CopperCon

It's All About Presence

harry-potter-invitation-1 So a couple of weeks ago I attended CopperCon in Mesa, AZ. While I was there I met several authors. Some were published multiple times while others have yet to put pen to paper for the first time. Some had paper books while others were digitally published. Old, young. Newb, veteran. Self-pub, traditional and everything in between.  I loved seeing that kind of professional diversity. It certainly made for good conversation.  Also, I found it interesting to look at the various authors and how they've handled the changes in the industry. Social media, crowdsourcing and ebooks have changed publishing without a doubt. In fact, it was great to see people at my social media panel who were curious about how to use it to the benefit of their careers.

One author I met was an older woman writing under a gender neutral name. I sat in on some of her panels and learned that she has an agent, is traditionally published as well as self-published. Other than a print-on-demand (POD) service, her work is in digital form.

She seemed like fun, but I forgot to swing by and pick up her card. So when I got home, I did a quick Google search for her. Three other authors of the same name came up instead of her. No website. No Twitter or other social media. No reader outreach.  So, I checked Amazon. Surely as an epublished author, I'd be able to get directly to her content that way.

After wading through several pages of content from these same-name authors and their work, I finally--finally!--found her books.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this boggles my fucking mind.

Now, I'm sure you're thinking, "But, Jamie, different strokes." And that's true. I'm all for diversity and going the route that is best to meet your goals. But, I'm flabbergasted by the inconsistencies of this author's strategies.

While at the Con, it was clear this author was there to sell books. She had bookmarks and bendy straws and postcards and swag to pass out to the masses. Good. Something people can take with them with your name on them (that I forgot to grab). Although I'm curious as to how a bendy

Thumbs-Up straw is relevant to her and her work---unless it was just a cheap bulk lot item to give out---it is fantastic that she is taking this step.

Also, as her publisher has a POD option (that I couldn't find), the bookmarks are not a bad idea. Especially for book lovers. We love, need and lose the shit out of bookmarks. So these were good, too. And they had her book cover and purchase info on them as well as cute little charms. (The Fonz approves.)

However, if your material is going out in a digital format, you need to have some bit of yourself in the same place.

Not only that, but fans, potential readers and colleagues are going to look for you. You need some sort of presence online and it needs to be the first thing that pops up in a search. Other authors have the same name? Either pick a different pen name (which this was) or make your presence stand out as unique.

I don't understand how someone who is so business-focused can ignore this huge portion of the business itself.

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Not only that, but in a panel where she and a colleague were supposed to give newbs info on epublishing, she pooh-poohed ebooks. (And got the names of ebook vendors wrong. It's "KOBO", not KOBE. Grr!) This isn't just biting the hand that feeds, it's shooting yourself in the fucking foot. If you are selling ebooks, don't tell people print is king and always will be and ebooks are nasty. Doing so devalues YOUR WORK. You've just told that audience that your books are sub-par because they're digital.

Digital content has beefed up its game over the last 5 years or so. Outlets are vetting material and ebooks are not something to be ashamed of. While there are still some who see print vs ebook as a value judgement, the trends are pulling digital media out of the shadows and letting it shine.

And again, I get that different people have different goals and that there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat. And I know that and online presence and the auguries of social media can seem scary. We are writers and many of us prefer dark corners and basements away from the world where we can toil and double our bubble. A good many writers are introverts. Even the most sheepish of our ilk need to have something online in this day and age.

Readers crave content. They thrive on connection. When they can't get your next book, they want your blog, short stories, tweets. Whatever. There are options for you (but that's another blog post) if you're more likely to blog from within your shell, but you need something.

So here's a question for you. How much are you willing to dig for an author you've never read?

 

Measuring Up

tumblr_lfzvoaeeot1qcftw3o1_500 So, as followers will know, I was at CopperCon this weekend working my authorly self. One of the panels I gave--with the awesome Michelle M. Welch--was about resources for authors in this digital age. Well, due to some time discrepancies between the pocket schedule and the actual program, our panel got mostly ignored. There were a few people, though, so our panel turned into more of a cozy conversation. During this discussion, a man came in, sat down and started asking off-topic questions. I figured he was just uncertain of what we were talking about and possibly a little strung out from the long day. However, a friend of mine who was there said this guy was obviously drunk. Considering said friend was downwind, I'll buy it.

He asked interesting questions, this drunk. Not in the philosophical sense, but interesting in a sociological kinda way. Like, if I were Jane Goodall I would've been cataloging his movements and tracking him through his habitat to know more about his strange breed of drunken con attendee. As I'm not Jane Goodall, I blog.

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Michelle and I dodged the, "What do you think of TWILIGHT," bullet. He asked if writers should aim their books at teen girls. (I offered that if you're going to write to an audience at all, go for the mothers of teen girls. Direct income, and if you judge by Twilight, twice as crazy for the material.)

Among his awkward questions like, "What's your most famous book?"* and "Have you written any time travel books?"**, this guy said that he'd heard that writers should write their books, "like movies". He said the wisdom behind this gem of advice lies in this: if someone wants to make a movie of your book, it's already laid out like a movie and it won't get chopped up from page to screen.

I didn't dive into a dissertation about the Hollywood Formula. We didn't go into the fact that no book will ever be perfectly translated from book to box office. Michelle and I did agree, though, that this is not sound advice.

"Write a good book," I said. "Before you can get a movie deal, you have to have a good book."

He seemed confused and said, "But, isn't that what every author wants? To get a movie deal?" Our guest rambled a bit about how the movie deal is the Holy Grail. Disagreeing, I shook my head and said, "Not for everyone. It depends on how you measure success."

He lifted his hand and slid his fingers over his thumb in the international symbol for "cold hard cash".  I sighed because this is one of those conversations that can make me go from perky to cynical-and-jaded faster than you can say Twilight.  So, I'm going to tell you what I told him...and go into a little more detail, because this is my blog and I can.

I don't know about you, but I'm a little weird. I do not measure success in dollars and cents. I know that this is a business and businesses are supposed to make money. And I'm not about to go into the, "I'm an artist and I do it for the love." No, bullshit. I might love what I do--and I do very much--but if I was just writing stories for myself, I wouldn't try to get published. I wouldn't have spent all this time, effort and sanity working toward my goals just for warm fuzzy unicorn kisses. But, to be honest, I do not judge the success of my career with something so liquid and arbitrary as money.

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Don't get me wrong, fiscal growth is not a bad yardstick to have. Whatever rocks your boat and keeps you going. However, this view that we should all be striving for the shining movie deal is misled. Not only does it put the cart before the horse, but it paints a very narrow view of success. (And breeds mediocrity. But that's another topic all together.)

Your mileage may vary, of course, but you need to decide how you measure success. What are your goals? Why are you writing? Why do you want to be published? Do you want to be published at all? What is it you want to get out of this?

For me? Well...

tumblr_mkfls6BMgZ1s7y8efo1_500I have several goals.  First and foremost among them is, "Write a book that people love." I want my characters to worm into readers' hearts and souls and make little homes there. I want you to leave my book laughing and telling people about the shit that satyr said. I want you to want more. (Because I've got more for you.) I want you to love this book.

To do that....well, there are a few things I'm going to need. Above all else, I need to write a book, and that book needs to be good. Fantastic story, real characters, gripping narrative, command of the English language. All the trimmings. That takes work on my part. Years of honing my craft, writing shit, failing, letting other people read it, editing it, writing more stuff, letting people read that, over and over.

Then, as a writer, I need to revisit those goals of mine. Do I want to write as a hobby? Do I want to have people who aren't friends read it? Do I want to make money? Do I want to be a published author? Personally, I decided that I wanted to reach more people. I wanted to be an author with a career in writing (always have, actually), rather than a hobbyist.

This leads to more questions. Okay, so if I want to be published, what does that mean? Self-published? Traditionally? What will I need beyond the book to meet those benchmarks? Well, if I want to get a rabid audience of fans and reach lots of people...I'm going to need distribution. This, at the moment, is going to be best met by traditional publishers rather than self-publishing options. I'm going to need a publisher with some weight behind them. To get the publisher, I'm going to need an agent. To do that...more work. Research. Writing queries, synopses and proposals. Rejection. Edits. More queries. More rejections.

And the process goes on like that. Over and over. Redefining the short term goals to see what needs to be done to meet the bigger ones.

The journey is different for everyone. The inebriated audience member was focused on the destination. I am constantly looking at the path that takes me there.

And sure, I totally have fantasies of getting a panel in Hall H at San Diego Comic Con some day, and I'd love it if Tom Hiddleston had a role in the movie version of my series. But that's not what I'm working toward. That's not the endgame for me. That's icing on the cake. That's fluff. Gravy.

tumblr_lozfztGYh61qaky2jo3_500I can't judge success by getting a movie deal. (Not only because it's so rare, but because even if you get a deal, you don't always get a movie. Development hell or other studio issues can often can a movie before it has the chance to have a script. And then, there's no guarantee it's going to be a good film, a blockbuster or critically acclaimed.) That's like saying a high school basketball player is only good if he's won an NBA championship. There are too many other ways to succeed, too many other goals to have that mean something.

When I told him that I don't see the movie deal as the Holy Grail, he just kinda stared at me, slackjawed.

I know I'm a hippie chick who hates that money drives society, so that's part of it. And I know that sales are how publishers and professionals judge the success of a book. But, I also know what I want. My bottom line. I know that working toward my goals and not a sales number is how I'm going to be able to sleep at night. And if, somehow, somewhen along the way I end up in Hall H with 3000 screaming fans of my series, so be it.

The drunk thanked Michelle and I for our panel. He then told us to let him know when we'd written something with time travel. Then he'd buy that.

Dude, drunk or not, had a very narrow view of the world.

Poor guy.

Anyway, what about you? What are some of your goals? How do you define success for you and your career? Leave some comments.

Until next time kids. Nerdmaste.

* - In answer to his questions, "What is your most famous book?"  None, yet. My debut novel TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES comes out in November from Entangled Edge. My short story "The Clever One" will appear in the anthology WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME 2 (Dragon Moon Press) next month. Michelle's would be  CONFIDENCE GAME. /pimpery  ** "have you written a book about time travel?" - Not yet. I have a story in my head that involves some level of time travel, but I won't be working on it for at least another 3 months. 

By the way....

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Author Resources

73939_577048382318763_336731172_nHi! So I just got home from my first stint at a con as a guest! Thank you to CopperCon and all those who attended. Very special thanks to T.M. Williams and Michelle M Welch for sharing panels with me. And to Sharon Skinner for hanging out and talking. I've posted previously about using the internet/social media to promote yourself and extend your network. Well, I did that at CopperCon, too. If you were at my two panels today--Writers and Social Media and Author Resources in the Digital Age--I promised that I would post the links I talked about. Here, my loves, is that post.  Other authors, please feel free to add your own resources to this list in the comments.

Also, if we met at CopperCon, say hi!

-j.

Social Networks:

Twitter Facebook Google Plus (G+)

Media/Image:

Pinterest - image sharing site Spotify - music sharing, playlists Instagram - image sharing site Flickr - image sharing site

Writer-centric websites:

Book Country - a workshopping website for authors to share work, find crit partners, talk about the industry on forums. Now has self-publishing options Absolute Write Water Cooler - forums that are a HUGE help! Preditors And Editors - watchdog site Writer Beware - watchdog site/blog Query Tracker - good info on what agents to query, forums, organizational tools Goodreads - book reviews Publisher's Marketplace - profiles on editors, agents; lists of book deals; good info on current events in the industry Hey Publisher - database of markets for short fiction

Some Twitter Chats: #askagent #yalitchat #writerchat #pubtip

Blog Hosting Websites:

Wordpress Blogger/Blogspot Tumblr

Some Authors/Professionals I Follow*: Chuck Wendig - author Paul Cornell - author Karina Cooper - author Cherie Priest - author Sam Sykes - author Peter Orullian - author Jim C Hines - author John Scalzi - author Delilah S Dawson - author Kerry Schafer - author Allison Pang - author Lou Anders - editor at Pyr books, author Lee Harris - editor at Angry Robot books Sara Megibow - agent Laura Bradford - agent Colleen Lindsay - former agent, professionally Random Penguin.

Podcasts:

Writing Excuses 

 

*If I didn't mention you here, I'm sorry. This list of people I follow is in the hundreds. If you want a comprehensive list, visit my Twitter page and check out all the cool people on my "following" list. <3