Posts Tagged ‘sfwa’

Enough is enough!  There’s been a lot turmoil in the publishing industry lately.  I’m thinking particularly of the spectacularly sexist and biased remarks flying around from some in the science fiction and fantasy field (see as a reference Dave Truesdale’s absolutely unbelievable rant here) and the recent Huffington Post Article, “If J.K. Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.”  I’ve had so much to say on these matters that I’ve literally been unable to say anything, because it all wants to tumble out at once, creating a bottleneck at the source.  But here it is.  I know that I’m not saying anything new, but I have to say it: all of this—ALL OF IT—comes down to entitlement.   I’m entitled to what you have and HOW DARE YOU stand in my way.  What comes next is belittling, bullying and badmouthing others in order to tear them down so that you can climb over their backs to raise yourself up.

Well, let me tell you, it’s not going to happen.  Even if you were the next person in line for the accomplishment you think should be yours, there’s only going to be another you waiting in the wings to tear you down.  It’s craziness.

Here’s the truth: a person’s sex, sexuality or skin has NO bearing on that person’s merit.  NONE.   Of course, I’m starting here with the SFWA insanity.  I have to start somewhere.  Does the first amendment protect your right to spout off biased and bigoted rhetoric?  Just recently Adam Baldwin and Nick Searcy have proven that it does.  However, an organization  does not have to let those people speak for it or give them a forum for their words and yet there is a petition circling claiming censorship for not allowing the bias to stand.  N.K. Jemisin did a wonderful post on all of this which says everything I’d want to say more eloquently than I can put it, but I’ll quote just a little bit here: “I am all about the First Amendment. Most writers are. And if this current brave blow in defense of artistic expression had been actually about artistic expression, I might’ve been in their corner. If they’d gone to bat like this, poured out all this sturm und drang and all these Privileged Writer Tears, over the kinds of things the First Amendment was meant to protect — the voices of the minority; the rights of those who need to speak truth to power; subversive art, incisive journalism, political protest — then I would’ve signed the damn petition myself.”

Here’s a write-up about the petition from Black Gate Magazine.  Now, I was a columnist for the SFWA Bulletin—the very incarnation of it that was suspended.  Sadly, all of us were ditched, along with the editor, who I really enjoyed working with.  I agree that the magazine needed an overhaul and I do believe that the egregious columns should have been edited for content or suspended all together, since they provided a biased and outdated view of many things, not the least of which was the role of women in the industry.  Do I like the way things went down?  No.  But will I argue to be rid of any oversight?  Again, no.  A professional publication should serve its members, not alienate them.  It doesn’t mean there will never be any difference of opinions.  Get any five members of the industry on a panel and at least one is bound to be the odd man or woman out over an issue.  However, a professional publication needs to be professional.

Moving on to the Huffington Post article…  Amy Christine Parker did a wonderful vlog yesterday for YA Rebels (below) expressing so much that I would have said, but I want to add my voice here.  1- Criticizing anyone’s work without so much as reading it is bad form. 2- Suggesting that anyone leave a field so that others can get ahead…where do I even start?  When someone like J.K. Rowling (for middle grade fiction) or Stephenie Meyer (for YA) or Laurell K. Hamilton (for urban fantasy) comes along, it calls attention to the entire field.  Publishers realize that there’s an audience hungry for it and they begin looking for more.  It can actually pave the way for other writers of such fiction to come up in the industry.  Plus, BOOKS, SELLING = good for bookstores, good for the industry.  3- As Amy suggested in her vlog, writers aren’t workhorses.  We write because we have to.  We’re artists.  Ask an artist to stop creating art and you might as well ask us to stop our hearts.

Full disclosure, I loved J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  I read the whole series not because I have a son the right age (he actually read them on my recommendation), but because I really enjoyed them.  Are they perfect?  No.  What is?  But she created a world and characters that I lost myself in, and that to me is magic.  Do I like some of what she’s said in interviews since, like that she doesn’t write fantasy?  (As if a) we could swallow that and b) there’s anything wrong with fantasy.)  No, I don’t.  However, I would never suggest that she step aside and am stunned that anyone would feel she had the right to try to elbow another author off the stage.

People, if you can’t get ahead on your own merits, maybe you should look to the mote in your own eye.  ‘Nough said.

Amy’s vlog…

Today I’m reposting an article I did for the Summer 2011 issue of the SFWA Bulletin on self-promotion and mandated extroversion.  For another post on this subject, check out my article in the March Knight Agency newsletter.  In the meantime, I present to you….

MANDATED EXTROVERSION

Usually I start with whatever lyrics the demented little DJ in my head has seen fit to provide or a colorful anecdote about the crazy people with whom I’m sharing a train car, but today as I frantically try to finish all of my work in time for my overseas trip, I’m stuck in my office with my puppy jailer guarding the door and no further inspiration than the voices in my head, one of whom actually has her own blog…which is exactly the sort of thing I want to talk to you about today.

It’s truer every year that authors need to invest themselves in self-promotion.  Relevant clauses have even begun creeping into contractual language, committing authors to maintaining websites, blogs, a perhaps certain presence in social media sites.  But for a lot of authors, this is very nerve-wracking stuff.  It takes time and energy away from other writing and for many it doesn’t come naturally.  What’s an introverted author to do?

I’ve had a lot of these conversations lately, and I’d like to offer up some suggestions.  Let’s start with website development.  It’s a great idea if your website has enough content to keep readers around for awhile and doesn’t immediately redirect them elsewhere, like to buy links.  Some authors include free fiction, secret dossiers, widgets, book trailers, wallpaper and other value added content in addition to a listing of their books and where they can be bought.  They give something back even while they promote.  Now, all of this extra content can take a lot of time and energy.  My two cents: it’s worth it.  At a bare minimum, though, your website should always be up-to-date, easily readable across browsers and quick to load.  This might mean that you loose one of your bells or tone down your whistle, but a clean, sleek, modern and easily navigable site is a must.  It’s also very important (sometimes even contractually mandated) that you link to your publisher’s site and offer multiple buy links so that none of the retailers who might support your books is left out.  For all those wonderful independent bookstores, there’s Indiebound.

Your website should also contain buttons that will help your readers link up with you elsewhere, like your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.  Let’s see if we can take some of the stress and uncertainty out of the idea of putting yourself out there in public.  I’ll start with blogging, which, while not absolutely necessary, is becoming increasingly important.

Idea #1: If you’re uncomfortable blogging on your own or don’t feel that you have enough to say to keep people coming back, enter into a group blog with other authors where your commitment might be anything from a blog a week to one a month.  You’ll still get the exposure and you’ll benefit from the cross-pollination of your peers.

Idea #2: Set yourself a schedule, something easy, fun, entertaining and informative.  You’ll find a schedule takes some of the stress away, since you’ve got an idea each day of what you’ll post.  As an example:

-Mondays: fun facts (this can be anything from research you’ve come across to quirks of your writing process to FAQs about yourself, your superstitions, weird history, etc.)
-Teaser Tuesdays: I see this a lot, and it’s intriguing each and every time.  Simply post an excerpt from something you’re reading or writing or about to have released.  It can be from the beginning, the middle, the end, out of the mouths of babes….

-Writer Wednesday: This might be the day each week where you post something helpful about the process or the business.  Maybe you talk about character development or dialogue, plotting or pacing, or any number of other things.  Or maybe each Wednesday you feature an author who’s not you and take the day off.  Let someone else guest blog for a change.

-Thoughtful Thursday: I’m thinking here of the old Saturday Night Live “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy.”  Maybe you post your musings or quotes or articles you’ve found helpful in your work.

-Fun Fridays: This is something I’ve begun on my blog.  I’ve posted up a free short story, links to videos, songs or other websites.  Generally, the humor is industry-related, but not always.  It is, however, always intended to be entertaining.

 

Idea #3: Offer to guest-blog for all and sundry.  Are there blogs already targeted toward your audience that encourage guests?  Dip your feet in with a guest blog or interview elsewhere.  (If you do have a blog of your own, offering to swap blogs is often very effective.)

Readers like lists; they like quick concise wisdom that they can take away with them; they like controversy and humor.  They do not like: the hard sell, mundane minutia, or being talked at rather than with.  Pose questions, start a dialogue.  Be a real and fully interactive person rather than a bot.  Do not: use the forum to rant about negative reviews or problems with your agent, editor or publishing house.  Remember that there are truly no “take backs” on the web.  Once something is out there, it’s stored forever somewhere, and I’ve seen more than one author shoot him or herself in the foot by being indiscrete or overly aggressive and getting labeled a problem child.

I briefly touched on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, which are two of the best known, but there are a ton of other great sites that appeal to readers, from Goodreads to Library Thing, Shelfari, Authors’ Den, Figment, CreateSpace….  The list is practically endless.  Of course, it’s impossible to do everything with the attention needed to succeed, so it’s probably a good idea to choose a few places into which you’ll pour your time and energy.  Do less and do it well.  Doing a great deal poorly really doesn’t get you anywhere.

Lest you think things like Twitter and Facebook might be too great a distraction…well, you may be right.  They can be very distracting and addictive.  You have to know yourself and be very disciplined with your time so that you don’t take too much away from your actual writing.  But if writing is your profession, something you’re very serious about, networking is an increasingly large part of that.

Would it help if I tell you that, like with your blog, you can have your “tweets” (your Twitter posts) feed into Facebook as well—and vice versa.  Double the exposure and half the effort!  (Although, I’d argue that the two are truly different enough that this may not always be your best option.)  What about if I mention that it takes less than a minute to sign up for a Twitter account and that posts can only be 140 characters maximum (not words, characters!)?

Outside of social media, there are a host of other new and exciting ways to reach readers, from music videos and book trailers for your work to widgets and apps, though the latter is still prohibitively expensive to create.  And no, you don’t have to be an electronics guru to figure them out.  As far as book trailers, many have gone the homemade route.  With a clever concept and a little help from your friends, a Flip camera and a YouTube account can do wonders, although it takes a little more than that for widespread distribution unless your video is lucky enough to go viral.  But there are plenty of companies out there that’ll help with the creation and/or distribution of various sorts of multi-media.

Look at the possibilities as just that—possibilities, full of promise and ripe for the exploration of ideas.  Once you get into the swing of things, you’ll find that promotion takes on a life of its own.  You’ll build a file full of contacts and discover what works for you.  It’ll become easier with time.  You’ll have your go-tos, your big events and an ever-growing network to help you spread the word.