Thursday, December 20, 2007

Enough With the "Just Write Good Content" Nonsense Already

Yeah, I said that out loud.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might be surprised to hear me challenging the "just write good content" mantra. After all, I'm a writer. I believe in good content, I try to maintain high standards and I'm a very vocal proponent of the idea that artificially constructed obstacles should be roundly ignored.

I know where the "it's all about content" school of thought came from, and it was an honorable place. In the early days of search engine optimization (SEO)--or what once passed for it--there was a theory that things like writing meaningless strings of relevant key words would do the trick. Eventually, someone noticed that it didn't do a lot of good to bring people to your website if there wasn't anything there for them when they arrived, and search engine algorithms started to take that kind of thing into account, and the next thing we knew, you needed to actually have something to say if you wanted to run a successful website.

Thank God.

And then the pendulum shifted. Thousands of people came out of the woodwork to declare "content is king".

And it's still going on.

The problem is, something like realistic balance has come into the world and no one noticed.

There are still people devoting full-time hours to gaming the SEO system instead of producing content anyone wants to see. And on the other end of the spectrum there are people spouting platitudes about how "all you have to do" is write good content.

The fact that you need worthwhile content to keep bringing people back to your website is a no-brainer. It's not even worth talking about anymore. I don't use language like this lightly, but...well, duh.

Is that enough?

Well, let's look at some other scenarios. If you're a great mechanic, do you print up business cards and put an ad in the local newspaper and commission an attention-catching sign for your shop, or do you say, "All you have to do is do good work" and then sit around and wait for people to notice that you're there?

If you're a writer in a context besides blogging, do you produce good content and then save it to your hard drive and move on with your life, confident that since you're writing good content, agents and publishers will eventually find you?

The backlash against promotion without substance has gone too far, into a kind of "popular wisdom" that advocates substance without promotion. And that brings us back to my initial point, to the headline on this post: NONSENSE

You need good content. But the best content in the world won't do you a darned bit of good if you don't know how to--and don't make the effort to--get people to look at it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another Rerun

I'm re-posting this post from April of 2004 because...le plus ca change...

Just a few minutes ago, I happened upon a discussion on Blog Catalog about the credibility of people blogging about making money when they weren't making any money and I recalled this post that I'd written three and a half years ago. Only the forum, it seems, changes.

Writing about Writing about Writing (April, 2004)

I've found a cutting edge way to make money as a writer. After generations of writers struggled to make a living, the current generation of professional writers has found a steady stream of income in writing about writing--instructional and inspirational articles that tell other writers how to write, how to sell, how to choose markets, how to query, how to land clients, and how to get rich and famous. At the relatively small-scale end are magazines and websites upon magazines and websites offering advice to beginning writers, often purchased from writers just one small step up the food chain from those beginners.

Many of these, especially the online versions, pay $25/article. This leaves me asking myself: Do I want to accept career advice from writers who are still selling their work for $25?

After all, at $25/article, a writer would have to sell 20 articles each and every week of the year in order to earn $26,000/year. That's more than a thousand articles a year. For those thousand articles, the writer would earn the equivalent of $12.50/hour at a full time job--assuming that she could crank out those 20 articles in a 40 hour week.

Of course, there's bigger money marketing tips for writers on a larger scale. Writers like Peter Bowerman have seen great success marketing books like The Well Fed Writer. However, Bowerman, a successful copywriter, openly admits that the bulk of his income comes not from marketing copywriting services as he describes in the book, but from sales of the book.

If these writers are making their livings not so much by writing alone but by writing about writing, I've discovered a pure and untapped market that is sure to bring me fame and fortune: writing about writing about writing. That's right, I've decided to write a book explaining how to make big money writing books about how to make big money writing. Between you and me, though, I wouldn't buy it. After all, no one paid me to write this article at all, and at that rate you'll never hit the six-figure mark.

Once in a Very Great While, I Wish that I Had a Personal Blog

I've got a writing blog (you're there), a dog blog, as social/legal commentary blog, a search terms humor blog and a Catholic blog, but I don't have a personal blog--that blog where people include photographs of their children after they've managed to fingerpaint the household pets and such--and I rarely have need for one. But every once in a while, something happens that I want to write about.

It's never something big and compelling. It's never, frankly, something that WARRANTS writing down. And that's a good thing, because if it did, I'd probably start another blog...that's what I usually do when I have something to say that doesn't fit any of my existing blogs. Fortunately, so far, it's always been something you really don't want to hear about.

Yesterday, for instance, I was halfway across the parking lot at the train station when I noticed that I was wearing two different shoes.

Now, I'm not especially fashion conscious and it's not all that unusual for me to get to work and realize that I never changed into the shoes I planned to wear--my basic black flats see a lot of action no matter what I'm wearing. But this...well, when I showed them to my 11-year-old last night she said, "How do you make a mistake like that?"

Darned if I know. I was in a hurry. It was semi-dark in my bedroom when I put my shoes on. That MIGHT explain how I failed to notice that they were two different colors. And that one was plain and the other had a little pattern stamped in it. And know....THEY WERE TWO DIFFERENT COLORS.

But what about the fact that one of them has a bit of a heel and the other doesn't?

Yep, that's right. My shoes weren't just two different colors and styles,but one was flat and the other a low heel.

But don't worry. I noticed as soon as I got to the train station. After I'd, you know, walked out to the car (bright sunlight), cleaned the ice off the car, driven my daughter to my mother's house, walked up to the house, walked back to the car, driven to the train station and walked the block or so to the train station parking lot.

This is what I saw when I finally looked down:

Of course, the moment I noticed, it became difficult to walk in one flat shoe and one low heel.

Although I hesitate to admit just how far outside the fashion loop I am, had it just been color I would probably have ignored it and gone on with my life. But the whole not being able to walk thing was starting to bug me, so on my way to work I stopped in Old Navy. I didn't really think that Old Navy sold shoes, but it's down the block from my office, and Macy's doesn't open until ten.

I bought some little black canvas ballet slippers that were too flat for the pants I had on and not really seasonal, but matched my clothes (and each other) and had the added advantage the same height. The fact that they were lightweight canvas slip-ons didn't seem to be a big deal...

While I was at work, this happened:

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rick Springfield: A Lifetime in Music Ltd. Collector's Edition

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I'm not really interested in turning my blogs into money-making ventures. I'm posting information about and an opportunity to purchase the small number of remaining copies of the limited collector's edition of Rick Springfield: A Lifetime in Music here for one reason: I still get emails from people asking how they can get it, and I haven't gotten around to getting a website set up. That means that currently the only option is ebay, and I don't like to offer things for sale exclusively on ebay because people end up paying too much in auctions.

I've included a little (and hopefully discreet) Buy Now button on the home page of this blog, simply to have a place to direct people who inquire. Not, of course, that it will break my heart if the occasional other visitor decides to purchase one.

Having done that, though, I realized that there wasn't adequate space to provide any real information about the book, so that's what this post is all about.

The limited collector's edition of Rick Springfield: A Lifetime in Music is a small (100 page) spiral bound book formatted for display. It's printed on 80 pound paper and contains numerous black and white photographs, many of which had never been published before. The book is based on interviews with many musicians, music writers and music-industry professionals who worked with Rick over a period of nearly four decades, including:

Rick Springfield
Beeb Birtles (founding member of the original Little River Band and former Zoot bandmate)
Darryl Cotton (former Zoot bandmate and Australian musician and television star)
Keith Howland (Chicago guitarist and former Springfield touring guitarist)

Michele "Mitch" O'Driscoll (Go-Set Magazine correspondent)

Jeff Joseph (former Zoot manager)

John Kennedy (former Icy Blues bandmate and inspiration for the 1983 song "Me & Johnny")
...and many more

Click on the Rick Springfield: A Lifetime in Music tab at the top of the page to order!