Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lessons learned from the NEPA BlogCon 2015

It's been a week and a half since the 2015 NEPA BlogCon, and I'm still soaking it all in. The fourth edition of this conference was the biggest and, in my opinion, the best yet.

Ashley Ambirge delivers the keynote address at the 2015 NEPA BlogCon

The last two presentations, from Catherine Shefsky (www.catherineshefski.com) and Ashley Ambirge (www.themiddlefingerproject.org), were the most memorable for me, and the ones from which I took a lot of takeaways. I'd love to compare notes with other attendees and see what they found most memorable and useful.

(Mark your calendars - the 2016 NEPA BlogCon is penciled in for October 15, 2016!)

My takeaways:

  • People won't take your blog seriously if you do not take it seriously.
This was one of Ashley's points. I had a dark night of the soul a few years ago with NEPA Blogs, thinking it was pointless and useless and no one was reading it or benefiting from it. Then I discovered that someone had actually been "scraping" the blog, copying the text of each post and reposting it to their own blog. Attribution was still given to me - but links were set up to make it look like I was writing for their blog. I got that situation taken care of - but then realized that if what I was doing was worth stealing, then it was worth doing.

I've had a few more crises since then, when my blog has felt like the lowest priority in my life. But it has value. It's therapeutic. And if I want people to take it seriously, I should, too, and make a point to post more frequently.
  • Your blog is a place where you give yourself permission to be you.
This, for me, is a given. This is my place. No editor, no proofreader, no staff, no management. Whatever needs to be done, I have to do it, and I'm going to do it my way, without fear of how anyone might take it.
  • Your blog isn't a little thing you do on the side, it's your very own publishing company - and you should treat it like one.
Same thing. I've always found it interesting that people might actually be waiting to see what I would post next. For a while I was posting to Another Monkey daily, but that wore me out, and some days I was posting just to post. Newspapers get posted daily and end up lining birdcages or training puppies. Magazines publish weekly or monthly and get piled up in bathrooms and waiting rooms. Some things publish quarterly and get put on a bookshelf. I think I need to get myself on a schedule: post to Another Monkey at least once a week, to NEPA Blogs twice a week beyond the Blog of the Week post, and to Shoot the Moon as available - but at least once a month.
  • Give your readers something to relate to, to see themselves in your posts.
This has always been something I've tried to do. In blogging, writing, poetry, photography, painting, I've always tried to give the reader or viewer something to hang their hat on.
  • It's easy to lose your blog readership by giving up and walking away. It's harder to get them back.
I've done that. And I'm trying to bring them back.
  • Don't sell yourself short. Your blog is valuable - and so is the network of contacts you've built through it.
Damn straight. Catherine told a story of literally selling her site short - half the money up front, half at a later time. The buyer got her site, got her mailing list, and never made the second payment.
  • Don't give away your work for free. Otherwise, you may find someone else making a profit from it.
This was a lesson I learned from an episode of the sitcom "Perfect Strangers." Cousin Larry was trying to impress a photographer he admired, and Balki managed to make a mess of things. (I don't recall all the details, this was from twenty-eight years ago.) In the end the photographer idol gives Larry positive feedback about one of his photographs. Larry is so overwhelmed that he offers it  to his hero. The photographer sternly rebukes Larry, admonishing him "Never give away your art." For some reason, that stuck with me. Catherine told a story of how she had assembled some of her piano instructionals into an eBook that she gave away for free - only to find later that it was being used as a textbook at Juliard schools.
  • If your readership stays with you, they will grow and change along with you - and your new interests may become their new interests.
When Catherine lost her mailing list for her site - this was before "blog" was a word - about elementary education, she was miffed. Years later, when she was working on a blog aimed at empty-nesters, parents whose children had grown up and moved away, she realized that the people on that lost mailing list were the target audience for her new site.
  • You have a book in you. You've probably already written it. It's easy to put it together as an eBook and sell it online.
I've had thoughts about turning some of my favorite posts into a book for a ling time. Catherine made me realize I could do that with less effort than I thought.
  • ...maybe even a coloring book. Coloring books are the new cupcakes. Do you have original images that you can turn into black-and-white coloring book pages?
This actually came from a conversation I had at lunch with the couple that runs kozlansky.com. One of their plans includes releasing art in coloring book form. Renenbering the popularity of adult coloring books with my friends, I quipped "Coloring books are the new cupcakes!" Then I remembered how I once planned to turn some of my stained glass window photos into coloring book pages. I never did - but I could. I know a sketch artist who could easily bundle together some of his sketches and release them as a NEPA-themed coloring book.

Those are just some of my takeaways. I'm sure over time I will think of some more. Were you at the NEPA BlogCon? What did you take away from it?


Karla said...

Great takeaways Harold! Thanks for all your support of the event through NEPA Blogs, it was good to see you at the event.

Anonymous said...

I loved NEPA Blog Con and can't wait for the next one! I had a lot of the same takeaways as you but more than that - I felt empowered to really turn my blog into something real. For the longest time, I have been telling myself that I am totally happy blogging for fun - and I am! But, this conference inspired me to be something more :)