Monday, 24 May 2010

A Dribble of Ink talks to Floor to Ceiling Books!

The gentleman I welcome to the seat today for interview needs no introduction to the blogosphere, or the authors, or the publicists who read my humble blog - but I shall endeavour to try! I would like to introduce you to one of the Originals: the guy whose opinion on cover art sends the publishing world quaking; the person who can make or break new blogs by offering his benevolent support; the man who is likely dreading the publication of his WIP novel, thanks to the concise and brutally honest reviews he provides! *grin*

Yes *drumroll and fanfare*: it is Mr Dribble of Ink, Aidan Moher.

The reason I wanted to invite Aidan in to chat is because I am one of the very teeniest and newest book bloggers around, and I thought it would be amazing to find out the perspective of someone who has seen blogs come and go, and knows what it means to run a highly successful book blog. Without further ado, let's get to the questions!

AMANDA: Welcome to FtCB - how are you today?

AIDAN: I'm good, I'm good! Thanks for letting me toot my horn here on Floor to Ceiling Books! It's not often I'm on the other side of the table like this.

AMANDA: So, Aidan, remind us just how long you have been blogging about the wonderful world of speculative fiction - and what prompted you to dip your toes and start A Dribble of Ink?

AIDAN: Back in May, 2007, I was just finishing up school and on my way to becoming a successful young web developer (I'm still waiting for the successful part, and the young part is quickly escaping me...). Somehow, around that same time, I ended up with early review copies of The Elves of Cintra by Terry Brooks and ACACIA: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham. So, putting two-and-two together (plus my interest as a reader of the blogosphere), I decided to try my hand at it.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

From there, I somehow found the determination to continue blogging at a (somewhat) consistent pace, and readers started coming. Then I got high on my success and, well... once my ego takes over, there's no stopping me.

AMANDA: How did you know that you'd 'made' it? Was it the first review copy; a particular number of visitors per day; an author contacting you off their own back?

AIDAN: I'm not really sure how to gauge that, really. As with any labour of love, I think it's hard to accurately assess your own success. I'm happy with how A Dribble of Ink has developed, I suppose.

As for those milestones, it's certainly an exciting feeling every time they happen. I once had artist Michael Whelan post a comment on my blog, which was pretty mind-blowing. Similarly, Neil Gaiman posted a link to my blog, back in the day, which had me grinning ear-to-ear for about a week. Having a quote from one of my reviews appear on a novel was a proud moment.

But, all of these are just little steps and I believe success isn't some magical line you cross, never to look back, but something that you continually work at.

AMANDA: Did you have a plan when you first started your blog in terms of posts? Did you ever draw up a schedule [and, if so, how long did it take you to rip it up *grin*]?

AIDAN: Hah. No. No plan.

I'm terrible at sticking to schedules. The only sort of outline I try to stick to is finding (or creating) something interesting/awesome to post each weekday.

AMANDA: Have you experienced blog burn-out? If so, how did you work through it?

AIDAN: It happens. Frankly, I used to be a lot less active in my posting (a couple of times a week, say) and I would just take a break when I was getting burned out. For a while, I was feeling pressured to mold my reading habits around what felt was expected of a blog, rather than just reading whatever I wanted and going at my own pace. Once I got over this, I remembered why I started my blog in the first place. It's fun.

AMANDA: Which of your articles draw the most views/comments?

AIDAN: Not surprisingly, my cover art posts generally draw a lot of views, especially if it's the cover for a major release (my pageviews were through the roof the day The Way of Kings cover was released).

My post about the cover for Brent Weeks' The Black Prism was famously popular.

More rewarding, though, are my actual essay articles that generally draw a strong reaction and garner heavy discussion amongst my readers and peers.

In terms of pure traffic? Nothing can touch my throwaway post about the delay of The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. It probably took me 3 minutes to write, yet shows up first in Google when you type in the name of one of the most anticipated novels in the genre. Who'd've thunk?

AMANDA: Let's talk a little bit now about the blogging community. When you started blogging what was the community feel like? How has that changed over the intervening years?

AIDAN: I actually came into blogging at an odd time. When I started A Dribble of Ink, the blogosphere was still quite small. Pat's Fantasy Hotlist was the big one, Nethspace, OF Blog of the Fallen and The Wertzone were all on my daily rotation also, but that was about it.

Within a few months of A Dribble of Ink beginning, the blogosphere had a big eruption of participants. The newer bloggers considered me part of the old guard (Pat, Adam, et al.), and the old guard considered me an upstart. I was really kind of caught between the two factions. It was an odd place to be, but also one that I think helped lead to my success. Being a bit of an outsider, in that respect, I've always just kind of done whatever I've felt like, as opposed to engaging in some of the clique-y behaviour one can often see in the blogosphere.

At least, I like to think I don't fall into any cliques.

The blogosphere's constantly growing and, frankly, becoming a more open and accepting place all the time. Thanks to twitter in particular, newer bloggers (like yourself or The Speculative Scotsman) are able to easily establish themselves and jump right into the ongoing dialogue of SFF Literature. That certainly wasn't a luxury a lot of the older bloggers had.

I think there's a certain enthusiasm in many of the newer bloggers that is missing from some of us jaded old bastards.

AMANDA: How much has blogging changed since you started up? (the rise of Twitter, more collaborations etc) Is it something you can see yourself utilising, or would you prefer to work alone?

AIDAN: A fair bit, and not at all. But, I'll tackle each of those separately.

A Fair Bit – As you mention, Social Networking's advent and subsequent world domination has changed the promotional side of things a fair bit. When I first started, the only way to really spread the word about your content was to spam forums with it. People generally weren't too receptive to this. Now, you have people flooding services like Facebook and Twitter looking for links to content.

Some of the older bloggers, like the curmudgeonly Larry at OF Blog of the Fallenor Pat from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, haven't really embraced the platform, and it hasn't really hurt them much. Still, newer blogs can get a huge foot up from Twitter alone.

Not At All – In the end, the rest of it doesn't matter as long as you're providing good, honest content with a personality and well-reasoned opinion. It worked this way when I started, it works this way now.

AMANDA: Do you think that the market for new blogs in the speculative fiction arena is saturated at this point? If so, how should new bloggers try to differentiate themselves?

AIDAN: As I mentioned earlier, I don't think the blogosphere has ever been friendlier or easier to break into than it is now. As long as new bloggers are bringing their own touch to the medium, there's always room for more.

A word of advice for new bloggers. Don't emulate your favourite blogs. Look at what you think they're missing and try to fill that hole.

AMANDA: Which are some of your favourite 'younger' blogs - and what makes them so effective?

AIDAN: A bit of a loaded question. Instead of making a list, and offending those that I forget to include. I'll just say that many bloggers (new and established alike) could learn a lot from Niall Alexander at The Speculative Scotsman.

Style. Voice. Opinion. Insight. He's got it all, and posts at a nice, consistent pace.

AMANDA: When a blogger is starting out, do you think they should be posting a certain number of times per week to ensure repeat visitors? When can a blog start to ease up on the constant blogging and still receive visitors, in your opinion?

AIDAN: I try to post something cool/interesting/self-congratulatory/thoughtful every weekday. Part of the reason I can do this is because of my work schedule. As I mentioned earlier, I used to post less frequently.

If you don't continue to provide good content, you'll lose visitors. It happens to me all the time. Then I'll post something of note, and my visits will jump back up. When I travelled to Europe, my traffic dwindled greatly. All my lovely readers came back once I started posting regularly again.

I think the most important thing is to find a proper rhythm and stick to it. James at Speculative Horizons only posts a few times a week, and he's one of my favourite bloggers. Pat's Fantasy Hotlist has new content all the time, but it's usually vapour. I prefer quality to quantity.

AMANDA: Speaking of content, what type of content do you most enjoy reading on other blogs?

AIDAN: I like to read the stuff that I didn't think of. I don't read a lot of reviews, unless I've already read the book (I don't really want my own opinions skewed, lest I review the novel in the future). I do like interviews (when they're done right) and commentary on the genre.

AMANDA: How many book reviews do you feel a blogger *should* be producing?

AIDAN: Well, considering I review fewer novels than almost every other blogger, I'd say my stance is pretty liberal on the matter. Frankly, I think that there's often too much of an emphasis on reviews, and not enough attention put on other aspects of the genre.

That said, maybe I'm just bitter because I'm such a slow reader.


AMANDA: Any last pieces of advice for budding bloggers out there?

AIDAN: Advice? I know it sounds painfully obvious (and terribly cliched) but... find your voice and don't compromise your honesty. There are so many blogs out there that are willing to shill for free books, to approach their reviews and coverage through a filter of perceived glamour (piles and piles and piles of books, oh my!), that the bloggers with the true, interested opinions have to fight ever harder to be heard. Still the cream rises to the top, and honesty will lead to wonderful things.

Oh, and don't navel gaze too much. People read your blog to find out about books (what's coming up, what's good, what sucks, etc...). The only people that care about the mechanics and philosophies behind blogging are other bloggers.

It can certainly be an interesting discussion, and worth doing sparingly, but, for the most part, it's likely only interesting to small portion of your audience. Bloggers are, almost by definition, those who like to hear themselves talk, so navel gazing posts will generally garner a lot of discussion from a (very) vocal minority.

If you want to discuss stuff like reviews, that's cool, just be sure to approach it in a way that's interesting to a general readership.

AMANDA: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

AIDAN: You're welcome! Like I say, as a blogger, I'm always happy to talk about myself...


  1. Great interview, thanks! I blog about music mostly, but there's still some good general advice here and it's nice to read some "behind the scenes" about the book blogs I subscribe to.

  2. Nice interview.

    I always feel so old in internet years when things like this come up.

  3. I'm almost tempted to start up a Twitter account just to disprove that "curmudgeonly" comment! Right now, I'm involved in an amusing Facebook discussion on sheep buggery and which nations are the leaders in it, thank you very much! :P

    But yeah, it is odd reading about oneself as being "old," since I've usually been among the youngest in most of my endeavors.

  4. Amanda,

    Welcome. Another voice writing about books? Must be a good thing!


  5. Thanks to you all for stopping by!

    @Afront - I think that Aidan's advice is genuinely useful for all bloggers, especially the point about finding your own 'voice' (something that I am still working on!)

    @Neth - you know you're so setting yourself up for rude comments with a sentence like that? ;-)

    @Larry - oh yeah! Come and join us on Twitter - it's the dark side *tempts*. To be fair, I don't think I'm that much younger than you guys in age terms, but you are one of the older bloggers in that you've seen it all before :-)

    @David - welcome to FtCB! I'm sincerely looking forward to reading your books (I have Hannibal as well as the fantasy work, because I am partial to historical books!)

  6. I dunno, could you handle a discussion about whether or not it's the Scots, Welsh, Kiwis, or Aussies that would be the best at sheep buggering and whether or not a pay-per-view event could be established for some sort of World Cup of Sheep Buggering? That was a Facebook convo for today that involved a few writers and myself. It was quite surreal...

    As for age, I'll be 36 in less than two months, so I am a bit older than I was when I started the OF Blog when I had barely turned 30. Hrmm...I hear blog years are like dog years times two, so that means I'll be 84 in August? :O

  7. Larry, I don't think the question is whether I could handle a conversation, but whether I would want to! *grins*

    Yep, just turned 30 over here, so not so far behind you in real terms. In blogging terms, I'm probably in minus figures at the moment!

  8. Very nice interview! Thank you Amanda & Aidan :)

    Well, I don't feel old at all, in human or Internet years. More so, when it comes to Internet and computer I feel like a baby since many programs give me a headache (or maybe I don't want to learn them :D).

    Larry, you should come to Twitter stir the things a bit there ;)

  9. Amusing that you want me to "stir things a bit", Mihai, since I would imagine that if I were on Twitter, I'd probably be linking to squirrel porn more than to anything SF/F related :P

    And Amanda, I never worry about length of time one has been doing anything. If I did, I probably wouldn't be blogging, editing, or translating these days. Hrmm...perhaps I still have a bit of fire in my belly after all :P

  10. Oh, and I posted a poll about Twitter, in case you all need some entertainment ;)

  11. Nice interview, Amanda. Aidan's blog is always interesting, and he had some neat things to say. Surprisingly, he understated himself where regards cover art controversies.

    Twitter is unappealing to me, but if ya'll manage to convince Larry to join, that might be the final push I need. Har.

  12. I created an account, but that's in case I decide to do anything with it. It's not anything related to my full name or to the OF Blog. Just to keep some pinin' a bit more :P

  13. Larry - you are a big tease :-p

  14. @Aidan:

    Dude, I like your blog and visit it about once a week. But you know the old saying: If you live in a glass house, you shouldn't throw rocks at people?

    I know you're not too fond of Pat and Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. But when you say "Pat's Fantasy Hotlist has new content all the time, but it's usually vapour. I prefer quality to quantity." it made me smirk. Because you kindda peddle the same vapour but with less consistency.

    Dude, if we strip your blog of the cover art and synopsis for this or that book, you basically have nothing else. You review about a book a month. Where are the articles, interviews, reviews??? You post a couple of things here and there, but with you it's mostly just covers. That's cool with me, by the way. But saying that another site's content is mostly vapour when your own offers even less is a bit pushing it, no?

    No offense intended, but it just felt weird to me to see you take a jab at another blogger who's made quite a name for himself over the years when you're even guiltier of what you accuse him...

  15. Nice interview! I started a little after Aidan, and have been way behind him, not even in his shadow, ever since. But I'm glad he's been successful because she's such a great guy, and I know when I stop to read his posts, I won't have wasted my time.