Excerpts or No Excerpts?

Or, more generally speaking, what sorts of content should you put on your blog and what sorts should you not?

In my adventures browsing around the land of literary blogs, I’ve encountered numerous instances of people blogging about blogging. I’ve read several tidbits of advice here or there about what should go in a blog and what shouldn’t.

Certain things are (hopefully!) obvious to many writers who enter the blogging world. “Don’t make your blog too personal” is some of the most sound advice and I agree with it wholeheartedly. Blogs are certainly meant to be journal-esque, but they’re also supposed to be professional. At least that’s what most writers are aiming for.

Some other things I’ve heard aren’t as black and white as “Don’t make it too personal,” though. The one I’m struggling with right now is the topic of excerpts, and whether or not it’s a wise idea to display them on the Internet. If I were to create a scale of the opinions of others, generally I’d say that more people are okay with putting excerpts of their works on their blogs or websites.

It’s a different story if you add weight to the opinions, though. Like, I’d say that most of the people who say to go for it and put up excerpts are unpublished authors (such as myself) who are trying to establish their places and build a base for themselves. Most of the people who insist that excerpts are a bad idea are professionals already deeply involved in the publishing world. So as a general rule I’d tend to believe with the minority here, just because I value their opinions a bit more highly. (One of the simplest and best examples is a pair of posts by Meredith Barnes of FinePrint Literary Management. She has much to say on the topic HERE and a follow-up HERE. Read them.)

Meredith’s points are well-taken. I have no doubt that marketing professionals have their reasons for posting excerpts as a means to get to an end (the end hopefully being increased sales, of course), but I wonder if having some sort of sample of your work on your blog/site isn’t such a terrible idea.

If an excerpt of your current novel isn’t the right way to go, what about material that is technically separate from your stream of blog entries that illustrates your actual writing potential. Some might argue that a person’s blog posts do illustrate a person’s writing potential, but I’d say that there’s a strict limit on how much you can learn about a person’s fiction writing skills based on their blog writing skills.

What I’m saying is, would it be beneficial to write something specifically for the blog? Some flash fiction once in a while, or a vignette of one of your characters that isn’t necessarily from the work you’re trying to sell? My blog, as of right now, is still young. I’ve got much to say, much to blog about,  but I’m also considering starting up another section that’s devoted entirely to small works (or maybe small pieces that fit together in a running series).

I want to know what other people think, though. Good idea? Bad idea? Anyone?

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