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Investigative Tips for Bloggers

Author:

Gregory Ferenstein

BlogWorld 2010 Speaker
Content Track
Friday October 15, 2010
Tradewinds C/9

Time: 12:15PM to 1:15PM

 Each and every blogger has the capacity to produce the original content that other media outlets and bloggers link to. Included in this post are some of the tips I’ll be discussing in my upcoming panel at Blogworld with Jay Rosen and Wired.com Editor-in-Chief, Evan Hansen.

For starters, here are a few types of content that everyone can source:

  1. Interviews: Its a misconception that influential people only want to give interviews to legacy media. Being asked to be interviewed is flattering, and big names are happy to give you at least a few minutes of their time to be filmed or recorded. There will be more than enough big names at Blogworld to do just that.
  2. Statistics: Dan Zarrella and Nate Silver got their start by producing original (and useful) statistical analyses in their fields. If you are comfortable with math, great. If not, grab some analytical tools and produce information that you feel others could benefit from.
  3. Investigations: Many organizations, from start-ups, to a big businesses with a new product are happy to be the subject a well-researched piece. While at Blogworld, approach a number of organizations in the same field, tell them about your thesis, and say you’d like to come by their workplace and do interviews. Even if your personal blog doesn’t get much traffic, your post might make the organization’s blog, and be tweeted by their (well-followed) twitter account.

Become the go-to person:

Your social network is your best place for news sources. Unlike legacy media, sources don’t come to bloggers; we have to seek out each and every story. So, get to know everyone you can. Email introductions are a superb way to grow your network inbetween events. Find two people in your contact database that you think would benefit from knowing one another and shoot them both an email about why they should connect. Usually, the recipients are so appreciative, that they’ll reciprocate in kind. I cannot overstate the value of getting into the habit of email introductions.

Also, when possible, attend industry conferences and participate in on the late-night, alcohol fueled chatter. Its a great way to forge new relationships and get the skinny on upcoming news stories. Introduce yourself as a journalist and say that you’re always looking for a good story.

After an event, I can spend as much as 20 hours just following up via email and making introductions.

Tech Tools:

  1. Smartphone: its a video recorder, sound recorder, and wordpress uploader all rolled into one. I once conducted an interview with the US president of Ford Motors as he was running to catch a taxi through the noisy halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. My iPhone picked up the whole conversation perfectly.
  2. Google Voice: since bloggers don’t have much of a travel budget, we have to conduct interviews over the phone. For incoming calls, Google voice can record the conversation for later transcription.
  3. Todo list: If you’re like me, you probably have a stack of businesses cards after each event and often don’t remember what you were supposed to follow up with them about. Every time I take a business card of someone with a potential story (or connection), I create a task in my appigo Todo iphone app. I like tasks better than “notes,” since a task will stare at you in the face until you email the person. Notes become unwieldy and, then, eventually forgotten about.

These are just a few of the tips that I’ll be discussing on my panel at Blogworld (let alone what gems Jay and Evan will drop). I’m excited to see all of you in Vegas. Please do come up to me and say hi…and maybe come out to share a drink or two.

Greg Ferenstein:
Twitter: @ferenstein
-Contributor: Mashable, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and others
-University of California, Irvine: Research in Political Psychology, Curriculum Design, and Mathematical Behavioral Science

How Zombies Could Help Your Blog

Author:

Over the past few years, zombies have gone from being a cult favorite to being widely loved as a part of mainstream pop culture. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people about the best zombie apocalypse strategy. Zombie books are invading best seller lists. Zombie movies and video games are more popular than ever. So tell me, why did you decide to read this article? Was it because you say “help your blog” and thought that you might pick up some tips? Or was it becauase though, “Oh, cool. This should be interesting.” after seeing the word zombies in the title?

Let’s be honest here. We’re all friends. You were attracted to the title, weren’t you?

And that’s exactly how zombies can help your blog. Good post titles will draw in readers every time.

I’m being a little unfair today, because this post actually doesn’t have anything to do with the undead. You could, though, create a post centered on a popular topic, like zombies. Drawing a parallel requires a little creativity to be sure, but it can definitely be done. Point in case, a few months ago, I wrote “Zombie Blog: How to Revive a Dead Blog” here at BlogWorld. Since then, we’ve changed around our counters, but I can tell you firsthand that a lot of people retweeted and visited that post.

Zombies aren’t the only hot topic. For example, I’ve written pieces comparing to blogging to Lady Gaga. This blog has about as much to do with pop stars as it does with horror movies, yet the posts work because I can create parallels – and packaging tips or techniques around zombies or Lady Gaga automatically makes the post more interesting.

Here’s the sad fact: no matter what your niche, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of other bloggers writing about the same things. Yes, you have an original take on the topic for the sheer fact that you are the person writing the post, but there are probably even other bloggers who have a similar writing style. Sometimes, posts start to seem like white noise, simply because everyone is writing about the same topics.

Pulling in some kind of parallel with an unrelated, but popular, topic helps you stand out from the sea. People are more likely to recommend your post over others covering the same topic, and if people have ten minutes to read 100 new posts in their feed reader, they’re more likely to pick yours because it sounds as entertaining as it is informative.

My point here isn’t just that you should have good titles, though. Yes, titles are important, but you have to deliver in your post as well. Is your post presented in a fun way? Are your tips, how-tos, techniques, reviews, etc. thought provoking and original, not just rehashing topics that everyone in your niche is covering? Zombies can help you create a popular post, but only if you aren’t a zombie when you’re writing. Readers want articles that are not only full of brains*, but that are also entertaining.

I think that’s where we all fail sometimes. We are so concentrated on getting out the best information possible that we don’t write posts that are fun to read. You don’ t have to necessarily be funny (though that’s definitely one route you can take), but if you’re writing boring “top ten tips” post after “top ten tips” post, your readers are going to start to desert. Try adding personal stories or pictures. Try adding your opinion. Try being controversial.

Take an objective look at your last ten posts. Regardless of how good the information is, are any of them unique and interesting? Or are they all pretty cookie cutter? You have awesome ideas to share with people, but sometimes we all need to use zombies to actually drive traffic.

*braaaaaaaaaaaaains

The Secret About Secret Posts

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Shhh…I have a secret. Come closer so I can tell you. Closer. Closer.

Well, to be honest, this is text not spoken word, so it isn’t like you actually have to come closer. Unless you have bad eyesight. That’s right, I have a big secret, and I’m going to share it on my blog. And it’s going to drive traffic. And it’s going to create a stir. It might even go viral.

We’ve all seen them – posts that share secrets. They’re usually titled “X Number of Secrets About…” or “The Secret to…” or something similar. You aren’t alone if you click on links to these titles. In fact, you probably have clicked on the title to this post to read it because of the title. Why?

Because secrets are juicy. More than that, I think it’s because we don’t want to feel like we’re left out. If everyone else knows some kind of awesome secret, we don’t want to be the sucker who has no idea what’s going on.

So we click…and nine times out of ten, we’re disappointed. Why? Because secret posts aren’t really “secrets.” They’re just tips. Often, they’re not even new tips – they’re rehashed tips we’ve seen before, collections of tips that the blogger him/herself has already posted, or tips that aren’t really tips at all, but rather common sense. We’ve fallen into their click-trap because everyone once in a great while, someone actually does post some kind of secret, or at least a really good tip that we’ve never considered.

I’m not saying that you should stop posting “secret” posts – but please, for the love of blog, when you make the promise that you’re going to post a secret, deliver. If you don’t make good on your promise, I’m going to wrinkle my nose and click the back button. Next time, I probably won’t believe you, and like the boy who cried wolf, when you really do have a great idea that you want to share, people won’t be as likely to click through.

So how do you do a real “secret” post?

  1. Identify a problem in your niche.
  2. Brainstorm solutions.
  3. Test your solutions to find out what works and what does not.
  4. Share your findings.

The key here is to come up with something original that hasn’t been done before. It’s only a secret if it’s something that only you know. Come up with something new and share it on your blog. people are hungry for secrets. Secrets really can drive traffic, and if you share something amazing with people that they haven’t heard anywhere else, they will be back to read more.

This post breaks my own rules, so to speak – I hope most of you already realize that most “secret” posts aren’t actually secrets. I just wanted to make a point. Why did you click on this post title? Are you disappointed that it doesn’t actually contain some kind of secret?

Love your Blog? I suggest not…

Author:

Earlier this evening Alli wrote a thought-provoking posting here entitled Overheard on #Blogchat: Love Your Blog! but the more I think about it, the more I think that’s not such good advice after all.

Let me explain before y’all get your knickers in a twist…

I find a lot of personal blogs to be boring. There, I’ve said it.

I know that to the writer, it’s a great experience, cathartic, therapeutic, and perhaps even the first time you’ve been able to speak your mind regardless of the consequences. That’s great, and I’m happy for you.

But as a reader, well, uhm, unless I know you and understand the travails and challenges of your life, it’s just not particularly interesting. D’ya know what I mean?

It’s like Twitter. There are great tweets but there are sooooo many that are tedious, narcissistic trivia. That’s why I’ve learned to ignore most of my twitter stream. Your fabulous burger might be interesting to you, but to me? I haven’t even been to your city, why would I care?

Alright, I’m being a bit cranky here. I own it. But I’d like to suggest that instead of falling in love with your blog and sinking into an inability to tear your gaze away from that beautiful person in the mirror, why not think about how you can love your reader instead?

That’s my alternative suggestion for a core philosophy: write to your reader, ask your reader questions, reference your reader and you might just be surprised that while you can address most of the same topics, the level of engagement goes up dramatically.

Then again, why not check out my most personal blog – The Attachment Parenting  Blog – and see what you think. Boring because it’s too self-indulgent, or an interesting read as I try to balance what’s interesting to read with what I want to write about?

Overheard on #Blogchat: Controversy and Blogging

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

Something that is always on my mind when I blog is whether or not I’m being too antagonizing. So, this tweet caught my mind:

propickup I think too many people hide from controversy when blogging

I think propickup is right – and why is this the case? Are we worried about offending people or losing readers? Is it too much effort to defend a controversial post when the comments start rolling in? Are you worried that advertisers will desert?

Maybe a little all of the above. Bloggers shy away from controversy at times because we just don’t want to stir the pot.

But isn’t that part of the reason why we’re blogging in the first place? Earlier tonight, I talked about another #blogchat tweet talking about how a blog is your own creating, and you get to make the rules. So, it follows that you should be able to voice your opinion.

While that’s certainly true, we also blog because we want people to read what we write, either as entertainment or to help them learn something. If you don’t want people to read what you write, why put your work online? It’s just as easy to type your thoughts into word processing programs. So, with that in mind, I think it’s important to always think about how you approach controversy. Some tips (this is a bit of a brain-dump right now, so add to them with comments!0:

  • Don’t rant for the sake of ranting. If you have something important to say, really passionate ideas, that’s one thing. If you’re trying to drive traffic by saying things that are shocking, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
  • Research! Before you go off on a subject, make sure you full understand it. Read about the topic from multiple sources and even spend some times talking about it with  friends or other bloggers so you can formulate and educated post.
  • Avoid defensive comments. If you write something controversial, you’re probably going to get comments calling you stupid. Some of these comments may even make good points. Before you reply in a really defensive, angry way, take some time to ensure you’re adding value with your comment, not just defending yourself.
  • Address weaknesses in your argument. This is debate 101! If there weren’t weaknesses, there wouldn’t be controversy. Talk about good points that the “other side” has in your post.
  • Don’t single out readers or other bloggers (in most cases). If you’re going to attack something, attack an idea, not a person.
  • Edit, edit, edit! When you’re passionate about a topic, as is often the case with controversy, it is easy to write 7,000 words about the topic. You don’ t have to limit yourself to a few hundred words, but create something that people will actually read, not something that’s so long it turns off readers. If you truly have 7,000 worth of points to make, split it up into multiple posts.

We don’t have to be afraid of controversy. Often, controversial topics are the best, and even people who don’t agree with you will come back again to read more of your work. Be thought-provoking and don’t be too afraid of making people mad.

Check out “Overheard on #Blogchat” here every Sunday to read about some of the most interesting tweets from participating bloggers.

How to Blog with a “Roommate”

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Me and my roommate - both literally and at Binge Gamer.

Having a roommate is tough. On July 1, I moved in with my best friend, and even though we have similar hobbies, share a need for privacy, and fully respect one another and our space needs, we still get frustrated with one another at times. It’s bound to happen, no matter how much you like your roommate. Even spouses fight sometimes.

A blog is kind of like a home for many people. It’s a safe space where you can say what’s on your mind, connect with other people, and feel comfortable. So, moving in with a blogging “roommate” is tough. That is, it’s hard to be part of a blog with multiple authors.

Sometimes, having a blog with multiple authors just makes sense. Maybe you want to build a business, but your knowledge is limited in certain areas of your niche. Maybe in your niche, multiple perspectives on a topic don’t just add value, but are nearly necessary. Maybe your niche is so news-centric that one person can’t possible cover it all. Maybe you have great ideas but aren’t the best writer. Multiple bloggers on a single blog can make a lot of sense for some people.

The problem is that when you have multiple bloggers, you have multiple viewpoints, and these view points don’t always line up. Arguments happen. Feelings get hurt. I’ve seen blogs destroyed because partners can’t agree.And I understand that, because a blog isn’t just personal, but also a source of income. It’s hard to get on board with a decision if you don’t agree and think it will compromise your message or cause you to lose money.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I blog with multiple people here at this blog, and I also blog with multiple writers at Binge Gamer. In both places, it’s working out pretty well, and I think that’s the case because of policies we have in place. If you’re going to blog with a roommate, here are some tips to help you make it work:

  • Set clear job duties. Who’s in charge of what on the blog? Who has final say on blog issues? How will the work be split between people if there are multiple owners? Give yourself job titles and clear tasks, so there’s never a question as to who handles what.
  • Discuss profit. You might not be making money right now, but when you do, who gets a cut? Will you split it, and if so, will you do so evenly? Will one person own the blog and pay everyone else? Who gets to make decisions about how money is spent on the site for things like hosting, themes, etc.? Money is important, so discuss it early.
  • Compromise. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to compromise. Yes, standing up for your point of view is honorable, but like I’ve said here in the past, compromise makes the world go ’round. If you’re a stubborn person, blogging with others may not be a good choice.
  • Hold one another accountable. If you both say that you’re going to write x number of posts or bring in a certain number of advertisers or otherwise do a certain amount of work, make sure you’re holding one another accountable. If you let things slide one week, it’s easy to continue to let them slide until one equal partner is putting in a lot more work that the other.
  • Sign a contract with one another. There’s a saying that you should never do business with friends. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but what I think you should take away from that quote is that you should never treat a business like a friendship. As soon as you decide to work together, sign a contract that covers what you’ve determined, especially in terms of amount of work and money.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work to blog together. If you can’t make it work, go your separate ways amicably. It isn’t worth ruining a friendship, especially because you could network with one another in the future. Just because it doesn’t work to blog together doesn’t mean that you can never work together or associate with one another in any way.

Do You Use the "More" Tag?

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Today, no reflective posts about failing, no comparisons between bloggers and insects…not even a reference to Disney. Today, I just want to pose a simple question: Do you use the more tag?

In case there are any new bloggers out there, the “more” tag on a blog post allows you to show just part of the post on your homepage. Users who want to read the entire post can click “read more” and see the single post page to continue reading. I see three major advantages to the more tag:

  1. It allows you to show more posts on your homepage in the same about of scrolling space, so readers see more titles from the start.
  2. It increases the number of page views and single-post views you receive, which is helpful if you’re being paid according to stats when writing for someone else. This also increases the number of times an ad will load on your website, so advertisers generally like to see higher numbers.
  3. You can more accurately track which posts are most popular, since people can’t read the whole thing on  your homepage.

Some of the best bloggers out there use the more tag, or some other code to show only part of a post on the homepage. Mashable shows the first few sentences. Copyblogger shows the first paragraph or so. David Risley shows the first five to ten lines. Shoemoney uses the more tag if the post is more than a paragraph or so.

There are also some well-respected bloggers out there who don’t seem to be using the more tag. Kommein, Successful Blog, Jonathan Volk, Seth Godin…as far as I can see, they don’t use the more tag or show partial posts on their homepages. Chris Garrett uses it some of the time.

With the three advantages listed above, it’s easy to see why a lot of people are using the more tag. So why am I (and other bloggers that I’ve listed) not firmly aboard? It isn’t for lack of caring or being lazy. My main concern is that the busy reader won’t click through to read the entire post.

I’m confident in my ability to write interesting, helpful blog posts, but I’m not always a “straight to the point” type of girl. I think about how i read websites myself. If the post doesn’t catch my attention right away, I’m probably not going to click through to read the rest. However, if the full post is up on the home page, I’ll typically read past where the more tag would have been before deciding that the post is boring and looking for something new to read.

That means that a post has more text to get through to me.

I probably miss some really cool posts that way. No matter how good you are at writing a title or excerpt, every reader is different, and what catches the attention of one person might not catch the attention of another. I worry that using the more tag means that fewer people will read to the end of my posts.

At the same time, the above three reasons to use the more tag do make sense. So, what I personally do is use the more tag if I hit 800 or so words in a post. Shorter than that, I post the full text. Do you use the more tag? Why or why not?

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. Yes, she used a picture of the creation of this very blog post to illustrate. It blows her mind, man.

Rethinking the Structure of Your Blog

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The traditional blog structure has always bothered me a bit on some sites. I’m admittedly anal retentive and borderline OCD about some things, and one of those things is the clarity of navigation on a website, blog or otherwise. If a website has poor navigation options or I can’t understand the logic behind the structure, I probably won’t frequent the site. It’s like a damn corn maze trying to read some blogs. And not in a “fun activity with your family” sort of way. In a “get me out of this damn corn maze” type of way.

I realize that I’m much more upset about poor navigation than most people since Columbus, but almost everyone can agree that a site with great structure makes more sense that a site with poor structure. Good structure to your website is also a plus for search engine spiders. This is something that has been weighing on my soul at After Graduation since I rebranded and relaunched earlier this year, because I wasn’t completely happy with the blog navigation options.

Then I read You’re NOT Only As Good As Your Last Blog Post from Jordan Cooper, and I think he hit the nail on the head as far as what I’ve been thinking but unable to put into words or even coherent thoughts. Blogs everywhere are at a disadvantage because they’re structured like…well…blogs. And that’s not the best option for every website, because great content gets buried to make way for new content.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I follow Mashable to read about social media news and tips. Mashable is just like every other blog in the world in the fact that they sometimes have blog posts that go above and beyond, but they typically have normal blog posts. Not bad, not even boring. Just not award-winning. As bloggers, we’re writing hundreds of posts per year, and not everything is going to change the world. That’s ok.

I also read Cracked.com regularly, just for entertainment reasons. Again, they have great posts on a daily basis and occasionally, they’ll post something above and beyond that really blogs me away.

These are both blogs, but if you take a look at the sites, you’ll notice that Mashable looks more like a typical blog while Cracked.com does not. Why? Because Cracked.com has realized something important – the timestamp on their posts doesn’t really matter. Whereas Mashable covers industry news, Cracked.com’s blog is mostly evergreen material. That doesn’t mean that old posts on Mashable are never relevant, and that doesn’t mean that Cracked.com never talks about anything time-sensitive, but if you on a sliding scale, Mashable is near the “time-sensitive” end and Cracked.com is near the “evergreen” end.

The traditional look to a blog is perfect for time-sensitive topics. This can mean news, but doesn’t necessarily have to be. For example, if you run a blog about gardening, you probably talk about topics as they’re relevant to the growing season or if you run a blog about books, you probably review new releases. The problem? Most blogs are far closer to the evergreen side of the scale, yet few has adapted. Almost everyone uses a Mashable-type of structure, rather than a Cracked.com “magazine” look.

Take a look at your content. Is most of it as relevant today as it was months or even years ago when it was first posts? Someone who runs a tech blog might say no, since their old content is out-of-date. Someone who writes a fashion blog might say no, since trends change over time. But for someone like me, blogging about freelance writing at After Graduation, the answer is yes. Almost all of my posts are as relevant today as they were when they were first posted.

I suspect that most bloggers fall in the 50-50 range. That’s where I’d put this blog, actually. Half of the time, your posts will reference current events, cover news stories, or otherwise make the most sense soon after being posted. The other 50 perfect of the time, the posts are evergreen and can last for years. When this is the case, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to the type of structure you use, as long as you have clear navigation in the form of categories, tags, and the like.

But I think that a number of you out there are like me and my own blog, posting mostly evergreen content. Like Jordan’s post says, it doesn’t really make sense to have your work buried with a chronological set up. That’s the problem I’m struggling to solve right now on my own site – is the typical blog structure a good idea?

I’m beginning to think it is not. You can have a site map and you can have a “best of” or “popular” page, but that doesn’t change the fact that many good articles are getting buried for the sake of updates. At the same time, a more static website doesn’t necessarily make sense either. After all, you want your regular readers to be able to find new posts quickly, and if you don’t have a blog set up at all, time-sensitive posts make no sense.

Right now, I’m developing a new plan for After Graduation that combines an article bank for my evergreen posts with a normal blog for my time-sensitive posts and journalism posts. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter, though. Is a typical blog structure working for you? Why or why not?

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She doesn’t actually have anything against corn mazes.

Image credit: Karsten Eggert

Guest Posts? Sometimes, the Answer is "No"

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I love guest posts. Although I haven’t had much time for guest posting lately, I think it’s fun to reach new readers, especially when you blog in a related niche that isn’t exactly the same as the niche you’re in. New eyeballs are always a plus, and even if you don’t drive a ton of traffic back to your own site, you can make some cool contacts that could come in handy later. It nothing else, you’ve connected with another blogger, which is rarely a bad thing. Guest posting is a form of social networking in some respects.

I’m saying all this because I don’t want to sound like I’m completely poo-pooing guest posts. Sometimes, guest posts can be great!

Other times, not so much. All the blogging experts out there tell you to post, post, post on others’ blogs to promote your own blog, but sometimes, frankly, that’s a really stupid idea.

The Time Factor

I already mentioned that I haven’t done much guest posting myself lately due to lack of time. I’m currently in the pre-launch period for a large product I’ll be selling later this month, I’m running After Graduation completely solo, and I’m blogging here, for JobMonkey, and for Binge Gamer. I also have a few writing clients who order work regularly, and I occasionally like to have a life. So right now, guest posts aren’t in the stars. Heck, right now, having a life isn’t even really in the stars!

Don’t get bogged down thinking that you have no time – but if your own blog has to take a backseat because you’re doing so many guest posts, you aren’t prioritizing your hours correctly. After all, the point of guest posting is to drive traffic back to your own blog, right? If your own blog is empty, readers aren’t going to stick. Your personal blog and your personal products need to come first. Only use left-over time for guest posting.

The Topic Problem

Ok, let’s say that you do have enough time for guest posting. That’s great! Time to email all the awesome bloggers you know, right? No! *Whap* That was me whapping you on the back of the head. Whap is a technical term. Trust me; I’m a professional.

Anyway, right now is not a good time to guest post because you haven’t really thought through your subject matter. Guest posts should add tons of value to the blog posting your content, but at the same time, they should benefit you as a blogger. What are you promoting on your blog? That message needs to carry over with your guest posts. Continue Reading

Competition, Slush Piles and Cavemen: Converting Your Novel to ePub

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To coin a phrase from a well known US insurance company campaign, converting books to Kindle or other epub formats is so easy a caveman could do it.

Well, that is once you’ve done all the hard work of laying it out in InDesign. That part’s not easy.

No doubt about it, digital books are here to stay and they’ll only continue to gain ground in popularity; not only among readers and fans, but among authors as well. Platforms like Kindle and Nook (Amazon and Barns & Noble respectively) and iPad offer an inexpensive alternative for reading your favorite novels without the clutter, and for authors, they offer a larger profit margin than actual print books.

The Age Old Debate
I’m still a book purist at heart. I love my books. Books are sacred and oh so very special. Nothing will ever replace the feel of the pages in my hands or spending hours roaming through bookstores. But…

The times they are a-changin’ and we must change with them if we’re going to keep moving forward and not go the way of the dinosaurs. This is a truth no matter how much of a purist you are.

With the pending deadline for our novel this fall I’ve been exploring our marketing options. For us, or any other up and coming novelist, to ignore the power of ePublishing would be foolish. In our on the go, mobile culture we’d be missing out on a large portion of our audience.
Another part of the Age Old Debate is authenticity. That part of my argument was neatly blown out of the water when I read an article on The Book Designer about major bestselling authors going right to digital with their novels.

How The Slush Pile Raises the Bar
In traditional publishing there’s a little something called “The Slush Pile”. The slush pile consists of all the manuscripts literally not fit to print. With self-publishing so easily available (providing you have the skills, tools and/or budget to do so) anyone can get published. The problem here is should everyone be published?

The cold hard answer? No. I have a set of sculpting tools somewhere, but does that make me the next Michelangelo? And I’m sure you’ve all seen a few potential American Idols that make you wonder what they were thinking.

The slush pile weeded out downright crap from the manuscripts that at least had some potential. For every diamond in the rough there are ten times as many lumps of coal.

With that said, what do you think is going to happen now that self-publishing is so accessible?

It’s a blessing and a curse, much in the same way web design and every other digital medium is. We will be flooded with every kind of book possible. The ranks will swell and competition will be harder. We won’t just be competing with the Kings and Rowlings of the world, we’ll all be clamoring for attention against anyone with the budget and the programs required to publish a book.

But I’ll tell you what; this will make better writers of us all. The ones who have the skills and talent will rise to the top simply because we’re the ones who take the time and put in the effort to deliver quality. Many of these fly by nights are only interested in cranking out something fast for an equally fast buck. The rest of us will strive for the best we can do regardless of the blood, sweat and capital simply because in the end our names and our companies’ reputations are on the line.

And, like everything else on the web, we’ll reach a point where it all levels out. The pioneers will become tomorrow’s superstars and life will go on. For the time being though, build that ark and build it well.

Bandwagon or Useful Tool?
Anyone who knows me, or who’s been reading me or following me for a while, knows that I’m not one to follow the rest of the herd. It took me a year before I got on Twitter, and even longer before Wendi sold me on Facebook. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be excited about getting Kindle, or even an iPad. I’m slow that way. Always have been.

However, I do a lot of quiet contemplation when it comes to something that may seem like a fad on the surface. Most of the time the products and programs that look like fads on the surface are really very useful tools when you take the time to learn how to use them. Twitter and Facebook may have started out for fun, but people found a way to use them to promote businesses. The same thing happened with blogs. What was once considered a geek’s personal diary/soapbox has turned into a tool that many companies – both large and small – use regularly to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of potential new clients every day.

ePub media is here to stay and since it’s still in its infancy we have yet to see how it will mature. I don’t think physical books will ever totally disappear. I hope not. If the whole world fell apart and we had no way of using all this technology, we’d have nothing but pretty blank screens and dead electronic toys to show for our existence here.

Talk about a slush pile.

I believe that if both print and digital are used hand in hand, and if people take the time to create quality work, the rewards will be nothing short of astounding.

Deb Dorchak is the co-owner and Lead Designer of Blue Sun Studio, Inc./Sirius Graphix. Deb has been a graphic designer for more than 25 years and an artist since she could hold a crayon. She’s worked in the graphics industry doing everything from newspaper and glossy magazine layout, to animation in Las Vegas’ largest and oldest sign company. Deb got her start in Illustration, and her passion for telling stories through images hasn’t wavered yet. She and her business partner, Wendi Kelly, have finished their first novel Bonds of Blood & Spirit: Loyalties; due to release late October 2010.

You can find more articles on design, writing, and publishing at Sirius Graphix, or follow her @SiriusGraphix on Twitter.

Image Credit: iStock Photo

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