1. So tell us a little about your site and how you got started?
I write MissMalaprop.com, a blog devoted to independent artists & designers, eco-friendly & recycled products, and charities & organizations that are working to make the world a better place. Whenever possible, I try to spotlight artists and issues related to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where I'm from. I launched the site in August 2006, a year after Hurricane Katrina forever changed the lives of practically everyone I know. I've always wanted to do my bit in changing the world for the better, and I've always been an environmentalist and a crafter. I just wanted a place to talk about the things I care about.
2. What do you look for when featuring an artist?
If it's handmade AND recycled AND cleverly useful, that's my favorite. I tend to write about things that appeal to me in some way personally. My tastes have always been a little off from center (I love strange, colorful, happy things), but they're pretty diverse as well. Sometimes I write about something I stumble across randomly on Etsy and sometimes I mention designers who have contacted me to let me know about their work. Even if I don't choose to write about someone's work right away, I always add their website information to a list I keep... when I'm uninspired for something to write about, I check that list until I find something that grabs my attention that day and I blog about it.
3. Suggestions on how to generate buzz about your products?
The main thing is to just create good stuff. If it's not well designed, or beautiful, or useful, you can promote the hell out of it and no one will care.
Also, be sure to have a clean, easy to navigate website if you plan on selling online and trying to create a buzz that way. If you can't do it yourself, hire someone who can; it will be worth it. I hate sites with too much Flash, or music and video that starts playing immediately, or navigation that is trying too hard to be clever but in reality is just impossibly tedious to use. If I have problems figuring out how to get to the information I need on your site, as someone who is pretty Internet savvy and grew up using computers, just imagine how someone who is new to shopping online will feel. You just can't retain customers that way.
Other than that, just try to learn as much as you can about the business and marketing side of things. I'm self taught with all I know about business and marketing. There is tons of information out there and plenty of it is free. You just have to do the legwork and be willing to learn.
4. What not to do when contacting sites like yours?
Do your homework before you contact a blogger. Take a look around their site, and see if you can find their real first name mentioned anywhere. When you email them, address them by name -- it shows you took the time to care. Also, make sure that you're contacting someone who will likely be interested in your work. I've had companies contact me about products that obviously have nothing to do with what I write about on my blog. I lose respect for that immediately, and honestly I usually don't even take the time to respond to them, because they clearly didn't take any time to learn about my site before contacting me. A simple, honest email usually works best. I pay MUCH more attention to an email that looks like a real person wrote it versus a press release that gets sent out to tons of people. Also, adding a blogger to your e-mail newsletter without their permission is a REALLY bad idea. When I suddenly start getting newsletters that I never subscribed to I immediately unsubscribe and in some cases I've reported it as spam. Because it is.
5. What blogs do you follow to stay current?
I keep myself so busy that unfortunately I only manage to keep up with a very few design blogs on a regular basis. Modish, Indie Fixx, Indie Shopping, and Bits & Bobbins are the mainstays on my feed reader.
6. What trends do you see developing? What products or styles are hot?
I've always been the kind of person who could really care less about trends. I like what I like, and if other people like it that's great, and if they don't, that's fine too. Sometimes it's kind of fun to see the things I've loved for a long time become trendy (like the recent octopus and seahorse trends), because it makes it easier to find these things.
I also find the steampunk trend really interesting... when I first started seeing it pop up as a "trend" on Etsy and style sites I thought it was interesting that A. there was a name for it in the first place and B. that it was becoming so popular among so many types of people. I've always loved Victorian styles (corsetry, tall lace up boots with fancy heels, bustle skirts) and I hang out with sort of a goth-alternative crowd, so it's really cool that these things are finding a broader audience.
7. Is blogging more of a hobby or do you see this becoming a long term career choice?
Blogging is definitely something that I find enjoyable, but I sort of see it more as a means to an end than as a definitive career path. The other day I told a co-worker that I have "entrepreneurial ADD". I think what I really love is just entrepreneurship in and of itself. I love being an entrepreneur and helping to promote like-minded entrepreneurs. I always have about 10 million ideas going off in my head, it's tough to stay focused sometimes. I have been very lucky to have managed to build a pretty successful blog from the ground up, and in turn it's opened up a lot of other opportunites for me, including a monthly column in a local alternative magazine, Antigravity, and a paid gig blogging for Styledash.com (and formerly for BloggingNewOrleans). I'll probably continue blogging for a long time in some form, but I think I would go crazy if I had to rely on blogging alone as my primary source of income (even if it was from multiple blogs).
8. Do you see yourself embracing new media to reach your audience (podcasting, video)?
I've thought about branching out, but honestly I just don't think I have the time to devote to any of it right now. Like I said, I have a bit of ADD when it comes to business, and I do manage to spread myself thin sometimes. I'm trying to be better about not letting myself overextend in how many projects and types of projects I try to maintain at any given time. That said, if I ever try to branch into video, I'll be set because my boyfriend is a freelance filmmaker and that's pretty much all he does for a living. (www.dreamsonfilm.com)
9. What do you think sets you apart from other design blogs?
Some of the other indie design blogs out there focus a lot on things like seasonal gift guides or big giveaways. And while I think those things can be great for other bloggers (and the artists & readers), it's just not where my focus is. For me personally it's too time-consuming without enough reward. MissMalaprop.com turns two years old in August and I feel like it's definitely been a huge learning process. Personally, I've been trying to take a step back from too much consumerism and over-indulging in my own life , because of concerns for both the toll on the envrioment and financial prudence. So I wouldn't feel right constantly telling my readers to "buy buy buy". On the other hand, just because I don't feel the need to buy every amazing handmade, recycled, fantastic thing out there, that doesn't mean I don't love it just the same and want to share it with other people. Lately I've been trying to take a more laid-back, personal approach with my blog and just write about the things that really appeal to me.
10. Any other thoughts you'd like to share?
I do a feature on Styledash.com called Indie Designer Interviews. It's an ongoing thing and I'll feature just about anyone who takes the time to do the interview. If I get a ton of responses at once, there may be a bit of a backlog and it won't get posted for a few weeks, but eventually I will post all of them. I've posted more info in a thread at The Switchboards forum (a fabulous resource for indie businesses, and if you're not already using it you should be).