Friday, April 13, 2012

Blog About This

What should you blog about?  Many bloggers confront this question, sometimes as often as they decide to post.  I almost never ask this question, not because I lack ideas but because I have too many competing ones.  So today I decided to blog about what you should blog on.

Notice I said should and not could.  You could write about anything, anyone, any event, any idea, any place in history, any fantasy.  But you should write about what will serve your blogs purpose. 

Every blog has a purpose.  For some, it’s to advocate for or against something, such as a political blog.  Other blogs are focused on a specific subject matter, such as book marketing, parenting, or sports.  Many blogs are used to brand the writer and position them as experts.  Other blogs help sell something, such as a book.  But every blog got started with some kind of intention behind it even if the intention was to entertain or be a hobby for the author.  So in order to answer what you should blog about, remind yourself as to why you created the blog in the first place.  Write about something that acts in the spirit of your vision statement and that serves your mission or agenda.

What will serve your readers?  What do they want to know?  What do they need to know?  What can you provide that other bloggers won’t or can’t?

Every blogger should have its own voice, an agenda, and an identity or some sense of purpose.  It should challenge and assist the reader.  It should inform but entertain.  It should enlighten and inspire.  It should call for action or support the status quo.  It should ask questions, raise issues, make us think—or at least make us laugh.  But that’s all about your editorial identity and your writing style.  Now let’s look at 20 prompts to generate a good blog post today:

1.      Is there something in the news that you should comment on—and that you can speak about with something new to say?

2.      Is there a person worth highlighting?

3.      Do you have constructive advice/tips/strategies to share?

4.      Do you want to complain about/praise someone or something?

5.      Is there a current or upcoming event to discuss?

6.      Do you want to warn people about something?

7.      Do you have trends to discuss or observations to share?

8.      Do you want to do a product review or an expert interview?

9.      Do you have some research stats to share on a timely topic?

10.  Did you experience something unique that’s worth sharing?

11.  Is there a blog post from another that you feel needs a response?

12.  Do you want to rally readers to take an action step over something you are advocating on behalf of?

13.  Do you want to share a lesson learned?

14.  Are you celebrating, honoring, or acknowledging a historical event or moment in history?

15.  Do you want to propose a solution to a relevant problem?

16.  Do you want to rant about something?

17.  Did you have a hypothesis to propose?

18.  Did you want to debunk myths or identify 10 steps to something?

19.  Did you want to create a fictional account of an event you wished happened?

20.  Did you want to reflect on the past or some personal history?

Whatever you blog about, generate it well, write often, and write with a purpose and passion.  If you conclude your blog post is merely ordinary or that anyone could have written it, start over.  If you’re not going to be unique, why bother blogging?  There’s enough chatter and digital noise out there.

When you run into a wall and wonder what you should blog about, start by reminding yourself why you established the blog in the first place.  If you can write about something that meets your mission statement parameters you’ll likely be on your way to posting something worthwhile.   

Interview With Mary Cummings, Project Manager, Diversion Books

1.      Diversion Books is a fast-growing company since its creation in 2010. What are you doing that the rest of the book industry is not?  I think something that makes Diversion unique and highly functional is our ability to roll with the punches as the industry changes at mind-blowing speed. Every day we learn about new ways to build, distribute, and promote our books. We are constantly investigating and assessing these options, and if we find that they're worthwhile, we aren't opposed to changing our process accordingly. I imagine this is much more difficult for bigger publishing companies to do, but for us it is not only viable but a source of strength and continued progress. 

2.      What do love about being involved in book promotions? There's nothing like the thrill of seeing a great reaction to one of our titles. We are committed to every single title that we publish, and gaining traction in sales, word of mouth, and overall success is extremely satisfying. I love being part of book promotions because I thoroughly enjoy being part of a team that brings an author's work so much deserved attention and success.  

3.      How do you work with your authors to help them market their books? We market our titles in a variety of ways. A lot of our expertise has to do with working from within the machine, as it were. That is, we are steeped in information on what is happening in the market and how this is affected by things like metadata, keyword selection, pricing, all the way down to crafting covers, book descriptions, etc. Our approach to this behind-the-scenes work is one that enables ongoing tweaking so that we are always targeting the right audience and not losing relevance or searchability because, for example, our keywords are out-of-date. 

In addition to all of this, we do a good amount of more traditional outreach, especially online, aiming to get reviews, guest blogs, etc. for our authors. We also work with our authors to establish a plan of action for them based on their strengths and the outlets that make the most sense for them to invest time into building out more of an engaging presence. Depending on the book, we also do some advertising in pertinent outlets, and create more enhanced marketing tools and campaigns. 

4.      Where do you see the publishing landscape heading? This is the question everyone is asking, and I'm not sure anyone has the answer. Neither do I. But there are certain things I do feel confident about. One is that the print industry is not becoming obsolete. I think it will look much different, with publishers taking on more projects that are designed for digital printing rather than runs of 20,000+. I think the saturation of the e-book market will continue to boom, although things will continue to change at a rapid rate. Retailers and authors will be looking for ways to adjust to a market that is currently overwhelmed. This is already happening, but I imagine it will continue in a major way. Considering how much Amazon's e-book platform has changed even over the last six months, I can only imagine how things will look in a year, let alone five or ten. 

5.      What do you do for your authors that authors cannot do for themselves? Apart from accessing a network of professional cover and interior designers, using our unique insight into the market when crafting metadata, etc. as I touch on above, and in general bringing a lot of expertise and understanding of all aspects of the publishing process to the table, Diversion has relationships with all of the major retailers. That is, I can pick up the phone and talk to someone at Amazon should a problem arise, or to pitch them on an idea. We have different merchandising and promotion opportunities open to us with retailers that authors who self-publish cannot access. The reality is, whatever success you've gained with outreach, it will be dwarfed by the success you gain from having one of the retailers promote your book on the site. 

6.      How do you determine how to price your e-books, especially the ones that are shorter? Again, we are constantly studying the market, tracking trends, and so forth, to make sure our pricing strategies have a greater chance of really helping our titles to be discoverable and fit into the right categories. Typically, fiction sells at a lower price point (e.g. $2.99), unless the author is so well-known and loved that readers would sell a kidney for the next book, in which case it could be priced anywhere up to $9.99 (which, at the time of this writing, is a loaded figure in the industry). Non-fiction can often fit within higher price points, but it really depends on what the book is and who the audience is. For example, our e-book by Mark Cuban is a curation of blog content and is a shorter work, so the price is lower, while our e-book by Jim McLean, which includes hundreds of instructional photos, warrants a higher price. 

7.      What have been your more successful titles? Swing Your Sword by Mike Leach, which we published last summer in both print and electronic format, was a #5 NYT best seller and has consistently held rank on bestseller lists. Slim to None, which is an original fiction title by Jenny Gardiner, rose to #1 on the Kindle bestseller list (paid, not free), and continues to enjoy great success. Mark Cuban's How to Win at the Sport of Business is another top-selling title. 

8.      What advice do you have for authors contemplating his or her publishing options – self-publish vs. traditional publisher; e-book vs. paper vs. audiobook?  I think authors should really think about a number of things when deciding what route to take. 

1.      Time: The actual publishing of a title doesn't take that long. You enter all the info and click "upload," and Bob's your uncle. But getting to that point takes a long time, and going from that point takes a really long time. It's easy for me to hop into any system and correct something, but that's because I do it every day.

2.      Technical savvy: Along the lines of the above, if you aren't tech savvy, plan on banging your head against the wall along the way. 

3.      Budget: Chances are if you're looking to self-publish a book, you'll be digging around online, looking for cover designers, book formatters, converters, etc. This can get very pricey when it's actually done well (and sometimes when it isn't), so be prepared. That said, if you know how to format and convert books, have a friend who does graphic design that you like, go for it. 

4.      Overall goal for the work: If your main hope is to simply get the book out there, self-publish. If you want real success for the book, self-publish and then spend hundreds of hours marketing and promoting your work. If you can, find a real digital publisher to get your e-book out (preferably one that won't charge you up front!). And with regard to the print question, try to assess your audience--is it composed of readers who rely on physical books? If so, think about POD, but keep in mind that the costs associated with producing a print book are much higher. 

For more information, consult the innovative publisher’s Web site

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s leading book publicity firm. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person

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