Friday, June 26, 2009

Interview with Darren Shan

Believe it or not, Ladies and Gentlemen, but Darren Shan is here! International Bestseller of two series of books, Shan has sold over 10 million copies of his books all around the world! With the last book, Hell's Heroes in the Demonata series coming out in October, a manga series for The Saga of Darren Shan and the first of a new four-book series due out in October 2010, Shan has kept himself very busy. That still doesn't stop him from blogging though, and today, that's what he's here to talk about.

STN: Hello Mr Shan. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions. So tell us, what do you blog about?

DS: Writing -- I try to provide as much insight into the working life of a writer as I possibly can, along with lots of hints and tips -- and also my day-to-day life.

STN: Do you think the blogging helps you with your career?

DS: Not particularly, no. It's fun for me, and hopefully for my fans, but it doesn't have much impact on sales, as far as I'm aware.

STN: How much feedback do you get from fans on your blog? Is it a good way to keep in touch, in your opinion?

DS: I get a nice few comments about most blogs. It's a nice way to keep in touch -- I think it makes me more real for fans, they can hear me moaning about power cuts at home, raving about films that I like, etc.

STN: What advice can you give to other bloggers to get noticed more?

DS: Don't worry about getting noticed -- I think, the harder you try, the less you'll succeed. Write for yourself, then just hope others are interested too.

STN: How do you decide what to talk about? It's not always as account of something in your day, is it?

DS:Sometimes it will be about what I'm working on, or something that happened to me, or I'll respond to a question that a fan asked in a letter or email.

STN: What can you tell newbies to blogging about how to do it? Does a personal blog like yours get a lot of traffic?

DS: It doesn't get huge amounts of traffic. Do it because you want to, for fun.

STN: What makes you want to blog?

DS: I used to keep a diary when I was younger. I stopped several years ago and have regretted it ever since. The blog is a way for me to keep a kind of diary which I can look back on in later years.

STN: I'll let you get back to your work now; anything you'd like to say to your adoring fans before you go?

DS: Keep on adoring!!!!!

:-)

Cheers,

Darren.

A million thank-yous to Mr Shan (sorry, I'm star-struck and can't call him "Darren"!) As you an imagine, with everything I've listed above, he's rather busy, so his answers are short and sweet. Better than no answers at all as far as I'm concerned!

Meanwhile, you can check out a review of his latest book, Dark Calling on my other blog by clicking this link. Don't forget to also check out his website, blog and Myspace!!

Coming up next week, an interview with a YouTube sensation, Charlie McDonnell (AKA charlieissocoollike!!)

Interview with Dan London

Welcome to the second of the Blog-Friday Interviews! (I just came up with that name on the spot, sorry!) With us here is Dan London, from Lulu.com's blog! Lulu.com is a self-publishing website that thousands of people have become familiar with and use frequently to get books, photo-books, CDs, DVDs and more into distibution, or just to have a personal copy of it. Dan's job is to make sure the public can follow what's going on!

STN: Hi Dan. What can you tell us about your job at Lulu.com?

Dan: I have been with Lulu since 2006 and have been in charge of all of our online marketing. This includes all of our Search Engine Optimization, Paid Search and display ads. I do a few other things, but those are my main responsibilities.

STN:How did you end up in charge of posting blogs in such a large company?

Dan: We had been running a Lulu blog on Lulu.com at one point, but I wanted us to launch one that gave us a bit more flexibility. By putting the blog on its own URL (www.lulublog.com), we get more visibility and have the ability to maximize our natural traffic. We have a social teamthat manages the blog now ( I am on that team).

STN: Do you have your own personal blog, or are you entirely based on Lulu.com? (If yes) What do you do with your own blog?

Dan: I do have my own blog (www.dan-london.com). My blog really has no set theme or posting schedule. I talk a bit about publishing, marketing and sports. I use it mainly to try to brand myself.

STN: What advantage does blogging have for the company?

Dan: We can get out messages that we want to convey to Lulu users pretty quickly using a blog. We recently had quite a few users pose questions about shipping and customer service. We used the blog to respond to some of the issues and the comment feature of the blog enables readers to pose questions they might have. We also use the blog for special promotions, how-to’s and to highlight content.

STN: How do you decide what's appropriate for the site?

Dan: We get together as a team once a week and discuss topics. Nick, the social team lead, is planning on a weekly post that will feature questions submitted by readers. We try to come up with topics that Lulu users would find interesting or helpful.

STN: What should businesses include in a blog? Is it always appropriate/necessary to have one, do you think?

Dan: A blog can be a great marketing tool as well as a way to communicate with customers. It isn’t necessary, but can make the process easier. What is included in a blog will depend upon the goals of the company. Some may use it to give the customers a bit of transparency into the company while others will use it to simply promote the business. We try to do a mix of both.

STN: What advice can you give to bloggers, new and established, to improve on quality and traffic?

Dan: Fresh and useful content is the key. If all the messages re strictly marketing focused, the readers will tune out. Try to write content that readers will want to share. Good content will get “Tweeted” and “Dugg” and the readership of the blog will increase.

Thanks again to Dan for the chance at an interview. Those links again are: www.lulublog.com and Dan's personal blog, www.dan-london.com. Don't forget to also check out Lulu.com for yourself, and follow Dan and Lulu on Twitter!

And the final of our three interviews this Friday? Well, it's none other than International Bestseller Darren Shan!!

Interview with The Book Smugglers

The Book Smugglers are a prime example of one of many topical blogs on the Internet, and something I've only recently come across myself, through the miracle of Twitter. The girls, Thea and Ana, review books pretty much non-stop. In this interview, you'll learn more about them, and topical blogging in general.

STN: Welcome! So tell us firstly about your site, for those of us who don't know.

Thea and Ana: Our blog is called The Book Smugglers and we are complete dorks when it comes to books. We read and buy so many we had to resort to getting the books delivered to our offices and then smuggling them home to avoid detection - hence our name. We review speculative fiction, romance, YA, Horror and are total TV and movie Geeks as well.

STN: You're one of many topical blogs on the Net; what inspired the creation?

Thea: It's all really Ana's fault. We'd met online at LOST forums (we are the hugest geeks, truly) and had been exchanging PMs for a while when we discovered that besides a love for time travel theories and Sawyer, we also shared another common passion: reading. What's more is, we both had similar experiences with buying books, and then smuggling them home (as to avoid snarky attitudes from our respective significant others)! One day, Ana PM'd me with the question: "Hey I'm gonna start a blog. You want in?"

To which of course I replied: "Sure, why not?"

I don't think either of us knew exactly what starting a blog entailed, and how it would grow to become a major part of our lives! As to what inspired Ana's PM, well, you'll have to ask her...

Ana: I had just started reading romance and going online to look for reviews when I discovered that there was “blogsphere” and I just knew I had to be a part of it. The rest, as they say, is history.

STN: How do you decide what to write about?

Thea and Ana: Well, we both knew we were passionate about books (passionate enough to spend obscene amounts of money on books and then to sneak them into our homes!), so it really was a no-brainer. We also, obviously, are pop-culture geeks (Hello, LOST obsession) and movie addicts, so we just had to work those into our content as well.

STN: What do you think the perks of blogging are, in general?

Thea: The early copies, and free books! That has to be my favorite perk - I never in a zillion years woulda thought that one day I'd be getting review requests from some of my favorite authors, and getting copies of their books for free. Weeks before their release date, no less! The other major perk would have to be actually getting to talk with some of my favorite authors. For example, this year I got to interview the lovely Patricia Briggs in PERSON. After nearly dying of a heart attack at the prospect, it was simply the coolest thing that has happened to me in 2009. I've been reading Patty's work since I was in middle school, so it was incredible to actually meet and have a conversation with her.

Ana: What Thea said. But I would also consider a perk of blogging, the rapport we get from other readers and the other bloggers that we’ve met along the way. We made some pretty cool friends!

STN: What about topical blogging? Does that not limit your selection of what to write about?

Thea and Ana: Not really...we I like to keep an open mind, and we'll post about a wide variety of topics and genres even though we are admittedly a Speculative Fiction & Romance book review blog. We write up posts about our favorite movies, zombies, sports, whatever. But we do try to stick to the reviews for the most part, which we suppose could be seen as limiting.

STN: What do you suggest people do to get more readers of their own?

Thea and Ana: Be yourself! Write about what you are passionate about; write in your own voice, and people will recognize and be attracted to that genuine honesty. Also, write and post frequently - not at the cost of quality, of course, but we do think that more frequent posts attract readers. When we started The Book Smugglers, we made a deal that we would post one review per person, per week. HAH! Now, we publish at least one post per day. It's a little hard to find the time, sometimes, but daily posts really make a difference.

Also, on a more technical side, use a feed consolidator like Feed Burner, and make sure to have your RSS subscription link in a visible and easily accessible location. If we see a blog that looks interesting, we'll subscribe to its feed and continue to read it - provided we don't have to hunt around for the feed. Little things like that can really help get your site more accessible and garner more readers.

STN: How about newbies to blogging? What can they do to start? What would encourage them to blog?

Thea and Ana: To start, we'd say first come up with a central idea or vision of what you want your blog to be. Video game cheats, cooking tips, book reviews, personal life stories, whatever - come up with a central theme, and stick to it. Come up with a catchy title that embodies this theme, and check out some of the awesome free templates that you can find through blogger or wordpress. Basically, again, write what you are passionate about. This will come through in your blog, and to potential readers! Blogging is wonderful in that it can connect you with other people who share the same passions and interests (for example, we don't know anyone in "real life" who reads as much as we do, and certainly not in the same genres - but thanks to blogging, we can share our thoughts and feelings on such books with other people who share the same interests).

Also, blogging is a hobby but like anything, you get what you put into it. There are times when we haven't wanted to read a certain book or when the last thing we wanted to do was write a review...but at the end of the day, it's worth every second.

STN: Thank you for your valuable time. Is there anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?

Thea and Ana: Thank you for having us over!!! It has been an honor!

Thanks again to the girls for participating! You can find the Book Smugglers at their official website and follow them on Twitter here!

Coming up next, an interview with Dan London from Lulu.com.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Twitter Survey

I've uploaded a survey onto monkeysurvery.com about Twitter. Even if you don't use Twitter, please partake in the survey - the idea is to see who uses it, what people who don't use it use, and what age group use (and don't use) it.

You can access the survey here but make sure to tell your friends too! Thanks!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Interview with Lipstick Royalty

Welcome, welcome! This is the first of the interviews that have been conducted, starting off with one for the ladies: an interview with Lipstick Royalty's Rachel Phipps and Amy Claire Thompson.

Lipstick Royalty is an online fashion magazine that became quite a hit among the 14-25 year old age group mainly in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and as far away as Indonesia. Based in Kent, Rachel runs the magazine during her spare time when she's not at school and writing. Picking up York school-girl Amy along the way, the pair became online stars with their readership, and kindly agreed to an interview (it helps to admit that we'd all become quite good friends well before this).

So, without further adieu, the interview!

STN: Welcome, Rachel and Amy, to Survive the Net! So tell us, Rachel, how did you come up with the idea behind Lipstick Royalty?

R: It was originally meant to be a fashion blog that I started because I was bored but it snowballed into a monthly zine with a print layout with the simple addition of magazine staff!

STN: How did you get involved, Amy?

A: Back in, God, it must be 2007, now, I was a bit of a Bebo geek. I'd always loved writing, and they'd just launched their 'authors' service, so I made full use of it to over-advertise my then dreadful writing. I went on all the authors' sites, and on one I spotted Rachel's advert. I remember that when I signed up, I told Rachel that I didn't want to do anything fashion-based. I've been fashion editor for over a year now, and I can't imagine myself doing anything else!

STN: How can people access the magazine, and when?

R: It's available as a free .PDF download from both the Myspace page and they can read back issues hosted in the archive on my personal blog!

(STN @ Reader: Rachel has recently added that the magazine can be read here: http://www.lipstickroyalty.com/ )

STN: What have been the highlights of the magazine for both of you?

R: I always have the same highlight - watching the issue of the magazine all come together after all of our hard work!

A: Definitely Clothes Show - that was amazing! It felt like a personal success, to have been able to get the tickets; it proved, to me, that the magazine was being taken seriously, and that people in the industry we work with didn't just see us as two stupid school girls with ambitions too big for their own good!

I also had the chance to interview a french jewelery designer, St├ęphane at fashionvictime.fr, along with Jenny, our Beauty Editor (who, by a bizarre twist of fate, is at Uni in the city where I live!). It was such a triumph of translation skills for both of us to have pulled it off - that felt good.

STN: Tell us about your Battlefront Campaign, Rachel. How did you get
involved in it?

R: I've finished my campaign actually, but it was called "Who Wants To Be A Size Zero Anyway" and I filmed a documentary following my campaign with Channel 4. When I had just started the magazine someone from Raw TV (the production company) sent me an email after reading about the positive body image ethos of the magazine, asking if I wanted to get involved. To state the obvious I said yes!

STN: Any plans for the future of Lipstick Royalty? Where do each of you
intend to go from here?

R: Well we're working on getting Lipstick Royalty going as a free .PDF issue then I want to get a website built. As far as I want to go, I'm doing as many bits of work experience (the latest being in a photographer's studio because I'm also a fashion photographer) as possible, internships (I just did an interview for one at an online American teen magazine) and columns at online magazines. I want to get a killer portfolio so after Uni I can get a good job! If it all goes pear shape and no one will employ me, I'll have to become an English teacher!

A: I don't know much about the future of the magazine - it's Rachel's baby, really, and I'll stick with it for as long as I possibly can. Personally, I've just taken my AS levels, so at the moment I'm looking at university courses, and I'd like to do English Literature and Political History. That'll mean that I can go on to do a journalism course Post-Grad, or something like that. I definitely want to stick at media writing, but fashion journalism is so competitive that I don't suppose I'll ever be able to do it professionally.

STN: The London Clothes Show must have been great for you; how did you get
your chance to go as members of the press?

(R: Amy sorted it out - she's amazing at PR!)

A: My feature for August had just dropped out, when Idea Generation, the PR people behind CSL, sent me their press release for the event. I emailed them to ask for interviews, and they basically just said "Hey, why not come along?!" - it was a logistical nightmare, what with the whole 'meeting people from the Internet' thing, but it was so worthwhile and has definitely opened my eyes to the realities of the industry. It's also made my family realise that I'm serious about what I do, which was good!

STN: What success do you feel you've had with Lipstick Royalty?

R: Quite a lot; we're well known in our niche, people write in to say how much they love the magazine and Amy and I get to go to events like Clothes Show as press!

A: Success for the magazine... well, that's evident. We've grown and grown, and we mean business, now! Personal successes have been smaller; noticing how much better my writing has become has been so helpful - and it's great to have such a big journalistic portfolio at such a young age!

STN: Any final remarks before we close up here?

A: I guess I'd just like to thank Rachel for this amazing opportunity. Over the year and a half we've worked together, she's become such a great friend to me, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Thanks again to the girls for their answers! And to the reader: they were sent the same questions, via email (which will be discussed at a later date) and asked to answer. It's a big risk in interviewing like this, because for one thing, you can't push people to write more, and then you need to fix any typos. There's also the matter that the people, if there are more than one, might just compliment each other. You've seen this with Rachel's response, which was put in italics and between brackets. I hope that made sense to everyone reading it.

And now onto the all important links! You can find the magazine and Rachel and Amy's blogs (respectively) at the follow sites. They're worth the read, especially if you're into the alternative fashion scene.

http://www.lipstickroyalty.com/
http://wastemylifepretending.onsugar.com/
http://confessionsofafashioneditor.onsugar.com/

Coming soon is a trio set of interviews with three individually successful bloggers. Book Smugglers dot Com, Dan London and Darren Shan (yes, the highly successful childrens' author!) all chat with Survive The Net. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Update on Interviews

Still no reply from Charlie McDonnell or the Lessthan7 crew. However, I've arranged three more interviews which are going ahead soon. These three are with: Book Smugglers, Dan London (from Lulu.com) and *drum roll* Darren Shan! The topic? Their blogs. Respectively, these people run a Topical blog, a Business blog and a Personal blog, which all receive a lot of hits. Each one will be answering similar, but also different, questions on their blogs, and the individual interviews will be posted here.

In keeping with that, the Lipstick Royalty interview will be posted later in the week (possibly Friday night), so keep checking back, or follow me on Twitter to get immediate updates on new blog posts.

You can also email me at survive.the.net@gmail.com with any suggestions and/or queries.

Welcome!

A hearty welcome to you all. My name is Paul Carroll, and over the course of this blog and the accompanying book (which is in the making), I will be teaching you how to Survive The Internet. Mainly what you'll find here are short snippets from the book, and a few interviews with some of the best known faces on the Net, and some others that have survived and thrived nonetheless.

Of the topics to be explored, there will be:
  • Social Networking sites, like Bebo and Facebook
  • Communication sites, like blogs and Twitter
  • Public broadcasting sites, like YouTube and AudioBoo
  • Search engines, like Google and Yahoo
  • Free gaming sites
  • Publishing sites
  • Places to read
  • Places to buy, like eBay and Amazon

...along with many more, and some tips for surviving while on the Internet. So sit back, relax, and let Survive The Net take you on a journey into the unknown, or perhaps to a place you love. You'll be meeting interesting people, just as Rachel and Amy from Lipstick Royalty, Charlie McDonnel from his YouTube page charlieissocoollike and the members of Lessthan7 from YouTube (Senan, Arin, Casi, Matt, Mallory, KT and Lexi) among others with their own interesting tales.

Stay tooned!