Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Writer and Founder of Storiad, Ramzi Hajj

1)      What is Storiad and how did it get started?

Storiad is a networked marketplace dedicated to the art and business of writing. Storiad’s goal is to provide writers with intuitive technology to help them better: 1) connect & collaborate with one another; 2) reach a wider readership base by making it easy to disseminate & market their written work; and 3) connect with publishers, editors, & film producers active in the written media acquisition market.

My name is Ramzi Hajj, writer and founder of Storiad. The idea for Storiad originated with a conversation with my wife Jennifer about the business of writing. At some point during the conversation, someone said: “Too bad there isn’t a LinkedIn just for writers.” This got us to talking about how to use professional online networks to connect with other writers, publishers, and audiences. After much discussion on what this “LinkedIn for writers” would look like, the only question remaining was: “why not build one?”

Why not, indeed! So with coordination, planning, trial & error, some luck, long days, and (of course) a great team, Storiad was built and launched in 2011. Now writers have a unique place to congregate, connect, market and sell.

2)      Why should writers use Storiad?

Writing can be a very solitary endeavor. One of the things we as writers sometimes forget to do is establish a network of contacts. The adage (or has it become too much of a cliché?) holds true: “It’s not so much what you know as it is who you know.” In the writing world, the who you know includes other writers, editors, publishers, film producers, agents, and a dedicated reading audience. Storiad is designed to help writers build that network of contacts, be it for creative, collaborative, and/or commercial purposes. With Storiad, writers can manage and share their writing-related activities from one platform. Here writers can -

ü  Share biographical, professional & contact information;
ü  Collaborate and network with other writers;
ü  Build project portfolios to share excerpts of available work;
ü  Blog to keep readers and potential buyers up-to-date;
ü  Advertise available books/eBooks, or writing-related services;
ü  Access Storiad’s proprietary written media marketplace; and
ü  Access Storiad’s ready-made network of readers, writers and media professionals

The best answer we can think of to the question “Why network?” is this: “… because you never know who in the wide-world is looking to read, buy, produce that very thing you’ve written, are writing, or will write.” Storiad makes it easy to get yourself and your story out there.

3)      What additional services are available to both writers and media professionals?

When writers create a Storiad account, they also receive a Vox Storiad blogging account. It’s a great way for writers to keep the reading audience and potential buyers of their work up-to-date on their writing activities. Writers can also request access to Storiad’s social media outlets to automatically broadcast each new blog posting to the Storiad network.

Writers have the option to access the interactive Storiad 411 advertising platform. It’s a great way for members to advertise writing-related services, including published books, author readings, editorial services, and much more.

Storiad Marketplace is where writers and media professionals interact. Storiad works with publishers, editors, film producers, and agents to determine the types of projects they’re most interested in receiving and developing. Writers, in turn, respond. This feature has been very popular with media professionals as it allows them to both control the types of submissions they receive and to search Storiad Marketplace for authors (and their work) they may not otherwise have a chance to meet.  Similarly, writers have told us they appreciate the opportunity to tailor their submissions to meet the business needs of media professionals. It removes a lot of the guesswork (and frustration) from the submission process. In addition, by just being on Storiad, they’ve increased their chances of having their work seen by media professionals they may not otherwise have a chance to interact with. It’s a win-win for all involved.

4)      Please share some of your more notable success stories.

When Storiad members succeed, we succeed. As writers ourselves, we are genuinely happy to hear from writers who have used Storiad to help them better connect with other writers, media professionals, and/or reading audiences. And this happens all the time. It gives us a real, tangible sense of accomplishment. Plus it really helps us better develop and test new Storiad products and features. And when we hear that a certain publisher or film producer has found their next project on Storiad, then we are really, REALLY happy.

Storiad has received numerous media outlet mentions (including on Forbes.com), as well as requests for blog & radio interviews, and group presentations. For example, we were recently asked by the University of California Long Beach to give a presentation on networking at their annual writer’s conference. It was great to share our “online” concept in the “offline” world, because we know the importance of building face-to-face relationships.

5)      What are the media pros who use Storiad seeking in the way of quality and professionalism from writers?

In general terms, there can be no substitute for the compelling, well-crafted story. Yet, even that tends to be rather subjective. One media pro’s “A+” manuscript, say, is another’s “C+“. However, all media pros do agree that there can be no telling where the next great story may come from. They tell us that they are on Storiad to better their chances of finding that great (maybe undiscovered) author and story they may not otherwise find through the more “traditional” channels. And writers tell us that is just fine with them.

In practical terms, these same media pros also tell us they are also looking for writers who are eager to sell themselves and their published work. That is one of the reasons why we strongly encourage writers on Storiad to take the time to complete their profile in a thorough and professional manner. The Storiad profile (like the more “traditional” cover letter), for example, is the writer’s chance to really make a great first impression. Editors & publishers tell us that, when searching for a particular piece of work on Storiad, they carefully read the attached profile first. The harsh reality is that poorly composed (or poorly edited) profiles don’t get the same kind of consideration that more polished, compelling profiles do. Of course, the nice thing about an online profile is that writers can make as many changes to it as needed until they are completely satisfied with how it reads.

6)      What advice would you give to writers using Storiad for the first time?

We can’t stress enough how important networking can be to writers. Both artistically and commercially, we feel an expansive network can only help writers better reach the audiences they deserve. And like any other field, networking is a subtle combination of who and what we know. To build a productive network, we encourage writers to think of their writing career in terms of their writing assets. These assets may include:

ü  Original ideas;
ü  Command of the language;
ü  Story-structuring abilities;
ü  Completed projects (manuscripts, scripts, anthologies, etc);
ü  Publication history ;
ü  Marketing approach;
ü  Writers, media professional, and reader contacts.

Among others, to be sure.

All of the above work in tandem, the whole being more valuable than any of the individual parts. So when it comes time to build their Storiad platforms, we encourage writers to really take advantage of all the features and services designed to maximize exposure of their writing assets.

7)      What is the most rewarding aspect of providing this type of forum?

This one is easy to answer: our product development brain-storming sessions. Storiad actively seeks input from writers and media professionals on those features and services they’d like to see Storiad develop. And we receive thoughtful and creative ideas on a daily basis. The development team meets once a month to begin the process of translating those ideas we’ve collected into functioning Storiad features and services. These meetings are always lively discussions, with the obligatory dry erase pen and whiteboard at the ready. The ideas flow at a furious pace, one building atop another, the dry erase pen squeaking along the white board surface. It’s collaboration at its best, as ideas grow from whimsy, to real possibility, then on to development, then testing, and finally … launch. It’s a true labor of love. Since some features require longer “lead times” than others, we are at work on a continual stream of short, medium, and long projects. Our suggestion box is always open to ideas and comments.

8)      What is next for Storiad in 2012?

In January 2012 we launched an expanded writer’s platform with lots of new features and services. With every upgrade, we aim to provide more and more tools for writers to better connect, communicate, market and sell their work. The response from writers to our latest release has been very enthusiastic.

In the coming months, we will be rolling-out upgrades to our media professional’s platform to make it even easier for media pros to find the right writers and right projects at the right time. In addition, we will be introducing some very creative ways for media professionals to conduct their book & author publicity campaigns online. This is something almost every editor and publisher we’ve spoken to has expressed an interest in seeing developed.

We are also working on some very cool features designed to facilitate real-time interactions between writers and media professionals. Now, we can’t go into too much detail at this time, but we can say that it will be unlike anything presently available for writers on the Internet.

And finally, Storiad will be partnering with various writing-related websites to develop even more outlets for writers to showcase their work and get their story out there.

We invite writers and media professionals to join us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on these and many more Storiad developments.

Thank you for your time. We hope to see you on the Storiad network soon.

Become a Storiader: www.storiad.com
Join us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/storiad
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/storiad

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