should you post your fiction on your blog?




Should an unknown, unpublished writer post her fiction on her blog in an attempt to build her readership and perhaps get ‘discovered’ by an agent or editor?


Maybe not so much.

Because even when your fiction is free, it isn’t free.

It demands time and energy with no guarantee of pay-off.

There’s also the opportunity cost, the thing the person could have been doing instead of reading your stuff.

Remember that attention is the currency of the Internet. No matter how advanced technology gets, there’s only so much attention to go around. The human mind can only focus on one thing at a time. So the price of your fiction is two or five or fifteen minutes in attention-dollars, and that’s a lot to ask from a stranger who doesn’t know you and doesn’t yet trust that you are worth the investment.

First you have to close the trust gap.

You can start to do that by giving the reader something she already knows she wants.

Remember that people tend to have very different reasons for going online than they do when they’re picking up a novel (or downloading it onto their iPad or iPhone or Kindle). They might be bored, or kind of lonely. They might be looking to kill time. They want diversion, connection, entertainment. But generally they’re also looking for information. For an answer to a question, a solution to a problem: some kind of takeaway that will make them feel productive for going online in the first place.

Which is why the most popular and best-known blogs tend to be prescriptive (Get Rich Slowly, Problogger, Copyblogger, Zen Habits) even if they lean toward the personal and confessional (Brazen Careerist). Even the more personal bloggers will draw upon their life experience to find some nugget of life wisdom to impart to their readers (Cleavage, Communicatrix) and they’ll do it in a quick and breezy way.

People online tend to skim, to scan. Chances are they’re not reading closely.

The stuff that does best online is the stuff that is blatantly and obviously useful.

This is also the stuff that gets shared.

And you want readers to share your stuff, to pass it around their networks: tweet and retweet it, toss it on their Facebook pages, link to it in their blogs and email it to friends. You pull in new readers this way. Some of them will come back to your blog again, and then again, and turn into fans. And this, when it happens, is awesome.

Someone might read your fiction, and enjoy it, and even comment on it. But chances are they’re not going to share it. If you pay attention to the blog posts circulating around your network and bubbling up in your Tweet and Facebook streams, you’ll see what I mean.

The purpose of your blog is not to sell someone on your fiction. It’s to attract them into your orbit, and then to keep them there — keep them returning to you — long enough to develop a sense of trust and familiarity.

People will buy books (and other things) from people that they like. From personalities that they resonate with.

(If I like a blogger/author, I’ll often buy their books even if they’re not my thing and I have no intention of reading. But I want to support them. I know that I can always give them away to someone much more likely to be their Ideal Reader.)

It’s possible to write about your novel, or to write about writing your novel, in ways that other readers will find useful and interesting. But this segues into the whole question of Well then Justine, then just what the @(#*$ do I blog about? and that, my friends, is for another day.

(And also for the comments section below. If you have any thoughts on the matter, please share!)

image by Sergey Konyakin

Nov 21, 2010

38 comments · Add Yours

I strongly disagree, and here is why. Judging from my blog hits, 99.8% come from Twitter, specifically from hashtags like #FridayFlash. I have gained a substantial amount of readers (talking about 20-143) from reaching out and posting a story every week for a year without fail. When I quit, I received mail asking why. I will say this:

Do not overpost. I would recommend no more than one a week. People just do not have enough time to read more of your stuff than that, unless you’re Stephen King, and even that is questionable.

Be kind to your readers. Use the same formula every time. Provide subscription options. Remind them on your network. Above all, visit other blogs. Often. Always. You will get the support you give.


Actually I agree with you, but I think flash fiction is the exception, and you’re also tapping into a readymade community (the hashtag community seeking flash fiction). That’s a post in itself.

I was thinking more in terms of novel excerpts.

I think there are definitely writers out there who have built up followings (and even made money) by posting their fiction. But you have to be deliberate about how you go about it. I think it’s best to build your blog on other things.


I agree with a lot of this. I started blogging on Myspace and would get several thousand hits a day. I wrote about my life; being a Mom and going back to college at 31, being in an interracial marriage, and being an avid gamer, aspiring writer, coach potato. I built a huge following quite by accident. By writing about almost every aspect of my life, people began to feel as if they knew me. They liked me. They wanted to support me. The few times I did post fiction (flash or serialized short stories) it was received very well.

By the time I launched my own site two years ago, I had the luxury of already having a base (and tons of content to move over and archive) that I knew enjoyed reading my fiction from time to time. I found they provided useful feedback in terms of learning of what worked and didn’t work.

If I had began my blogging experience as a blogger who solely posted their fiction, I don’t know if I’d have been as successful. I think opening myself up as a person first definitely helped. I know the readers that read every piece I post (and they comment, retweet and share them on Facebook), support my writing on other sites, recommend me to their friends, and buy anything I’m lucky enough to have published. Blogging also made me a better writer. It was the daily practice I didn’t always have the dedication or interest to do when writing fiction. I learned how to turn a trip to the market or recycling my daughter’s own piggy bank money as a deposit from the tooth fairy (hey, I was desperate!) into creative nonfiction. I learned to write entertaining blogs instead of public diary entries.


Hi Justine,

Thanks for another interesting blog post! I’m in the process of setting up a website and my personal blog (featuring all my writing adventures: published food writing and unpubbed fiction) and totally confused about what my first blog post should be about…an intro to me, about my writing, about food? Help!


I disagree. Most of my blog hits are from people who come to my blog to read my fiction.


Flash pieces are fine because they’re written with the web in mind anyway, but longer novel excerpts are a little iffy for all the reasons highlighted in the above comments.


I think this is great advice with the exception of the special “events” like Carrie mentioned with #FridayFlash and things like blogfests, where people are purposely posting excerpts along with a larger group.

I stick to writing topics on my blog, but sometimes participate in blogfests and that a) got me more followers and b) played a part in me getting my agent. One of my agent’s clients read my blogfest entries over time, saw I could write, so when the agent put a call out for referrals for romance writers, her client referred me. : ) So there definitely are exceptions.

However, 99% of the time, posting excerpts will just get people to skip your post for the day. I definitely don’t take the time to read through them. Plus commenting on excerpts can be precarious–do they want a critique? pat on the back?


It’s a matter of balance. I often include excerpts of my writing – poems, generally – in my articles to illustrate points. I am lucky in that I have a large back-catalogue – I’ve been writing for over thirty years – but I certainly don’t post everything I write as soon as it’s written simply to get feedback which some of my friends do. On my website (as opposed to my blog) I have novel extracts and examples of stories and poems but that’s all they’re getting, enough to make an informed judgement – I often buy novels without having read an author’s work before but I never buy poetry without knowing what I’m getting into and I treat my readers the way I’d like to be treated.

The purpose of my blog is, however, to sell people on my fiction but I prefer not to go for the hard sell ramming my words down people’s throats – never understood why people think that might work – but I do keep people aware of my writing. As I said, it’s a matter of balance.


I should maybe clarify that. The purpose of any writer’s blog is ultimately to sell them on their fiction but you’re right — the hard sell won’t work (and is exactly what sends people running in the opposite direction never to return). And you don’t need the hard sell. Your voice is enough. Your content is the bait; your voice is the hook.

“I often include excerpts of my writing in my articles to illustrate points”

— yeah, bingo, I think that’s exactly how it should be done


I think I tend to agree with you, but mostly because I can’t write short stories. Tried for the website I’m building for a platform, but it took too much time away from my regular/normal writing. Guess you can put me in the sour grapes section.


Well said. Though, I read every single word you write, slowly and often with great revelation. ^___^ While I do skim most online sites, I never skim premium content.


Thanks for the links to other popular blogs.

Why not just put the fictional works on a site like or Scribd? Then you can put up a website page link, for folks who want to read the fictional works?



I think there is power in posting short, timely (ie consistent) works of fiction online. Especially if its an on-going story. Its the modern equivalent of serialized fiction.

After I finished my first manuscript (which is still in painful second draft limbo), I looked building a website/blog to garner an audience. But I didn’t think people really troll the internet looking for fiction to read. They read a lot of informative content, yes, but not fiction.

So I decided to stretch another skill of mine and post a weekly comic–hoping that the visual element of it would entice more eyeballs.

I am slowly building a regular following through it. Although I am surprised to see what little prose I do post does get enthusiastic responses. I still agree with Justine, in that most people hunt the internet for useful info–but there is a wide audience interested in entertainment, in one form or another. If you can find a way–any way, really–to hook someone with what you do, they’ll keep coming back.


I want to experiment with serialized fiction myself. :)

I think adding the visuals is a great idea — I love how Hugh MacLeod does that with his work, for example. Plus humor is powerful.


I think a lot of readers have a bias against material that isn’t already neatly packaged in a book they can buy from Amazon. Like it if a publisher hadsn’t stamped it as good enough to print, then it probably isn’t worth reading. I hate this bias, but I’m guilty of it too. I tend to skip over blogs that have fictional content.

But I think for me this is less about the quality and more about the experience. When I read fiction, I like the whole experience. I like being able to kick back with my book – or now my Kindle – in hand, get comfy in bed or take it to the bathroom, lol. I don’t want to have my laptop scorching my lap and my eyes burned by the ever-present glow of my computer.

I think it’s more appropriate to lure them in with your awesome blogging skills – talking about life or whatever – and then maybe offer them the ability to opt-in to an e-mail list with fiction stories. This could be a free service of it could be a pay service after a trial month maybe. Something like that. To me, I don’t mind giving away my thoughts and opinions for free. But if I take the time to create characters and a world and craft it into something enjoyable and readable then that is something I should reserve the right to be compensated for.


I tend to agree. Simply from the perspective of a blog reader, I rarely, if ever, read fiction on a blog. My brain is trained to scan quickly when in Internet mode, and, since I prefer to savor my fiction, I’ve no interest in reading fiction on the Internet.


I don’t know anything about blogging. I had never even followed a blog until recently. I kind of fell into it one day and for some reason I’ve stuck with it. I started blogging just for family and a few friends. I figured no one but them would ever see it and that I would soon grow tired of it. Then one day I noticed there was a Stats button. Not that I get a lot of hits, but I was surprised that my audience was also coming from Russia, Slovenia, Beloruss, Morrocco, Egypt, South Africa, France, etc. How did they ever find my blog?

I just post things my family might be interested in. Sometimes it’s a poem or a short-short, other days it’s a recipe or a photo. My audience doesn’t bother to make comments on line (some of them don’t know how to). Family and friends just call me or email me.

What I get from blogging is an education. I make a point of not letting it take up too much of my time because I work full time and I’m trying to finish a novel. Blogging is a sandbox. I’m interested now in what other bloggers do and why. I’m interested in what readers look for. I play. I learn. And maybe somewhere down the line it will serve me well. Or maybe not.

I tend to believe that most people do not have time for lengthy, online fiction unless you have a really loyal following, and even then, it’s not an easy choice for them. It’s not comfortable or practical. They’re in a hurry. But blogging may be a way of eventually gaining their interest.


I don’t think it makes that much sense to compare the popularity of fiction blogs to “prescriptive” blogs. First, do you suppose that the comparatively small number of bloggers currently posting their fiction for free affects the popularity of fiction blogs? People don’t actually know that that’s available because there’s a small number of fiction blogs. Second, fiction is less likely to draw huge audiences as compared to posts of personal experience and advice because individual pieces of fiction appeal to smaller audiences by nature. For example, even if Asimov’s entire collection were posted on a blog for free it would still draw a smaller readership than Brazen Careerist or Zen Habits just because fewer people are interested in science fiction. I agree that it may not be the best use of a writer’s time, however. Nobody reads my blog, so I would try to get my work published first rather than post it there for free!


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