I don’t know about you but I love those ‘For Dummies’ books. They make so many complex topics accessible and they do it in a non-judgemental format. In fact, I remember buying the first book Dan Gookin wrote, “DOS for Dummies” and picking up other ‘For Dummies’ books as time went on. I know I’m not the only one who likes the ‘For Dummies’ books – they’ve got 2700 titles and they’ve sold 200 million books.
The one thing that got me thinking was the ‘A Reference for the Rest of Us’ tagline. I think this might be significant to the evolution of science fiction. As it stands, science fiction is rigidly stratified, filled with class warfare and there are many cringe-worthy examples of ‘teachable moments’ on all sides. I’m not here to point at the problem, I’m here to talk about a solution. Here goes:
I feel a little bit like Frodo today …
My life is something of a science project, and I think I’ve stumbled onto something. Let me start out by expressing this in appropriate nerd language:
Question: How do you maintain creativity over time?
Background: Many writer friends talk about ways to avoid or recover from burn-out. It seems like you can’t do one kind of creativity forever, you need to switch it up from time to time to remain fresh. How do you do that?
Hypothesis: I think the three-field system of crop rotation can also be used for human creativity
Test With an Experiment: This is where it gets tricky … Continue reading
Continuing this discussion about building audiences. All artists are entrepreneurs, and all entrepreneurs are artists. Real artists ship. The game of professional creativity was never for the faint of heart. This blog series is simply about accepting the art and process of building an audience. It’s just as necessary to authors as a copy of The Elements of Style. You’ll never be in a place where you can afford to only listen to your inner creative voice. Audience building is integral to the Author Trip, full stop.
So let’s continue that discussion. Keep in mind, though, that it takes much persistent and gentle attention to build an audience. You need to understand the mechanics, but you’ll still need to apply them and everyone does this in their own way. Just like our matchstick Minas Tirith, you’ll be working at the micro level while being painfully aware of the macro. You’ll push through the ambiguity and doubt with a blind faith that your effort will lead you somewhere. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should we believe in you? Let’s now consider some more ideas about audience building: Continue reading
I watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy about once a year. As a fantasy series, there’s a lot to recommend. One thing I enjoy about the films are the sweeping, epic visuals of cities like Minas Tirith. Like me, you probably saw the matchstick sculpture of Minas Tirith that I use throughout this post. To me, it’s the perfect metaphor for the process of building a sci-fi audience. As with this matchstick sculpture, you’ll find that audience building is a slow, painstaking process made out of many small pieces.
Now, before you write me off because I have less than 200 followers on Twitter, let me establish a few things: I’ve built audiences before. Before I pivoted and started the business of telling scifi stories, I had a side business in social media marketing. SEO, blogging, inbound marketing, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram … you name it, I’ve done it all. I’ve had Twitter audiences in the thousands … I’d love to tell you more but am forbidden by the NDAs that I signed. 😉
So when I started InkICan, I wanted to make sure I did the job right. No paying for clicks, no buying fake followers … I’ve watched people go this route and I’ve also watched them crash and burn. I’m an author and an entrepreneur. I’m trafficking in dreams, emotions, hopes and fears. This is too important to me. I’d rather take my time and get the job right. I apologize in advance to any of the bubbles I may be bursting with this breakdown. Please keep in mind that I have zero skin in the game, it doesn’t matter to me if you sell your book or not.
What follows are some lessons learned about the process of building that audience. It’s not a step one-step two-type process, it’s more of a state of mind. Believe me, there are plenty of “How to Build an Audience” blog posts out there that do just that. This isn’t one of them. One thing I want to stay very far away from is the formulaic ‘Do this to get 10,000 followers’ posts you often see on author blogs. Anybody can get 10K followers on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t believe me? Google ‘Buy Fake Followers’ and follow the instructions. All you need is a valid credit card. After you spend the money, you’ll quickly understand the truth: bots don’t equal audience. Let’s now cover a few basic ideas so that you can start building your own ‘matchstick castle.’ Continue reading
I’ve been thinking about publishing some sort of snarky rant about the state of the sci-fi community. It’s well-known that we’ve got some growing-up to do, but I don’t think of myself as The Sheriff of Sci-Fi. So rather than laying claim to any position of power, I think it’s fair to say that my job is to apply Ghandi’s famous quote to how I want to interact with the sci-fi community:
“You Must Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.”
There’s a logical fallacy taking place in the world today, which assumes that the only opinions worth listening to are the ones you’re willing to fight for. While I’ll grant you that there is such a thing as righteous conflict, it happens much more rarely than people realize.
It’s also been my experience that the scifi community has a nasty habit of getting distracted from the business at hand. I remember reading the tweets of a recent con and their business meeting … they’re literally bringing together geeks, nerds and auteurs to debate what ‘North America’ means. I kid you not: Continue reading
Got a new idea for a short story that I’ll be exploring – The Battle of Victoria Crater takes place on Mars, about a hundred years after the first human lands there. Elon Musk talks about the benefit of sending people there, but I’m somewhat skeptical that traveling to another planet will make us leave all our baggage behind.
Adding The Battle of Victoria Crater to the Short Stories production queue – feel free to ask any questions!
I know I tell sci-fi stories but I think I want to take today’s blog post to talk about something else. Watching Corey Feldman on the Today Show, I can think of no better reason as to why I have no interest in being famous for writing. Some folks have told me that I have to ‘get my name out there,’ in order to make a career out of writing.
“Corey’s got his name out there,” I say. “How’s that working for him?”
I feel bad for the guy. Corey Feldman is building his life all over again. If you’ve never had to pivot your entire life before, it’s hard to understand what a confusing and dehumanizing process that can be. Worse, yet … he’s doing it in the public eye. All of his false starts, faux pas and stumbles are there for public consumption. To be honest, I fear for the guy’s safety, success and sobriety.
Whenever you see a story like: ‘Corey Feldman is BACK with another bizarre Today Show performance,‘ you should know that you aren’t looking at a performance piece. As is common for other abuse survivors, Corey’s struggling with his baggage and embodies one of the painful truths about overcoming your past. Don’t understand what I mean? Let me explain:
Sometimes new ideas happen pretty quick – I started jotting down some notes for three new short stories today. Writing every day is a discipline, but the ideas themselves show up whenever they want. It’s important to get them onto paper as soon as I can so I can get into a regular habit of production. If you’re on for it, you can watch the production in progress here:
Too much effort? Join the mailing list! I’ll send you a note when cool new things are happening. Under 18? Get your parents’ permission before going online.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately” – Thoreau
When I moved to Eugene, it was with the idea that I would be starting over again. To start over, I wanted to apply some lessons learned I picked up from previous adventures. One of them is that I avoid the news. People that know me will tell you that I’m very anti-current events. I hate reading the newspaper and I positively despise the 24-hour news cycle. However, I’m on Facebook and I hear what other people say. It’s times like these that I’m very glad I don’t keep up with current events. What I *have* been working on is as follows:
Right now it’s a beautiful fall morning and I’m going to take a walk by myself in some woods. I heartily recommend you do the same.