Five days ago, I launched a crowdfunding campaign, at Indiegogo, for my forthcoming book Be a Better Blogger. Learning by doing is sometimes a painful exercise, and my progress, or lack of it, is a textbook case of what not to do.
My campaign is off to a much slower start than anticipated, generating just two donations for $60 in contributions. Thank you, both. You’re my heroes. I had hoped the book’s topic would generate interest among bloggers, journalists, and PR professionals at the least. I sent out mass emails to them and contacted family and friends, but too few of the latter.
Part of the problem: I violate one of my longstanding principles, not that I invented it: Keep it Simple, Stupid. My crowdfunding pitch isn’t KISS, it’s the kiss of death. Who would want to read the 1,500-word diatribe? I ask too much of potential contributors by sharing too much information.
Perhaps sign of my frak-up: The Campaign’s only commenters want to sell me marketing services.
So today, I soft relaunch the campaign, by adopting the less-is-more principle. The new pitch begs more for money and creates greater mystery. Please click through, read the new pitch, and, please, contribute.
What follows is the original pitch, which I immortalize as example what not to do.
THE ORIGINAL PITCH:
What if you could change how news is reported, becoming a participant in the process rather than just being a reader?
What if as a blogger or journalist, you could greatly improve your writing, build better audience loyalty, and align your work habits with how the news industry is today rather than what the decaying status quo wants it to remain?
My forthcoming book Be a Better Blogger promises to reach these lofty achievements.
I’m Joe Wilcox. I bring two decades of editing and reporting skills to what I call online contextual journalism. My career started in print but moved to writing exclusively online when CNET News hired me to staff its Washington, DC, bureau in May 1999. I later worked as an analyst for Jupiter Research, then edited and managed the Apple Watch and Microsoft Watch blogs for Ziff Davis Enterprise. More recently, I am BetaNews executive editor.
Why I Write This Book
Journalism is a sacred trust. But since the 2008 stock market crash, too often the Fourth Estate fails its responsibility to provide accurate, timely news reporting. Particularly in 2010 and 2011, old-guard publications laid off experienced—and often costly—editors and reporters, rehiring some as contractors for a fraction of their original pay. More commonly, younger and less-seasoned professionals replaced the old. A promising 2013-14 trend: New startups hiring veteran journalists, with focus on quality news reporting.
But a looming reality casts dark shadows across the news landscape. Advertising revenues recede, and the amount of free content increases. Reporting standards weaken in pursuit of pageviews and higher search ranking. So-called link-baiting and news aggregation lead writers to stray. It’s a bloodbath; accuracy is the murder victim and readers are the wonted next of kin.
Rampant rumormongering replaces factual reporting. Tech coverage is glaring example of rumor too often masquerading as news. Many bloggers don’t know any better, while too many professional journalists forgo their training. There is too much pressure on everyone to deliver more stories in less time, while many blogs or news sites make posting first for best placement on Google News priority over soundly sourcing stories. The writers are hamsters running wheels to nowhere.
The Fourth Estate is collateral damage of the Google “free economy”, that is giving away valuable content subsidized by advertising to get high search ranking. Problem: There is too much content, and too much of it alike, for advertising to support. Excessive ad space means lower page rates and greater competition for advertising. As such, Search Engine Obsession is a lose-lose enterprise too often pursued—that is except for Google, which wins big revenues and soaring stock price.
Something has to change. The remedy requires reeducation and adaptation—back-to-basic writing and reporting skills applied to contextual content consumption. Be a Better Blogger is a tome for our times. I bring more than 20 years experience as analyst, editor, and reporter to the book. But I can’t get Triple B to market alone. I need your help to fund this important project.
Perks include Series 4 Android Collectibles. They’re blind boxes so your figure is a mystery until opened.
How We Can Help One Another
I have set an initial $7,500 goal, which is about half of what I would like to raise. But this is my first crowdfunding project, and I follow Indiegogo’s advice to start small. Raising money comes with service costs. If I fail to reach the goal, Indiegogo takes 9 percent, while another 3 percent goes to processing contributions. Should the project fully fund, Indiegogo returns 5 percent, making its take just 4 percent.
Every dollar over the goal will help make Triple B a better book. Some of the funds will go to support my writing, while other contributions will be used for production and marketing. The campaign also will support website setup costs for Bunny Bows Press, which is my independent-publishing brand.
Additionally, I would like to hire an illustrator and copyeditor. The current goal doesn’t support printing; besides, paper and ink feel out of place for a work solely focused on online content. Funding—how close to the goal, or even beyond it—is crucial to making fast progress completing Triple B and offering more to you the reader.
Perks are your incentive, and they will get better as the campaign advances. Most perks will deliver as soon as the goal is reached or the funding period closes, whichever comes first, except for those directly related to Triple B’s publication. Tentative book release is May 1, or one month earlier if I double the goal (which would allow me to exclusively work on Be a Better Blogger).
What Triple B Brings
While the title is about blogging, the book is meant for anyone who wants to write well and responsibly. Be a Better Blogger is a practical, realistic guide. You won’t find any advice on Search Engine Obsession—ah, Optimization. Forget keywords! Editors and writers should craft headlines that catch people’s attention, not Google’s. Audience-building strategies should focus on reader loyalty rather than editor or writer loyalty to Google search. There, old-school tabloids can teach writers much.
The book creatively applies past principles of good editing, writing, and storytelling to future-now. Bloggers and news reporters should aggressively and quickly write, posting as rapidly as possible. But they should also accurately report and properly source stories, writing as an ongoing process and making original content the top priority. Be a Better Blogger explains how to write right for what authors Shel Israel and Robert Scoble call the Age of Context.
In the newspaper era, a story needed to be fairly complete before printing, because changes were near to impossible afterwards. Online reporting is more like television news, where information changes as the breaking story unfolds. The responsibility of a blogger, journalist, or whomever is to write what he or she knows to be true at the moment, based on reliable sourcing. That changes as stories unfold. In the Internet era, reporting is a process—and the story is bigger than the topic. Commenters are part of the process and in many instances they are the most interesting part of the storytelling. In print, the story ends when published. Online, posting is just the storytelling’s start.
How about an Anne Wilcox Original for your perk? The handmade earrings are pewter and stone with sterling silver hooks (promise!); the beads are bone tone, but additional colors are available on request.
Be a Better Blogger offers real examples of superlative storytelling and its opposite—bad form, of which there is over-abundance. Triple B also explains how to write:
- Captivating, affirmative headlines
- Compelling, original content
- Provocative, active stories
So there is no misunderstanding, the book does not advocate the old-guard status quo. Contextual news reporting requires fresh thinking that takes some of the best past concepts and applies them to future-now. That said, some traditional news organizations, such as The Guardian, are gold standards for responsible reporting. Every news blogger or reporter should aspire to be like them, while embracing the new world order—where information is consumed anytime, anywhere, and on anything and where writers reach readers beyond their websites’ confines through services like Pinterest or Twitter.
Be a Better Blogger also advocates concepts that will disturb some long-time journalists or new-media bloggers, such as debunking “ethics statements” as licenses some writers use to justify conflicts of interest. The book also refutes the long-held belief that news reporting is objective. Bias is inevitable. Understanding, accepting, and dealing with this truth is vital for any news writer to write responsibly, to be accepted by readers, and to grow audience.
Some old-guard traditionalists may be unsettled by some affirmative examples, which include TechCrunch when run by Michael Arrington, Gawker Media, and The Verge. The first demonstrates reporting as a process. The second produces lots of original content with punchy headlines. The third adapts news to readers, such as changing a story’s presentation based on the operating system—an approach that caters to so-called fanboys. These three blogs bring many flaws, too, and Tripe B doesn’t ignore them.
Meanwhile Triple B introduces readers to several noteworthy startups that hire experienced news writers and promise to raise reporting standards, all while embracing contextual journalism.
Other perks include two of my ebooks, “Comic-Con Heroes” and “Chromebook Matters”, both published in 2013.
Why Do I Crowdfund?
In June, I opened a Kickstarter account, with plans to crowdfund Triple B. Instead, I first focused on writing four other ebooks, in order of publication: The Principles of Disruptive Design; Comic-Con Heroes; My Cat Wants to Know; and Chromebook Matters. The titles are available from all major ebookstores, but I link to Smashwords, which offers broadest number of formats. Being brutally honest, sales are much slower than I had hoped, in part because bringing these books to market I lacked the necessary financial resources, particularly for production and marketing.
Your contribution will allow me to make Be a Better Blogger a full-time project that is properly and formerly launched, while being visibly marketed.
Blogger John Biggs inspired me to choose Indiegogo over Kickstarter. He launched the campaign here for book Mytro and detailed his progress at TechCrunch. After doing additional comparative research, reviewing current and past campaigns, and discovering at Indiegogo incredibly valuable resources for crowdfunders, I kicked Kickstarter to the curb.
While I choose Flexible over Fixed funding, the option had little influence over my decision (Kickstarter is fixed only). My colleague Brian Fagioli describes Indiegogo as “cool”, which about sums up the appeal to me. Fluid funding is a bonus. Abiding by Indiegogo guidance, the option is right because Be a Better Blogger will be regardless of the campaign’s success.
If you are someone tired of reading crap news stores, Be a Better Blogger is the remedy. If you work for a company, particularly in the technology industry, and you are frustrated by inaccurate reporting about what your business does, Be a Better Blogger is worth your support. If you are a writer wanting to build audience and brand identity, or looking to do work for which you can feel proud, Be a Better Blogger is for you.
What You Can Do
Contributing funds helps, but perhaps you can’t or would like to do more. Please tell your family, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers about the Be a Better Blogger campaign. Spread the word! Please Tweet or Like this page. Quid pro quo: if you mention @joewilcox, I’ll retweet yours.
The core book is outlined, and a good chunk of the early research is complete. I begin full-time work concurrently with the campaign’s start. However, interviews with writers, publishers, academics, and other professionals will affect final tone and content. A good reporter follows the reporting, not his or her preconceptions. As such, some things will change (for the better) from my pitch.
During the hard interviewing process, you could contribute in other ways, such as sharing some of your ideas based on personal writing experience or introducing me to other potential sources.
Perhaps you or your company could donate appealing, or unique, perks. You could donate time, such as proofreading, copyediting, or coordinating a marketing campaign (I have no public relations experience). Money isn’t the only collateral valuable to the campaign or to supporting Triple B. You could even become a project team member.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can easily be reached by email: joe at bunnybows dot com.
Watch for updates! As I conduct interviews, I will post snippets to give a sense of the book’s progress and what you can expect from your generous contribution to Be a Better Blogger.