Interview with Angelica Pastorelli (Angie)
Most authors, writers, and readers know her as Angie, CEO and Editor of Angie’s Diary. Being a private person she rarely grants interviews, but I’m honored that, as her friend, she granted one to me. What an interesting woman she is, enjoy!
Amanda: Angie, I can’t thank you enough for granting this rare interview. I’ve worked with you over the years and feel as if I know you, but others must wonder who is, or is there an ‘Angie’ from Angie’s Diary?
Angie: First of all, I must say that I’m honored, if not humbled, by your request to do an interview with me. As I told you during one of our conversations, I’ve been asked before, but have always declined because I couldn’t fathom why anybody would be interested in the trials and tribulations of an online magazine editor. In addition to that, I’m someone who tries to avoid the spotlight for personal reasons. A storyteller at heart, I should mention that Angie’s Diary didn’t start out as an online magazine, but rather as a blog where I planned to write, once in a while, a story or two. It has turned into something I couldn’t have imagined, and keeps on growing at a breathtaking pace.
Amanda: Your magazine has become a magnificent source for seasoned and developing writers to contribute and share their work. I have often read articles, short stories, and blogs, only to find myself inspired by the talent that you’ve exposed. Over the years, has there been a particular piece or author that has stood out in such a way that you’ve wondered what are they doing today?
Angie: It was only a couple of months after the launch in May 2008 that some very interesting people started posting their work. At first I was unsure if my grasp of the English language would be adequate, and I was somewhat annoyed that I had to start reviewing, proofreading, and editing other writers’ work, especially in a language that is not my own. Then, for some mysterious reason, two Israeli women, an American poetess, and a German girl started sending in their articles. Halfheartedly I started to re-write most of their work, because it was riddled with typos and grammatical errors, and in the case of the German woman I had to translate her entire articles, but with a solid love for the written word, I became hooked on the daily emanations of running a blog, that over the years, mainly due to the influx of gifted people, turned into a literary magazine with some clout.
Still, these people have been instrumental to me in the early days, and I’m still in contact with most of them.
Amanda: Do you recall reviewing a piece that was so emotional it left you in tears?
Angie: Many times this is the case and it is an ongoing phenomenon. I appear to be extremely sensitive to human (and other sentient) emotions, and oftentimes it is the sheer beauty of things, be this text, music, or (performing) arts that make tears roll freely down my cheeks, turning me into a sniveling fool.
Amanda: Being a Co-Owner of an innovative publishing company, sometimes we turn pieces away that aren’t a fit for our list. It’s never easy. Sometimes, regardless of how delicately we try to handle the situation, it isn’t received well. Have you ever declined a piece (for publication in your magazine) that led to a hostile encounter and if so, what was your response?
Angie: The days that I used to dedicate my time rewriting complete articles for the sake of keeping up the quality standards that I set for the magazine, are over. Also, my staff is instructed to keep away from badly written submissions. But, we’re all mere mortals, and sometimes an article slips through the cracks, and often the author is then reprimanded by his peers for showing lack of respect for his reader audience by allowing for his or her submissions to be riddled with errors.
I understand the delicacy of making even the slightest suggestion about an author’s work, and how this can instantly affect a hitherto (seemingly) excellent relationship. One example of many to illustrate: Once I received a request to participate in our (paid) Book of the Week publications by an American author. The excerpt he sent in was of such poor quality that in order to try and salvage this edition, it would need a solid grammar overhaul, proofreading and editing. In addition to that, his book cover was possibly the worst I’d ever come across.
Trying to salvage the publication, and the emotions of the author, I delicately dropped a hint that the text could do with some improvement. I even offered to do that for him, and suggested we could ‘enhance’ the cover art of his book. The reaction to my suggestions was tempestuous. I was accused of racism (he is African-American), of providing suitable services only to my own appointed elite, and was bluntly told that typos were overrated, as once a reader would get into his story he wouldn’t even notice them. He promptly withdrew his book from the planned publication. I told him that he will always remain a welcome guest, and I respect his decision, but at times, regardless of trying to help, it isn’t perceived with the intent that we try to deliver the information.
Amanda: Besides creating ‘our work,’ the one thing I love the most about this business, is meeting interesting people (print counts). Who is the most interesting person that you’ve met so far?
Angie: Oh, yes, I absolutely agree! Thanks to my work on the magazine I’m in a position to meet the most interesting, unique individuals. Some of them have had a lasting impact on me and on how I perceive relationships developing online today. It also comes with the territory that I learned how to interact with the most quarrelsome, frustrated, and sometimes downright nasty people, creating drama on all social networks if their demands are not met. In that light, it is remarkable to ascertain that, in five years’ time, it happened only twice that I decided to ban a user for repetitive abuse and stalking esteemed users of Angie’s with their unsavory comments.
I know I didn’t answer your question, but, by naming one or more people, I would do injury to, and lack respect for all those unmentioned.
Amanda: Your Company works diligently promoting authors, all types of works, and the magazine has expanded over the years. Do you think you’ll add another division per-se, and divide the magazine into categories due to size? (Meaning two magazines)?
Angie: With the steady increase of organic (non-sponsored) traffic we’ve seen over the years, I can envisage the magazine going more mainstream – more geared towards readers without losing the influx and loyalty of our writers…
Further down this interview I will speak more in-depth about this issue.
Amanda: Social media is an important part of what you do; I truly believe you’re amazing at promoting your web site. What tool do you find the most valuable?
Angie: Over the years, Social Media has been an important factor to establish friendships and engage new, gifted writers for the magazine. That said, and looking level-mindedly at our statistics today, we must conclude that Facebook scores lowest on the time-yield scale (the time spent versus the conversion in traffic and new content for the magazine). I would go as far as to say that Facebook is an expensive hobby. Think twice about being able to afford it!
Stumbleupon, LinkedIn, and Google+ (in that order for now) provide us the most consistent traffic without the compulsory theatrics intrinsic to Facebook.
The best tool?
Personal engagement and interaction, beyond the shadow of a doubt!
We have to focus our PR on the US, because it represents 80% of our visitors. As a consequence, we cannot routinely apply our ‘European ways’ into AD. Together, Britain, Canada, and Australia represent most of the remaining 20%.
Paramount in our philosophy is the exposure, and authority we create for our writers. In our magazine, even with a free basic account, an author can publicize his work and authorship to a very large audience.
Additionally, we challenge writers to put their writing motivation to the test, while explaining them how to get read. Many who heeded our tips & tricks managed to convert their playing field of social networking into vast amounts of views for their posts.
One of the issues we encountered is that many authors need an incentive to become an active member of our community, so we built an achievement concept that allows writers to get free extra book promotion by just reading and commenting on their fellow contributors’ work. We decided to call the points that can be earned this way ‘Florins.’
Amanda: I am making an assumption here (based on how hard we work progressively, plus I see the fruits of your labor) that said, was there ever a time during the early stages of Angie’s Diary, that you thought to yourself, “I can’t do this anymore – I’m going to give up?” …. For the record, I think not. If so, what got you through? If not, which year was your toughest year regarding promotion?
Angie: Long before Yanks, Brits and Aussies started submitting their work to Angie’s Diary, several people from The Middle East, India, and South Africa discovered the magazine (which really wasn’t a proper magazine at the time). Although it would take ages before they would actually post something, they often withdrew their stories and articles after one or two weeks because of their publishers’ fear of copyright infringements. I was exasperated, and started having sincere doubts if this is what I wanted.
From the perspective of advancement and competence, I can safely say that, until I met my friend and partner Bart van Ouwerkerk, who helped to create and developing the entire site with all its technical, visual, and practical aspects, I felt like a blundering amateur in the ‘Internetscape’ of 2008.
Bart is the co-founder and CTO of Angie’s Diary in its present shape, a multi-disciplined miracle worker, and in all respects the ‘General Motor’ behind the scenes. Without him, I would never have been able to make the magazine successful. With his help, on the one hand, and the unexpected input and participation of the first gifted writers posting and sharing their best work and expertise on the other, the magazine started floating instead of sinking into the digital swamp that cruelly awaits so many online initiatives.
Amanda: I love words. In today’s business world, especially today’s publishing world, it seems ridiculous to work as hard as we do merely for the love of words, but I love a beautiful story. You must love words too, in order to work as hard as you do promoting others. I’ve witnessed personally how dedicated, and selflessly you work. If you write, what do you prefer to write?
Angie: Somehow I thought you would skip this question altogether…
As I tend to read about everything, I also like to write about many subjects, essays and the likes, but my heart is in storytelling. At the moment, I’m writing a semi-autobiographic novel called ‘The Corsican Compromise.’ Maybe it’s presumptuous to use the ‘semi-autobiographic’ annotation, as I’m sure most authors use their own experiences when writing, but the story simply contains too many factual situations from my past, making it awkward to leave it out. Writing this story in English (as opposed to Dutch) is challenging, and I tend to spend a ridiculous amount of time writing, re-writing, and editing, to finish a single chapter. The style and format of this particular book may lend itself to be adapted into a TV series. If so, I would love to be involved in its production.
Amanda: 2014 – What is your number one objective for Angie’s Magazine, personal goal, not necessarily business?
Angie: Personal or business?
Having converted most of my hobbies into my business, I have hardly any hobbies left…
We aim to push Angie’s to the absolute top in this niche, after which I expect it to branch out into a number of different disciplines, the most likely being:
Not necessarily in that order.
If this can all be done in 2015 is doubtful, but we are completely focused to make it happen in the near future. It goes without saying that our existing revenue model (VIP & Publisher accounts, Book of the Week publications, and advertising income) will need a significant boost before we can expand our capable and amazingly skilled staff.
Then I might have the time and peace of mind to dedicate myself exclusively to my stories and essays… at least part-time…
Thank you so much, Amanda, for asking me to do this interview.
In hindsight, contrary to my initial assumption, you brought up some issues that just might interest a couple of stray souls out there.