The first step in hosting a rotating blog carnival is to volunteer to throw the next shindig at your place. That’s all well and good, as long as you understand the fundamentals of hosting a great party. We start with an interesting, inviting space, which would be your blog. Tidy the place up! Every party runs on refreshments, which, in order to stretch the metaphor here, will be your own content. Finally, you need entertainment. You didn’t think everyone was coming over just to see you, did you? No, you are emceeing a real happening, an event not to be missed. Your entertainment will be the mass of bloggers contributing to the carnival.
Some might think that carnival participants are the guests at the party, but in fact they are staff and should be put to work, not allowed to hover over the punch bowl or scarf up the hors d’oeuvres. Your job as the host is to arrange for the best entertainment possible. The better the line-up, the longer your guests will stay and the better they’ll like you, which will inspire them to praise your hospitality, tell their friends, and possibly even give you a place on their blogrolls. Wouldn’t that be nice? Obviously, the opinion of the massess matters to you or you wouldn’t have asked to host in the first place, so be sure to make a great impression!
A superior blog carnival requires both quantity and quality of submissions. Begin by casting as wide a net as possible. The first place to announce that you’ll be hosting a carnival is on your own site. A post explaining the great honor that accrues to contributors, the requirements for participation, and your role as the upcoming host will usually suffice. However, an even better way to get the word out is to integrate your announcement into one of the static elements of your blog, so it doesn’t slide off the front page. Some people position their announcement on their right or left sidebar above the fold, which I feel shows a strong commitment to getting the word out. No matter where you choose to say it, be sure to use your blog early and often to recruit participants. Keep in mind that this tactic will be all the more effective if you’ve promoted the carnival to your readers over time anyway.
Still in the interest of accumulating quantity, you should blast a group e-mail to every blogger you know who either has participated in the carnival already or, in your opinion, should. Of course, by “blogger you know” I don’t mean every blogger you’ve ever read or heard of. But we all have circles and communities of like-minded scriveners, individuals we consider blog friends or at least colleagues. If you’ve been an active member of the carnival in question for any length of time, you are likely well-known by the very people you want to recruit. So contact them directly with a brief announcement about how excited you are to be hosting and how much you are looking forward to each person’s participation. Finally, as far as broadcasting goes, consider placing announcements on key forums or websites.
Now it’s time to target specific participants. The thing about parties is that one always wants to distinguish oneself from other hosts by presenting something novel and exciting. Offer guests the exact same line-up they always get, the “house band” if you will, and they may meet your offering with indifference. This is not to say that the bloggers who consistently participate are unwelcome; on the contrary, every carnival absolutely needs a core of regulars, a defining center that holds the rest together. But you, the host with the most, also want to thrill your guests with exotic new entertainment, an unexpected fireworks show, or some prestigious celebrity appearance. This should not be difficult.
Keep in mind that this network that binds us, this virtual community of personalities manifest in words, images, and emoticons, really is a web. Though we are all linked together, our connections are rarely direct. More likely, I’ll link to someone who links to someone who links to you. Certain strands of the web that touch your site have probably not yet adhered to the carnival in question…yet. By bringing new blogs, your network as it were, into the fold, you’ll make your impact as host more significant and the carnival itself that much stronger going forward.
Once you’ve spread the word and recruited specific bloggers, the last step you might consider is soliciting certain blog posts. Even carnivals with the narrowest themes draw a wide variety of participants because bloggers are, for the most part, an eclectic group. I and the Bird, for example, has received submissions from many blogs that would, by no means, be considered birding blogs. Some participants are naturalists, others are photographers, and others still are generalists who simply write about what interests them on a day-to-day basis. If, in your daily surfing, you spot an interesting post you deem ideal for your carnival, invite its author to submit it. Be patient, though; you may have to explain in detail just what a carnival is and why someone would want to get involved.
You won’t be the only one doing the recruiting. Once a carnival is established, its readers and regulars also invite others to participate. But you are the one responsible for making your turn as host the best party ever. Follow up on nominations, reach out to the wall-flowers, and set the stage for a most memorable event.