Not too long ago I read a book called How to Write, Publish, & Sell Your Own How-To Book. At that point I was already doing well with my current ebook, but was debating whether or not it was worth trying to get it physically published. Generally the How to Write... book was strongly biased against being published primarily due to profit margin related reasons, as well as a few other restrictions.
If you asked me to name off book publishers I know the names of I could do it on my hands with fingers left over. I got an email yesterday from one of the few I would have been able to name, asking me if I would be interested in having them publish & distribute SEO Book.
One of my friends also made the same offer, but offered to publish at cost because he wanted to get some titles for his new publish house.
Away from the web I think there is a huge gain with going with a publisher for at least one book, to help build your authority and credibility, but on the web I do not think there is a need for network publishers, etc.
Eeek, some authors are suing Google. What to do? Not suing here. I am still unsure on the publishing front though, but...
With blogs I do not think there is a need for additional blog networks. You can learn a lot from a blogger just by watching what they do. It is considered bad form to copy exactly, but you can learn the pieces that fit your style or see what pieces are working elsewhere, and why they work. Many of the blog network business models do not encourage the best kinds of postings. Many of the best bloggers read far more than the write, and that is just so much harder to do when it feels like writing the blog is your job and you are doing it for a boss.
Sometimes getting articles syndicated is as easy as writing them and submitting them. Also odds are fairly high that if you learn your topic well you should be able to build more high quality links into your site than a blog overlord would.
The blog networks don't directly pay you for participating in a community and if you ever need to jump ship from the network partnership that brand you helped them build the whole time may not carry with you.
Why I think blog networks suck:
- Advertising: Most blog networks just publish AdSense for most of their advertisements. If they are going to cross promote the blogs and make them obviously known then it is easy to see how they place the ads for maximum profits. You do not need to be part of the network to learn from it. It is a transparent business model.
- Link Selling: Some of the networks sell off topic links as if it is going out of style. That is the type of activity that leads to search engines placing limited or no trust on the linkage data from within the network. If they underpriced the ads a bit to entice a few on topic advertisers and then stayed on topic the ads would have greater longterm value and a lower risk profile.
- Most People Make Nothing: As with the About.com network, or any group publishing network, a few topics are going to bring in the bulk of the cash. If you are in one of the lesser known topics then it is hard to make your blog well known and profitable unless you are actively marketing the heck out of it, which is much harder to do when you do not own the content and only get a meager percentage of the overall earnings.
- Internal Links WILL Get Discounted: Being part of a blog network paid on comission is a good deal if you are the Poker blog riding off the link popularity of Engadget or Gizmodo, but inevitably as these networks spread you have to believe that search engines are going to deweight the internal linkage. Most of the blog network channels have limited linkage data outside of the link popularity which flows in from the few most popular channels. Jason Calcanis often brags about how much money his network is making with no money spent on marketing. How can spending no money on marketing be the optimal spend?
- Stuck Business Models: I would guess that Gawker might make more per blog than I make on this blog, but most of the blog networks are stuck in their low paying business models. Some channels might make lots of money selling ebooks while others might be able to sell newsletters or software or other information products. The problem is that most of them are probably not willing to challenge what they know works. What happens if a channel really takes off and the author wants to go elsewhere where they can make more money?
- You Still Need to Learn the Same Stuff: Using WordPress is free. Google AdSense optimization probably only takes a few days of tweaking to become decent at. Blog networks are not going to give you inside knowledge of your marketplace, and unless you are well cited within your topic only bad search algorithms are going to make your site relevant for it's network participation. The network that REALLY matters is the community that covers your topic.
- Too Much Too Quick: Sometimes having few visitors off the start is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to learn quickly without necissarily opening you up to the criticism of everyone in your community. I have got hate email from people who later gladly linked to my site. My guess is that if I had more exposure when I knew less about my topic, blogging, & the web I would have got a lot more hate mail, and it may have turned me off early.
- Time Off: Sometimes I feel like crap, and if I posted while I felt that way it would only have a negative effect on my blog and the poor eyes reading my HateTypeTM. Blogging is about being timely, but it is also about posting more when you are thinking and feel like talking. It is also about keeping quiet when you don't feel like talking.
- If You Really Care: If you are really going to go after something may as well make it your own. If you really don't care much a network might be cool, but I fail to see the point in doing anything you are only sorta interested in.
Inevitably blog quality will have to stand on it's own. Readers and citations come if people want to give you their attention. Being part of a network might be able to help you boost that a bit off the start, but it may also hold you back when you want to let out a rant or zig when others are zagging :)
The whole point of the web is you do not need an overlord.
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