Three years ago today, on May 23, 2013, I made a simple but profound and consequential decision. This site, SeanMunger.com, existed before that time, but on that day–it was only a few weeks before my novel Zombies of Byzantium was due to come out–I scrolled across my own website and became profoundly bored and disgusted. My site, whose ostensible purpose was to help sell books, was everything that people in the author-promoting business said it should be. It had an About page, links where you could order my books, and a few blog articles ostensibly related to subjects relating to my books. And it was boring. Really, really boring. On that day, May 23, 2013, I decided to turn this blog into something else: a dynamic and interesting site with a lot of different material, reflecting my many interests. Hopefully it would become a site where people would check back day after day, read articles, connect, learn and have fun. If I sold books that way, so much the better, but that was no longer the point. This was the “Revolution” on my blog: I declared independence from the traditional boring author website.
Every May 23 since then I’ve commemorated that event, at the risk of seeming self-absorbed (hey, I’m an author, so of course I am). Here’s my “Revolution” post for 2014, and for 2015. On the day of the Revolution I started devoting significant time and attention to this blog, crafting articles that had interesting content–whether or not they had anything to do with my books or not–and really building a following. It worked, and it worked fast. What happened after the Revolution was what was supposed to have been happening all along, but wasn’t: people began reading, coming to the site, commenting, connecting, learning and having fun. In the first week of my new approach to the site, traffic to SeanMunger.com went up 199%. That’s not a typo. One tick south of 200% increase in page views in one week. In April 2013, the last full month before the Revolution, average daily page views were 25. In April 2016, that number was up to 1,387. On December 1, 2015–the same day that my latest book The Rats of Midnight came out–I had my 1,000,000th page view. Even more importantly that raw numbers, I’ve built a community of friends, fellow bloggers, historians, writers, fans and colleagues who visit this site nearly every day.
I salute all my regular readers and friends who I’ve met through this blog. You’re all awesome!
Furthermore, I did this all while breaking the “rules.” An author website is, so the pros say, solely for selling books and getting my name out there. And even then, some of the pros say it’s a waste of time and authors should be spending their time on social media. I can’t imagine a single consultant in the author-promotion business who would advise me to write an article about “English Renaissance cinema,” or to divine the meaning of the last episode of Lost, or sink an entire summer of blog articles into drinking wine and reading an old book from the ’70s that I’d read dozens of times before. And there would be people in the author-promotion business who would be utterly horrified at me taking stands on issues like, say, the fascist who is running for President, or who would approve of me throwing down the gauntlet and declaring fighting climate change the moral equivalent of abolishing slavery. This just isn’t done where you’re trying to sell books. Yet somehow when I was playing it “safe” no one seemed to care. Mine was just another empty website.
Now this blog is a community. I keep saying that because it’s true. Where would I be without Michelle Williams’s amazing wine tastings, the wisecracks of the Drunken Cyclist’s 7-year-old son, Mike LaDano’s record store adventures, Robert Horvat’s exquisite history lessons, the wisdom and morality of Padre Steve, the world travels of Jaunting Jen, or the political insights of Joe Kaminski? None of those people were in my life before the Revolution. Now I can’t imagine getting up in the morning and not seeing them, reading their blogs, sharing their lives, making connections. This has nothing to do with selling books. I’d love it if people bought my books. But this site is now far, far beyond a simple author website.
In my “Revolution” posts it’s become a tradition to feature this wonderful 1950s jazz song by Sidney Bechet. It’s an example of something I put on this blog very early on just because I liked it–not because it helped me sell books.
In a sense, the Revolution is over. This blog will continue to change and evolve; already I’m planning a major overhaul of the look of the site, which will probably happen in the next few months. I am doing fewer articles, as I’m now putting significant time into my podcast and other pursuits. If Eyes of War (my next book) hits, my author persona will shift away from horror/science fiction perhaps in a more literary and historical direction. I don’t need to prove myself anymore or struggle to keep a following, because I’ve got one. But I’ll still be here, in some fashion, reading history, drinking wine, watching movies, reading Choose Your Own Adventure books, admiring art and fighting climate change. This site stopped being an author website three years ago. Now it’s a website that happens to be run by an author. I’m grateful for all the members of my community who read and interact. It’s a great thing. Viva la Revolution. Now we are free!