Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Happy Birthday, What The Hell!

birthday boy

I wanted to be a wood-burning, pool-playing microscopist. Instead, I became a writer.

Is it a whole year already? My goodness, how time flies when you’re obsessively marketing your own self-published novel!

I must admit, my What The Hell experience has been, shall we say, stimulating in more ways than one, turning me from a mild-mannered semi-hermit into a dynamic media presence with a recognizable brand and thousands of sycophantic followers. Well, just over a thousand, if you’re to believe the WordPress counter. Actually, twenty-five or thirty regular readers. Fifty, if I’m skewing optimistic.

And therein’s the rub, eh? We’re all making different waves in the blogosphere, but my take so far is that this is a lot of work and takes a great deal of thought to yield just fifty fab fans. As a marketing tool, that doesn’t sound too efficient. Then again, it doesn’t cost me anything but time, and it has definitely contributed to my book sales. (I’ve sold a couple hundred copies of Yesterday Road to date.)

The main effect of the blog, though, has been something quite unexpected.

It has put me in touch with a bunch of terrific readers and writers who help me daily to see that a novelist doesn’t have to be an isolated misfit sweating blood in his garret. He can actually interact with people and share his anxieties and expectations — without being mordantly mocked. He can enjoy some of the pleasures of traditional publishing without actually publishing: the thrill of knowing he’s entertained a few souls with his words, the knowledge that total strangers are in his court, the sense of camaraderie that comes from sharing the trials and tribs of novel writing with fellow travelers.

In other words, it’s been a lot of fun.

But I now understand, for myself anyway, that blogging and social media aren’t very useful tools for the actual peddling of books — at least not literary fiction. This is in line with what I thought a year ago. But what they ARE good for is offering a setting for a writer’s public face, a venue where you can interact with people and project yourself in a particular way that might not be possible with your books. Plus you might make some new friends. I know I have.

I’ve also had a few remarkable experiences here since last April, among them the brief spike in traffic — 353 page views in one day! — when Amanda Palmer tossed me a one-off tweet; the comment left by novelist Craig Nova after I blogged about a relevant quote from him; the three-day ban by WordPress when I inadvertently mentioned a suspicious phishing entity (which shall remain nameless this time); and the day I claimed the coveted Eye of Yak Award.

Then there are the terrifically satisfying and playful comments! I look forward to checking my email to see if anyone wants to spar a little or crack a great joke, or even throw me a little love for that day’s post. I hope everyone who comments here will keep doing so, and I hope their numbers grow.

But speaking of numbers, What The Hell does appear to have peaked in terms of average page views, so I have to consider how to use my time in a way that gives me the pleasures of blogging while acknowledging that the practical benefit is a tad limited. (I could use to be a lot less anal about following the stats too.) I’ve written precious little fiction in the past year, and I’d like to get back to it in more dedicated fashion so I can practice some of the things I preach. It’s been my goal to post every day in the first year; I easily surpassed that, what, with the occasional haiku, humorous verse, and cancion original.

Now I think I’ll post when the urge hits or when I have something I really want to spread around — three or four times a week, I’m guessing. More than that and it becomes a job. I don’t want to think of it that way.

So thanks to all of you who have made reading What The Hell part of your bloggerly routine. And triple thanks to those who have supported my books by buying, reading, and reviewing them.

A lot has already happened in the past year I couldn’t have foreseen. Who knows what will happen in the next twelve months?

11 comments on “Happy Birthday, What The Hell!

  1. John W. Howell
    April 26, 2014

    Yeah who knows. I could not keep up my writing goals and blog as much as others. I went to three regular features and some reblogs. When I finish the third book maybe . . . naw I already have the fourth in mind. Happy Birthday What the Hell.

  2. Tim Baker
    April 26, 2014

    Happy birthday!

  3. Phillip McCollum
    April 26, 2014

    Happy Birthday, What The Hell. Happy Birthday, to yoooooooou. As you say, the tangible benefits may not be much, but the intangibles are many.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 26, 2014

      I’ve always been fond of intangibles. So fruity and delicious. (Thanks, Phillip!)

  4. sknicholls
    April 26, 2014

    Happiest Birthday 😀 I was blogging almost every day and had to slow down, else I was getting no writing done. I still can’t resist checking in with my wonderful friends every day. Without the wonderful support, ideas, thought, and suggestions shared, I would be at a loss in this publishing, novel writing world. Not to mention that at least half of my reviews have come from bloggers. I value and cherish all you guys/gals dearly. I know Cuban Cuties and Hot Chicks in Cars probably don’t read my stuff, but some of you actually do and come back from time to time! Looking forward to next year 🙂

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 26, 2014

      Thanks so much, Susan. I know you had your anniversary recently, so you’re probably in the same frame of mind I’m in.

      I do wish one of the Cuban Cuties would leave a comment one day…

      • sknicholls
        April 26, 2014

        a phone number maybe 😉

  5. 1WriteWay
    April 26, 2014

    Happy Birthday, Kevin and What The Hell! It is a milestone and a good time to reflect. I think posting every day is overrated, at least as a marketing tool. It’s one thing if you post daily because you want to, like you’re in some daily poem challenge or something. Otherwise, most of the wisdom I’ve read suggests that a blogger could maintain a good presence just posting a couple of times a week, even less. Anyway, I think you’ve done real good with your blog, and I hope for more birthdays to celebrate 🙂

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 27, 2014

      Thanks, Marie! I think you’re right about the cost/benefit of blogging daily, and most of the time it’s been rewarding — kind of a self-imposed challenge like practicing guitar or going to the gym. I don’t think I’m a once-a-week guy, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens on an engagement level with fewer posts.

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This entry was posted on April 26, 2014 by in Et alia and tagged , , , .
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