Why writers should have a blog (and my first real rejection)

It was nearly a year ago that I was first approached by a literary agent.

I hadn’t sent out any queries. I hadn’t attended a conference and pitched agents in person. I hadn’t even tried to get in touch with agents, because I wanted to write my manuscript first. So how, you ask, did this agent find me?

Through my blog.

That’s right. I’d written here about one of her clients, and the agent happened to see the post, then clicked around my site reading more about me and my project.

Apparently I looked interesting, because she e-mailed me asking to see a proposal — if I had one — and sample chapters. And though the e-mail was a complete surprise, I already knew who this woman was. She was on my list of agents to query! She’d represented the author of a travel memoir I’d enjoyed, so I’d already researched her, knew about her experience and books she’d sold. Needless to say, I was excited.

My proposal wasn’t quite ready, so I finished that and my chapters during my residency at The Hambidge Center. Upon my return home, I sent The Agent my work. And then, every time I sat down to work on my manuscript during the next month, I nervously wondered whether she was reading it.

But when she finally got back to me, it wasn’t with good news. She was passing on the manuscript, she wrote. My first rejection!

For a day or so I felt defeated, disappointed that it hadn’t worked out. Months later I’d wonder whether I should have waited to share my work, until I’d finished my entire manuscript. After all, what I have now is completely different than what I gave her a year ago. In retrospect, the work I sent her wasn’t polished. But that’s how we learn, right? By making mistakes. I learned then that even when I think my writing is at its best, it’s probably not. Because we don’t know what we don’t know.

I also learned another important lesson: that it was essential that I do a fabulous job with my blog. Because someone important might read it. Producing an awesome blog is part of making my own luck.

There are a zillion reasons why writers should make time to produce a quality blog. Simply having one isn’t enough; it does you no good — and can actually do you harm — unless you do it well. But for those of you who are looking to get published, this one reason should be enough to get you on the blogwagon: a literary agent, or another important, career-changing connection, could find you through your blog.

A handful of writers have approached me recently asking for help with their blogs, which is why I’m now offering blog coaching — help with everything from setting up a new blog to improving an existing one — as part of my social media consulting gig. But The Traveling Writer is all about free advice. So over the next two weeks, I’ll address three questions:

  • Part II: What makes a blog successful?
  • Part III: How do you get started blogging?

If you’ve ever considered starting a blog or are looking for ways to improve one you’ve already created, I hope you’ll join the conversation.

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18 Responses

  1. I think you’re absolutely right, Alexis. A blog is a great way for agents and editors to get to know us and our writing…and our professionalism!

    I’m excited to hear about your new social media consulting–can’t think of a better person to coach others!

  2. I’m so happy you’re doing this, Lexi. Just this post was really helpful. And I really think you’re going to be successful at this social media coaching stuff.

    The path of being a writer can be really difficult, defeating, and lonely. It’s not like working for a paper, where you know the work you do will continually see the light of day. It can be hard.

    But there are anecdotes that help. I hope I haven’t told you this one already.

    Have you heard of the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett? It’s topped the best sellers list for something like 40 months. A big Hollywood movie is being made. People have been praising it as the new To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s insanely successful.

    Incidentally, I saw this novel during its inception. When I was 21, I was in a kind of “advanced” writing workshop that this writer/editor held at her house. Kathryn Stockett workshopped the first chapter of The Help — though it was called something different — the first day of class.

    She’d never published a thing. She’d had a baby, left the profession of publishing, and got serious about writing. And I remember our teacher saying of her — I’ve never seen someone work so hard to get better.

    She was rejected by over 50 agents. Guess those agents are feeling pretty stupid right about now.

    Anyhow, it always helps me to hear when someone who’s worked hard and is determined is eventually successful. Though this anecdote might help keep you optimistic when things get hard.

  3. *thought this anecdote, i mean. also, i hope you do a post about driving leadership to your blog. i know there are all of these web-savy ways, but i don’t really get much ofi it.

  4. Great stuff Alexis! I was approached by an agent who found me via my blog too so I agree 100%.

  5. Inspiring post, Alexis. Great insights on commitment to developing the writing craft and getting your writing visible. Thanks for taking the time to post this one.

  6. Dude, the number of opportunities that present themselves because of blogging is insane. Most of my clients find me that way and it’s also made me some great friends! Blogs are super important, but they do take time to mold into what you want them to be. That said, I think this series you’re about to do is a great idea! Looking forward to reading it 🙂

  7. I found this really helpful, particularly as I am just starting in the blog writing thing. Thanks for this informative and helpful article.
    Best wishes
    Noelle

  8. Great post, Alexis. When I was in PR, I advised a lot of my clients on how to generate traffic to their blogs. In essence, I was a social media consultant. But I have to practice what I preached, and step up my game and write more relevant topics about my writing; try to drive my traffic and get the right audience reading my posts. But, you probably know this by know, blogging and social media can turn into a full-time job! Between working as an editor/writer; reviewing books, writing a novel, and embarking on a short story I barely have time to do anything else!

    Look forward to reading your tips. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas to try out.

    Rebeca

  9. Alexis,

    You are right on target to this new writer and I want to thank you for sharing your experience and for offering so much valuable information.

    Kathy Pooler
    http://krpooler.wordpress.com

  10. You make good points here, Alexis, and I’m looking forward to Parts 1-3 in your series. Go to any writers conference these days, and there will be a couple of seminars on social media and at each one, you’ll be told that if you don’t already have a blog, start one yesterday. I started a blog last November, and have learned a few things trial and error. I’ve been thinking of my readers as likely being other writers or enthusiastic readers–and I know most are–but have not been thinking of who else potentially helpful to my writing career might drop by. Thanks for this reminder.

    Sharleen

  11. I really admire your honesty in this post, Alexis. I’m looking forward to reading the next ones about blogging.

    All the best,
    Anna

  12. I started a blog when I went back to graduate school so I could really rally my thoughts about the whole process of educating myself as a writer who was seeking higher education and publication. It drastically evolved and I think I’ve sold more books (poetry mostly) because of my blog then any in person appearances.

    Can’t wait to read your upcoming posts!

  13. I’d love to hear about …
    — What to do when you hit blogging burnout
    — how to be a ‘good citizen’ in blog world

  14. […] themselves or their services — realize it’s an essential tool for building a platform, networking, etc. I want to help you think through whether you’ve got what it takes to start […]

  15. […] a blog can be fun – and challenging. I’m running a series on my blog right now with advice for newbies. I’d suggest starting by finding a handful of blogs you like, and reading them daily to get a […]

  16. […] already talked about why you should have a blog and whether you’re ready to start one. Up today: What makes an awesome […]

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