all, I mostly do this to connect with other writers.  Then I heard that following those blogs you like most and commenting on their posts can provide enough interest to possibly make someone tune in and maybe even follow you right back.  But how do you choose?  There are thousands among thousands of writer blogs out there.  How do you find the ones that appeal to you? 
Well, I’ve been sifting through the follower armies of those who have chosen to follow me, as well as the thirty or so I had been following for the last six months or so.  And I have found quite a few that appeal to me and I’ve chosen to follow them.  Sometimes those bloggers will just automatically follow you right back, kind of like a professional courtesy or something.  That’s so sweet!  I guess time will tell if they are really interested in what I have to say, but a couple of them went through the trouble of searching for me through my email account since, for reasons I can’t figure out, my blog was not linked to my Blogger profile.  That’s some kind of dedication, if you ask me.  All those extra steps just to find and follow someone.  (You know who you and I thank you profusely.) 
Anyway, my new follower, Kittie Howard, was kind enough to list my blog on her blog roll.  (Thanks, Kittie!)  And BAM!  All of a sudden, my stats went freakin’ crazy.  I thought it might just be a one time thing, but it hasn’t slowed down one bit in the last week.  Very strange.  At least half my hits were coming directly from her site.  I went from a measly average of 4 or 5 hits a day (please, I beg you, do NOT laugh) to 50 or more (okay, you can snicker.)  So…what the hell is going on here?  This can’t possibly be right. 
I had my first inkling of unease when I tuned into follower L.G. Smith’s Bards and Prophets blog last Saturday and found out that I was not the only one to suddenly enjoy an incredible surge in popularity.  I checked all the stats and while I am getting hits on many different posts and not just my last one, and I have had more comments than usual, I have not gained the number of followers  one might expect with such a high volume of readers.  Now, I have doubled my numbers in the last week (thanks Barb, Jennifer, Joylene, Norma, Lindsay, Julie, Magpie, Donna, Alex, L.G. and Kittie,) but I think this is more from my own cultivation, by connecting through their blogs and leaving comments on their wonderful posts. 
So what’s up, Blogger?  How am I supposed to know how effective (or ineffective, it would seem) I am if you are not providing the proper feedback?  I choose to gauge my success by the number of followers I have and it would seem that I’m not all that successful.  Some bloggers do not like to show who follows them.  I considered this, knowing it would keep secret how unpopular I truly am, but I decided against it, thinking it would somehow motivate me to cultivate more relationships with other writers.  I’m trying not to feel like that high school girl everyone knew and liked yet was still not considered, by definition, to be popular. 
Maybe this is Bloggers way of making everyone feel more popular, like we’re somehow making progress.  But all I want is the truth, good or bad.  Used to be I would cringe every time I checked my stats.  A few days ago I exalted.  But now I’m just deflated.  ‘Cause it’s likely just some ghost in the machine.  I don’t know what to believe.  Anyone else out there experiencing this?                            


L.G.Smith said...

Yeah, don't pay attention to the stats. Half the time they don't record people coming to your site anyway. I have people stop and leave comments, but no indication of a pageview. I'm more interested in developing relationships with the people who do come and read my blog anyway. It isn't about the numbers but the friendships. And I've made some great friends through my blog. I know they have my back and I have theirs just cuz we're all on the same journey together. That's more important to me.

Laila Knight said...

What on Earth? You are an awesome blogger and a great writer. I understand the fear of not being liked though. Truthfully, I've never paid any attention to stats until you just mentioned them. I have more fun just posting what I like and using this as a form of socializing. I love other writers and commenting as well as receiving comments. Heck, it annoys me that I can't leave comments on Lisa's site. So I guess my advice is to just let your voice be heard and don't worry about stats.

TaraNator said...

I rarely check my stats. I know that blogging is suppose to 'build a name/platform' and all that, but, for me, it's cathartic. I would blog even if no one was reading (as I've proved, err as I'm proving..haha) because it's nice to get all those thoughts/feelings out of the way. Who better to read them than complete strangers, yeah? ;-)

Still, I'm interested in meeting others and I comment occasionally on other blogs (I'm shy & more of a lurker). I enjoy what others have to say and I like hearing/reading their thoughts on other subjects, whether they go along with mine or not. People are interesting.

As Laila wrote, you are an awesome blogger & writer. Keep it up & don't worry about the stats, just be you. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what Laila said. What on earth?

You have a great blog, one that is filled with relevant information for those who enjoy writing. (This person tunes in for a reason, gurl. But I WAS disappointed you didn't do the fest. I wanted to know more about you as a person, not just a fellow thriller fan and writer.)

I agree with the others. Don't worry about the stats. Keep blogging, BE YOURSELF, and HAVE FUN.

In man talk, that's "Never let 'em see you sweat." Smiles.

Nancy Thompson said...

Aw, you guys made my day! Thank you so much. You'll keep seeing me here & around. I just need to screw my head back on straight. And I no longer trust those stats anyway.

And Laila, Lisa changed it so you can comment now. I just wished she'd post more often. But honestly, I don't know how you manage to post so often. And do so well, too!

Natalie Sharpston said...

I appreciate your transparency, Nancy. It helps me to know I'm not alone with thoughts such as these! How many of us start blogging with an agenda: to follow the rules for getting published, we need to build an online platform. But no matter what the reason for its birth, the blog evolves into something very meaningful - even if only to the blogger herself. Case in point... after finishing my weekly post last Saturday, I turned to my husband and asked him, "Done! Honey, why is hitting that publish button so dang satisfying?" :) Just learning to enjoy the process... slow and steady...

Laila Knight said...

Nancy,I post while I'm at work, during breaks and lunch when I'm not squeezing in a workout. If I tried to do this at home I'd never be posting. At home I work on my WIP. I also finally discovered how to comment on Lisa's stuff, very excited.

Joylene Butler said...

I felt the same way about blogging when I started. Then I started meeting terrific people like yourself and suddenly the blogging world was a warm and friendly place. We writers need to be surrounded by like-minded bloggers. Had to have you in my neighbourhood, Nancy. Look forward to reading your blog for a long time to come.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Blogging doesn't have to be long. Elana Johnson, who's done a phenomenal job with the online platform part of publishing talking at a conference about some of the things she did. One was to find other writers (and others) to follow. She'd diligently read people's blogs and comment, but if the blog posts were really long she'd skim, so she warned us to keep is short and simple. (I haven't been doing so good at that.).


Jennifer Hillier said...

Don't worry about how many followers you have or what your stats say. Your readers will find you. Just have fun with blogging and enjoy getting to know your fellow bloggers (which you're already doing!). It takes time to build up your readership, but you will. :)

Anonymous said...


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