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Blogging Vs. Social Media

Wow. I think I broke another record for not posting on Contra. My last entry was July 7, which brings us to five weeks now. People aren’t asking me if I’m dead (like they used to) because most of them see me on Facebook and Twitter. So yeah: I’m not dead. I’ve just been elsewhere.

And that’s an interesting issue, especially now, at 66, when I have a far more limited supply of personal energy than I did ten or even five years ago. This being summer doesn’t help: My office is the warmest room in the house, and I simply don’t function as well with an ambient temp in the 80s. Mornings are my best times largely because they’re the coolest. Mornings are also when I work on my commercial writing projects, like Dreamhealer and FreePascal From Square One. Fiction is hard. Dreamhealer in particular has been rough, and there are times when I regret having started it at all. But 55,000 words is too much to just toss in the trunk. It will be finished. I only wish I had finished it a year ago, which was my original if excessively ambitious plan.

The key question is this: To what extent is Contra a bad use of my time?

Or, more to the point, my (limited) energy?

I don’t look at my logs much anymore, because I know what they’ll show: Script kiddies endlessly trying to brute-force their way into my instance of WordPress, plus fifteen or twenty visitors a day, and a few odd bits that I’ve never entirely understood. I suspect posting less often than I once did cuts the numbers down, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than a few hundred visitors a day, even when I was posting almost daily, unless I posted something that went viral, like my Sad Puppies summary or my analysis of EasyBits Go.

So why have I stopped posting here on Contra? This: I get more attention when I post on Facebook or Twitter. And attention is what it takes to sell indie books. Posting a promo tweet about one of my books almost always generates a sale or two. Posting something about one of my books on Contra rarely does. I’m guessing that Contra is a saturated market: My diehard fans have probably already bought everything I’m offering. It would help if I could crank out three novels a year, but if that were possible it would have happened a long time ago.

Blogs have lost a lot of the magic they had fifteen years ago. The magic went straight to Facebook, in large part because Facebook has machinery to help people find you if you want to be found. (Or even if you don’t want to be found.) If you’re a writer, especially an indie writer like me, being found is the hardest single part of the game. The blogs that continue to thrive fall into two categories: Political blogs, which satisfy our insatiable need for tribal reassurance, and single-topic blogs with fairly narrow and reasonably popular topics. The sort of general-interest blog that was my 20-year vision for Contra still exists, but is written largely by people who are already well-known for other reasons.

Another issue is that politics has infected virtually every topic you could name, including many that interest me, like nutrition, climate, genetics, education, and health insurance. It’s almost impossible to write about those topics without attracting comment harpies, or more general tribal hatred than I care to deal with. I was astonished at the anger I evoked by cautioning people to calm down after the 2016 election, lest their rampaging hatred ruin their health or literally kill them. This remains an issue: Once you’ve given yourself permission to hate, hatred is delicious, and few people can overcome that deepest of all primal hungers.

My overall goal is to write articles that won’t piss off potential readers of my fiction, and the range of appropriate topics for that kind of writing grows narrower over time as the filth that is politics seeps into damned near everything.

All that said, I’ll try and post here a little more often. I’m considering redesigning Contra (or paying someone to redesign it) so that it becomes a more general directory to everything I have online. I’ll post shorter blog entries more often, and long-form essays not as blog entries but as standalone articles listed in a sidebar. I may have to cross-post short entries on Facebook for those who don’t read Contra. Given its limitations, Twitter will remain a sort of Odd Lots repository, along with links to longer works. (I will collect my Twitter Odd Lots and post them on Contra from time to time.)

I’ve done tolerably well as an indie author since I posted the ebook edition of The Cunning Blood in July 2015. I intend to write indie fiction for the rest of my life, and solving the problem of discovery is a huge part of the challenge. I dislike Facebook and Twitter, for the sake of their ideological bias and privacy failures, but actual experiments have shown that they work. The experiments will continue. If I learn something useful, you’ll find it here–and other places too. A usable author platform requires more than one leg to be stable.


  1. RickH says:

    Your site is a daily visit for me, right after I have my bowl of Cheerios or Raisin Bran. Has been for a while. Enjoy the posts; don’t always agree with things, but that’s OK. Doesn’t bother me that someone has a different opinion or outlook than me.

    So, I visit daily, just before I get back into managing all my other WP web sites. And continuing work on my book that I may eventually get published on Kindle-land.

    I agree that personal blogs are not as relevant as they used to be. I used to post daily, starting many years ago, but rarely post. My life isn’t that interesting.

    But I will continue to stop by each day. Us 66-year-old bloggers have to stick together.

  2. Dave Morgereth says:

    I’ve avoided Facebook and Twitter like the plague as they seem to be a huge time-suck and (as you observed) you can’t say anything without provoking a political firestorm. Whenever I found myself warming up to the idea of creating a Facebook account, another privacy exploit occurs.

    So, while I understand why a writer like yourself needs to be on social media, I hope you’ll continue blogging. I’ve set up an RSS feed for your blog so I won’t miss anything 🙂

  3. Alex says:

    The problem with social media is you can’t really post long form articles with multiple links like you can with a blog. I have always found your blog interesting and couldn’t really envision you being able to publish articles of similar quality on Facebook. Not without compromising the ability to cite multiple references as you quite often do.

    On the other hand, I can quite understand that if you are very busy you probably don’t want to waste time pandering to a tiny minority of enthusiasts.

    I will miss contra if it disappears though. I used to be subscribed to quite a few interesting blogs through RSS. One by one they have gradually disappeared for one reason or another. You are the last one left and once you stop that’s it – no more interesting blogs to read.

    1. Well, long-form entries have no other home online, so I won’t disappear Contra. I intend to draw eyeballs from Twitter and FB by linking to Contra posts.

      Avoiding firestorms is a separate issue that I think about a lot. There are no easy answers to that one.

      1. Alex says:

        Absolutely agree with you about the avoiding firestorms issue. Too many people are too angry and too polarised. They don’t see nuance, just black and white; for us or against us.

        Good luck, and I’m glad you have no intention of stopping completely 🙂

  4. paul says:

    FB is good for quickies and FarmVille.

    Blogs are good for longer posts. On FB I have friends whose posts I never see unless I go to my friends list and click to see their page. Why? I have no idea.

    It’s easier for me to just go through my browser bookmarks.

  5. TRX says:

    I’ve been reading Contra since not long after Jeff started posting it, but anything on Twitter or Facebook (or any other “social media”) might as well go to /dev/null.

    1. Like I said above, Contra will remain, and I’m hoping to put my writing life on a schedule that will reserve a morning for writing one or more entries to be posted over the following week. I’m much less likely to waste time or dawdle if I have a deadline, even a self-imposed one.

  6. Lee Hart says:

    Jeff, I always read, and look forward to your blogs. They are thoughtful and insightful. You have enough “space” to fully develop your thoughts, and provide links and supporting info.

    In contrast, I find FB and Twitter thoughtless and inciteful. A waste of my time. I understand that for professional reasons you may have to get into those pigpens. Just remember that when you are wrestling with pigs a) you can’t win, and b) the pigs are having fun at your expense.

  7. Jim Dodd says:

    You’re going to get a one-sided sampling of opinion here because we all read your blog and like it. I can appreciate that you are very busy and it is definitely harder to write a blog post because you have to think it through (at least if you’re conscientious about it) where Facebook and Twitter are more for dashing off a thought as it occurs to you (with often dire results). I’ve only posted 19 times to my blog so far this year.

    Take your time. Don’t worry about posting so often. Keep your standards high. We’ll be here waiting for you!

  8. Michael John says:

    Since the early 2000’s I have been one of the 20 daily visitors to this blog. Facebook and Twitter are not options that I am (thus far) willing to consider. I always enjoy seeing a new post show up.

  9. Jeff R. says:

    I’m one of those “fifteen or twenty visitors a day.” I don’t say much here, but I’ve read and enjoyed Contra for years. Echoing what several others have said, I do not follow anyone on Facebook or Twitter, and doubt that I ever will.

    However, I’m also not putting any money in your pocket, as I rarely read fiction these days, and never buy it. So there’s no expectation here that you should spend any of your limited time and energy budget on the likes of me. I bet all your regular readers understand and face a similar need to prioritize, and wish you well.

    Things keep a-changin’, don’t they? At one time I read newspapers every single day, perused magazines regularly, and watched MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour whenever I was home. Now I do none of those. I miss ’em, but have moved on.

    Likewise, I already miss getting a “Contra fix” every few days, but I’ll adjust to whatever remains!

    Thanks, Jeff, for all your rich insights and humor over the years. Looking forward to whatever good stuff you can still post here.

  10. Tom says:

    I find your blog worthwhile, hope you can keep it going.

  11. Paul says:

    Since I first read one of your books on Pascal in the late 80’s/early 90’s, I have very much enjoyed your writing style. I was pretty excited to have found your page here a few years ago, and visiting here once a week or so since, would hate to see you go. Time is finite though, and change is constant. Thank you for writing, and I look forward to your next book.

  12. jim f says:

    I prefer reading on Contra…too much political crap TDS, etc on FB

  13. jon spencer says:

    I don’t follow you (or anyone) on FB or Twitter.
    I do read Iowahawks Twitter though, and he is the only one that I read on Twitter.
    But I do have this site on my RSS reader. So when you post, I read.

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