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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

On the Future of This Blog and My Bid for World Domination

Earlier today, I had a rather revealing conversation with Jay Garmon, Fred Kiesche, and Paul Weimer about Patreon, blogging, and being successful at both (Patrick Hester was also there, but he just wanted to talk about donuts...).  As you know, I have a Patreon page.  Over the last week or so, I've been wondering why it hasn't been more successful given that this blog does have a few hundred readers and that I think I'm providing good content for sf/f-minded folks.  Granted, I never expected anything nearly as successful as Kameron Hurley's $800-and-climbing Patreon page for obvious reasons:  she's selling fiction (I'm not, though I wish I were); she's sf/f famous (I'm kinda not really); and she has enough follows to drown a human being in a pool of bodies (I don't).  But I thought it might be a little more successful.

So, I started asking questions on Twitter to see why that might be.  Fred and Jay were the most vocal speakers on the subject, and each imparted upon me a set of core ideas that I realized I had never really addressed:
  • There must be a focus (what you're interested in beyond some generalized "thing")
  • There must be a "hook" (what makes it different from everything else)
  • There must be a reason for reading (why should anyone care what you think)
It dawned on me, then, that I didn't have a focus.  This blog covers just about everything:  books, movies, TV, comics, SF/F controversies, writing, and other rambles.  It isn't really about anything except in the broadest sense.  It's about SF/F, which is sort of like saying "this is a blog about sports."  And in trying to be about SF/F, I've created something that is about too many darn things. 

For one man, that's kind of ridiculous.  After all, I am not, which can talk about dozens of things because it has dozens of contributors.  I am not SF Signal, which can do the same.  I am not Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together, Fantasy Faction, SF Site, and so on and so forth.  But I'm also not Adam Werthead, who covers bits of sf/f news, or Ian Sales, who maintains SFF Mistressworks, or Foz Meadows, who provides in-depth criticism of media and SF/F events from a particular feminist perspective, or Kameron Hurley, who does the same, and so on and so forth.  I am trying to do all the things but essentially not doing any one (or two) thing(s) particularly well.

That's been a huge problem for this blog.  I have so many interests that I want to do so many different projects.  But I don't have time to cover everything I want to cover in a year, and so I end up sort of half-ass covering a few of the things I love.  The SFF Film Odyssey should have been completed last year, but I'm still inching my way along because I never focused on it.  All these side columns are great ideas, but for one person, they're kind of impossible to manage if you have two teaching jobs and a PhD to finish.  Don't get me started on my lackluster reviewing habits...

So I started thinking about what I wanted to do as a blogger, what I wanted to do as a podcaster, and what I wanted to do as a writer and Patreon user.  And it came to me that maybe it's time for something to change around here.  Maybe this blog has been stagnant for so long because I didn't know how to make it better or to move on to the next thing or to focus on anything.  I wanted to do all the things and I couldn't admit to myself that, well, I just can't.  I can't do all the things.

Now I have ideas.  Many of them.  And I would love your input if you're a reader of this blog.  Here are some disjointed thoughts on what I might do for the future:
  • The Thinning Package:
    • Open a new page which will focus on a specific thing (SF/F Film Odyssey type stuff, for example)
    • Change WISB to a personal webpage for my writing self (still sf/f-ish, but not focused in the same way)
    • Move most of my review-related blogging to The Skiffy and Fanty Show blog
  • The Shifting Package:
    • Move my SF/F Film Odyssey and film-relate stuff to the Totally Pretentious blog and run a specific act there (something like the SF/F Film Odyssey on a regular basis)
    • Change WISB to a personal webpage and a space for critical reflections on genre happenings (which would otherwise be poorly suited to The Skiffy and Fanty Show blog)
    • Move everything else to S&F as above
  • The Ultra Thinning Package:
    • Kill everything I'm currently doing on WISB and shift my focus to one specific, regularly occurring thing (SF/F Film Odyssey type stuff, perhaps)
    • Move reviews to S&F as above
    • SF/F criticism mostly disappears because S&F isn't really the place for my ranting nonsense.
  • Note:  obviously, I need to get this darn website off of Blogger and into something that looks, well, up to date for the year we're actually in.
Those are just some ideas.  I don't have the answers yet because I haven't a clue what do.  I'm only just beginning to think about how to change what I'm doing to make it better, not just in terms of the quality, but also in terms of my ability to "do" it.  And I'm still not certain what I want to do when I set down a focus, except that I think it would be stupid of me to leave out my academic side.  What I do know at this moment is that I can't do everything, even if I would like to.  I just don't have the resources, and I think trying to do too many things is ultimately damaging my ability to do anything else well.

The comments are now yours.  Do let me know what you think about the content, my ideas for the future, and so on and so forth.


P.S.:  John Stevens and I talked about a project called Opera Fantastika many months ago.  It sadly went the way of the dodo.  I still love the title, though.

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  1. Shifting package.

    If you are looking to focus, you want to focus this blog on it, but you love other things, too. Move those things you love to the venue most suited for them (TP or S&F) and keep this for what you want to focus on

    1. Which is the big question: if I focus everything down to its specific points (movies for TP, book reviews for S&F, etc.), what does *this* blog become? What becomes its topic?

    2. Whatever your passion is that doesn't fit into the other two? Essays on genre, perhaps?

    3. That's one possibility. Keep this blog for my SF/F ranting shenanigans, and move everything else (in specific form) to the other blogs.

  2. Yeah, I go with Shifting Package too. I like how it organizes things. It also creates some clarity for where you're putting your efforts.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, John :)

  3. I think you need to take a step further back before figuring out what to do. What are your specific goals in this, and related, how do you define success?

    For example - the emphasis on Patreon at the beginning implies that your goal is to 'make money' and that you would define success as making 'enough' money.

    That's a fine goal to have, if that is your goal. And if that's the case, then you are essentially selling something. So, the product needs to high in quality and/or unique. You need to make it worth people's money. The problem arises (as with most web-based approaches) with the fact that you've been 'giving away this product for free' up until now. So, significant rebranding is needed (which goes to the ideas you float above).

    If your goal is not monetary and success is not defined by an amount of money earned, then you need to forget about Patreon (not abandon necessarily, just not focus on it all). and figure out what your goals are and how success is defined (more readers? winning a Hugo? publishing a novel? etc.).

    so, I don't think I can point to one of those options you list as better than another without first understanding what your gals are and what your metric(s) of success are.

    1. The point about Patreon is well taken. I think that's what sparked me to think about what I'm doing here and elsewhere, but I don't want to give the impression that my overriding goal is "to make money." It may be that "making money" is not ideal for the kind of thing I'm doing, or it may be that "making money" may just be secondary to doing something more focused.

      I'm obviously still thinking a lot of things through, but I appreciate all of your thoughts here.

    2. I should add that it would be *nice* to be able to make a significant amount of my yearly income doing something that I actually love doing, whether that be writing about movies/books/sf/f stuff or podcasting. I just don't know how to even do that.

  4. I have no preference except that I greatly value your SFF commentary (your "ranting nonsense" if you will ;) ) and would like to see it continue in some form on some site.

    1. I appreciate that. I don't want to stop doing SFF commentary, but I do think something has to change to give what I'm doing more focus so it's just just a hodgepodge of stuff.

  5. If you want to do the Patreon thing, I'd suggest the Thinning package. If you aren't wedded to being paid, I'd do the Shifting Package.

    Also, I note in the Twitter threads that spawned this you said you wouldn't do Patreon for Skiffy and Fanty because it would disqualify you for fancast awards. To my mind, that's a poor reason. You should never get into a content venture looking for awards; that's a path to madness.

    If Skiffy & Fanty is what you love best, and where you feel you do your best work, there's no shame in trying to make a (side) living at what you adore. We should all be so lucky.

    1. There are a lot of complications w/ Skiffy and Fanty. First is that while I don't sit around constantly hoping to win a Hugo (the award we wouldn't be eligible for if we earned too much on Patreon, etc.), I don't want to be left out of that conversation either. There's an interest for me in preserving what is actually a "fan venture" versus something which is not. I have no problem with earning money podcasting, but I would much rather do that via a venture that isn't explicitly a fan venture. That's not to suggest I couldn't be convinced to monetize S&F, though.

      Second, while S&F is "mine" in a literal sense (I'm the only remaining creator who is active on the show), it is not "mine" in a real sense. I co-run the show with a bunch of other people. Monetizing the show can't be just "my" decision, since I feel more like an equal partner than the grand dictator of the show. So if I did monetize, it would be in conversation with my co-host with the possibility that revenues would be equally split or allocated in other manners or what have you. That could get complicated (or not, depending on what people think).

      I *do* want to do more podcasts. I could talk with David about monetizing Totally Pretentious to justify making it a bigger show than just "once a month movie discussion." Since I love movies so damn much, that's something I'd certainly want to do. And I do want to do a writing podcast some day (that's on my Patreon page). But I don't have the time for three podcasts. That's a lot of work for a single person who works two jobs (three if you count the PhD...which doesn't pay).

      So, yeah, podcasting is complicated. I love it, though. I would podcast forever if I could make a good living babbling about movies or books for the rest of my life.