Authors Build Audiences for Fun and Profit – Part One

Authors Build Audiences for Fun and Profit - Part One

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

Be the Change

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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

New Short: The Battle of Victoria Crater

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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!

Thank You, Corey Feldman

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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:

Continue reading

New Shorts in Production

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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:

Short Stories

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.

State of the Art – 10/7/2016

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately” – Thoreau

thoreauquote354When 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:

and …

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.

Wow … They Handled that Surprisingly Well

Ran across this on Reddit and wanted to share. Every author faces potential backlash when they discuss controversial subjects and rarely do you find an authentic story that does not have some sort of controversy. I’m not planning to play Mafia III, but I do plan on using this as a template to handle any potentially wounded sensibilities. I’m passing it along because you, as a writer, might find it useful, too.

Wow ... They Handled that Surprisingly Well

P.S. – It turns out Warner Brothers did something similar with Tom & Jerry.

 

Admit It, You Love a Good Trope

I don’t have HBO, but I’m reading all the reviews about Westworld and they prove an important point. Sci-fi has a love/hate relationship with story tropes. You know what they are, even if you don’t know the word:

Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom… you know it when you see it. Tropes are not inherently disruptive to a story; however, when the trope itself becomes intrusive, distracting the viewer rather than serving as shorthand, it has become a cliché.

The mechanics of storytelling require, nay demand, that we use tropes in sci-fi … if for nothing else, it gives our readers a mental baseline for the universe that we’re building. Good storytellers know how to play with tropes in a way that won’t distract the reader (i.e. “The Princess Bride,” or any Pixar film).  Bad storytellers leave us angry enough to steal hubcaps. Continue reading

State of the Art – 9/30/2016

It makes me laugh to see ‘Portlandia’ go full meta, with one of their filming locations turning into the kind of people they regularly lampoon. Oregon is famous for that kind of bohemian doublethink. Anyway, here’s the State of the Art for this week:

I’m digging through thousands of public-domain NASA photos for material to put together a book cover for ‘Search and Rescue’ if I end up self-publishing it. I like pictures like this, but would have to do a lot of Photoshop work to get it into the kind of shape I want. Thoughts?