Saturday, May 15, 2010

Evangelizing

by
Scott D. Parker

In recent months, I've taken to riding my bicycle more and more places. There was some natural foods website that enabled you to locate your address and draw a 2-mile circle around your house. Your pledge was to walk or bike to anything inside that perimeter. Other than major grocery shopping, I've started doing that. It's fun, I get exercise, and the world seems just a tad slower.

One of the things I've noticed is the informal fraternity among bikers and pedestrians. We nod at each other with a knowing nod, kind of like we know we're doing something different and it's our little secret on how fun it is. The world seems different, too. I rarely listen to music when riding, preferring (often for safety's sake) to hear the world as I pedal past it. As such, I hear different things, I focus on different things (not being hit by a car, for example), and take stock of my surroundings in a much more nuanced way. I'm to the point now where I'm considering trading in my mountain bike for a street-worthy bike capable of carrying small amounts of groceries and other things. In short, I'm considering buying the bike I used to laugh at in my younger days.

The thing is, I like being different. I like it that there is a little bike community where I can chat gears and pedals and ergonomic bike seats. It's fantastic. And I like spreading the bike-riding gospel, too. But there's always a little something in me that holds back. I don't want *everyone* to start riding bikes because then, the lanes would be crowded, the products would go up in price, and it wouldn't be as special.

I have the entirely opposite reaction when it comes to our wonderful online reading/writing/genre communities. I had the idea for this post on Wednesday. What I wanted to do was link the pedestrian/bike riding community with our crime/writing community. I love our online community, its size and breadth, and all the folks I've met along the way. Without the internet, frankly, many of us would be mere wandering souls in the vast desert that is writing and reading and books. I enjoy reading other blogs and books by fellow writers and, I hope, they enjoy reading the material I write.

Unlike the bike community, however, I want more and more folks to join our reading community. Naturally, it's because I hope folks will read my stuff and read other blogs I enjoy. Which brings up a question I've been pondering since Wednesday (when I thought of it while, yes, riding my bike): how often do we tell others about the blogs we enjoy? I'm not talking about fellow bloggers (although they do count). I'm talking about folks who may not read blogs on a regular basis.

Let's say you're at a bookstore and you see a person picking up a mystery. If you're a blogger who writes about mysteries (or a reader who enjoys a particular blog on mysteries), do you ever speak up and let the potential customer know about the blogosphere and the resources available? I'm not necessarily referring to self-promotion, although that is part of it. I'm talking about two people who share a common interest just talking. Like the time when I was stopped for a drink at a bike route and asked a couple of gentlemen about their bikes. They gave me a few pointers on what I should look for in in a bike and we went on our way. I took that information to the bike store and used it to talk to the salesman.

That's what I'm talking about with this blog community. We all enjoy interacting with each other. How often do we reach outside our established communities and bring in more folks?

I have to admit, I'm not the best in that category. But it's something I've decided to start doing.

6 comments:

David Cranmer said...

I've been hitting Next Blog on Blogger, landing at a site devoted to ceramics or cats and dropping comments. Bring in new readers, friends etc. But I will try scaring some folks in the mystery section of Borders next time I'm in.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never step in at a store. Usually the book they are picking up are not the ones I read if they are a woman--and frankly I never see men picking up any books at all. If they are in the store, they seem to favor computer manuals or they are waiting for their wives. Maybe it's just my neighborhood.

Chris said...

I've tipped people off on books a LOT lately; "if you like this, you should try that" type of thing. But not so much for blogs.

One problem I've been having lately is reading everything. There are so many writing challenges and contests and everything on blogs, and folks putting books and chapters up, that I simply can't keep up. It's frustrating, because I want to read and support the people doing this, but it's more than I can manage. That kind of bums me out, because I want people to read MY stuff when it's out there, but I feel like I'm not pulling my weight if I'm not reading theirs.

David Cranmer said...

Chris, That was very well said and one of the truest comments I've read in awhile.

Bryon Quertermous said...

I think blogs do a great job of evangelizing themselves. Most of my readers, and most of my blog reading list comes from other blogs. I started commenting on blogs of people I knew and saw who they read and commented on. If I liked what that person had to say, I started commenting on the blog and reading regularly. Once I started my own blog, it was linked to my comments at other blogs. So if a reader liked what I had to say, they came to my blog and said hi. So I think the best thing we can do is to cultivate a creative and well-liked audience who can do the evangelizing for us.

One of the biggest weaknesses I think needs to be addressed is crime bloggers who read nothing but crime blogs and have an audience of nothing but crime readers. We should all read outside of our community and show them what we have to offer.

Scott Parker said...

David - Had no clue that button was there since I read most blogs entries either in Google Reader or via Instapaper. Whoa. It's almost like typing in a phrase on Google and clicking "I'm feeling lucky."

Patti - A true shame about men's reading habits. I wonder if it's because watching TV and/or playing video games is just easier (and more immersive) that men don't read? That's a topic for investigation.

Chris - MAN! You hit the nail on the head. I agree with David's comment about the fundamental truth of your comment. It's why I have Google Reader, just to try to maintain who's saying what. But what's the answer? Blog less, read more? Hard questions and harder answers.

Bryon - One of the reasons I started SF Safari, my SFF blog, was the impression that I'd keep this blog (crime) separate from SFF. Now, I've basically had the idea that one blog should rule them all (heh). That's why I've basically let SF Safari slide. I'm considering rebranding this (well, my own personal site) as a catch-all because I agree that we should all know what's going on in the broader genre world.

To all - Thanks for the responses. Lots of food for thought that'll show up in future columns.