(Online) Myths Overheard at BEA 2008

June 2nd, 2008 · 8 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

It is inevitable, in a conference setting, that one will disagree with the information being presented. Sometimes it’s a different point of view, sometimes it’s that the presenter is working off old, inaccurate information. Sometimes, even, it’s a simple case of someone trying to make a point, and getting the message across in a sloppy, messy sort of way.

Conference presentations don’t always reflect basic critical analysis.

As part of the extravaganza that was Book Expo America 2008, I overheard a few great myths — some of which had been uttered in my presence at least once before. I think it’s time to put a few of these to rest. So, in no particular order, online myths presented at BEA 2008.

  • You have to blog six times a day: As many experienced bloggers know, the trend is toward less, not more, blogging. Today’s readers are being overwhelmed with information, and the last thing they need is more useless stuff to jam their brains. The trick to effective blogging is not quantity, but quality.

    This type of myth is usually perpetuated by someone who has a singular definition — often dated — about what a blog is. If you’re seeing as anything less than an effective tool for publishing content, then you’re missing the point. Some purists might argue that a “true” weblog is a regularly updated online diary displayed with the most current post on top, but that’s a limited and old-fashioned perspective. Your blog is what you make it, and the frequency of your posts are a reflection of you, the author, and the content.

  • Blogs are omelettes: I actually walked out of a session after hearing this one. As with above, the speaker was working with a very narrow definition of “blog”. Had he said “”some blogs are like omelettes””, I might have agreed. But he meant that blog are like omelettes — in that they’re thrown together quickly — while magazine articles are artisan cheese, carefully crafted and cultivated until they reach the ripe point of perfection.

    Once again, blog = tool. Don’t confuse the technology with the message. Very good, thoughtful writers use blogging systems to create very good, thoughtful articles. And, hey!, it’s search engine friendly, too.

  • It’s too late to start a [fill-in-the-blanks] blog: A friend of mine sort of said this. More accurately, he suggested that he started his blog at the last possible moment for a successful blog in his niche. In space, no-one can hear you scream.

    Okay, first, naturally, this assumes that all the great talent has emerged and, well, you’re not worthy. Wrong. We have not begun to scratch the surface of possibilities. And if you think you’re on top, then you’re going to get lazy. Never get lazy.

    However, it is absolutely true that as a new blogger you have to work fast and smart. You need to define your niche and work it well. Don’t compete with the others, co-exist. Today’s hot blogger can be tomorrow’s burn-out, and you need to curry their audience instead of alienating them. But, oh please, no sychophancy. Be yourself, be genuine, and don’t be greedy.

    It’s not too late. Trust me.

  • You don’t need a website, you just need a Facebook page: No, non, nein. If a social media expert tells you this, run so fast, your heart feels like it’s exploding. This person is not your friend. Okay, might be your friend, but not considering your best interests.

    I really liked what John Pitts, Vice President, Marketing Director at Doubleday said about his company’s new strategy. Previously, they’d launched “battleship” book pages — big event sites that, well, were as interesting as your favorite brochure (my words, not his). Their new strategy is work like a flotilla — leveraging lots of satellite site, your basic social media network, to build community and buzz.

    However, the one thing he didn’t explicitly say was that every ship needs a home port. You don’t own your Facebook friends, your MySpace friends, your Twitter followers. You, author, publisher, bookseller need to own your mailing list. You need a way to directly contact your community. Do not make the mistake of conflating a list of “friends” with owning your mailing list.

    After all, when the next big thing hits and friends haven’t become wholly portable between systems, do you want to start all over again?

  • Email is dead: Email is alive and well. Sure, today’s kids love the text message (as do I…especially when it leads to a shaken iced green tea with unsweetened lemonade), but text messages are a different type of communication than, oh, an email newsletter.

    Your goal is to build multi-level communication. And not to spam, no matter what you’re doing.

  • Most people don’t read blogs: I have a different take on the various studies that reveal something scary and startling: that most people don’t read blogs. I’d suggest, rather, that most people don’t realize they’re accessing information on blogs. I mean, for a lot of people, it doesn’t even matter if the content is published via WordPress or Movable Type or Blogger. Most people are seeking information; if they find it on a blog, so be it. But they don’t have to know about the technical stuff to read the content.

    That’s why studies like that bother me. They confuse content with technology. And then, of course, people giving presentations at conferences present these facts without employing basic critical thought. Irritates me, you know?

I’m sure I’d have more myths if I’d been allowed more time to eavesdrop on casual conversation (some say it’s tacky, I say it’s human). People who say this is good or that is bad or this is dead or that can’t be done might not always have all the information. Don’t take these pronouncements as gospel until you’ve looked for yourself.

Thank you.

[tags]bea, book expo america, bea2008, book expo america 2008, authors, books, publishing[/tags]

File Under: Square Pegs

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