Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

WisCon panel on self promotion for science fiction authors

May 24th, 2009

At WisCon panel on self promotion for science fiction author. The presenters include Madge Miller, Marrianne Kirby, Catherine Lundoff and Nayad M. They are either professionals in marketing or are published authors.

Advice they have given includes:

Do not rely on a publicist to do it. They work best when you help them with their job.

Self promote with a buddy. It makes you feel less self conscious.

Readings are not necessarily time wise. It might be better to try to do readings with other authors. It can help draw a bigger crowd.

Doing conventions can help make you a more recognizable name.

No one thing is the magic bullet. You need more solutions.

Don’t try to do so much self promotion at once. It can burn you out, especially if you don’t see results. Try to focus on one project at once. That is what professionals do.

Check out who has expertise in promoting. Get advice from them. Use your community to find good ways to promote.

Realistically, most science fiction authors are not going to get a publicist. Think about how you would present yourself at a job interview. Treat things like readings and panels as if they were that. This includes not showing up drunk to your panels. (People do it.) Don’t hog conversations.

Make an effort to fake an interest in other people’s work. Otherwise, you come across as being me me me and can be a turn off. You don’t get the personal connections that way. Personal connections really can help sell the book as those people may go out and tell people how fantastic you are.

If you can pair a book reading with a non-profit event, it can help generate additional interest and help sell the book. It generates good will.

You should almost put on a writer professional cap at conventions. You need to portray almost a different version, almost like acting but more like projecting yourself. This way you can get attention.

Women in American culture get told that self promotion is tacky and icky and they should not do. Women need to get over that. If you put on a professional hat, it becomes easier to self promote.

If you are going to do a reading for the first time, practice with people you like and respect. They can give you good feedback. Start out with something structured to help overcome your own fears. Ask your friends to tell you when you commit your own weakness like stumbling over words, rambling, etc. Non-professionals can give you feedback if you are being boring. Also think about timing of your reading. More than 35 minutes makes keeping your audience hard. Think about breaking up longer readings into parts. Practice your timing. Know when you can stop, look up at the audience and where to pace yourself.

Consider wearing makeup so that you look brighter than life and larger, to enhance your stage presence.

What are bad ideas?

People who do book forts at panels at conventions can be a problem. It is better to be graceful and just flash the book. It is a bit selfish to promote the book the whole time. (Though this may be depend on the panel and why you are on the panel. If you are on a panel because of that book, it can be different. A book fort may be overkill but a single book might not be that bad.)

Many people who feel insecure put others down. They try to stand on the bodies of other authors by putting them down in order to self promote. This can hurt you. It is better to be nice.

Don’t give a speech if you’re on a panel. Moderators should direct traffic and have questions to help steer questions. They should not read four pages of notes.

Advice for people starting out to increase chances of success?

At conventions, sign up for panels you are interested in. The more practice that you get, the more comfortable you will be when you become published.

Online presence is importance. You need a website. Determine where you want your name out. Have a blog. Look at what other writers are blogging about to get ideas for what to write about.

Realize that it takes a long time to build an audience. A year out is a good idea is when to start building. You have a chance to build conversations, to let people know you have a book coming out. Ask people questions. Always be authentic online and in person. Be authentic to who you really are.

Talk about things that you are interested means like minded people as they will likely like your fiction.

Working on a blog, creating a community, talking to reporters as a form of self promotional activity can help you get a book deal. Why? Because you get to make good connections who can help you accomplish your goals. It isn’t necessarily fair that we respond to the people we know but it does help getting published in the first place.

It is never to early to get online. You should get yourself associated with things that involve your audience.

Twitter, FaceBook, LiveJournal, GoodReads are all ways to interact online.

Twitter. Authors can tweet. Read up on the etiquette of tweeting before you start. If you do the wrong thing, people will snicker. Twitter is very real time. If you are going to be on it, you need to really commit to it. Follow people and respond to him. Personal details can really help connect you to your audience.

Twitter can go horribly wrong. Updating shop listings every time you do that can be a pain. Don’t over do the URL plugging. Twitter is an online service that allows you to send 140 characters. Twitter started off as phone but now is on the web. You should ReTweet interesting comments by people you follow. Be good to others who might be able to be good to you. ReTweets asking can get info out to a large audience that say your book is coming out.

You can actually talk to people on Twitter and make connections with people you might not otherwise make. Doing this may result in getting a follow back. Be authentic. Don’t become an annoying fan.

Anti-Twitter panelist prefers to blog. She finds it annoying. The information is not useful to her. Who cares that you walked your dog? Not enough info there to want to follow up on. It is a stylistic personal preference. Digest of Tweets on LiveJournal is annoying. If they didn’t follow you on Twitter, why would they want it in another medium?

Cross posting to Twitter and FaceBook can be annoying. There are different rules and etiquette. FaceBook tends to be less cluttered.

FaceBook is kind of nice as a networking tool. It isn’t necessarily great for blogging on because audience attention isn’t high. If blogging, post it elsewhere.

On a self promotional level, finding these services annoying is irrelevant. It is about trying to reach people in the most beneficial and effective towards meeting your goals. If your audience on FaceBook is helpful, then you might want to update there even if you are not comfortable. Find where you can compromise to self promote. This is what is comes down to. The tool is about getting results, not your personal feelings.

Consensus is that you really, really need to have a blog. Try to develop a readership. Mix up the content to help develop a broader readership: Personal life, professional life, writing life. Good to have blog attached to your website. Why? It helps with Google ranking. It means you can keep adding fresh content to your website. Twitter feed can help keep your content fresh.

If you are not going to engage authentically, then don’t.

One of the highest read blogs was that of a chinese erotic model who updated regularly. Try to update once a day to maintain the audience if you want to develop a huge audience. If you don’t want to blog, consider doing message from the author. Dead blogs are a turn off to the audience. People will drop you from their feeds.

Blogging is a big time commitment. When you’re doing fiction, you may not have the same correlation with blog success. You need to find balance. You need to find what works for your life. Penelope Trunk gives good advice on how to blog effectively. Though Penelope is extremely controversial so take it with a grain of salt.

On privacy, blogging, and hazardous misconceptions

February 16th, 2009

Today’s blog isn’t so much directly about fandom, but the ways in which I’ve recently seen a number of people (inside and outside of fandom) completely miss the boat on the way the internet works–in particular on issues of etiquette and privacy.

Unfortunately, there is no one “bible” on internet etiquette out there to follow; no international rules and regulations beyond those that evolve within the community of internet users through the years. But some of these things really shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out if you are at all familiar with technology and net culture–and have some small amount of common sense about you. They are also things which are worth contemplating from time to time, to determine if your personal expectations of privacy and etiquette can really be automatically expected to be followed by others–or are completely off the mark.

Public postings are exactly that: PUBLIC.

Sure, you can deter robots from spidering through your blog, livejournal, or website. But that doesn’t mean someone you didn’t “intend” to find your rantings about your evil housemates, your boss, or your pornographic Harry Potter fiction isn’t going to stumble upon it in some other fashion. Unless you lock them down through password protection, “friends lock” or other methods, your words, images and actions that you’ve chosen to share on the internet are there for anyone to see, read, and potentially respond to.

Indeed, some of the things people do that they think “protect” themselves may serve as only a greater incentive for the “wrong” audience to want to read on. Putting up a giant post-dated post or header on your blog proclaiming “THIS SITE IS FOR MY FRIENDS ONLY!” without actively locking it down as such? May only be more incentive for the nosy to click away. It’s like leaving an unlocked, hand-written diary out on a coffee table in a house you share with others. Maybe some people will be “polite” enough to ignore it’s there and not open it. But even if you put a sticky note on it saying “DO NOT OPEN”, you’re not doing all you should to guard your privacy.

Linking happens. Deal with it.

One of the primary features of the World Wide Web, since its earliest days, was The Link. An American webpage on, say, Pink Floyd might lead you to another website in Holland featuring a F.A.Q. about the band or discography; it might include a list of mailing lists around the world you could subscribe to to discuss the band; a directory of fan sites for other classic rock bands. A fan-fiction archive for Star Wars might include a “link page” where you could find more Star Wars fiction, information sites about the movies, etc.

Yet linking seems to remain one of those things people can get irrationally weird and protective about. Even while linking has long been one of the easiest and most direct ways for people within a specific community or sharing a common interest could find each other, some people get strangely obsessive over who does and doesn’t link to their sites and whether permission is required to do so. These people don’t seem to understand that linking does not equal stealing content, which is another matter entirely. In fandom, this has often come up in terms of fiction rec lists or sites such as FanWorksFinder–and critical reviews as well. Some have raised objections if their stories were included in a review that was less-than-favorable, claiming it to be “stealing their content”. But a story link is different from, say, taking an entire story out of an archive and publishing it on your own site without asking the author’s permission first (unless the author has given clear, blanket permission to “archive anywhere”).

A large number of blogs (just a sampling, there) have posted about linking etiquette in the blogosphere in the past, with it seemingly coming down to these general guidelines:

1. You don’t need permission to link to a blog, however, it’s generally considered good etiquette to remove a link if asked to do so. (Metafandom is a fannish example of a blog/newsletter which follows this practice–if a post is public, it’s fair game for linking unless the author has said in their post they don’t want it on MF, or ask to have it removed later on).

2. Stealing content without credit, or including information without a link back to where it came from, is bad. So is including links/content in a way that potentially steals revenue from the original blogger.

3. Reciprocal links can be nice but are not mandatory.

Seems like these rules should be easy enough to understand, but that’s not often the case. And coupled with some folks’ apparent misunderstanding of the public nature of un-protected blogs, this can lead to major wank. A recent example of this I witnessed was on the egullet forums–a somewhat elitist website for food and dining enthusiasts. Shola Olunloyo, a very popular “private chef” in the Philadelphia community and Pennsylvania subforum was running a blog on food which mysteriously disappeared, and then returned some time later under strict password protection. In the wank on the egullet forum that followed (posts on the subject mainly deleted by a forum moderator on 2/18/09), it appeared Shola did not like having his blog linked to by others, and then got upset over certain negative/potentially trolling comments that had been posted there.

Certainly, a blog (or any site) can become more trouble than it’s worth if one is constantly harassed or confronted by it, but this incident ended up coming across as someone being unfortunately unfamiliar with the way the internet works and then coming off with a bad case of “I’m taking my toys and going home” or flounce at the end of the day. If a person wanted to share their ideas about food and cooking without ever risking negative comments, comments could have been disabled entirely on the blog (or screened by an assistant to the blog, if the chef never wanted to even see them himself unless the comments were positive). If linking to the site was to be such a “no-no”, a disclaimer should have been clearly put on the site stating as much (and even then, cannot be completely expected to be followed)–just the arguments on egullet that followed showed that everyone’s apparent ideas of netiquette with regard to linking is different from each other. Or perhaps Shola should have simply started with a password-protected blog from the start, the only way to truly limit who had access to his site, as he apparently learned the hard way instead of avoiding certain unpleasantness from the start.

There are a lot more exampled of misconceptions of privacy on-line I can think of which I’ve seen in recent times: a fan-fiction author being outed after not protecting her fannish identity as separate from the “real life” one on Facebook; a chat session being copied on a public messageboard which some participants had believed would be private, which then lead to serious wank within the fandom. Almost every week there seems to be some kerfluffle in fandom related to privacy issues, sometime minor, sometimes major.

So I’m going to end this blog with a point towards Fan History’s Privacy Help Page. We’ve been wanked in the past about it for it being “laughable” and “impractical”; that to follow all the guidelines within would not allow one to participate in fandom at all. And such criticism is missing the point. The point is that one must constantly make thoughtful decisions when on the internet regarding one’s desire and needs for privacy vs. one’s desire to create and share in on-line communities. You can’t expect the millions of people out there on the net to all have the same “good intentions” as you do, nor the same ideas of what constitutes netiquette. One must be aware of the “risks” involved in one’s actions on-line, and make decisions on whether they feel comfortable with those risks. If you create a public blog, you must accept that people are, in fact, going to read it. And maybe disagree with you and what you say, and tell you such. If you post anything under pseudonym to “protect your privacy” but aren’t consistent in keeping your real life identity separate from your fannish one (or try to use your reputation or “standing” within the fannish community to improve your real life one, or vice-versa) eventually someone may “connect the dots” in a way that could have negative repercussions for you. These are the facts of life in the internet world of today, facts which, unfortunately, many only seem to realize from making embarrassing and potentially more hurtful mistakes.

Power in fandom

July 9th, 2008

I had a conversation yesterday with some one doing something similar to what I’m doing. One of the things we talked about was the new power structures. He talked about it in the context of business and I talked about it in the context of fandom as it pertains to fan fiction communities.  For this post, I’m defining power as the ability to influence  beyond your  personal sphere and the subcommunities which members of fan fiction fandom belong to.

My perspective on this in fan fiction fandom is skewed based on my involvement… but the way I see it is that older power structures, in the pre-Internet days, were based on two variables: Access to TPTB and Capability of getting things done coupled with information brokering. If you had one or the other, you had some power in fandom and you had standing in fandom. By the time that authors were creating mailing lists for their readers to follow them and LiveJournal (and blogging) became popular in parts of fandom, the power structure was perceived as changing. For the first time, it really looked like content creators were in charge and they were using this ability to leverage their position in fandom relative to the creators. A number of fan fiction writers got behind and pushed several projects to the forefront. This was the case for Fiction Alley, a Harry Potter fan fiction site. Writers leveraged their popularity in order to help get book deals.

But the power structure, briefly in the hands of fan fiction writers changed again. Or rather, it became apparent that when fan fiction writers had the chance to leverage their position, they didn’t do it and their lack of action made the fact that doers were really the more powerful force more apparent. The fan fiction community seemed to have turned back in on itself, sought recognition and power from with in the existing community rather than courting outsiders. They didn’t effectively engage and demand changes from the people who control the services they used that were inside fandom, nor outside fandom. Parts of the fan fiction community had the same problems with engaging information brokers: They didn’t or didn’t do so effectively.

To be fair, there is nothing wrong with having failed to engage. People have different priorities and different needs. They get different things out of fandom and there are vested interests, legitimate ones, in keeping fan fiction out of the spotlight. If you engage, if you lobby, if you demand, you risk attention which can run counter to your needs and concerns.
Fandom outside of the fan fiction community seemed to get the concept

Now, the fan fiction community appears to be back the spot where it was pre-Internet. The power is in the hands of doers who are capable of acting as information brokers or those who have access (or ARE) the powers that be. These are the folks most likely to engage outside of the circle of fandom where they are and have the most influence and the most power in fandom. Those who fail to do that, those who chose to engage only in a small narrow community, aren’t going to be perceived as powerful in fandom by other fans with whom they interact or those who are in the power to know. The information brokers, the doers aren’t as visible and don’t necessarily need to be because they can instead me known for their product instead. And the product will be seen and is seen as the new power structure in fandom.

Thus end my incoherent thoughts on fandom and power.

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