This isn’t exactly 5 years since my first post, that was in October of this year, and this isn’t my 1000th post, I believe it was this one. But I’m close enough. In general I’ve liked it and I’ve met some interesting people, especially authors whose work I’ve really enjoyed and when I set out to create the blog I had no idea even existed. When I first created the blog it was really to support my fiction writing, something it has yet to do. I really should have named it pauldoyle.something but I wasn’t wise enough about those things then (although having work on an SEO campaign before I should have, perhaps, known better). What ever the reason, the blog has yet actually do anything for my writing other than to force me to think about writing, which in many ways was one of the reasons I started writing about books. The problem is writing about books can become an end unto itself and becomes a time suck, distracting you from what’s really important. Lately I’ve found the gaps between posts stretching to several weeks on occasion as I spend more of my time on what really matters: fiction. Novels and short stories take time to write and for me are infinitely more interesting to spend hours working with. Still, the blog has served its purpose and will continue to, perhaps not in the same way it has.
Here are my top bullet points of what I’ve learned in no particular order.
- If you want traffic and you write about books, write about the classics. My greatest hits are books that are classics and are most likely taught in high schools and universities. Below are my top posts, removing the home page and about page which don’t really count. All of them, except the Keret, which I include here because I’m pleased to see something that doesn’t seem like university material, are what could easily be called classics. Every week during the school year Las batallas en el desierto is my most popular post.
- The posts I’ve put the most time into seldom get the most hits. While I don’t write for hits, hits do indicate people are reading what I think is important. Besides the Cubas and Keret in the list, two authors I’ve spent a lot of time writing about, many of my favorite pieces are in the low traffic world.
- The long tail is your friend. If you stick at bloging long enough old articles will slowly gain in traffic. This is a rather technical subject I don’t want to go into much, but Las batallas en el desierto was one of my first posts. Because of all the traffic over the years it has been one of my best. In other words, for a small blog it will take a while for you to get much traffic. Although, I’m not sure this is really traffic I care about.
- Blogging is a time suck. If your focus in writing is blogging, no problem, but if you are also working on a something else be careful. The notion you can serve two masters is a real problem. The only way I know how to survive this is let the blog languish.
- My worst article published in a journal, such as the Quarterly Conversation or Asymptote, will be better than my best article on the blog. This is all about time. I just don’t have enough time, or don’t feel I have time, to do multiple revisions like I do for other sites. This goes back to the time suck point. I’d just rather do thirty revisions of a short story than three of a blog post.
- There are just too many books out there and I don’t need to comment about all of them. There are two general types of bloging: the commentators and the creators. The commentators announce, clip, and otherwise point readers to content of interest, but that they didn’t create. The second group is self explanatory. In the context of this site, they are the book reviews and occasional articles.I used to do more of the former, now I like to keep the number of those entries down. Those kind of links are really what Twitter is for unless you have something really interesting to say about the article or it is just too important not note.
- When you write in English about things that are only available in a foreign language you are providing a great service, but you may feel as if there is no one listening out there occasionally. But that is always the way it goes so I don’t worry about this one too much.