Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Let's See ... Am I Michael A. Banks or Iain M. Banks?

Back in 2003 I wrote a book about being a fulltime writer. The publisher gave it the descriptive, if basic, title How to Become a Fulltime Freelance Writer.

The publisher was The Writer Books, which Kalmbach Books had bought some time before I contracted to write the book. After my book was in print for about a year, Kalmbach found that it just couldn't sell how-to books on writing. (Writer's Digest Books pretty much owned the market.) So Kalmbach dropped The Writer Books line and my title with it in 2004.

Even though it's out of print, you will still find How to Become a Fulltime Freelance Writer for sale at Amazon, because Kalmbach sold the stock it had left to another publisher. Almost from the beginning, there have been troubles with this arrangement. For openers, I make no money from the arrangement because I've already been paid the royalty on the copies being sold. The Amazon listing carried the wrong cover image. I got that fixed, and then the new "publisher" put different pubisher names on the Amazon listing. I got that corrected. That was corrected for a time, but now the wrong image is back.

But here's an even bigger blunder (or a prank): sometime in the past few months someone changed the author's name to "Iain Banks." Iain is a bestselling science fiction writer who lives in Scotland, and the author of classics like Consider Phlebas. and The Algebraist. (He sometimes writes as Iain M. Banks, though the "M" does not stand for "Michael.")

Should I be up in arms? I'm not so sure; putting Iain's name on the listing has quadrupled the book's sales. But perhaps I could perk up the sales of The eBay Survival Guide and some of my older books by making Iain the author. (Iain: I'll even give you a cut, brother!)

(I'll stop short of doing that with my New York times bestseller. I did write it, and I've already suffered from someone trying to steal the credit. And I haven't been paid for all the work I did on that book.)

Back to How to Become a Fulltime Freelance Writer, I can imagine the reactions of people who saw the listing: "A book on writing by Iain Banks? I'm all over that!" And then the reaction when they get the book and find out it's not really by Iain Banks ... Oops! But hey, folks: it's still a how-to, based on the experience of a New York Times bestselling author. So keep it and read it--and let me know what you think. I'm working on a revised edition.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Here I am at one of two B. Dalton signings I did on Sunday, December 23. Although the crowds didn't quite equal last December's crush, it was all fun. As with all the signings I do, I collected stories for my next book from several folks who stopped in to talk about Crosley and Blogging Heroes. This emphasizes how important it is for a writer to get out and talk to people, beyond getting out for its own sake. (Speaking of stories, who remembers "Save cash with Kash?")

Thanks to Art Metzger, Sherry, Linda, and Mel from B. Dalton. And thanks to Sonny Moormon and Carmen Moorman for stopping by. Hope to see you all in July and August, when new books are out!

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Am Interviewed About Blogging Heroes by Nano

Recently I was interviewed by Ido Hartogsohn for Nano, one of Israel's largest news sites. You can read the interview in Hebrew here. Here's the text in English:
You call your book Blogging Heroes. What are blogging heroes? What makes one into a blogging hero?

As a title, Blogging Heroes was suggested by my publisher, Joe Wikert. To follow up on the theme the title implies, I looked for bloggers who were admirable in various ways. Like any hero, a blogging hero would have to be someone others want to emulate.

How did you choose the bloggers to participate in your book?

I chose the bloggers based on several criteria. First, I looked at the most popular sites, those most favorited at Technorati, for example. But I didn’t want the book to be just the words from those who attracted the largest numbers of readers. I also looked for bloggers whose blogs other bloggers blogged about. BoingBoing.net and Engadget.com are just two examples.

And I looked beyond my own personal interests for blogs to include. ParentDish.com is one of those. My own children are grown and I have no grandchildren, so parenting isn’t exactly a big interest for me, but I know many of the book’s readers have young children. Similarly, I included InternetDuctTape.com and The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW.com) because hundreds of thousands of readers follow those blogs.

I had several goals in putting this book together. First, I wanted to make sure that the book wasn’t top-heavy with technical subjects. Second, I felt it was important to include as many women as I could. I would have liked to have included more women, but many didn’t get back to me when I tried to set up interviews (true of many male bloggers, too). They may have been too busy blogging to talk about blogging. But there are a good number of female bloggers who have something to say; perhaps there’s a book there.

Finally, I looked for unusual blogs--blogs that didn’t confine themselves to gadgets and computers and hobby interests. Deborah Petersen’s Life in the Fast Lane (http://www.lifeinthefastlane.ca) is one of those. So are PostSecret.com and LongTail.com.

Was there a common denominator between the blogging advices the different bloggers you interviewed gave? Do you have a few popular ideas to mention? Is there a formula for a popular blog?

The common denominator in advice was to blog about your passion--something in which you are intensely interested. Other tips from the bloggers in the book involve persistence and blogging regularly (don’t disappear for a few weeks, then return and expect your readers to still be there). Dave Taylor (askdavetaylor.com) emphasized the importance of participating in other blogs. (At the same time, Chris Anderson of longtail.com told me he doesn’t comment on others’ blogs.)

The formula for a popular includes all of those things, and many more subtle concepts--some unique to this or that blogger. But all recommend patience, more or less “If you build it, they will come” mindset. More than one blogger stated that someone starting a blog now should expect to wait a year before seeing substantial traffic.

Who surprised you?

First and foremost was Frank Warren, of PostSecret.com. Frank has an intense dedication to this project--and he doesn’t view it as a moneymaking project or a freak show. He treats the secrets with respect, which is one reason he doesn’t have ads or otherwise try to monetize PostSecret.com. He has been granted an important public trust, and handles it that way.

I was also surprised by Deborah Petersen (lifeinthefastlane.ca), who also doesn’t try to monetize her blog. She covers such a wide range of subjects and spends dozens of hours each week blogging. She researches every post as if she was writing on assignment for National Geographic or The London Times. She is really dedicated.

Robert Scoble keeps up with over 700 different blogs--wow!

Chris Anderson wrote this very entertaining paragraph about the book's winning strategy:
This is very clever. First, Banks created a book by appealing to the vanity of bloggers, which is always a safe bet. Second, the book is mostly just those interviews with a few paragraphs of introductory text and talking points at the end. User-generated content! ... Wiley is giving away the book in small chunks, harnessing the combined distribution (and ego) of the prominent bloggers that are featured in the book. Each of us promotes the book to promote ourselves, and the book gets the collective blog buzz. Others who have done what I'm doing in promoting their own chapter include
Mark Frauenfelder at BoingBoing, David Rothman at TeleBlog and Steve Garfield.

Very clever indeed.. :) Any comment on that? Was that kind of winning strategy in your mind when you decided to write the book?

The idea of promoting the book via the blogs it covers was a natural one, but it didn’t come along until after I started interviewing subjects. The way Chris and some others have described it, it’s promotion by ego. It seems to be working; sales are really good with the book out just two weeks now, and there’s lots of favorable response to the chapters and excerpts that have been posted. In addition to the chapters posted by the various bloggers, there are excerpts at http://www.theaveragejob.com, and I frequently post summaries and interesting quotes from the bloggers at my Real Writing Life blog, which is at http://mikebanks.blogspot.com.

You also used a pretty interesting marketing method, allowing bloggers to publish chapters from the book on their site. What was the idea there, and aren't you afraid that it will stop people from buying the book when they can get it online?

I think the interviews (and, in all modesty, the biographies and background information I wrote) are so interesting that people will want to have it all in a convenient format they can refer to often. Which is the hardcopy book itself.

Getting someone else to place chapters on popular, high-traffic Web sites is of course an obvious marketing device, perhaps the best way to get buzz started. I’m waiting to see others do the same thing. We’ve had blogs turn into books, and books turn into blogs, but this is the first time that multiple blogs have promoted a single product in concert. I guess we could call it “distributed book promotion.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blogging as Practical Politics?

A while back, Amazon added a feature that displays a book's rank in the top 100 titles in specific categories. I wasn't surprised to see Blogging Heroes show up frequently among the top 100 Internet Books. But it was a bit of a surprise to find myself at No. 7 in the Politics/Practical Politics category--one ahead of P.J. O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores.

My only real experience with politics was holding a low-level elected office twice in the 1980s. I happen to live in the small town where O'Rourke attended college; maybe that's more relevant.

It's interesting to see things go in directions you hadn't considered. And I'm certain that blogging will be an important tool in the coming elections.

Blogging Heroes Excerpt in Blogger & Podcaster Magazine

The December issue of Blogger & Podcaster magazine has an excerpt from Blogging Heroes. The excerpt is the interview with Peter Rojas of Engadget. The magazine bills it as "an interview in a book excerpt." Click here to have a look; the layout is nice, and the opening page carries Pete's photo. This interview presents an interesting viewpoint on SEO--one that's shared by successful bloggers throughout the book.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Last Sunday's Signing at Borders

(Photos courtesy Tom Miller)
Many thanks to Borders in Mason, Ohio, for hosting a signing for Blogging Heroes and Crosley this past Sunday, December 16. We had a great turnout, and Tom Miller brought in his 1948 Crosley wagon.

That's me in the top photo, at the signing table wit my books and Crosley Reds shirt at the signing table. Behind me is Marjorie of Borders. The photo below shows my view from the signing table. (Click either photo for full-size image.)

As you can see, the Crosley is just about the biggest car you could get into the entryway! Click here for photos of the car inside the store!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Congratulations, Susan!

Congratulations to my daughter, Susan Banks, who graduates with her degree in Social Anthropology from Northern Kentucky University on December 15!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Looking for Blogging Heroes Intervews Online?

Click here to read The Long Tail author Chris Anderson's comments on my new book, Blogging Heroes. You can sample chapters at The Long Tail blog, Mark Frauenfelder's BoingBoing.net, and video blogger Steve Garfield's Off on a Tangent.

To see some fascinating quotes from the interviews and a good summary, click here. This will take you to the Blogging Heroes listing page at Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Books Cause the Darnedest Things--Sometimes

A while back AuctionBytes ran an article I wrote about how books can affect the price and volume of merchandise on eBay. That had to do with how the Crosley book seems to have had an effect on the sales and prices of certain items on eBay.

Earlier this week I encountered another phenomenon apparently caused by the publication of Crosley. I was checking some records in the online genealogy section of Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery, where Powel Crosley and many of his family are interred. When I did a search for the name "Powel Crosley," none came up. Powel's wife, brother, mother, and others are there, but Powel, his father (Powel, Sr.), son Powel, III, and grandson Powel, IV were no longer listed."Might this be the result of the Crosley book?" I asked myself, thinking the popularity of this book may have led to too many queries for Crosley.

I contacted Phil Nuxhall, the official historian of Spring Grove Cemetery, and Phil consulted with the company's Webmaster. The four Powel Crosleys are now restored. There had been a problem with the fact that each was listed with a variant of the last name: Crosley Jr, Crosley IV, and so on. Now you can find them at http://www.springgrove.org/sg/genealogy/sg_genealogy_home.shtm

This sort of thing has happened in the past, notably with songs, like Wilson Pickett's "634-5789," among others. In the case of the song, telephone companies hosting that number had to shut it down.

If you want more information about the Crosley family plot (Section 17, Lot 6 at Spring Grove), see Find a Grave. You can also leave virtual flowers and a comment.
--Mike at michaelabanks dot com

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Signing in Mason this Sunday, December 16!

I'll be signing both Blogging Heroes and CROSLEY this Sunday, DECEMBER 16, from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM at Borders in Mason, Ohio. Click here for directions.

Mason is the home of WLW's transmitter and famous Blaw-Knox diamond antenna tower. You can see it as you drive into town.

Come on out: I'll have some special free handouts for everyone, whether you buy a book or not! Bring a copy to be signed, or buy a copy for your Crosley fan friends or blogging relatives as a holiday gift!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Radio Changes

I've been interviewing a number of people in the broadcast business, in connection with a book I'm writing. I've collected an interesting set of opinions on where radio is going--AM radio in particular. Just about everyone I talked with expressed the thought that the AM radio talk show with its "angry white men" has been overdone, and that something new is going to emerge. Problem is, nobody can say what that might be.

Thinking about it, one of the reasons the call-in talk show format got popular is because it is live programming. Radio listeners didn't just start demanding people screaming and saying shocking things--though many of them were certainly looking for a way to get on radio and speak their piece. I believe that the live element is what grabbed listener interest. Consider the success of Gary Burbank on WLW. He's not one of the angry white men--but he is live.

Live programming is, of course, where radio started. It makes one wonder if more live programming--of a different type--is waiting in the wings as the angry white men duplicating one another's shtick fall away. It seems as if everything comes back if you wait long enough ...

For some interesting background on all this, have a look the book Something in the Air, by Marc Fisher. You'll find my review of the book here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blogging Heroes Now Shipping

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are now shipping Blogging Heroes.

Several reviews and interviews are scheduled in various media. One of the first reviews is by Joel Comm, here at Amazon. Joel is the author of The Adsense Code and is one of the book's subjects. In his interview, he has quite a bit to say about blogging and how to put Google Adsense to work. Have a look at Joel's Web site and The Adsense Code, too.
--Mike http://www.michaelabanks.com/

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cincinnati Radio Archives

There are precious few audio archives from the heyday of Crosley Broadcasting, from the 1920s through the 1940s. A lot of what exists isn't available, including The Nation's Station: Cincinnati Radio (1921-1941) (an important resource when I was researching Crosley).

Fortunately, WGUC, Cincinnati's public radio station, makes available two great audio archive/tribute CDs. (And they have great prices--at least ten bucks less than I've seen one of these for sale at eBay and Amazon.com.) Shown above, the CDs are:


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Blogging Heroes in Bookstores This Week!

My author copies of Blogging Heroes arrived Friday. This means the book will show up in your local bookstore this week. (Amazon starts delivering copies on December 5.)

It's a good-looking book. Michael Trent did a fine job on the jacket design. The green type on the the covers almost glows in the dark, and the endflaps are distinctively different. Inside the book, and design and layout support the text wonderfully. Click on the image above to get an idea of the layout, full-size.

The illustrations (images of blogs and other interesting items) came through fine, and it has a decent index. At just over 300 pages, Blogging Heroes is a good-size hardcover. Pick up a copy and let me know what you think.
P.O. Box 175, Oxford, OH 45056