I started to blog this morning about McCain’s VP pick, then realized it was not a good idea. This is not that kind of blog. If you had to break down blogs into only two categories, they would fall into either opinion blogs or promotional blogs. As opinionated as I am, this blog falls in the promotional category—it’s about reaching out to readers and writers and letting them get to know me (with the idea that eventually they’ll buy my products).

And so, there are many subjects that are off limits to my blog, and many things about me that I can never share. There are many books that I will never review on this site. It is too easy to alienate people (readers) just by mentioning, hypothetically for example, that I don’t read books that have cats on the cover or in title. I would never say that here. There are too many cat-loving readers and writers out there who would be offended. (As info: PS Your Cat Is Dead by James Kirkwood is one of my favorite books.) So my goal is to be a gracious host and blogger and keep politics (and many personal opinions) out of the conversation.

Other bloggers blur this line, vacillating between opinion and promotion with occasional side trips into the too-personal. For them, anything is fair game and every opinion is worth stating. Some, I believe, would call me a hypocrite or a chicken for limiting my subjects. What do you think? Do blog categories exist? Do you have expectations that some blogs should stay nonpolitical?

  1. Hi L.J.: Interesting blog. But I think it depends on the goal of your blog – yours is self-promotion, but others may just blog to voice an opinion. In that case, it’s another avenue for Freedom of Speech. But as a former journalist, bloggers can blur the line for journalistic integrity when they attempt to represent themselves as part of the “media.”

  2. Hi, L.J.-I don’t think it’s bad to limit what you say on your blog. I personally don’t because, well, I’m a troublemaker. If I have opinions on things, I generally put them out there. I try to be tactful, but sometimes I’m just not.

    I do want my blog to be a means of self-promotion, and part of the self I’m promoting just happens to be very outspoken on some things. If I alienate readers, then they probably wouldn’t like my books either. I tend to infuse my books with social commentary, so if the blog scares readers, they probably won’t like the books. However, if they enjoy the blog, then they’ll most certainly love the books. I’m okay with either outcome.

    I probably shouldn’t say that out loud, but I think in order to be fair to my readers, they should have some idea what they are getting into. 🙂

    I love your blog, by the way. No matter what you choose not to say. It’s always very informative and thoughtful. A great read!

  3. I do both, because my blog originally started as an online archive for my newspaper columns that was easier to use than the old site (booksnbytes.com). Also because I long ago accepted this about myself: when my bullshit meter hits the red line, it’s impossible for me to stay quiet.

    I set out my reasoning in more detail here.

    As for what it does promotion wise, I’ve had people tell me they got interested in my books after reading the blog or the columns, and I’ve had a few tell me “you dirty lib, I’ll never read one of your books.” But the former outnumber the latter by a wide margin. So, it’s a net gain IMHO.

  4. I’m with you, L.J. I try to keep Straight From Hel focused on writing and the publishing industry. Some personal beliefs or preferences seep in on every blog, just from what a blogger chooses to talk about and what to ignore or not report.

    I think each blogger decides for themselves what their blog will focus on. Yours is promotion of your books. Someone else, including authors, might see their blog as promoting themselves — more so than just their books.

    I think I prefer blogs that are consistent, no matter what their focus. I know before I visit what kind of post I’ll most likely find there, be it a political rant or a post on writing advice.

  5. Interesting question, it's sometimes hard to stay neutral on most things since my blog, too, is promotional and for fun, but amazingly I've found some self-control and have learned to shut up. ha! Not in real life, of course. :>)

  6. I was once called a flaming liberal although I’m closer to a moderate now. My opinions have gotten me into trouble online as well as off, so I now confine my liberal leanings to my novels. It’s great to be able to have my characters spout my beliefs and readers laugh and call them eccentric. But it gets the message out there. 🙂

  7. As background, this blog started out as an opinion blog (called Get Out of My Pants) to make my agent happy by establishing a “platform.” But that forum was not working for me as a novelist.
    I’m willing to write and share opinion pieces in other forums though.

  8. It's comical that you make the hypothetical example of saying you won't like books with "cats" in the title, then you say one book you do like with cats in the title is about a dead cat. LOL.

    Opinions have the ability to alienate or atract readers. If you've built a reputation on being opinionated, your readers will expect that. If not, then not.

    I, for instance, detest political rants. But just because I don't like singer Neil Young's politics doesn't mean I still don't love Harvest or Decade and even some early CSN&Y.

    I'm no fan of cats, either, btw, so I will have to check out PS Your Cat Is Dead too.

  9. I think it’s smart to know your goals and to stay on-task. There is no question that you can offend your customers and keep them from buying your book. On the other hand, in politics today, you still can get love from half the population. That’s a lot of people! I suppose that a good writer could state their case in a way that has everyone eating out of their hand… or at least giving their thoughts some serious consideration. A lot of work though, taking that approach. Again, it depends on the goal and focus of the blog,and the amount of time and effort the blogger wants to commit.

    L.J., will you hold it against me if I tell you I have 20 cats and a blog called Cat By Cat? ROFLO.


  10. See, I agree with your argument, but not as applicable to your situation. Your blog is self promotion – so voicing your opinion is promoting your self. You aren’t going to write something here that won’t crop up in one of your novels in some way shape or form I’m betting. So if people like what you write here, they’ll try out your books. If you keep to ‘safe’ posts you’ll probably garner a good cache of readers – but I bet a lot will leave out of the tedium.
    Now say if you had a blog and the point was to write about the small publishing world and its ups and downs (even if it mostly pertained to your own book publishing) then political rants would be off topic.
    I actually recently wrote something akin to this on my own blog earlier this month.

  11. My blog is promotional primarily, I guess. I don’t just talk about my books, but I never miss a chance to refer to them. Like you, it is my hope that readers of my blog will like my writing, learn to like me, and hopefully eventually buy one or more of my books. I do also include opinion, but always with an open invitation to readers to express their viewpoints in the comments. It works well. I stay away from political commentary however. If it has to do with good writing, good vibrations, spirituality, anything to do with our Free Spirits, I’ll sometimes get on my soapbox.

    Marvin D Wilson
    blogs at: http://inspiritandtruths.blogspot.com/
    eye twitter 2 – http://twitter.com/Paize_Fiddler

    BTW, I just started reading The Sex Club and am totally into the story. Youre writing style is excellent. You have a new fan.

  12. I don’t have my own blog–I’m on redroom, where the idea is to write about writing.

    But, frankly, that sure gets dull. There is only so much writers can say before . . .zzzzzz.

    So I like it there that people verge into other topics, and there is so much choice, that I can choose to read about Tibet or McCain or Palestine or Hillary or just read about revision.

    If I had my own blog, I think I would be all over the place. I have few boundaries, though I’m sure readers would tell me when to shut up. Or they’d stop commenting, and that would explain a lot to me as well.

    Jessica Inclan

  13. Thanks, Marvin, for the shout-out about my novel.
    And like some of you have said, my politics present themselves quite clearly in my novels, so I’m not compelled to voice them hear. I can always write letters to the editor and post comments on political blogs. There is no lack of ways for someone to voice their opinion.

  14. Hey, what about the lipstick chronicles? They seem to do opinionated promo. It works for them.
    Having said that, I wouldn’t do a political post either–but my blog is shared with an Aussie and a Brit and I don’t think they would appreciate it. But we have done “off topic” blogs on domestic violence–but then my book is set in a shelter and one of my blog mates does articles on the topic.

  15. I’ll shout out your novel too, which I started last night. I am angry at it, because I would rather read it than do my writing for the day, but I am loving it because it’s just damn good. So that’s an opinion!

  16. There are actually four things you shouldn’t blog about: politics, religion, sex, and money. FYI, these are also the four things you shouldn’t talk about in the workplace or at family picnics.

  17. I guess I need to shut my blog down, then. There’s nothing left to talk about if I can’t talk about those four topics. LOL.

  18. Those four topics are just the ticket to generate more comments and make your blog a must-read place. It’s working for Lacresha Hayes, a fellow August Blog Challenger, that’s for sure! I think she hit three out of four in just the last week. LOL.


  19. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  20. How comes your moderating the replys?

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