We have two very special guests with us for this IU Blogoversary edition of the LynneQuisition. Direct from the Nerve Center of the Nuclear-Powered DeathStar, and taking a seat in the comfy chairs (we had to bring in a spare from the engine room – it smelled a little funky, but a case of Eysol cleaned it right up!) are our very own Evil Mastermind, Stephen Hise, and his loyal second-in-command, K.S. Brooks. (cue applause)
Thanks so much to both of you for…come on, Kat, let the EM have the original chair….
Um, why don’t we just get started?
Stephen, I know the blog was originally your idea. What made you want to start a blog for indie authors?
EM: I belonged to a number of Facebook author groups and saw that a lot of information was exchanged. Unfortunately, Facebook just isn’t the right platform for in-depth exploration of topics. It’s great for discussion, but the way the posts drift around on the page make it less useful. I really never considered doing my own author blog, as I don’t like talking about myself that much, but I thought if I could provide a platform for a few knowledgeable authors to share their expertise, we just might have something of value. And that’s how it all got started; I don’t care what you hear about suspended sentences and community service.
Lynne: I hear nothing! I see nothing! Kat, what made you decide to come on board?
Brooks: I’m not sure I ever “decided” to come on board. I just remember hearing – and I can’t recall if it was the Evil Mastermind, or Richard Branson – although, you know, you never do see them together at the same time – but anyway, I heard one of them ask, “wouldn’t you like to be my blog partner?” and then the room started spinning. Next thing I knew, I was sitting at a computer wearing an IU uniform. I think it was a jumpsuit made of tan corduroy. That’s the sexiest fabric in the world, you know.
Lynne: I think I’ve heard Big Al mention that. Anyway, did you guys ever expect to the blog to become as big a deal as it has?
EM: Yes, I did. I actually thought it would be just this big, but perhaps a bit taller. Anyway, I knew we’d have to custom-order clothes from the Big & Tall store for it.
Brooks: The Evil Mastermind is the one with the vision. He knew where he wanted to go with IU and he drove us straight there. He has unbelievable foresight. I’m more of a logistics person, good at implementation. We complement each other well that way. It’s the same when we collaborate on books (of course, it varies by project). He usually steers the project with his big picture abilities and I come in and manage the details. (I know that doesn’t answer the question, but it sets the stage for the answer, which is…..) So, it’s like, the EM is at the helm of the DeathStar SuperBlog and I come upstairs from the engine room. He says, “Luke… I mean, Number One, we’ve just been named in Publishers Weekly as one of Six Great Blogs for Authors, our Alexa ranking is killer, and we’ve gotten over one MILLION views.” I reply, “Whoa, how did that happen?”
Lynne: You guys are too modest. It’s your leadership that’s brought us to this point, and we’re all grateful for it.
From my perspective, one of the coolest things about IU is that we share our expertise for free. Some other indie-oriented websites have begun to institute fees for certain things, and/or complain that indies expect to get stuff from them for free. Comments?
Brooks: At IU, we don’t want to make money off authors. We are incredibly fortunate to have a phenomenal staff of minions with the same philosophy, generously sharing their knowledge, expertise, and time for free. In fact, we’ve just reduced the number of options available to authors for pay advertising by eliminating the features we didn’t think served them well. Instead, we’ve added options for paid advertising for folks wanting to sell or announce services, events, etc. to authors. Personally, I think that as long as a price is fair and people aren’t trying to take advantage of authors, they have the right to charge to at least cover their time and expenses. Authors shouldn’t expect to get everything for free, just as they wouldn’t expect to give their books to people for free. And, if the author doesn’t want to pay, they don’t have to use the services of that venue. Either way, everyone has a right to try to make an honest living. We don’t expect anyone else to do what we do here for free. We’re hoping, someday, that we will be able to support IU through advertising, but until we find the right balance, we’ll continue on in this manner. Or, until we run out of gruel.
EM: Indies are just authors and authors are just people. Some people are great and some people are jerks. Overall, I think the people who frequent IU are a great crowd. We get lots of thoughtful commentary and I do feel like most of our base appreciates what we do. Every once in a while we have to deal with someone who is difficult or petulant, but it is blessedly rare.
We do provide a lot of valuable information for free, but we all have the opportunity to learn and grow as we do so. I feel that being here and doing this has made me a better and more knowledgeable writer. I think there is a mutual benefit. Every good teacher is also a good student.
Lynne: Indeed. So where do you see IU going in the future?
Brooks: I’m particularly looking forward to the EM’s release of the IU branded consumer version of the mini Laser DeathRay. It has a number of less-powerful settings for gentle and effective laser hair removal, wrinkle repair, laser engraving, and more. Otherwise, I’m going to defer to the EM since he gets to wear the cool glasses.
EM: Up to this point, I think we have been establishing our brand and our identity. I feel as if we have a great balance of staff writers and a deep field of expertise. The coming years will be about expanding our market share and improving our position and ranking. That kind of work is largely invisible and not very glamorous, but it has to be done. I can see a time when IU will really be at the forefront of people’s minds when they think about writing, publishing, and marketing books. Once we are big enough, of course, we will take over and there will be the usual spate of executions and purges. I’ll be happy when there is a stuffed penguin’s head mounted over my desk.
Lynne: I’m sure he’s just kidding, Laurie! Okay, I know you both have to get back to work. Is there anything I forgot to ask?
EM: You didn’t ask about the secret recipe for gruel, but it is better not knowing some things.
Lynne: Yeah, no, that’s okay. Seriously, thanks to both of you for coming, as well as for your tireless work on behalf of the blog. None of us would be here if it weren’t for the two of you, and I think I speak for all the minions when I say that we’re glad you started Indies Unlimited. Happy anniversary, and here’s to many more to come!