Everybody seems to love our InfoBarrel success story series, why wouldn't you? Reading about successful people does nothing but motivate you to push yourself harder and try to walk in their foot steps. This month, instead of focusing completely on financial success, we want to show off people who are having success on InfoBarrel as a whole. People who are pushing the envelope on creating engaging content and who are continuously showing up on the front page of InfoBarrel as featured content.
You know this month's writer as the witty and entertaining Private Investigator Vic Dillinger!
Hi, kids – it’s me, your friendly neighborhood anarchist. The wizened sages of InfoBarrel have asked Yours Truly to be a feature in their “success” stories series. I pointed out I’m not a success (since I’m not making the $73,264.29 US per month that jcmayer777 is earning using his magic LSI skills, reading of animal entrails, and consultation with the Oracle at Delphi). But the gentlemen at IB kindly retorted that perhaps there are differing levels of success.
Wow, I said to myself, how could they possibly know of my stellar, phenomenal success in bagging babes?
Then, I realized they were talking about writing. Ahh…so in that spirit, here’s my take on writing, InfoBarrel, features, and the female “organism”.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Although you wouldn’t know it from my third-grade maturity level, I am 49 years old. I was born and spent my formative years in The Second City (that’s Chicago). I am a college graduate, with a degree in mathematics and physics.
I worked in a funeral home for the last year-and-half of high school, was a land surveying technician after college, and then got involved in the world of private investigations for about nine years. [No, I did not do the lowlife “domestic” investigations – if your husband or wife was cheating on you, too bad. You could not have paid me enough to lower myself to the level of that horrendous TV show, “Cheaters”.] In more recent years I was the Manager of Distribution for Tempur-Pedic (about 7 years), and was a purchaser for an industry in central Missouri.
Since I’ve raised the subject before, I’ve been married and divorced twice (currently single: 5’11”, 175 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes – call me). I have a 7-year-old daughter named Jillian (named after great TV babe, Gillian Anderson, a/k/a/ Special Agent Dana Scully of The X Files) who lives in another state with my second ex-wife.
Baklava is the food of the gods, in case you didn’t know. I am primarily a vegetarian (although I’m sorry, veggies, I occasionally love good Italian salami, and you’d have to pry calamari from my cold dead hands.). It’s the vegetarian that makes me lean toward a preference for Middle Eastern, Thai, and Indian food as favorites.
Everything on my profile page is true – I love bunnies and Latinas (especially Mexican women), but I’m not so selective that I don’t recognize the other flavors from time to time. I also care about the forgotten, and I try to bring them back to life, at least for a little while.
What kind of hobbies do you have, and what are you interested in?
I play guitar (badly), I write (natch), I read a lot, I love long walks on the beach with a sling-shot to plug gulls… ummm…what else? Oh, yeah, I paint in watercolors and draw with pastels. I like tinkering with nuclear waste.
How did you originally get involved with InfoBarrel?
Web material was a frustration for me – people couldn’t write, had no clue how to construct a sentence, or even how to engage a reader. It never occurred to me, though, that I could be writing on the Web as well. A discussion with IB writer sound_foundation changed that. I’d never heard of IB, or had any clue what ad share was about. All I knew was it was a chance to write, get some material out, and make a few bucks in the process. So, I signed up under his referral i.d., and here I am.
What has kept you around? What are the benefits you get from IB?
The quality of the work allowed on this site is what has kept me around. In the wake of an early article I’d written about Brooke Shields, a representative of Xomba tracked me down via Facebook. She had read the piece and invited me to write on their site. I’d never heard of Xomba, but I took a look anyway. Simply put, I decided to stay where I was.
The biggest benefit from IB is intangible: it does not appeal to the lowest common denominator. It has not become eHow or a scraper site. People who are not in it for the long-haul drop away quickly enough – the chaff separates itself from the wheat. I have seen some very esoteric topics and articles written on the site, the sort of thing not presented elsewhere. I’ve seen some very good mid-level material as well. It’s very rare that I see anything spectacularly bad (although it does happen). Ultimately, I would like to see this site carry the same authority as, say, Wikipedia in terms of the veracity and quality of the information posted.
You've been featured on the home page many times, what do you attribute this to?
I’m as serious as cancer about writing, even when I’m fooling around (as with the “Mad Love” or “Epic Fail” series). “Featured” material should always be “A-game” writing – submissions for consideration should be the absolute best you can do on that topic, not a mere swipe.
The “features” section is probably the biggest motivator for me on IB. As a vindication and validation of what I spend hours slaving over, it is priceless. The articles I write truly are a labor of love – although I am finally making money daily on my body of work, the maturation process took over nine months. In the intervening year since I started, “The Front Page” has made a huge difference for me in views, clicks, exposure, and credibility.
I’m a random reader; I think the average Web surfer/browser is, too. Front page is immediate attention. Introspective has the dubious distinction of receiving my very first comment on an IB article for her featured piece about the political backdrop of The Wizard of Oz. It was brilliant – it had a different spin, and was just plain good. It was that piece probably more than any other that let me know I could write here. It also made me want that feature spot, as well.
I only write about things I’d want to read myself, or that I think others should re-examine or think about in a different way. I’ll never write a product review or a “how to” – in addition to being informed on a subject, I also want to be entertained, and those (for me) fail miserably in the latter requirement.
I don’t promote my work, and I do almost no keyword research (it is very rare—occasionally when I’m trying to maximize exposure in an article’s title I’ll do it, but not often). I do backlink my material to other relevant things I’ve done; the importance of that cannot be overstated, Ernie.
I don’t write to the contest topics. I write what I was going to write anyway, and if there is a category it fits, the piece will be submitted for that day’s featured topic. The material I wrote in December 2011, for example, had very few qualifiers for January’s contests (though I did hit it a few times in January).
What I will do is mentally carry a list in my head of pieces I’m either working on or developing as ideas. There are many subjects upon which I will never write because they are out of my milieu, except in a general sense (for example, I would never even think about competing with brlamc or Wesman_Todd_Shaw on a review of a specific guitar, although I have written about Les Paul and his first electric, “The Log”). If I see something in the contest that I can write about without prostituting myself, or sacrificing my integrity, or straining my milk to do it, I’ll write it, if and only if it was an idea I already had in development or is so engaging a topic that I will drop everything else to write about it (as in my discovery of French singer, France Gall).
I treat everything I write as if it is going into Smithsonian, Time, or any other outlet with well-researched, quality material. I have to believe it’s that level of due diligence that’s getting the front page.
What advice do you have for new members?
The first thing to do is read. Familiarize yourself with the quality of work presented here. Think about how you’re going to achieve that. Writing good enough for “Picture Pages” or “Blogs ’r’ Us” may not be good enough for IB.
Don’t bother blowing up the forums when you first sign up. We don’t know you, we don’t know your style, and we don’t care that you like puppies, unicorns, Smurfs, and rainbows. Also, IB is not MySpace or Facebook; we don’t have time for “lolz cats” or worrying about what Justin Bieber will do now that he’s going to be a daddy. The writers here are pretty serious about writing.
Do read the forums, especially on topics near and dear to you. Digest what you have read; publish a few articles so we all have a body of work against which to make reference. Then introduce yourself. It is of no value to blast out onto the forums telling us what a great writer you are when we have seen nothing yet. Don’t talk about how great you’re gonna be – prove it! Shut your pie hole and write.
When you do use the forums for help, there are thousands of people here who will come to your aid. This community is perhaps the least abrasive and the most helpful of any Web site I’ve seen.
But, you must be clear about what your problem is – proper communication is essential. Don’t be vague or coy. If you have an article rejected, and want to understand why, we need information. Rejected articles cannot be seen by any of us – tell us what it’s about, tell us where you think the problem lies.
If someone, upon invitation on a forum, critiques your work less favorably than you’d like, you don’t get to be a crybaby about it. Accept their input like a big boy or big girl, take an objective look, and then ask yourself if the article in question was truly your best effort. Make corrections as needed – the ability to “edit” things already published is one of this site’s best features.
Don’t come to IB and make your first article a “how to” about making a million dollars on IB, or how you’ll change the world on IB, or how you can write X number of articles on IB. Sucking up to admin gets you nowhere – they’re bull-puckey detectors are just as good as mine, and we’ll all know you’re a joke. Everything that could have been written constructively about the site has been done – and better – than you, a newbie, could possibly do by veterans of the site (x3xsolxdierx3x, jcmayer777, JadeDragon, et al).
You may write something controversial, either intentionally or otherwise, but agitation for its own sake is pointless. Don’t waste your time writing prurient or overtly “sensational” material, either. For example, writing an article called “How to Give a Woman an Organism” (that’s my way to get around the censors – you know what I mean) makes you an idiot. It may get you a lot of reads from 30-year-old virgin males who still live in their parents’ basements, but you’re still an idiot. For starters, no one “gives” any woman an organism. She does that herself, you’re just a facilitator. And if you’re bad at “facilitating”, you will break your back and every other bone in your body trying, and it still will not happen if her head is not in it. Don’t waste your reader’s time or intelligence. Appealing to what you think is cute or “sexy” won’t work here. I’ll know you’re a short-bus rider, and so will admin.
Finally, do not despair. Discouragement will kill any drive you have. This is not a site for overnight sensations or overnight millions. Keep writing, hone your skills, and build. The money comes in time.
Your content gets a lot of comments and has really great interaction, what do you recommend other writers do to get more interaction in their content?
The first thing to do is acknowledge that someone left a comment on one of your articles. Someone has invested his/her time in reading your material (and the way I write, anybody reading my stuff better pack a lunch). That person also spent additional effort, however small, in letting you know he/she was there. This acknowledgement may be nothing more than going back under the “reply” button, and saying “thank you”. Without readers you are nothing; do your best to catch comments and respond appropriately.
Secondly, pay attention to the type of comments. Sometimes people offer additional information, or they ask questions. Follow up, if necessary. Comments left on others’ articles are also a great source of inspiration. Terrific story ideas can come from there. I “stole” accused child killer Martha Rendell from JudyE (with her permission and knowledge) from an excellent two-parter she did about the Fremantle Cemetery in Western Australia. Another windfall came from the comment dialogue on an article ddraig (Emma, my favorite Welsh witch after Rhiannon) wrote about a Welsh village swallowed up in a reservoir. The comments and additional input on her piece from other readers led me to write an article called “Vanished Villages”.
Finally, if you do find inspiration in another writer’s material, acknowledge that. If you see an article of someone else’s you think might be good for further reading on what you’re writing, include a backlink from your article to that other author’s work (I always ask first, because my style may not be for everybody. Muslim IBer’s, for example, may not want me to include a backlink to something of theirs if my article is extolling the virtues of a ham sandwich).
What would you do if you won the lottery?
You know those people who say, “I’ll still keep my job”? What a crock! I’d keep my job all right – I’d show up around two o’clock in the afternoon, drunk. I’d ask, “OK, so whatta ya gonna do, ‘boss’? Fire me?”
If I won the lottery, dependent upon how much cash I had after Unky Sam got hold of his “fair” share (probably about half in that bracket), I’d likely just continue writing (seriously, the money would be irrelevant, but I like what I’m doing). I’d probably move closer to my daughter so I could see her more often. Oh, yeah, I’d ask Sofia Vergara to marry me (I’d ask Salma Hayek, but her current hubby is a billionaire, and my paltry $20 million in lottery winnings couldn’t compete with that).