A good friend of mine recently set up a Facebook page for her forthcoming book on the role of Christianity in shaping the concept of race in early Virginia. She asked friends on Facebook as well as her Twitter followers to go ahead and “like” the page and within a couple of days had reached 100 fans. Pretty good showing, but creating a Facebook page or Twitter account for a book is the easy part. The challenge is in turning those social media connections or virtual clicks of support into sales.
Now I am certainly no Chris Brogan, but over the past few years I have learned a little bit about turning likes and follower into sales. Of course, whether what I’ve learned actually pans out will be seen in the next few weeks. Here are a couple of suggestions.
I can’t tell you how often I receive emails from folks who believe that my blog reflects a personal assault against the Confederacy and all things southern. Yesterday I received the most bizarre email from a Frederick Douglass impersonator who took issue with my blog’s banner. I should point out that the banner was part of a redesign back in 2009 by a custom theme developer. I supplied the images of Lincoln, Lee, and Douglass.
Pray, tell me why the HELL is the great Frederick Douglass’ portrait positioned BEHIND the left shoulder of the traitor, CSA General Lee? Lee was not only a traitor but a flawed mistake prone popinjay who as a man and a military strategist and intellect would be on no par with Douglass…
I have portrayed Douglass since 197- and am now producing a series about him. I find your mural and the positioning of FD’s portrait to be distasteful and historically inaccurate! FD should be on more of a par with Lincoln. If any military commander should be there, it should be the supreme Union commander at the end of the war or a cabinet member. FD’s advice to Lincoln brought an end to the war and severed Lee’s armies in half…. Please remove one or the other. And if you keep FD, and decide not to anyone else there then place Douglass closer to Lincoln where he belongs… This was a war to end slavery and property in man… please respond…
I took the time to respond and encouraged this individual to spend some time with the content assuming that this would give him a very different perspective on what it is that I am doing here. That apparently did not work.
Thank you for returning with a response. I have spent plenty of time on your FB site. The banner is problematic for one who is the direct descendant of those who were held as slaves here in North America and who is from two root wings of a family of black people here on the American continent since 1730. Evidently, “Civil War Memory” is really about the greater glorification of the South’s aim in that war which was property in man. All over the South and in many parts of the midwest there are memorials to Confederate veterans and none (though one is planned somewhere in VA, I imagine!) to the slave or bondmen and women. Lee in front of FD on your banner IS an insult. I am sorry to see you won’t do anything about it.
Last night I heard some rumblings on Facebook and Harry Smeltzer’s blog that the June 2012 issue of Civil War Times includes an editorial on Civil War blogging by Gary Gallagher. With my curiosity piqued and the issue not yet in stores I decided to secure a copy of the editorial from the author himself. I should point out that Gary and I lived up the street from one another in Charlottesville and had plenty of time to talk about all things Civil War. He was always very honest about his view of the blogging world, as well as my interest in the black Confederate myth, and I was always straightforward about why I thought he was wrong. Nothing that I say here would make me feel uncomfortable sharing with Gary over a beer. As for the column itself, it may ruffle a few feathers, but it is relatively harmless.
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I understand that the Internet and social media sites can be an empowering place. It also has a powerful democratizing effect, which I value. That doesn’t mean that everyone’s voice ought to be given equal weight. Though it should be utilized with discretion, sometimes the most appropriate response is the back of the hand. Here is a case where this applies.
This is for those of you who are convinced that the scholarship around the antebellum period, slavery, and secession is fundamentally misguided. My response to you: I DON’T CARE! That may seem a bit dismissive, but that is exactly what I mean to say. I am not interested in what you learned from reading the Dixie Outfitters website, The South Was Right or one of your other Pelican Press books. I am also not interested in your assumptions about what motivates academic historians. Your theories about how some vaguely defined political agenda influences research is of no interest to me.
I’ve read a pretty large chunk of the scholarly literature on slavery and secession and one thing that has been established over the past few decades is that the South’s “peculiar institution” is central to understanding secession and the Civil War. The post photo includes just a small number of relevant books from my personal library. It’s not meant to make you feel insecure, but to give you a sense of how I approach the study of history. My understanding of this subject comes from reading these books, most of them written by professional historians. I spend a great deal of time reading books and journals, not because I’ve become seduced by the academic world, but because these books constitute my education in this area of history. You are going to have to do better if you hope to convince me that the broad interpretation that emerges from these studies is fundamentally flawed.
If critical scholarship is not your cup of tea, so be it. Just please don’t expect me to take you seriously or imagine that I have any interest in your personal beliefs about Civil War history. We are simply on different pages. We have divergent ideas of what it means to engage in the study of history. In the end it’s not a big deal. You are free to discuss your personal beliefs on your own webpage or Facebook site or wherever you can find like-minded people.
with (left to right) Ralph Luker, Mark Grimsley, and Becky Goetz at the 2007 meeting of the SHA in Richmond
Today I was sad to learn that Ralph Luker is closing up shop over at HNN’s Cliopatria blog. Ralph has been blogging since before I was born – I mean my blog, of course. Early on it was the place to be seen and I certainly benefited from Ralph’s encouragement and support from making it on to the blogroll to the occasional hyperlink, and most notably receiving the Cliopatria Award for Best Individual Blog in 2007. Thanks to the many distinguished bloggers who made Cliopatria home over the years and thanks especially to Ralph for his hard work and commitment to maintaining the site. It is safe to say that Ralph is largely responsible for encouraging academics to blog and for giving the format the respectability it deserves.