Saturday, November 1, 2014

Grow or die- the evolution of a group blog

There is a saying, “If you don’t grow, you die.”  I believe that.  And I believe that growth involves evolution, or simply put, change. 

A few months ago original novelnaughts, Liane, KeVin, Marissa, and I did a podcast interview with LaShaunda Hoffman of Sormag.  It was all about Novelspaces blog.  One of the questions she asked was how is it that Novelspaces group blog is still going strong after five years when so many group blogs have arisen and disappeared in that time.  The answer that was given is that Novelspaces is a drama-free zone where the authors involved actually like and respect each other.  While that is true, now that I’ve had a few months to meditate on it, I think another reason for the success of our blog is our ability to grow and evolve; the ability to change with the time.

Five years ago when the group first started, most of the members were traditionally published.  The blog posts had a lot of discussion about writing, writers’ lives, office space, experiences being published, storytelling, editing and organization.  There was a lot of information about the writing process and writing as a craft which reflected where we were at that time.  There was also a pervading almost elitist view that traditionally published authors were more “validated” than indie authors.  And as for vanity presses: frowned upon.

A few years ago I started seeing a shift in blog posts.  As authors left and were replaced by others we saw more Indie authors sign on.  We saw some who previously questioned the authenticity of indie publishing going that route.  We saw traditionally published books being re-released independently as rights were reverted.  But more telling is the tone of the blog.  We saw quite a few posts validating indie authors, and extolling the advantages of going the indie route.  As a group, novelspacers were evolving.

Today I see a lot of posts about marketing and promoting.  That tells us a few things: 
1.    The changes in requirements of an author
 Whether indie published or traditionally published authors are expected to market themselves.  Once ago a traditionally published author wrote the book, submitted the manuscript and the publishers took on the marketing and promoting.  Now even with the major publishing houses, the author has to do a hefty portion of the marketing and promotion.

2.    Where novelspace authors are in their careers
Both those of us who are traditionally published and those who were originally indie authors have now in some way or other dappled in publishing whether it is independent or small press.  We no longer see writing as merely a hobby, but as a career whether we hold other jobs full time or part time.

3.    It is a reflection of the diversity we now find among novelspaces authors
Just like in the larger universe of authors, novelspaces authors are not only writers.  We are writers, publishers, illustrators, promoters and marketing specialist.  Sometimes one person wears so many hats it’s tough to distinguish the different offices.  It also tells of the complexity of the authors’ roles in today’s market.

I also see a lot of posts about social media.  A few years ago, the prevailing Novelspaces view of social media seemed to be that of a ‘time sink” where people were too distracted by it, many claiming they had to disable their internet in order to write.  Quite a few authors told of their discomfort using social media because they were private persons.  Since then I’ve seen discussions of social media as a marketing tool.  Many extol its use as a marketing tool, but I can see some people already questioning its effectiveness.  Is that an indicator for the future of social media in marketing?

The point about all these observations is that the success of Novelspaces as a group blog lies in its ability to evolve.  I’ve seen the evolution and that evolution reflects the changing markets, the changing roles of authors, the changing perceptions.  The reason why we have not collapsed is because we as a group have grown. 

“If you don’t grow, you die.”  The parallel cliché is “if you don’t evolve, you become extinct.”  Novelspaces didn’t die, we didn’t become extinct, because we've grown, we've matured and we've evolved.

What say you? Do you agree?  I would love to hear your take on this.


Charles Gramlich said...


Liane Spicer said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Jewel. I'm reading your post and realizing just how much evolving I've done, and the group has done. Initially all members were traditionally published, and back then we were even cautious about having self-published authors as guests.

How times have changed. Several of us have become hybrid authors, and I credit former member Lynn Emery with helping to change my mindset, Kevin Killiany for taking the plunge ahead of me, William Doonan for sharing what worked for him and what didn't, all those trad pubbed bloggers who shared their stories and showed the rest of us how to go about taking control of our publishing careers, and Novel Spaces members for the camaraderie, support, example and fellowship.

Here's to continued growth and development! This post touched a nerve for me, Jewel. I often feel like I'm driving blind when it comes to publishing, but your overview has provided a bit of much-needed perspective.

Lynn Emery said...

Glad I could help Liane! :)

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks Liane. When I first wrote this post I was hoping that I wasn't stating the obvious. I'm glad it had a positive impact.

Oh yes Liane, I remember. We were quite wary of self-published authors, but that was the mindset of the times. It highlights how much the publishing industry has changed.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Lynn, I agree with Liane, when you signed on and had several posts showing the advantages of self-publishing, and the fact that you were a hybrid, made a big impact.

Now we have a much more diversity in Novelspaces.

Carrie Butler said...

I agree! My group blog (NA Alley) recently had a re-launch with big changes, and it certainly helped. :)

Jewel Amethyst said...

Hi Carrie, welcome to Novelspaces. I will definitely checkout that blog. Changes can boost a blog. This year we at Novelspaces made a few changes as well and I feel that has invigorated many of our participants.

One of the great things about this blog is that every year on our anniversary, we evaluate where we are and where we want to be and we make adjustment to schedules, bloggers, themes, topics etc. It helps.

KeVin K. said...

Early on the intervention of Ann Crispin, a mentor who became a friend (and co-founder of Writer Beware), saved me from learning firsthand how destructive the vanity presses are and I did conflate indie publishing with the vanities for at least the first year of Novel Spaces. During that time I strongly opposed the inclusion of indies.

Though my animus toward the parasites that feed on the dreams of writers burns as hotly as ever, I've become a strong believer in the validity - and advantages - of indie publishing. Not to mention the cooperative indie efforts of writers-turned-small-publishers who help other writers into the field. (I shuttered Kvaad Press after my twenty+ interactions with nascent authors who had quixotic ideas on grammar and deeply held convictions the m-dash is the only useful punctuation mark who were outraged by any suggestion of editing - often escalating to apoplectic at the suggestion that should be paid for the service. Evidently I don't know how to work with writers. However, I'm currently working quite happily with small press founded and run by a wife and husband writing team - who continue to write - and highly recommend that anyone who - as I do - lacks the publishing temperament seek out similar cooperative publishers.)

Growth, change, and adaptability - along with a drama-free mutual respect among the authors - are all vital to the health and wellbeing (not to mention continued relevance and usefulness) of a group blog.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Well said KeVin. And there are still vanity presses who prey on unsuspecting newbies and give little in return for the efforts of these authors.

But small cooperative publishers can be a good option for authors who desire to go indie, but either lack the confidence, resources or marketing discipline required (or publishing temperament.

For my latest book I have gone with the small publisher. You know her, she's a novelnaught too. I find this experience great because I am much more involved in all aspects of the book and I'm loving it.

Sunny Frazier said...

I LOVE THIS POST! Not exactly sure how Liane found me, but have been grateful to be included. I never knew the background of the group but thought it was always all-embracing of authors published in any way. I promote Novel Spaces and it is the only blog I participate in besides Buried Under Books.

Liane Spicer said...

Sunny, I think John Brantingham or William Doonan asked you to do a guest post for us initially, and I liked your positivity and energy.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks Sunny. We are all definitely happy to have you as part of Novelspaces. You bring the kinds of insight into the publishing/marketing world that this blog really needs. I can say I've learned so much about the non-writing part of being an author from you and I'm sure most readers of your posts have as well.

And Like Liane says, I love your energy and your tongue-in-cheek humor.