Blogging Your Way to Writing Success: An Interview with Jeff Rivera, Author and Blogger
Excerpted from The Business of Writing: Professional Advice on Proposals, Publishers, Contracts, and More for the Aspiring Writer (Allworth Press)
By Jennifer Lyons
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|Jeff Rivera is an author and inspirational media personality. He has appeared
on national television, radio, and print in such outlets as The Boston
Globe, Publishers Weekly, Right On! Magazine, Rotarian Magazine,
TMZ, WABC, WNBC, WCBS, SITV, American Latino, and
NPR. He also writes or has written for Mediabistro, GalleyCat, Publishing
Perspectives, Digital Book World, Examiner, American Chronicle,
School Library Journal, and The Huffington Post and has been invited
to speak and inspire groups all over the world from South Carolina to Nigeria.
He has been on panel discussions for The Library Journal, Authors Guild,
the Harlem Book Fair, and many others.
JL: How did you become a blogger, and for whom do you
blog? When did you start?
JR: I fell into blogging by accident. Iíve always written, whether it
is stories or my journal, which I have kept since I was in the eighth
grade. I started blogging for an online publication called American
Chronicle. I knew that I was going to be moving to New York from
Miami and I wanted a way to start meeting people in the publishing
industry; I thought: What better way than to start interviewing
people? Everyone loves to be interviewed and I was naturally curious
(some would say nosy). I had just come off of successfully selfpublishing
my first novel and having it acquired by Warner Books,
so I had a little bit of credibility. I wanted to know in particular what
it was like for Latinos in the book publishing world. From there, I
started writing for Mediabistroóa couple of how-to articles. How
I lucked into that I donít know, but I did and I saw an opportunity
with the websiteís blog, GalleyCat. I knew that as a person of color,
there was very little coverage for us, so I wrote the editors and proposed
that I start blogging for them. They told me theyíd ďget back
to meĒ and, lo and behold, a couple of weeks later they did.
I started out blogging for free and eventually it was bumped up to
a paid gig. I still blog for GalleyCat on occasion but used that opportunity
to start blogging for The Huffington Post, which opened even more doors to sites such as Publishing Perspectives, Examiner, and now
Entertainment Weekly. The smaller opportunities came through luck,
but once things got going, the larger opportunities were not flukes.
If thereís one thing Iím good at, itís taking a small opportunity and
using it to open more doors.
JL: You seem to focus on covering publishing. How did that
JR: Publishing naturally was an interest to me because Iím first and
foremost an author. Iím also by nature an enthusiast for marketing
and publicity and I think Iím equally passionate about those.
JL: Do you know how many people follow you?
JR: Thatís a great question because I shut down my Twitter account,
but I do have a few thousand Facebook friends. More impressive have
been the reactions to some of the stories Iíve broken like that of Seth
Godin leaving traditional publishingóthat led to mentions in everything
from The New York Observer and Fast Company to the LA Times.
The story I recently broke with Jackie Collins sparked over 120,000
other stories about the fact that she would be e-publishing her stories. I
was grateful for the two of them for giving me those scoops.
JL: How did you become an author? What do you write?
JR: Iíve been writing since I was in the second grade, but mostly just
little stories. I always dreamed of being a novelist and would go into
the school library and just imagine myself one day having that happen.
I then got led astrayówas attracted to the neon lights of the entertainment
industry and writing screenplays, but after constant rejection,
I decided I was going to write a novel. Having never written one
before, I decided to base it on one of my screenplays. I didnít want any
more rejection, so I decided to self-publish and built a large enough
online following that it led to landing an agent and then a book deal.
JL: Has blogging helped with your overall platform as an author?
JR: Very much so. The network of people to which Iíve been introduced
was all spawned by blogging, not only big shots in book publishing,
but also celebrities and people in film and television. Hereís
the thing: You may not earn a lot from blogging, but if you use it as
a way to meet the people you want to meet and build relationships,
and do favors and ask the questions you want to ask and learn from
the best, it will open up other opportunities. I donít think I make
any more than a few thousand dollars a year blogging, but I do know
that blogging has led me to gigs that have made me a much more
JL: Do you read other blogs? If so, which ones?
JR: Yes, very much. I love reading GalleyCat and Mediabistro,
of course, and I love reading blogs on Deadline.com, Hollywood
Reporter, and Entertainment Weekly. Seth Godinís is fantastic and my
new favorites are blogs on Inc.com.
JL: Tell us about some of your favorite interviews you have
JR: My favorites are with the big celebrities and major producers and
authors. I always get a kick out of those because even though I do
quite a few, Iím still very much a kid from Hillsboro, Oregon, inside
who canít believe I get to talk to these people. Many of them have
become close friends, colleagues, and clients, and even call me to
ask me for advice, which is just a trip. I loved doing interviews with
Nicholas Sparks, Jackie Collins, James Patterson, Fergie, Enrique
Iglesias, Stan Lee, Hugh Hefneróso many great, amazing people
JL: What do you think was the most exciting thing in publishing
in the last year?
JR: The most exciting thing Iíve seen is the huge wave of indie
authors who are starting to get their feet wet and who are finding
tremendous success. It is the future, whether people like it or not. The thing is, you can dance in both worlds. Some books I write are
more appropriate for indie publishing, and others are better suited for
traditional. You donít have to only choose one, and you donít have to
badmouth the other; thereís plenty of pie for all.
JL: Can you suggest any resources for writers, any blogs,
journals, books, etc., that have been useful to you?
JR: Definitely Mediabistro.com is great for writers and I love Alan
Rinzlerís blog as well. I also like reading Joe Konrathís blog, and do
so regularly. Seth Godinís is a must-read every morning along with
JL: What do you think is the future of blogging?
JR: There will always be some form of blogging whatever they might
call it in the future. There will probably be more video blogging or
vlogging, as they call it. Itís an excellent way to voice what youíre
passionate about and to open doors for yourself and build a reputation
that can lead to a lot of great things, if you play your cards right.