Tuesday, September 30, 2008

U2-A Diary: Interview with the author!

Ok....why am I going to promote a diary about the rock band, U2 on an educational technology-related site? Is it because I am a huge fan of the band? No. Is it because I want the author to make a lot of money? No, even though I am a huge fan and I do hope Matt makes money. It's because I see how the author is using social media to write and market his work.
Matt McGee, webmaster of atu2.com, is the author of the upcoming book titled U2-A Diary. Matt runs one of the earliest (first?) fan-based websites and has won numerous awards for its content. Since Matt was archiving a vast amount of information about the band, he had the foundation for the book already at his disposal. As Matt researched the book, he used his book blog to research unanswered questions, collect photographs, and get feedback on the cover and format of the book. While Matt and his publishers made the final decisions, some decisions were made as a result of social networking and social media. One example of a social decision was for the cover of the book. Originally, the cover only included Bono and The Edge. Many blog readers felt strongly that a book about U2 should have all members on the cover thus the change was made.
Now comes time to market the book. There is a Facebook group, twitter updates, promotional links and a well thought-out viral marketing scheme....called a contest. Which is what this post is all about. Matt blogged and twittered about the contest to win a free copy of his book. All you have to do is send Matt 5 questions, he answers, post the Q&A to your own blog, send him a link to the blog and sit back and hope to win.
So how do I correlate this story to education? Well, I think it's important to archive information. One way to do this is blog about what you are learning. My students continue to blog this year and it is becoming an archive of learning. Secondly, communicating ideas and questions to others allows for better decisions and sharing of information and general discussion. Conversations are at the heart of learning. And finally, self-promotion & marketing equates with student work, student portfolios, and other achievements being shared online for peer and professional review.
It has been very interesting to watch Matt's book hit the shelves (Oct.) since readers of his website knew about it from the moment he had a deal. In some small way, I feel part of the process too and I guess now I am. Here is the interview (my questions in bold, Matt's answers in italic):

1. Describe the moment when you came up with this diary idea for the book?

I'd love to take credit for the idea, but it wasn't mine. In 2005, I was pitching (with help from the @U2 staff) an idea for a different book -- it was U2-related, but it wasn't a history of the band in diary-style format. I pitched the idea to a few different publishers, one of which was Omnibus Press in the UK. They were high on my list because of their experience with U2 books; they've published U2 Live - A Concert Documentary, The Complete Guide to the Music of U2, and a couple others over the years. Well, turns out that Omnibus wasn't too interested in my book idea, but they had been thinking about doing a U2 diary-style book. They asked me if I would be interested in writing that book, instead, and who was I to say no? :-)

It really was a case of being in the right place at the right time. If you want me to describe the moment they pitched me on the U2 Diary idea ... just picture my jaw on the ground and you'll have the right image in mind.

2. Bono seems to be everywhere at once sometimes....was there a particular stretch of time that you thought was truly impressive regarding Bono's adventures?

There are a couple that stand out: early July, 2005, is one. Live 8 was on July 2nd. U2 is in the midst of its regular run of concert dates in Europe. And Bono is jetting back and forth from shows to Scotland for the G8 Summit, and while he's in Scotland, his schedule is just utterly crammed with meetings and appearances, and you end up wondering how and when he ever sleeps. And there's another one that I find amazing: October 16-17, 2005. On the 16th, U2 plays in Philly. On the 17th, U2 plays in New York. According to a magazine writer who was following the band over those few days, Bono flew from Philly to Arizona after the gig on the 16th for one of his anti-poverty meetings, then flew back to NYC for the concert on the 17th. I have to trust the magazine writer got his facts straight since he was following the band around that week.

3. Are you maintaining a U2 diary for dates post publication in order to sell new editions?

Yes. There's no guarantee we'll do a new edition, but in case we do, I have a diary for 2008 that's in progress. And I'll keep doing it until someone tells me to stop.

4. Are there any plans for an electronic version of this timeline/ calendar? It seems like it could also be a very cool iPhone application!

There are no plans, but you're right -- that does sound pretty cool! I think Omnibus' interest (and mine) in selling copies of the print publication precludes putting all the content online, at least for now.

5. Would you consider writing about another band in the same style?

I'd consider it, but the odds would be stacked pretty high against a project like that. For one, it would have to be a band that I love enough to give a couple years of my life to during research and writing. Years ago, R.E.M. would've fit that description, but they lost me a few albums ago. I like Coldplay enough, I think, but the second issue is that they've been around for about 10 years now and I haven't been collecting any archives about them. Surely there are more dedicated Coldplay followers that would be better suited for such a book. I'd buy it.


Paco Bailac said...
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