India Bloggers and Journalists at the IVLP

four bloggers, three from India, and Suzanna

Aarefa Johari – Mumbai, Bipin Newar – Calcutta, Berly Thomas – Kerala, Suzanna Stinnett – San Francisco


If I had my say, I’d start every week with a session at the State Department’s IVLP, speaking with delegates from a country I know so little about. Today, I had the privilege of meeting with three journalists from India on their first visit to the U.S. As these visits often do, they began with a trip to Washington D.C., and then came to the IVLP for a few days of closely scheduled conferences. The IVLP contacts me to speak with these visiting delegates and attempt to answer their questions about blogging and publishing in the U.S.A.

On a previous visit to the IVLP last November, I was thrilled to spend two hours with six Chinese bloggers, journalists, social media CEOs and professors. The assistance of two translators made our time together nothing short of spectacular, at least by my standards. New relationships began as we discussed the plight of artists, my community building projects, and possible collaborations between China and the U.S. in the future.

Here’s a bit more about the organizations involved.
Through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by IIE, a growing number of current and emerging foreign leaders participate in carefully designed short-term visits to the United States. (Visits are typically about two weeks.)

The Institute of International Education is an independent not-for-profit founded in 1919. IIE is among the world’s largest and most experienced international education and training organizations.

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) premier professional exchange program. Participants from around the world meet and confer with their professional counterparts, gaining a greater understanding of the cultural and political influences in U.S. society through carefully crafted programs that respond to the visitors’ professional interests. (Everyone I’ve met so far has been on their first visit to the U.S.A.)

Talking with India
Aarefa Johari, Senior Reporter for the Hindustan Times in Mumbai, was interested in how I go about creating a web portal for a community that can serve a variety of needs. I explained my very organic process of articulating the community I want to reveal, and using the tech to help the community see itself. Like the Chinese journalists and bloggers, this group was curious about how money flows through art and creative projects. Later, I asked her about publishing in India. She explained that there is a publishing explosion going on, with profound changes. Lest we get comfortable with the familiar sound of that, the reality of publishing in India is quite different from the U.S. Once-literary big publishers are now churning out paperbacks to meet the huge new demand for pulp fiction and romances, for example. Aarefa commented that she doesn’t think people are reading much “of importance.”

All three confirmed that e-readers have not taken hold. Bipin Newar, the founder and CEO of Taaza TV (East India’s leading Hindi news channel), said that the main source of entertainment and information is television, and by a long stretch. Newspapers are also doing well, with circulation growing, but Aarefa pointed out that journalists are very poorly paid.

Berly Thomas, a journalist for the Malayam-language newspaper Malayala Manorama (2.1 million circulation), is better known for his opinion blog, “Acts of Berly,” available only in Malayam but extremely popular for his wit and sarcasm. I guess I will have to learn to read Malayam now. He made it clear, with Bipin nodding, that monetizing blogs is not happening. Google analytics cannot be accessed because of the language issue. Berly painted a picture of readers in India becoming voracious readers and television watchers, but explained that while access to the Internet is cheap and common, public wifi is rarely available. He also said that of the people in India using social media, 80% of them are on Facebook. Twitter is much less common. Bipin thinks this is going to change with 700 million people now on mobile devices. He sees the potential for a mass migration to web-accessed news, to Twitter, and to blogging, as mobile devices become status quo. It seems to me that mobile is the jumpstarter for social media, but if the public wifi piece is missing, it will really slow the progress.

Didn’t we see something like that happen in this country?

We also talked about the fact that humans crave stories, and are consuming them through television shows, films, and ever-cheaper forms of books, like never before. Writers, take note.

What I always learn from these sessions is that those of us who have made social media a part of our daily (hourly?) lives are living in a world vastly different from many others who can access the web. I am grateful for the reminder, and for even more motivation to continue building community that connects on the ground.

Suzanna Stinnett

Kudos and Comments on Guy Kawasaki’s 10 Social Media Tips for Authors

ten girls with fans on a bicycle at the circus

Do successful authors make collaboration look easy?

With big thanks to Guy Kawasaki for clarity and accessibility, here are his 10 Social Media Tips for Authors along with some comments from myself as an author in the trenches. See Guy’s entire post here: 10 Social Media Tips for Authors:

1. Start yesterday. It takes 9 months to build a web presence around your book.
(Me: If you’re groaning already, because your book is in final edit and you are just now starting the learning curve, just keep reading. You are here now, so just get in the river.)

2. Segment the services. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
(Me: What Guy is talking about here is learning the difference in these outreach tools for your web presence. He distills them to the 5 Ps, respectively: People, Perception, Passion, Pinning, and Pimping. That’s right, LinkedIn is for pimping, as in displaying your skills in order to be hired. I use a different angle to help you gain understanding of which service you want to use and why, but Guy’s 5 Ps offers a memorable window on these poorly understood differences.)

3. Make a great profile. Your profile page is an ad. The photo on your profile? Only your face. Not you and your spouse or a vacation shot.

4. Curate, don’t create. (Me: Pay attention here! This will save your efforts. When you are building content for your web presence while simultaneously writing your book, don’t attempt to create original content all the time.) Guy offers his excellent site,,
for a place to look for interesting things to share with your readers. (Me: Stay relevant, but develop search skills in order to streamline the process of sharing with your readership.)

5. Act like NPR. and 6. Restrain yourself. (Me: In short, offer great value to your community throughout the year, and keep your pitches and sells to 10% or less of your content.)

7. Candy-fy. (Me: USE BIG IMAGES.) Guy says 400-500 pixel images should be included with all your posts, because they draw eyes from the swamp of offerings over to your content. I love this tip! I immediately adjusted my use of images in all my posts.

8. Respond. To comments on your blog. (Me: Tend the conversation. Period. If people are interacting on your blog, you must see them as treasured community members. Groom these relationships.)

9. Stay positive or stay silent. (Me. Good advice on dealing with the little monsters. Don’t use anger i your own posts, let readers respond to your opinions with their own, and if they come back a second time with comments you think aren’t appropriate for your audience, block them.)

10. Repeat. Guy says most social media “experts” disagree with him on this, so I find it extra interesting. He repeats his Twitter posts four times every eight hours.

He adds a final note to these ten, which is as important as any of them. Jump in and do this. Don’t spend all your time creating a strategic plan. Guy says the goal is to build 5,000 followers before you publish your book. (Me: If you’re ready to publish, don’t wait on that either. You will learn vastly more by doing than by waiting.)

The one thing I would add to this list is to steer yourself toward video. Find the most accessible way into this medium and make it a regular part of your life. Ask yourself: “What do I need today to be able to create a basic video tomorrow?” I mean literally tomorrow. Building your web presence in video will drag all the other pieces along with it.

Which of these tips made you raise your eyebrows?

Keep in touch,
Suzanna Stinnett
Follow Suzanna on Twitter: Brainmaker


Shifting Into New

bottle cap with turquoise top and letter S in middle






Maybe it’s the result of years of focused work, or maybe it’s an accident. It feels like a convergence to me.

What I love in the world and what I want for the world are merging into what I do in the world.

The past five years I’ve held space for a local group to learn the basics of blogging and publishing together, in person. Bay Area Bloggers Society (BABS) has grown to over 600 members, and gets more interesting all the time. I’ve made plenty of mistakes leading this group, guided only by a desire to level the playing field and make this high-potential technology available to more of my community. One thing I’ve learned is that you can make mistakes and recovery quickly if you are clear about your motives and intent. Many of my BABS members have returned to my meetings, shared their expertise, and cheered me on through the often lonely task of hosting a group. And over a year ago, Anne Hill joined as co-organizer, which is a big reason why BABS is still around.

Now, having discovered that I can build a community, and knowing something about what is required, I am venturing out again to a topic that is not only close to my heart. It’s what I’m made of. Reclamation art, or making stuff out of what’s around, is second nature to me. Anyone who grew up with a grandmother who made “rag quilts” knows what I’m talking about. I started looking at this dynamic, and how to engage it and help it work better, when I was 19 years old in Norman, Oklahoma.

The time for this community to coalesce has arrived. Happy! With the focus it lends me, I am changing my blogging habits, clearing out blog sites that are no longer relevant to warrant the work of maintenance, and settling my main work into this site and the ones I’ll use to further the reclamation arts community.

Do sign up for my email letters. You’ll receive useful information about ebooks and blogging, events and workshops, and the latest announcements about our new arts community.

Thank you for your patience while I rework my web presence. See you out there!

Suzanna Stinnett

Authors drive publishing down new roads

Sun on mountain with water in the foreground







Authors have a new range of mountains before them. I love these mountains. They’re accessible and they lead somewhere, which hasn’t necessarily been true about the hilly path to publishing for many decades past. I want authors to know that the territory is now being thoroughly mapped and in a way that makes access better by the week. I know this because my own publishing efforts are bearing sweeter fruit every quarter and my associates in this adventure are staking out real estate with increasingly quantifiable success.

If you’re a published author or a writer still working toward that goal, I’ve got nuggets to share with you. I want to hear your stories, and I want to see you enter the big distribution worlds of digital publishing. Join our lively discussions at a local B.A.B.S. meeting, stick with me on Twitter, and get into my email list to stay informed. There’s a cloverleaf up ahead and I don’t want you to miss your exit!

Suzanna Stinnett
Bay Area Bloggers Society

Authors Go Public – goes live!

Suzanna Stinnett is the founder of BABS, a group of writers, bloggers, and tech folk who meet in person to work out the wrinkles of modern communication. With Anne Hill as co-organizer, the two authors are forging new, well-lit paths for publishing.

blue and red fleur de lis logo for BABS

Have you seen any articles recently about publishing that did not mention ebooks? I have, but I don’t recommend them, because ebook production has moved front and center. Even if the written work is headed for print, any publisher worth the contract has the ebook aspect of the deal right out on the table.

One of the quieter evolutions spinning behind tales of million-dollar ebook contracts is the title of author. Today, many writers are realizing they are authors without waiting for an external authority to say so. When writers take on the responsibility of working with (and paying for) their own editors, book cover designers and publicity platforms, I think they’ve earned their authorship.

Authors Go Public is a year-long string of events initiated by Bay Area Bloggers Society. Bloggers are authors too, and if they know what’s goin’ on in the marketing world, authors are becoming bloggers. Hop on over to our Meetup site to see when the next meetings are scheduled. We’re in Marin County, San Francisco, and Sebastopol, teaching and sharing tricks and techniques for being a published author in the 21st century.

Bay Area Bloggers Society

Also known as @Brainmaker on Twitter

Some popcorn with that ebook?


Some of you have asked about my other projects, and I appreciate that! This site provides the beginning conversation for clients who need help with their web content, ebook publishing, or connecting their web presence out into the social media world.

Besides all that, I run a user group called Bay Area Bloggers Society.

Now about that popcorn. That’s a reference to my book, The Sugar Divorce. We’re free-wheeling down the road toward fitness with great results following a simple food plan and some exercises that don’t require a gym and take very little time. Quite a conversation going on about that, and you’re welcome to join in.

If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, you’ll see a lot of my online conversation and links to more information any time. I’m Brainmaker on Twitter.

Suzanna Stinnett

suzanna on the beach at sunset

Rebel Buddha greets the West

Author Dzogchen Ponlop brings a new version of kindness to the experience of Buddhism. In “Rebel Buddha,” Ponlop responds to the “brain space” of the modern Westerner by combing the dogma out and presenting what is left: the jewels of compassion, self-awareness, and kindness.