GENREALITY

Archive for June, 2009



Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
One Thousand True Fans?

1000-image

While doing some blog reading recently, I stumbled upon a post by Kevin Kelly over at The Technium entitled “1,000 True Fans.”  Kevin starts the article by discussing how the long tail (the niche business strategy used by such companies as Amazon.com in selling vast quantities of products to relatively small numbers of consumers per product) does not do much to creative individuals earn a living.  Individual artists, producers and creators are overlooked in the process, he says, because it focuses on satisifying the needs of vast numbers of people with decidedly different tastes.

Kevin goes on to suggest a very simple solution:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

By his definition, a true fan is someone who will purchase very single thing you produce.  They will drive two hundred miles to see you do a book signing for three people in a bookstore at the east end of nowhere.  They have Google alerts set up for your name, hunt for your out-of-print editions as if they were the Holy Grail, and will defend you vociferously in forums and chat rooms wherever they can.  These fans not only buy the T-shiort, but they get the mug, the mouse pad and the baseball hat while they are at it, too.

Kevin suggets that True Fans will spend one full days of wages on your books (or products) per year.  He sets that days’ wages at $100.00, which means that if you have 1000 true fans each spending $100 per year, you’ll be bringing in $100,000.00 per year, which is a darn nice living for most people.

He goes on to say that these 1000 True Fans are surrounded by several thousand lesser fans.  They might not spend a full days wages on you during any given year, but they will buy something.  Even more importantly, they have the potential of becoming True Fans as well as bringing in more lesser fans.  If the process is working correctly, your number of fans continues to grow and before you know it you have a major hit.

Kevin correctly notes that the key here is connection.  If you want your True Fans to stay True Fans, and your lesser fans to become True Fans, you have to connect to them directly in an authentic fashion.  Luckily for us, we have a whole host of methods by which to do that.  Social media sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Friendfeed.  Microblogging platforms like Twitter and Tumblr.  Video messages through YouTube and Vimeo.  Bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon and Digg.

Websites, blogs, and mailing lists also become key tools of the author when considering how best to reach your True Fans and maintain relationships with them.  They also us to show them what goes on behind the curtain, to bring them into our world just a little deeper, and make them feel a part of the creation process.

For the most part, I agree with Kevin.  I think reach and fostering a relationship with a set group of True Fans is an excellent idea.  It can provide not only longevity to one’s career, but also motivation and enthusiasm for writing longer series or books with repeat characters.  I disagree with him only slightly, in the sense that for a writer, I don’t think 1000 True Fans are enough.  Due to the nature of publishing, we are only getting a small percentage of the money spent on our books and therefore the number of True Fans must be proportionately higher to make that magic $100,000 figure.  (To be fair, Kevin does state this is likely – I just wanted to emphasize that it is necessary, not just likely.  In addition, the issue of an advance must be factored in here somewhere, as it could be seen as the publisher’s agreement that there are already X number of True Fans out there for that particular writer.)

At any rate, I found the article interesting and wondered how the rest of you viewed the situation.  If you are a reader, do you consider yourself a True Fan of a partuclar writer?  Why?  What do they do to maintaint hat relationship with you?   If you are a writer, how do you reach your True Fans?   What suggestions do you have for cultivating those relationships?

Monday, June 29th, 2009 by Alison Kent
Why I’m Not Blogging Today

Today’s my day to blog. I didn’t forget, I just never got around to it. I started a couple of times this last week to put together a thoughtful post but was interrupted by life.

Instead of being thoughtful, I’m going to give you the Top Ten Reasons I’m Not Blogging Today.

1 ) ::cough:: ::sneeze:: ::sniffle:: My allergies are making my head a fuzzy blob. ::cough:: ::sneeze:: ::sniffle:

2 ) I’m reading copy edits for my December Brava WITH EXTREME PLEASURE.

3 ) I haven’t slept worth a crap all week, making my head a fuzzy blob.

4 ) I’ve had more paying web work than usual to do recently.

5 ) It’s been 100+ degrees for a week, it hasn’t rained for a month, and the heat and humidity are making my head a fuzzy blob.

6 ) We’re a four adult household now, and there’s always something going on that has to come before blogging.

7 ) I have Internet lethargy. I barely manage to get my business email read every day.

8 ) I have a new story idea percolating, and what brain cells inside my fuzzy blob of a head are working are focused on that.

9 ) I’ve been in a cleaning, organizing, shredding frenzy and haven’t wanted to stop.

10 ) Did I mention I have a fuzzy head? I look for words and lose them. I find myself staring off into space, thinking of story twists and turns. Maybe this fuzzy head thing is more about living in my story worlds instead of in real time!

There. My excuses. Lame, huh? Anyone have any questions? About writing? The biz? Anything? I’m happy to give you some fuzzy answers!

Sunday, June 28th, 2009 by LViehl
Keeper Winners

The winners of the Anatomy of a Keeper giveaway are:

ging (comment submitted on 2009/06/26 at 2:40pm)

Amy (comment submitted on 2009/06/27 at 7:10pm)

Winners, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and I’ll get these books out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Saturday, June 27th, 2009 by Jason Pinter
How Much Do Looks Matter?

A few years ago, I went to have professional author photos taken for THE MARK, the first time I’d had any sort of professional photo taken since my sister’s bat-mitzvah. Per the photographer’s instructions, I brought along four shirts of varying color and a pair of jeans (there was no way I was wearing a suit). About 500 (literally) photos later, I had a newfound respect for women whose job it is to lie around on a beach half naked. Taking photos is exhausting stuff, and the psychology behind it is actually quite interesting (I can honestly understand why a photographer with more personality will get better shots). In the end we particularly liked four or five of the pictures, I sent them off to my publisher. Ironically the shots ended up being too dark, and we used a photo taken by my father at his apartment at the very last second. (he even gets credit in the book) I used a different shot for my next few books, a candid taken at BEA by the very talented Mary Reagan.

But aside from my mom saying, “You look cute in that one!” or just being happy I didn’t come out looking like Sloth from “The Goonies,” I always wonder how much my author photos matter. Is somebody really going to walk into their neighborhood bookstore, pick up a copy of one of my books, compare it to the new book from Author X, and say, “You know what, that Jason Pinter doesn’t look like a human ingrown toenail! I think I’ll buy his book!” A website once called me ‘College Football Hot’–i.e. I looked like a hot college football player–and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a wee bit flattered.

A few years ago, much was written about debut novelist Marisha Pessl, a great deal focusing on her appearance. A lot of people were of the opinion that her publisher paid a massive advance–reportedly upwards of half a million dollars–for “another pretty face.” In any kind of media or entertainment, there’s a pervasive feeling that how you look is more important than what you say. Most people always assumed publishing was above that.

Now, I’ve never bought a book based on how attractive an author is. That doesn’t mean I don’t notice author photos and form opinions based on them. Some authors are attractive, some are not. But we’re talking about books, not movies. You can’t substitute Kathy Bates for Angelina Jolie in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and expect to have the same experience. But take Marisha Pessl’s photo and replace it with, I don’t know, Margaret Atwood, and page one will still feature the same words in the same order.

Every publisher wants their books to get publicity and print coverage. Most of the glossy magazines prefer people in their pages to at least exist on the same planet as “Heather the Size Zero.” So if a book’s author is attractive, the better chance they have in landing in “Maison Derriere” or a similar glossy mag. After all, the more exposure the book gets, the more copies it likely sells. So if looks are one more bullet point for the marketing sheet, why not exploit it?

Now just because I haven’t bought a book based on an author’s looks doesn’t mean nobody else has. In a New York profile of Judith Regan, she was reported as fighting hard to plaster the face of one of her authors on the back of his back, her reasoning being, “Women will buy this because they want to fuck him!” (pardon my French) Without a doubt, from a business perspective, Judith Regan is one of the most successful and influential publishers of all time. So perhaps looks play a bigger part than we believe. Keep in mind when book people talk (i.e. authors, editors, agents, etc…) they’re talking to other book people. They tend to be less influenced by those things. But your average reader living in Muskego? The right author photo might just get them to the cash register.

Most authors are thrilled when their book gets any attention, so if somebody covers your looks it’s almost a necessary evil. In the end, Marisha Pessl’s book got great reviews, hit the New York Times bestseller list, and has probably even earned out that massive advance. So, yes, something is working.

In the end, of course, I’d like to throw it out to the crowd. Have you ever bought a book because of what the author looked like? Or have you ever been influenced in any way by an author’s appearance (positive or negative)?

Friday, June 26th, 2009 by LViehl
Anatomy of a Keeper

(I’m cross-posting some of the content of this post from my author blog, where I’m also giving away some books today.)

When I’m not writing books, I’m collecting them, and at one point my personal library numbered over six thousand books. After too many years of hauling a jillion boxes of books every time we moved, I finally said enough and trimmed down my collection to a more manageable fourteen hundred or so, and donated the rest to various libraries and schools.

At first it was a wrench, parting with so many great reads, until I thought about it. Over time I’d gotten into the habit of keeping every good book I read, and while they all had their particular merits, most were stories I didn’t plan on reading again — there simply wasn’t enough time. As part of my collection they were simply going to sit and gathering dust; giving them away gave them a chance to be read by someone else.

I also instituted a new collecting rule for myself, to keep my library from growing out of control: for every new book I want to keep, I have to remove one from my collection. That’s why the new copy of Catcher in the Rye I bought last week as my personal protest over J.D. Salinger’s current court battle will replace an older copy that I’ll donate at the end of the month with the rest of my non-keepers to the local public library.

Because of the limitations I’ve imposed on myself and my library, there are only a handful of authors whose complete works I collect. Most of these writers are gone now, so their shelves remain static (Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Laura Ingalls Wilder) while others never wrote more than one book (Jetta Carleton, Harper Lee, Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, Oscar Wilde) which also helps. As for collecting the works of living authors who are still writing, I give shelf space only to writers whose books I know I will reread many times — which means they have to be exceptional authors whose stories I never tire of reading, and who inspire me to work harder at my own novels. One of these very rare souls is Marjorie M. Liu.

I can honestly say that from the first time I picked up and read one of Marjorie’s novels, it was all over for me. The author had a poetic writing style that enchanted me and involved me and spoke to me on so many levels that I knew I’d be rereading her books every time I needed to be reminded why telling stories is an art as well as a job. Then last year Marjorie published The Iron Hunt, the first novel in a new series that completely blew me away on the first read, and has since haunted me for the last twelve months.

I can talk about the reading experience all day, and I will if you let me, but I also think the author is a great storyteller from the nuts and bolts aspect of writing. Marjorie is doing amazing, epic things with urban fantasy that simply aren’t being done — and I think they should be, which is why I give away her novels to other writers. At times when I’m reading these books, she scares the bejesus out of me, because while I’m enjoying the story I’m also seeing the technical work she’s done, and it’s stunning. She raises the bar for all of us.


Next week the second book in the Hunter Kiss series, Darkness Calls, will be hitting the shelves. To give you a little run down on the story, demon hunter Maxine Kiss is back with her boys, a small horde of protective demons who spend the daylight hours living on her body as tattoos. After the sun sets, the demons leave her skin and come alive to fight by Maxine’s side.

In this novel the boys have a lot of protecting and fighting to do, as someone wants Maxine dead — someone who also knows the only moment between daylight and darkness when she is vulnerable. But is the killer trying to get rid of her, or use her to get to her man Grant Cooperon? Grant, an ex-priest demon reformer with a mysterious past, has powers unlike any Maxine has ever encountered — and she’ll need everything he has and more when they discover exactly what is after them both, and why.

Marjorie is writing all sorts of things these days — manga, paranormal romance, X-men novelizations — but personally I think this series is the author at her best. There’s just something incredibly special about these characters and this labyrinthine storyline. It has it all — amazing writing, hypnotic storytelling, and wholly unpredictable twists/turns — and gave me the most fun I’ve had reading all year.

Marjorie was also kind enough to send me some signed copies of her Hunter Kiss novels, which I’d like to share with our blog visitors here at Genreality. If you’d like a chance to win a signed set of The Iron Hunt and Darkness Calls, in comments to this post name a series or author you find it difficult to wait for (or if you’re not in any hurry to read anyone, just toss your name into the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, June 27, 2009. I’ll draw two names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners signed copies of both Hunter Kiss novels. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, so wherever you live, please join in.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by Sasha White
Learning Process

I wrote this up last night , or should I say early this morning at around 3 AM after work…and I even managed to publish it. BUt It was accidentally published to LAst thursdays date. So, uhmm, Sorry. Here’s todays post :oops:

In 2005 I wrote my first novel. Since then I’ve written 10 more, numerous short stories and several novellas …and I’m still learning. Not just about the business or the craft, but about how I work best. Sometimes you want to do things one way…say something like…uhmm plotting. And you try to do things that way…but no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t work for you.

Yep, thats what I’ve learned recently. I’d love to be able to plot and plan, and think stories through so that I have a solid idea for what’s going to happen… but it doesn’t work for me. I’ve never really realized why though. I always though I didn’t like plotting because it took away a lot of the magic for me because I often feel that writing a book is a lot like reading one. I like to learn as I go. I don’t like to read a synopsis before I read a book because I like to get into the character and follow their journey. When writing I like to get into a character and go on their journey with them – just like when I’m reading.

I always start out thinking I know what’s going to happen- and most of what I think does happen, but there are almost always surprises too. I love it when a story takes on a life of it’s own, when my characters surprise me. To me, that’s the magic of storytelling.

Some people find that magic in brainstorming ideas, in delving into a synopsis and sorting things out that way. They get energized when they plot and inspired by the planning. Not me. I wanted to be that way because I felt that I needed to be able to plan things to move ahead in my career. And I’ve learned that I do need to plan some things, like what direction I want to go in, and how I’m going to get where I want to go, but no matter how much I try, I can’t plot out a story in depth, let alone a series. I’m good with ideas, and can do brief outlines, but try ing to go deeper literarly hurts my head. Not only that, panic starts to set in because when I try to go too deep too soon, all I see are plot holes and character flaws, and those freeze up my creativiny …and my motivation.

I can work through a loss in creativity. We all know you can’t always wait to be inspired to write, not if you want to make a living at this job. If it’s not a hobby for you, then you do have to think of it as a job, accept that it’s work, and work even when you don’t feel like it. You can’t afford to wait around to feeling the creative spark juicing you up, you need to get it done. So, for me, the most recent lesson learned is that without motivation..nothing else matters.

What’s the most recent lesson you learned about yourself?

UPDATE on the BIAM Challenge…so far.. Angeleque and Darlene are kicking butt!

Angeleque’s BIAM Goal: 90,000
Completed to date: 12,000

Darlene’s BIAM Goal: 90,000 words.
completed to date: 11,307

Sasha’s BIAM Goal: 90,000 words
completed to date: 2,921 words

Althea’s BIAM Goal: 90,000
Completed to date: 2,700

Kristin’s BIAM Goal: 40,000 words
Completed to date: Nothing for this week, but she’s staying strong and not giving up!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 by Carrie Vaughn
Workshopping Confessions

Workshopping comes in a lot of different forms, and I’ve done just about all of them:  a local group that meets regularly, online groups, critique by correspondence, a week-long workshop, and a six-week long intensive workshop.  I even had a critique group that met by conference call.  All of them involved peer-review critiquing, which can be one of the most valuable tools out there to help you become a better writer.

I have a confession:  I’m ambivalent about workshopping.  Most of the time, I wish I didn’t have to do it.  It can involve a lot of ego, personality conflict, social negotiating, and hurt feelings.  A dysfunctional critique group can be toxic.  But a good critique group can be the one thing that gets you through the crazy depressing phases, the plateaus where you’re sure you’re not getting better, that year you don’t make a single sale, and so on.  Critiquing other people’s work can be rewarding, and often teaches you more than having your own work critiqued does.  For my part, I’ve discovered that I’m just not very good at seeing my stories objectively, and it takes someone else pointing out what’s really on the page.  It’s can be pretty gut-wrenching and frustrating.  I keep workshopping because I keep learning and seeing my writing in new ways.  I’ve been blessed in getting to workshop with some truly gifted writers — and even better, writers who can teach, who can articulate what’s wrong with a story, who are so comfortable with the tools of the trade that they can eloquently impart that knowledge to others.    So, I get a lot out of workshopping, but it’s not an easy process for me.

I have another confession:  I usually don’t go back to look at the actual critiqued manuscript.  I don’t usually take the specific suggestions offered to me about how to fix the story.  I listen to the critique if it’s in person and take notes.  Then I spend some time trying to figure out what story I was trying to write, and how much it differs from the story my critiquer actually read.  That’s where the usefulness of the critique comes for me.  It tells me how far off the mark I was, where I went astray, what I tried to skim and didn’t get away with, and so on.

For example:  If everyone who critiques the story wants to know more about the hamster I mentioned in two lines on page 5, when I hadn’t actually intended the hamster to be important, I should probably cut out the bit with the hamster rather than trying to explain it, like everyone suggested I do.  I often solve more problems in a story by cutting things out than I do by adding things.  Most of what I seem to do in revision is draw lines between points that are already there, but not clear.

Everyone will have suggestions about how to fix a story.  Everyone will find something wrong with it, because as a critiquer that’s their job.  It’s up to you to decide what to do with those comments, which I look at as reactions rather than prescriptions.  If everyone who critiques a story has the same general comments (disliking the main character, noting the plot hole halfway in) then I usually listen and change that part.  If everyone has a different conflicting opinions about the story, then I try to analyze what about the story is controversial and maybe even play up that part.

I workshop and get my work critiqued because I need those reactions to know if I’m on the right track, and adjust accordingly.