Since I’m writing a blog, I suppose it is obvious that I think they have value. But how valuable are they for publishers and authors in particular?
Awhile back I was on a panel for those interested in Christian writing and the question arose about the usefulness of blogs for writers. I told the over two hundred in attendance that I thought blogs could be valuable for getting early feedback from readers and for helping writers maintain the discipline of regular writing. A pianist needs to practice to keep at top performance levels. A tennis player needs to practice for the same reason. Likewise a writer. We need to practice our skills, work in a focused way on different techniques, keep our writing muscles in good shape. A blog is one way to do that.
To one side of me on the panel sat another Andy–Andy Crouch, a well-known writer and observer of Christianity and culture. In his cheerful, smiling way, he said virtually the opposite of what I did. He thought blogs were way too undisciplined, random, unfocused and unpolished. He thought too many bloggers were foisting their half-finished work on the public. That, he said, was not helpful to the writer or to the reader.
He valued the discipline that is created when you know what you write is going to be committed to print, that it is going to go through a rigorous editorial and review and revision process before it ever gets to print. Blogs? He didn’t have much use for them. What’s in print is more likely to have staying power and value than what is in blogs.
One exception he allowed: It is a good way for established writers to stay in touch with their audience. So it had value for writers knowing what their readers were thinking and interested in (on the one hand) and for keeping readers loyal to authors and raising interest in current and future books.
Would I be too diplomatic to say I think we are both right? Some people can spew out brilliant (or at least interesting and valuable) prose on a regular basis. But they are few. The rest of us have to work at it. And if a blogger doesn’t work at it, most likely it isn’t worth the time of the blogger or the reader. So I agree with Andy.