Today we’re going to take a break from my regularly scheduled Facebook dunking to remind you Medium also really, really sucks.
Really interesting insider info from a fashion blogger on how much she charges brands to do product placement at her blog (i.e. her rate card).
So as mentioned previously, last Wednesday I was on a panel at our local SFF writer’s group, talking about author platforms along with co-panellists Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Chris Andrews. It wasn’t a super-formal panel, and I didn’t take notes, but I’m sure some of the discussion will be of interest to some people, so I’ve done my best to recap the salient points below…
So last night I was invited by our local specific author’s guild, the CSFG, to be on a panel about Blogging For Writers. My fellow panellists were the wonderful and talented Ian McHugh, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, and Nalini Haynes, with the ever-prepared Leife Shallcross directing the discussion and keeping us all in line.
It was a pretty awesome fun night. I was there as the tech geek and “longest running longitudinal study on blogging ever” (I’ve been blogging, more or less consistently, since 1999), though I ended up digressing into a bit of neepery on publishing in general in the middle, mostly because it’s a topic my dead black heart finds endlessly interesting.
Anyway, I’m not going to recap the entire discussion, but have some summary thoughts nonetheless:
- Despite “conventional wisdom”, you do not need an established social media presence to get a publishing contract. This was one of those memes that was going around the industry a few years back, and has now (mostly) run its course. Having a big pre-existing following used to be attractive to publishers under the assumption it would allow already tight marketing budgets to stretch further (you don’t need to do much marketing on behalf of someone who already has a platform… right?). However, this has proved to be not as much the case as publishers originally hoped. Basically, the link between “follow someone on Twitter” and “buy someone’s books” isn’t as tightly coupled as publishers hoped. (It’s not nothing, but it’s not everything either.)
- That being said, yes, your publishers expect you to be an active participant in your own marketing, and that will include being able to write blog posts. Better start practicing now.
- Everyone on the panel used blogging differently. Elizabeth started her blog to promote her freelance editing services1 and then fell into the wonderful world of book blogging. Ian uses his blog as a portfolio and a platform to answer craft questions.2 Nalini runs Dark Matter Zine. I blog because I always have and I like to fiddle with the tech. The point is, find your own use for your online presence, even if it’s just a single static page saying “here I am and here’s what I do”.
- Blogging (in the conventional sense) is kinda dead… but a lot of the industry still hangs around on places like Twitter and LiveJournal. There’s probably a broader discussion to be had in here about “social media for fan outreach” versus “social media for professional networking” that we didn’t get into last night, but… hmm.
- We didn’t really get too much into the different platforms, but continuing on the theme above: different blogging platforms reach different audiences. Know which one you’re going for and target accordingly.
- Never forget that, as an author, your online presence is your professional presence, and to act accordingly. What that means, in a nutshell, is don’t publicly trash-talk other people in the industry: editors, agents, fellow authors, publishers, reviewers, whatever. (Panel-agreed exception: Vox Day. No-one likes that guy.)
- Speaking of: controversial opinions, having them. Being outspoken on a particular social and/or political topic can be part of your online “brand”. If you can work it for you, then work it for you, but be aware that’s what you’re doing.3
- On the same topic, online harassment and blacklash sucks. The panel swapped some war stories and discussed their strategies for dealing with it. Mine, for better or for worse, is that I tone down my public persona quite a lot.
- Finally, it’s never too early to start any of this. In fact, start yesterday. Start ten years ago.
… And by the time we’d covered all of that, it was 9:30 and we got kicked out of the room.
All-in-all, it was a fun night and a good discussion, and I hope people got something out of it. Particularly all the new people (there were a lot of new people, which is rad). I’d especially like to thank Leife and the CSFG committee for inviting me to speak, and to everyone who showed up to listen.
See everyone next month!
- Which she’s awesome at, plug plug. ^
- Ian teaches writing short courses at CIT, which are also awesome, plug plug. ^
- This, incidentally, is one of the reasons I’m always… conflicted about writing publicly about diversity in books/publishing. It’s something I believe in promoting, quite strongly, but because it’s something I believe in it’s something I struggle with writing about authentically rather than as a marketing gimmick. ^
This is about Heather Armstrong, the “Queen of the Mommy Bloggers” on quitting the biz.
Mostly I’m just kind of reeling from seeing this post come across my feeds, because dooce.com was one of those blogs I remember from wa-aa-aa-ay back in the early 2000s. You know, the days when everything was 10px Verdana and “valid HTML and CSS” and non-antialiased Silkscreen. Memories, and all that.
So I’ve been blogging for a long time. Like, a long time; longer than this blog, this identity, this iteration of the internet. I’ve been blogging since 1999, in fact; my Very First Blog posts were some short rants on LiveJournal when I was around fifteen, talking about how I’d traded staying home that day from the school athletics carnival1 to my mother in exchange for vacuuming the house.
Since then, I’ve always blogged. From LiveJournal, I moved to Blogger, back before Google owned it. Hell, back before comments on blog posts were even A Thing.2 From Blogger, I moved to my own self-made homebrew abortion of a weblog script, which I wrote because there was no self-hosted blogging platform that was, a) free, and b) suitable for a LAMP stack.3 I used this up until circa 2009, when I finally moved over to WordPress, which is more-or-less where I’ve been ever since. In the meantime, I’ve used just about every major blogging/social media platform out there; from Twitter to Tumblr to MySpace to Facebook… Hell, I even had an account on Melo for a while. (Not that we talk about that… does anyone even remember that?)
Here’s the thing, though.
All of those platforms? They suck.
All of them.
Don’t get me wrong, they all suck in different ways, but they also all suck in some way. And every now and again I think about what it would take to make a blogging/social media platform that wouldn’t suck.4
So. Here’s that.
Alis’ Big Blog 3.0 Wishlist
After careful consideration, my Ideal Blog Platform would have the:
- rich media of Tumblr
- API of WordPress
- content security groups of Dreamwidth/Google+
- theme interface of Tumblr (but with the ability to “scale up” to WordPress levels)
- discoverability (hashtags, etc.) of Twitter/Tumblr
- dashboard/friend’s list of Dreamwidth (with optional external RSS feeds a la WordPress.com)
- commenting system of Kinja
- liking of Tumblr
- reblogging of Twitter (not of Tumblr)
- cross-posting of WordPress.com (to keep links with “legacy” services/communities)
- self-hosted and SaaS options of WordPress
- interoperability between self-hosted/SaaS of Diaspora (well, the interoperability Diaspora was supposed to have).
In other words, my Ideal Blogging Platform would be an easy-to-learn-hard-to-master, rich-media system catering to both first-timers and seasoned experts, providing capability for maintaining both big high-profile blogs as well as small, private groups of friends, and synchronised across a variety of hosts.
The ironic part? In a lot of ways (minus the cross-platform interoperability stuff), this was what I was doing back with my own shitty homebrew scripts back in the early 2000s. Go figure, I guess.
So yeah. If anyone out there has some spare VC and some devs and wants to fund the building of something like this? Give me a call. And if you’ve got different ideas of what would constitute an ideal platform? Let me know; I’d be interested to hear them…
- In the interests of full disclosure, it may, in fact, have been a swimming carnival. I don’t recall. ^
- Moveable Type existed, just, but it cost more than my little teenage self could afford, and it was written in Perl. Urgh. Yuck. ^
- I mean, it’d still suck. Because everything sucks. But maybe it would… suck different. Or whatever. ^