Social media and promotion

A friend wrote a comment to one of my blog posts from the other day that got me thinking about maximizing your impact with the tools that are available in this new, somewhat anti-social, social (media) era.

He gave me an example of an author who had started out in a different field and then leveraged the followers that he achieved from that towards his new writing endeavor. I see a lot of examples of this online, in one form or another. People like Wil Wheaton, Neal Patrick Harris, Xeni Jardin and Joe Hill have all created careers by starting in one area and then easily porting their fanbase over to their new endeavors. Not to sound too much like an old man, but ten years ago, this would have been a task that required tons of PR and marketing help from outside agencies. Even in the case where it’s not too much of a change, like from graphic novels to regular novels, it would have been more of a challenge. I’m sure some of those folks still have PR and marketing assistance but the amount they manage on their own has definitely increased with the advent of Facebook and Twitter.

And that brings me to my question for the week…

If you’re involved with promoting something, whether it’s a hobby, your blog, a product or service for the company that you work for, how have you had the most success building up your followers? Do you use different strategies to gain followers? What do you do to cut through the noise?

Ebooks and the curious case of the revived career

Ebooks and epublishing have pretty much been THE discussion in the book publishing industry for the past several years. On the one hand, you have people that work at the major publishers saying that they provide an important service for readers and authors. On the other, you have a crowd of people who’ve never been given the time of day who can now publish their own works and let the reading public decide what they like.
There are people like Cory Doctorow who is pretty staunchly in favor of making some (or all) of your content free to share and relying on the essential decency of a committed fan base to help you keep the lights (and computer) running. And then there are people like Ray Bradbury, who until just this past November absolutely forbade any of his books to be made available in electronic format. As part of his new contract his hand was forced a little and he allowed for Farenheit 451 to hit the digital shelves.
Depending on where you look, the share of market that ebooks have commanded is anywhere from 13% to around 25%. While I’ll leave the discussion of my feelings on the war between the two sides for future posts, I will say that I love print. Obviously. As of this writing I’m still employed by a newspaper. Do notice that I tacked that previous sentence to a particular point in time though. I have no illusions about the longevity of my career in a print world. Also, my faith is shaky that any traditional print publication will be forward thinking and nimble enough to survive into an era of pure digital media. I think there will be a lot of challenges as this conversion takes place but one point of inspiration for the nay sayers may be the story of Michael Prescott.

photo from

Michael Prescott was a successful author of a number of thrillers in the late 90’s through about 2009. Up until that year, every book he had written had been published, in print, by a major publisher. In 2009, he turned in his latest work and it was panned. Suddenly fearful that his career was over, he realized that he held the digital rights to several of his books. He decided that there was no harm in trying and put them up on Barnes & Noble’s Nook store and Amazon’s Kindle store for 99 cents, thinking that the returns would be minimal at best. He was in for a bit of a surprise…
In a recent interview with USA Today he said, “If someone in this year had told me I was going make a lot of money with e-books, I wouldn’t have believed him,” Prescott says. “I thought maybe a couple of hundred dollars.” It ended up being a quite a lot more than that. He figures he made around $300,000 before taxes in 2011. 
Now, he’s one of the best-selling authors on the Nook and Kindle market, which is exactly how I found him. After getting a new Nook Tablet as a Christmas gift, I was randomly searching for a low cost, quick read, just to get a feel for the device. His stories kept popping up so I decided, for a buck, I might as well. 
The price probably convinced me to try it out more than anything else. And that decision is what has revived Michael Prescott’s career. Do you think this opening of the market is a beneficial thing for aspiring (and established) novelists? Or do you think this story shows an oddity that crops up when new markets open up?

Music and writing

Getting back to writing more frequently has me looking for ways to keep the flow going once it starts. One thing that I used to do is listen to music, although sometimes it can be a distraction when you’re trying to think very deeply or creatively about a subject.
So I’ve started listening to music again and now I’m getting hung up on the words in the songs. This is especially an issue if the music is loud, then the words seem to just drive right through any train of thought I’ve got going. My solution usually is to turn it down and try to fade it out to just above any background noise. It’s hard to believe that years ago I would sit in bars or punk rock coffee shops and nod my head to the music and still create (somewhat) intelligible writing. I’m sure my former professors would have a couple of comments about that last statement though.
On the plus side, music has been incredibly powerful for helping me establish mood. In the story that I’m working on now there is an archetypal sort of baddy, someone who just exudes power and evil. While writing his sections, I’ve found it helpful to use darker movie soundtracks… Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Batman Returns, Resident Evil… all very cinematic orchestral pieces that are striking, resonant and haunting at times. In fact, Pandora has been a great boon for custom making these lists for me so I don’t have to sort through and assemble it myself.
There’s another character in my story that is a Florida cracker, so I like to play more bluesy, guitar and voice type of songs while writing his parts. I want to incorporate that Delta blues, swamp vibe that itself came out of the people living in the nature of the Louisiana and Mississippi area, which in some ways is very similar to the parts of Florida that he came from.
Do you use music in your writing routine? Do you employ it more as “white noise” to fill the silence or do you use it in other ways?

Welcoming the new year

So this is the new year.
And i don’t feel any different.

Those are the first two lines from a Death Cab for Cutie song from 2003 (wow, I can’t believe it’s been so long!). I literally haven’t thought of that song since that time, now eight plus years ago. But it came back to me today at the coffee shop that I’m sitting at while brainstorming blog posts to keep me on schedule for more frequent updates in 2012.
When I reflect on those lines now, I can’t believe how far from how I feel it is. I realize that people grow up, they change, they mature. I firmly believe we’re constantly evolving, if only we allow ourselves to do so. I think one of the happiest changes for me over these last few years has been letting go. It’s a difficult process, but letting go of old hang ups, old resentments or bitterness, I’m a happier person than I was even three years ago. I’m thankful for that and I’m thankful that people can change, that we don’t have to be the same person we thought we’d always be. Anyways… sap, sap, sap.

So this is the new year
And I have no resolutions
For self assigned penance
For problems with easy solutions

I’ve made quite a number of changes before the beginning of the year that I look forward to continuing. New house and a new way of looking at my work schedule. Like most of you I’m sure, the last thing I want to do when I get home is more work. But I’m beginning to see my writing time now not as a continuation of the previous eight or nine hours, but as a reward for having done them. It’s damn hard to be creative after a long day of work but taking a walk is one way that I recharge my batteries. For the foreseeable future I won’t be able to reduce my workload so I’m just coming up with a schedule of sorts to be able to do the things that I actually want to do. I’m excited about this coming year in the same way I was dreading 2011 (for whatever reason) when it rolled around. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make my own positive change as the year progresses. I hope you will too.

Getting ready for a new year

With a new year coming up, I’m thinking it’s time for a new perspective and to try some new habits on for size. I read an article from Writer’s Digest by Áine Greaney called Reboot Your Writing Routine which got the gears working a little (here’s the link to purchase a pdf of the issue, sorry, doesn’t look like they put it online).
She has a list of recommendations to change things up for the new year. I think this type of article comes out every year in every writing magazine but it just happened to catch me in the right spot. Among her recommendations:
Create an artist’s statement. Just something to keep you on track when you get in the weeds. Here’s mine for the coming year:

    • In the coming year I want to learn the discipline and the courage that it takes to successfully complete my writing projects. Writing will serve me as both the vehicle and the road for changing my life.

Workshops and other ‘extracurriculars’ were also big on her list. I’ve always shied away from this sort of thing for some reason. Maybe it’s just my inherent anti-social nature. But, if you want change in your life you have to push yourself outside of your normal boundaries. So the first class/workshop I’m looking at is offered by Ed2Go, an online continuing education program offered in concert with local schools and universities. For $94 they offer six weeks (12 courses) of instruction, assignments and critique.
Creating a support network is another piece of the puzzle that I’m still trying to put together. This one includes having writing buddies, which I’m working on, but also goes well beyond. Basically, the idea is to recruit friends or family to pick up some tasks that you would normally do to get some more writing time and you return a favor for them.
Another recommendation I’m taking into consideration is using my Google calendar to schedule things in. Not just workshop reminders but due dates for when I’d like a first draft of something done, when I’d like to schedule some time to work on a short story, etc. Some people’s creativity thrives under these sort of deadlines, other’s just withers and dies. I’d like to challenge myself to see how successful I can be with some deadlines in front of me.
Finally, another habit that I’ve already adapted is bringing my story notebook to work every day. When I take a break, I’ll try to write at least one sentence to keep the story moving forward and to keep my brain actively engaged.
Good luck everyone, what are your writing goals for the new year?