Advice to an aspiring blogger

May 2, 2015 § 10 Comments

I recently dashed off a thank-you note, “Thanks for the support!” to a new subscriber. He responded with a hilarious email, which I won’t reproduce below simply because nothing I write will be as funny, and then everyone will go over to his blog and leave mine. It is a zero-sum game in the world of grabbing eyeballs, unfortunately.

However, here is a link to his blog. His name is Mike Hancock, and he lives in Alaska.

In Mike’s email, among other things, he asked about how he could emulate the fame and financial success of SoCal’s most renowned bicycling blogger. I told him that he should ask Nancy over at RKP directly.

Mike’s inquiry, however, speaks volumes for Alaska’s standard of living that $2.99 x 12 is a standard to which people aspire, but I took the time to give him some advice from the perspective of SoCal’s most reviled bicycling blogger. Here it is.

Hi, Mike

Thank you for the funny and entertaining email. I can assure you that the life of a hobby lawyer-blogger is gratifying and fulfilling. There are days when sleeping on a park bench hurts my back, but here in sunny SoCal I’m usually grateful for all of this unhoped-for success.

I went to your web site and spent some time on it. “What are you laughing at?” is always a good sign when coming from my wife.

“Oh, nothing,” I told her truthfully.

Aside from the humor I appreciate your attention to grammar and spelling. It’s the first sign, and usually the last, that a writer cares about either his audience or his topic.

You haven’t asked me for a quick guide on how to achieve riches as a bicycle blogger, but you sort of have, so here goes.

  1. I have no idea.
  2. The most interesting thing you have going for you, aside from what appears to be an incredibly fascinating middle-aged married white guy’s mediocre bike racing life, is Alaska. To you perhaps this is just where you live, but to me it is like having a blog called “Cycling on Jupiter,” only more interesting. Moose attacks, grizzly bear racing, and run-ins with Iditarod racers should all be standard fare in your blog and daily life, and this is not the time to stand on the ceremony of truth, honesty, or facts.
  3. If you’re seeking a wider audience you should write less about yourself in the first person. A good way to quickly identify whether a blog is too me-centric is to briefly scan it and see how often the writer uses “I,” “me,” “mine,” and other relatives of the first person. In other words, the personal works best as an accent for the impersonal.
  4. Consistency in publication. I understand that it’s hard to crank out a blog post more than once every six months, but you can do this!
  5. Write about your friends. You build readership by making people want to read, first about themselves and then about other things. You will eventually lose all of your friends by writing about them of course, but by then you will have 20 or 30 loyal readers in Ireland and Mauritius, and even a subscriber or two. Yes, mom counts.
  6. Comparing yourself to the cheap Chinese wheel was awesome. That is a great technique that I plan to plagiarize asap. You have a number of other witty and insightful lines, none of which appears to be protected by copyright, which, again, I appreciate.
  7. The gold standard for blogging success if Eben Weiss, a hostile, sarcastic, cynical wanker who, despite multiple books, a regularly insulting column in Bicycling, and thousands of readers, still has a day job. Of course the moose-Iditarod-grizzly bear angle, or the cycling-in-a-salmon-run approach may hit a bigger chord than the urban struggles of snobbish biking in NYC, but if you do have a day job, hang onto it at least for the next month or two. I understand that park benches in Anchorage are only really good to sleep on about three weeks out of the year.
  8. Repurpose random emails. When someone emails you something, copy and paste it into your blog. It saves mental effort, and with a bit of fakery you can usually turn it into a nice placeholder, especially for Saturday or Sunday morning when you’re in a hurry to go do the group ride and don’t have time to write because you forgot to check your tires the night before (the rear is flat), all of your bibs have poop stains and are in the dirty heap, your cleat has come loose and you can’t find the right sized hex key, you haven’t mixed any EPO and electrolyte yet, and you only have five minutes to get out the door and make the eight-minute pedal to the start.

Anyway, a heartfelt thanks again for the funny email and for the subscription. $2.99 doesn’t seem like much until you ponder what a cheap bastard the average cyclist is.

Your obedient servant,

Wanky

END

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§ 10 Responses to Advice to an aspiring blogger

  • Brian in VA says:

    Very sound advice WM! Now I’ll go check out his blog.

    When are you starting ride report from last weekend’s sufferfest?

  • Dave says:

    Nothing is a zero sum game. Suggest you cut a deal with Mike to boost income by competing with each other and paying refferals. You receive twenty percent of the subscription amount for people referred by you to him and vice-versa. Fifty eight cents, per referral, per month, can add up quickly. Then you have a monthly incentive of $100 bucks for who send whom the most referrals (is for “who sends whom” proper english?). You will surely win that part, because how many people can Mike know living in Alaska? And you both win by promoting each other.

    Nice post, continue spreading the joy. Look forward to seeing you.

  • nealhe says:

    Hello fsethd-san and All.

    Cycling must be the new elixir for creative writing.

    So many bloggers – so little time.

    Hard to describe good creative writing – but some characteristics are similar to a good meal: you want to keep reading …… you wish there was more ….. you wonder what the cook’s secret is ….. you are surprised occasionally ….. it looks easy ….. and when you try to do it you find it is damn hard to accomplish.

    Even in fiction good creative writing has an edgy honesty to it.

    A near miss …. is horrible to read …. but without the misses (occasionally) there is no risk and no great successes.

    Some say it is a gift.

    Keep writing …………..

    Cheers,

    Neal

    +1 mph Faster

  • GT says:

    No way Snob holds down a day job. No way man.

    He’s got 18 kids to feed, that’s a shed load of welfare he’d get for doing nothing.

    WTF would he work?

    • fsethd says:

      He works for the NYC sanitation crew. That’s where he gets so much great material.

  • TJC says:

    Painfully ironic after having put up my farewell post a couple days ago. I did it because I was actively doing basically the opposite of all the advice you so generously disseminate above. But mostly I did it because of the day job thing.

    Someday, though…

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