Having published and monitored the activity of on-line newsletters for over 7 years I have a good feel for what subjects will attract the most attention.
My electronic newsletter always contains a variety of information (visit http://aalbc.com/enewslet.htm for an archive of eNewsletters from the last few years). You’ll find that I include links to;
- videos of authors
- book reviews
- recommended web sites
- recommended books
- information on new releases
- AALBC advertisements (advertising, discounted books for sale, etc)
- Interesting Discussion board posts
- AALBC.com Best Seller’s List
- Links to newly profiled authors
- and more…
I determine popularity by comparing how frequently readers click on a link of a particular article in my eNewsletter. There are articles that will always will generate a lot of attention; best of lists, controversial issues, sex, and celebrity are good examples. Within each of these topics there are subjects more popular than others. If I wanted my newsletter to draw even more attention I would simply focus on articles with the most popular subjects.
The challenge I face is trying to develop a popular newsletter while maintaining the focus on my mission of promoting and celebrating the diversity of books by and about Black people. I learned long ago, for example, that the AALBC.com bestseller’s list will always be the 1st or 2nd most popular link clicked in my eNewsletter. However my best sellers lists, for much of 2005, have been dominated by titles written by Zane. As a result, publishing my best sellers list contributed to narrowing the focus of the newsletter to a single author — at least in the short term. (Sidebar: overtime, readers can compare bestsellers and track interesting trends the like the emergence of “street fiction” and the waning of erotica).
Sometimes I stumble upon a hot topic in a known popular subject. A good example of a popular subject in the celebrity category is Terrence Howard. Anything with Terrance’s name in my eNewsletter, recently, have been a hot topic; (1) Terrence Howard – Interview by Kam Williams; (2) Lackawanna Blues – Reviewed by Brian Egeston; and (3) Terence Howard and his white wife – Discussion board topic were very popular. Of course none of this Terrence stuff has anything to do with books. However I do know publishers use AALBC.com to gauge trends — a smart publisher would know a well done book about Terrence Howard would likely do well today. Also, I find readers (at least my eNewsletter’s demographic) are not only interested in books, so the other articles, however loosely related to my mission do help. But I won’t allow it to dominate the discussion. The subject is Black books.
Of course there are books you know will be popular because they deal with the previously mentioned popular topics of sex, celebrity, controversy and best of lists. A prime example is Confessions of a Video Vixen (http://www.aalbc.com/reviews/confessions_of_a_video_vixen.htm. The Author Karrine Steffans, in her controversial “tell all”, discusses her sexual encounters with celebrities. Karrine’s interview, and book review were extremely popular links in the AALBC.com eNewsletter and her book is a current AALBC.com best seller. While Terrence Howard was tough to relate to books, it is relatively easy to tie Karrine Stefan’s to a book; which is more inline with the goal of the site. I have to admit, I don’t particularly relish focusing so much of AALBC.com’s content an author nicknamed “superhead”; but you do you best to love everyone in the family.
As mentioned, best of lists are always popular. In the last eNewsletter (http://aalbc.com/news_sept2005.htm) I included a link to a web page described as the The Best of The Black Book Web Sites (http://aalbc.com/otherwebsites.htm). The goal of this web page was to identify the most popular Black book web sites and rank them in terms of volume of traffic, internet presence, popularity and other non-subjective and quantifiable characteristics. This link was clicked twice as frequently and the 2nd most popular link — rarely is a link so overwhelmingly popular.
I was pleased to find, though not surprised, that AALBC.com ranked 1st in all categories except one: Length of time on-line. Our friends at Mosaicbooks.com holds the distinction of being the oldest, continuously running web site dedicated to Black books.
One of my goals for building this page was to use it as a tool to help explain the benefits of advertising on the AALBC.com web site. However an additional benefit is that the resulting list is a great list of web of black owned web sites, doing the hard and necessary work of promoting our literature. I update this page periodically (most recently October 15th 2005) by adding newly discovered sites or sites that have been climbing in the traffic rankings and removing sites whose traffic has fallen off.
This is an example of a popular topic that is consistent with AALBC.com’s goals. So if you are looking for a good place to learn about books by and about Black people, the web sites listed on this page http://aalbc.com/otherwebsites.htm would be a good place to begin.