@MarynMcK at #SoCon12: #QuitGrind
(Longer title: Notes from Maryn McKenna’s talk at SoCon12 on “Quit the Daily Grind: A Newspaper Reporter’s Journey into New Media.”)
Maryn’s quick history:
- Started out as a newspaper reporter.
- Wrote a book.
- Got worried that newspapers weren’t fun any more. Left.
- Signed a contract for another book.
- Began blogging at Blogger. Thought it would let me keep my name out there, build an audience, crowdsource some book research.
- Book came out. Got invited to join a blog network. Didn’t quite go as planned. Went back to Blogger.
- Meanwhile, was freelancing.
- Got invited to join a new blog network. Eighteen months later, still ridiculously happy to be there.
- To support the blog, got onto Twitter. Now at ~6800 followers, ~12,500 tweets.
- Realized there was more news than I could cover on a blog, and got onto Tumblr.
- Kept freelancing. (SELF last month. Nature this week. New column at Scientific American.)
Lessons from the journey so far:
Define your niche. Pick a specialty and stick to it. (Homesick Texan is a food blogger who writes only about reproducing Tex-Mex food in NYC… and got a book deal out of it.)
Recognize that you are your only gatekeeper. There are no longer any editors telling you, “Sorry, that’s someone else’s beat.” If you want to nudge your niche boundaries, you can. (Over a year I went from being only a blogger about a single disease to writing regularly about food policy.)
Be very something: Lyrical (Deborah Blum’s Speakeasy Science). Novel (Things Organized Neatly). Useful (Steve Silberman’s Twitter feed). What you offer is more important than the platform you offer it on.
Be social. Get on Twitter, reach out to people, have conversations. Do not (only) promote your work; if you are interesting and valuable, people will find it. Rough math: Keep the push/promotional tweets to no more than 1 in 20 (or get a second Twitter account.)
Be kind and build community. (Ed Yong’s Science Writing I’d Pay To Read.) If you do it right, the community will love you back.
Do try to join a network. (Or start one, as Scientopia’s bloggers did.) Network members help each other, or should.
Tap your community’s expertise. They will want to help. (Unsolicited, a follower sends me story fodder.)
Show your self. Don’t be afraid to be relaxed, irreverent, tough, whimsical. Just don’t be boring.
- Expect to not make very much money, at first.
- Expect to work really long hours, not just at first.
- Realize that yes, everyone IS watching you.
- Only do this if you are prepared to love it.
Bonus: Here’s a large (and slightly buggy) Stich.it of all the links in this talk, annotated. See if it works for you.