Publishers and publicists often ask authors who their readers are. The one thing you’re not supposed to do is pick a famous author’s book and say, “People who liked Fire Ants in the Birdbath will love my book.” That’s usually considered arrogant.
If a writer is a blogger, s/he is often asked about the blog’s demographics. If it has a niche, then how many people stop by every day? If it’s more general, what subjects get the most readers and comments?
My answer to the first question usually includes Floridians and/or those who like fantasy, magical realism, and paranormal short stories and novels. My answer to the second is “I get the most hits on stuff I’m not writing about now.”
Currently, most of my visitors are looking at blogs that focus on conjure. I wrote a lot of these when my novel Conjure Woman’s Cat first came out. I wrote these because authors are advised to blog about themes and subject matter from their novels rather than promoting the novels over and over again.
When I was writing the conjure posts, they didn’t get as many hits as silly posts, satirical posts, occasional rants, or posts about things going on in my life. Now that I’m writing posts about other subjects–some about my life, some about writing and publishing–those are getting very few hits compared with the massive number of hits on the conjure posts.
This means when it comes to blogging, I have no idea who my readers are except for people who know me in “real life” or on Facebook. I suppose I should have called this post “Clueless in Georgia.” I wonder if that title would have attracted people from Georgia. Since I’m clueless, I have no idea.
Gentle readers, you are spared most of the spammers’ attempts to plant insidious advertisements in the comments section of this blog by WordPress’ crack spam-busting software called Akismet. It collects spam in a toilet-styled file where I can look at it to make sure it’s really sh_t. It always is. Here are a few recent examples.
Dear Blogger: Writing a blog with fresh new material is a lonely job. Let our professional writers help you with factory fresh posts that will keep your readers excited and happy. (I got so tired of seeing this that I sent them a note saying I am a professional writer and don’t need any help.)
This is the best blog since sliced bread. I bookmarked it today and told all my friends about it. In return, we hope you’ll contact us whenever you’re ready to buy your own cemetery plot, burial urn, or headstone. We’re having a sale on pre-used epitaphs this week. (I emailed them and said I was using Dorothy Parker’s quote ““Time doth flit; oh shit” for my epitaph.)
You’re so honest about your troubles in the bedroom, we would like to introduce you to the Viagra Of The Month Club. Money back if you can’t meet the needs or your trophy wife. (I never mention the bedroom.)
There are many “Google-yourself-sites” out there that promise to tell you things about yourself that you were too drunk or too stoned to remember. For a mere $25 per week, we’ll keep your online profile sparkling clean so that you’ll never wake up one morning and see this headline: MALCOLM CAMPBELL CAUGHT IN BROTHEL STING. (I told them my wife doesn’t allow me to go to brothels.)
You’re obviously a down-and-out guy who needs financial help to make ends meet. Sign up for our Ponzi Scheme Newsletter for exciting money-making opportunities that won’t bite you in the ass like those reported on the evening news. (I gave them the names of Facebook friends who hadn’t commented on any of my posts in months.)
We think your protagonist Jock Stewart is really you. Send us five grand today and we won’t tell anybody. (I told them to tell everyone they want because that will help sales of “Special Investigative Reporter.”)
Our plastic surgery program will make you look young again. Dr. Smith, who’s helped thousands of criminals change their looks, will do the same for you. Completely confidential as long as you keep up with your payments. (I told them that looking old meant that I had lived life rather than turning into a spammer.)
We know who you are and we saw what you did. (I asked them if they want to work as my publicist, but got no response.)
I’ve left out the URLs for this spam to keep those who read this blog from trying out some of the offers and ending up another day older and deeper in debt.
There are weeks when a hundred or so people show up. And there are weeks when almost nobody shows up. One is tempted to ask, “What am I, chopped liver?”
If you love chopped liver, no offense is intended even though I might wonder if you were brainwashed.
Mother tried to sneak liver into our menu about once a month. Nobody liked it. Maybe she learned about it in Home Ec. Maybe her parents forced her to eat it and she was carrying on the tradition. Even ketchup couldn’t save it.
If you know how search engines work, I have a question for you. When the subject of a post, often one written several years ago, isn’t part of the national debate, what causes people to suddenly click on it, seemingly in groups? It would make more sense if they left comments or posted links to those posts on Twitter or Facebook. But, they aren’t doing that (I don’t think).
This week it’s my Seminole Pumpkin Fry Bread post from March 2015. I grew up in Florida and often made fry bread. So, when I included fry bread in one of my novels, I wrote a post about it. Now, the post is getting more hits. What’s that about? Do clubs have meetings, pick a post, and then go out and look at it in droves to confuse the blogger? If so, those people are eating too much chopped liver. (By the way, if your mother is serving you liver, a half teaspoon of Tabasco sauce will kill the taste.)
Every week, my post The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale gets hundreds of hits. I wrote that post in 2013. The number of hits surprises me. Perhaps more people are reading, writing, and studying fairy tales than I suspected. So many people have stopped by that post, that I’ve updated it with more information and links. Maybe I should add a subliminal spell to that post that draws fairies into every reader’s house. All in good fun, of course. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer, of course, is that those fairies bring you steaming plates of chopped liver. (By the way, Sriracha sauce makes liver even worse. It makes everything worse. I know, I know, I’m in the minority of people who didn’t jump on the big Sriracha sauce bandwagon, opting to stay with Tabasco.)
Okay, let’s agree to disagree if you like chopped liver or Sriracha sauce, don’t send me any recipes, pamphlets, white papers, or how-to books featuring those things. In fact, if you’re a fan of chopped liver or Sriracha sauce, my advice is to become a contestant on the cooking show called Chopped. That show features mystery baskets of hideous ingredients that regular people have never heard of, much less would even eat.
According to The Weirdest Ingredients Ever Used on ‘Chopped’, here are a few of the show’s strange offerings: Dried fermented scallops, Eyeballs, Scrapple, and Caul fat. If you want to know what any of these things are, click on the link. I’ll warn you now that the article includes pictures. The chef contestants on each show must include all of the mandatory ingredients in each appetizer, entree, and dessert. And, as the show’s host Ted Allen tells them something like, “If your food doesn’t cut it, you’ll be chopped.” (Eliminated in that round of the show.)
In general, Mother made good meals. So, I probably would not have voted to chop her from the family kitchen for serving liver. I came close to saying I was going to start having meals on campus (you have to be crazy to do that) when mother–and apparently everyone else in the neighborhood–went on a weird food fad: baby bees, chocolate-covered ants. My brothers and I were told we had to taste everything on our plates. We forced down the liver with Hunt’s Ketchup (we never ate that swill called “catsup”), but we drew the line at the bees and the ants.
So, now I’m curious: Will people who tend to follow this blog see this post as just more chopped liver?
I do most of the cooking in our house. I have never served liver, chopped or otherwise. It goes without saying that I wouldn’t try to “elevate” the meal, as chef contestants would say, with something hideous like dried tarantula powder.
Other than family and friends, nobody buys an author’s book after seeing a lame, blog-tour question answered like this:
“I’m very passionate about writing. I knew in the first grade I wanted to be a writer, but didn’t start trying to be one until after having another career in the insurance industry that finally burned out, leading me to think, holy crap, what am I going to do with my time now?”
Okay, perhaps I exaggerate.
But here’s the problem: answers like that don’t sound like anything a professional writer would say, and by professional, I’m talking about career authors who have spent years paying their dues and perfecting their art and craft.
Sure, sooner or they’re asked when they started writing, but it’s usually within the context of a larger, more detail-oriented professional sounding interview.
Blogs Mass Producing Author Interviews Don’t Help Anybody
If a blogger asks the same questions to every guest, including the typical first question, “Can you tell us something about yourself?” then the resulting interview is only preaching to the choir, the choir being the author’s friends, family, and co-authors at a publisher or critique group.
In a world where most people buy most fiction from authors with major buzz at major media outlets, few serious readers are going to select a book from an unknown author after reading a generic interview.
Real Interviews are Journalism
While breaking news and short deadlines often cause reporters to ask bad questions, real interviews are done by reporters, magazine staff writers and competent freelancers who do their homework first. Homework means: research your guest before you start asking questions.
This is where most blog-tour bloggers fail. They’re looking for quantity rather than quality, so naturally, they don’t read the guest author’s book, study their websites, see what they say about themselves on Facebook, or so anything else to provide enough background from which to ask intelligent questions.
These bloggers are well intentioned. They see the generic interview as a service. And, on high-traffic blogs including those in which a guest author can answer, say, five out of a list of 50 possible questions, some authors may be getting decent publicity. The rest the authors are, I think being harmed more than helped.
Why? Because most readers are savvy enough to see the difference between a journalistic-style interview with a professional author and a talking-over-the-backyard-fence generic interview with an unknown author. Generic questions just scream: This is amateur stuff.
Most people have a limited book budget and are careful about what they buy: they’re not going to buy an amateur book because they can’t afford to spend the money on it, and even if they could afford it, they don’t have time to read it.
Perhaps Doing a Few Interviews Well is Better
Personally, I think a blog’s traffic goes up when it includes interviews in which readers see that the blogger actually knows something about the guest author’s work AND that s/he isn’t asking every author the exact same questions.
Publishing has become more democratic. There are more venues and more ways to get one’s workinto print. Meanwhile, social networking sites encourage authors to get out there and shoot the breeze with as many followers as possible. It’s easy to see how this leads to blog interviews where the blogger and author act like just plain folks as though the author is the friendly neighbor who suddenly decided to write a book.
The bottom line is, people don’t spend money to buy a book written by their next door neighbor who just decided, what the hell, I think I’ll be an author. We need bloggers willing to learn their subjects and present unknown authors in the best possible light rather than making them look like amateurs.
Now that would be an interview that makes both the blogger and author look like the kind of people we want to read again and again.
Thank you, Christine, for nominating Malcolm’s Round Table as an inspiring blog in yesterday’s post on your C. LaVielle’s Book Jacket Blog. I’ve been enjoying your posts, especially those that focus on individual Tarot cards and the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey has been a long-time special interest of mine, so when others write about it, I usually find my way to their words.
Now, in the spirit of the Inspiring Blog Award, I’m supposed to tell you seven things about me.
My website’s bio page says that I was raised by alligators in the Everglades. I’ve given this matter further thought, and suspect that it may not be true. I did enjoy reading Karen Russell’s novel Swamplandia! (which was a deja vu experience) about a Florida theme park featuring alligator wrestlers, and I did grow up in Florida: I’m reasonably sure about these things.
Among other things, I like anchovies and feta cheese on pizza. I had a boss who insisted on ordering pizza with pineapple on it on Friday afternoons to celebrate the end of the workweek. Ursula, I gotta tell you, I never understood the pineapple. Of course, most people don’t understand anchovies because (possibly) evil spirits brainwashed them when they were kids.
The URL for this blog lists it under knightofswords. This is the Tarot card that signifies me for those of us who view the court cards as knights, queens, princes and princesses. The Knight of Swords is a card of wind and storms.
My sun sign is Leo. I guess most of you have figured that out already.
My introduction to myths and heroes’ journeys began in secondary school when I read every book I could get my hands on about the Arthurian legends. My favorite King Arthur book is T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. So, no surprise that I would call this blog Malcolm’s Round Table.
I’ve never been able to settle down and confine this blog to a tightly focused subject area. As an author, I’m going to talk about my books along with the themes and settings in them. This has led to a fair number of posts about Glacier National Park, the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey, the environment, and fantasy and magical realism. I also review books here and at Literary Aficionado. I’m glad Christine enjoys stopping by the Round Table, and I hope you do, too.