For some time now, I’ve been a huge fan of the “Backseat” group of websites. As I’ve watched, it has grown and expanded into a central hub for people who want to connect with writers doing romance and paranormal romance. Terry Kate, the woman who is the dynamo behind the site, started with a vision that subsequently got bigger than she ever thought it would. She’s one of the most savvy web marketers I’ve ever seen and a shining example of exactly how to turn your blog into a meeting place for thousands.
Terry’s schtick is interviewing authors in the backseat of her car. Here’s an example of one such interview with Seattle author Gina Robinson.
Editor/writer/blogger extraordinaire Terry Kate graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me.
When you first started your site, what was your vision for it?
Lord, I wish I HAD had a vision. I wanted to do video interviews with authors. It sounds so very simple! Then you need somewhere to put them. Then you need other material, content, interviews, READERS. I did not have Internet for two years before I started the website. I was going to local hotels once a month and pretending to stay there to use their computers.
Your site has exploded in the past year. How have you helped it to grow?
Explosion would be a good way to describe it – breeding like rabbits is another. I LOVE authors as often as they make me crazy, but I have a hard time saying no. So I had Romance in the Backseat, which is open to all genres and authors with a content warning of PG-13. I bow down before those who manage to keep an even balance when they cover ALL the different genres and cross genre books out there. First, I realized we were getting a little TOO heavy on the paranormal, so we split off and created Backseat Nightmares. The birth of Backseat Nightmares helped us not exclude authors, while trying to maintain the balance.
Then, there were the erotic authors. I read their work, but I will also confess to being a prude. I worried about what would be too much. Too–shall we say–naughty to be included in the main blog. So, Naughty in the Backseat was born. Home to all those lovely authors that provide us with hot reading.
When Naughty in the Backseat started to get a little too M/M, we created Naughty Boys in the Backseat. Could I have planned better? Hells YES! All I can do now is run with the insanity.
What strategies do you use to bring new viewers to your site?
Lord, too many things. I network with other bloggers. We do group events and link to each other. I plan theme weeks, we have done Cupcakes–I love cupcakes. Other theme weeks include “Twilight, Love it – Hate it,” “Sexy Sunday Photo Contests,” and “Saturday Soundtracks.” To get in on current themes, EMAIL me anytime, authors.
I always contact the author and the publisher so they can promote their presence on my site. Hopefully they link back and archive their interviews and guest posts as links on their site. It helps their readers learn more about them and supports the work we bloggers put in to help promote books.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting a book-related blog? What’s the most important thing to do when you’re first starting out?
DON’T. Wait, let me qualify. Unless you LOVE it, don’t. There are HUNDREDS of blogs who are looking for authors to come and guest blog with them.
A tip to authors: Drop in and comment on these blogs, and always leave an active link back to your site. Then, you know which blogs to work with when you decide to do some more intense blogging to promote a release by the traffic that brings you. You get more, and the blogger gets more too.
DO NOT start a blog if you just want free books. Off the top of my head, I can list 20-30 blogs looking for reviewers. They already did the leg work so help them out. Learn the ropes, and then, if you feel the burning need to post everyday your own thoughts and reviews, then start a blog. But first, learn from those that have come before.
Be nice, introduce yourself and come to the Book Bloggers and Publishers Online Conferences. We talk about blogging: how to, good manners, working with authors and publishers, all the goodstuff. The official conference is March 2010. It is a great opportunity to learn from our mistakes and do things right.
How do you get these writers into the backseat?
You would be surprised who answers their emails. Plus, authors always know other authors.
You have started hosting online conferences. What was the biggest challenge with your conference? What was your biggest reward?
I will think positive and do reward first. You leave so pumped to blog. You make new and close friends, and the people who come really care about what they are doing. Plus I LOVE to talk to people. I am not a fan of reading through dry learning materials. I like the interaction. That is why I design my Online Conference the way I do. We are more interactive and I think informative than a LIVE conference.
Don’t all you conference organizers hate me. There is no replacement for being in the same place at the same time, but this is the next best thing. We use the radio to do live panels. All the panelists are talking with each other in a conference call format same as they would if they were sitting next to each other, you just do not get to see them. Really how often are they doing multimedia presentations. Do you NEED to see them?
Here comes the interaction. While attendees listen live they get to use the chat room and hear the thoughts of everyone around the world that is listening. There are forums for the conversations to be recorded and since they do not have to travel you can get fabulous panelists when they only need to do an hour or two for their panel.
Downside, people seem to think that since it is online it should be free. Oh, e-book authors, you are not alone. So, I am sad when I get emails like “I would have come, but you charge money.” They get ruder from there. I did some math for the first conference, and in the end I made $1 an hour for my time.
If you had it all to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?
Almost 80% of the little things. Devil in the details and all that. It makes it hard to accept on some days. On others, I love the variety and coming up with crazy ideas that people go along with. I had fabulous advice, a little too recently to be helpful in the start up. Rachel, goddess of Bitten By Books said that every blog should have a mission statement, giving you guidelines to your goals or intent with the blog. It made me realize I could keep things in line just by learning to say no if things do not work together. But I tell you I am always willing to give things a shot. All genres welcome.
A reader is a reader right?
You weren’t always a romance blog queen. Can you tell us a little bit about what your life was like before the “Backseat” set of sites?
I must have been really boring. I suffer from bi-polar depression. So some days, I am more on the ball than others, and some months. It can make things look pretty scary and big and unmanageable. I read a lot. I have left an eclectic job trail: florist, movie extra, substitute teacher, secret shopper, now web designer and blogger. I have written and write, edit, and live with another writer (which has its ups and downs). I watched a lot of movies.
I have also had some adventures. I walked El Camino de Santiago, 500 miles across the north of Spain from the Pyrenees to the coast, plus spent three and a half months in India, and then the wanderlust had me moving around a bit and feeling more willing to fly all over to interview authors. I am more than ready to move again. Next year it will have been 10 years since I walked the Camino, so June 2011, I may or may not be available. I hope to spend 2 months in Northern Spain. I am also always up for a road trip or guest speaking event. Have suitcase will travel.
Thanks so much, Terry! I’ve learned a lot from watching you at work. Now, I’m happy to have you share some of your story with my friends.
Thank you so much for having me, Angel! It is always a pleasure to get to talk with authors a little more candidly about what I do.