I have been working on the sixth book in my Dark Galaxy series for a long time, too long in fact. Book one of Dark Galaxy is Galaxy Dog and the entire series is available to buy from Amazon. It has been almost a year now since part five, Blood Star, came out. Such a long gap between sci-fi installments is very unusual for my writing. I usually manage to complete a slim sci-fi novel of 80,000 to 90,000 words in around six months, though each one is based on ideas and concepts that have been percolating in my mind for a lot longer than that.
There are a bunch of reasons why it is taking longer to finish the book this time, but it can all be boiled down to the fact that my time available for writing has been hugely reduced. I am still getting some words down, here and there, but nowhere near as many as used to be the case.
Along with the writing I do for my book, the writing I do for my blogging has also suffered. But I have noticed that my blogging hasn't been impacted nearly as much. I have been going weeks recently without writing a single word of my novel – I'm not proud if it but it's true – while my blogging, on the other hand, hasn't suffered to the same degree. I have cut back, but I still post at least once a week... mostly.
I guess that's because of a strange, compulsive need to blog that I feel. Despite the fact that most pundits now consider blogging to be dead, killed by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I just can't kick the habit. Plus the pundits are wrong. Blogs were one of the first forms of social media to appear after the end of the prehistoric age of Usenet and chat rooms, and they were the dominant way to share content on the internet until our current golden age of social networking came along, with Facebook and Twitter. The heyday of Blogs may have passed, but they are not yet extinct. Having your own site (on your own domain) is still simply the best way to publish new content. The role of social media and networking sites is getting your content some exposure.
For that model to work, however, you need content on your blog to promote. Producing content and having something related to sell is the one way where free content pays for itself. For an author it should be a no-brainer. Show off your writing on your blog, and let people know where they can go to buy your books so they can read more of your great writing. If you’re only social networking, you're generating content for your digital overlords, and it is only at their whim that you can even make money.
I’m not new to this blogging game. Having my own back catalog of books that I have written has been the most rewarding thing – and not just financially – that I have ever produced and promoted, but books were not first. Before becoming an author, I was blogging to promote my games, and before that I was blogging to promote various other stuff, like 3D models, T-shirts, Google adds, Amazon links, and stock images. I have been blogging far longer than I have been writing, and I guess that instinct is just more deeply ingrained in me. Whatever else I am doing, I am always blogging.
But blogging has changed, becoming ever more time consuming. When I first started blogging, ten years ago, the received wisdom was that it was best to post every day, and each post should be around 250 words long, which is what I did. I posted at least that many words, every damn day. It wasn't easy, but 250ish words was achievable. Now, however, Google wants at least a thousand words. I'm guessing that this is because their algorithm for engagement likes it when you spend a long time reading the same page. That's why, these days, you have to read through at least three paragraphs of empty verbiage to get to the information you need from a web page and can click away. The writer is being forced by Google's algorithms to try and keep you on the page for as long as possible. They can't give you what you want straight away, and lose you just a second or two after you have opened their page, and conversely they can't write too much empty garbage before the meat of the page arrives, lest you click away in frustration. Getting a web page to at least a thousand words and making all that writing engaging, is a much harder task than tossing off 250 random words every day, and longer is better, which is why you are now starting to see mammoth posts of two and three thousand words about essentially nothing.
And yet, here I am, at it again, no matter how much time it takes to write this huge post, ironically about how writing huge posts is eating into the limited time I have available to write my new book.
I feel compelled to do it, so that Google will send visitors, who will then see the not so subtle adverts for Galaxy Dog sprinkled around every corner of this blog, follow one of the links to a retailer and buy it. Then, hopefully, they like what they have read and they continue reading the rest of the books in the Dark Galaxy series.
The system works for me, it isn't making me a Steven-King-style millionaire, but it works. I write a blog post and promote it on Pinterest, Facebook and the like. If I keep doing this, my back catalog keeps selling, but the problem is that it leaves precious little time to write new books.
It is a way of promoting my work that is surprisingly effective, considering that I do not pay to 'increase the exposure' of my posts or 'get my pin seen by more people' or any of the other ways that these sites entice their users to pay to advertise to each other.
With good old-fashioned content creation, blogging, and a little dash of social media, I can keep the whole creaking edifice from collapsing.
I do wonder, however, how long it can go on. I have to get that sixth book - the working title is currently Silver Ship - written and out to my legions* of fans. That's the only way to achieve longevity, and it has got me thinking. What if I combined blogging, which I feel this compulsion to do, with writing my book? I could publish Silver Ship here, one chapter (about three thousand words) at a time. Right now I'm thinking that's a good idea. I will link to it here as soon as it happens, if I decide to go through with it.
To end, just a reminder that the best way to support this blog is to buy one of my books. Simply go over to Amazon, or Kobo and get one.
*When I say legions I am not using the word in a literal sense at all. The word cones from Ancient Rome, where there were around half a million soldiers in the Roman army. This huge force was divided up into legions of about 5,000 soldiers. Judging by the comments swction of this blog, I'm pretty sure I do not have 5,000 fans, or even 500.