So as mentioned previously, last Wednesday I was on a panel at our local SFF writer’s group, talking about author platforms along with co-panellists Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Chris Andrews. It wasn’t a super-formal panel, and I didn’t take notes, but I’m sure some of the discussion will be of interest to some people, so I’ve done my best to recap the salient points below…
Alis will be speaking on a panel on Author Platforms during the second half of the CSFG June member meeting.
This panel is an update of a similar event held by the CSFG in 2016. Alis’s write-up of that panel can be found here.
For more information about the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, check out their website.
I’ve been a member of the CSFG for a few years now, and they’re all lovely people and an excellent resource for Canberra-based speculative fiction writers. Membership is $30 a year (or $20 for concession holders), but if you’re not sure if the group is for you, you’re more than welcome to come along to an initial meeting to check it out.
For whatever reason, winter always seems to be my busy season for Author Appearances™, and this year is no different.
Panel assignments for Continuum have been handed out, so those of you who’re in the area will be able to listen to me ramble at:
- Out in the Open.
Fan fiction used to be hidden away, subject to takedown notices, and sometimes kept secret from friends and family. Now there are successful mainstream novels about fic writers and readers, and some creators allow writers to earn money from their work. Is this legitimisation or exploitation? What has been gained and what’s been lost in the process?(Sunday 10th June @ 4pm)
Continuum is always a lot of fun, and this year is looking to be especially awesome, with some amazing panels (and panelists) lined up. If you’re able to make it down to (or, alternately, live in) Melbourne over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend you should absolutely grab some tickets and go along.
While it’s still a little way away, I’ll also be assisting in a panel on Author Platforms for the CSFG June member’s meeting (20th June). We did one of these two years ago, and it seemed to go down pretty well, so it’ll be interesting to see what has and hasn’t changed in the intervening time (spoiler alert: the social media landscape is very different in this our post-CA/-GDPR world).
The meeting is open to all CSFG members, and if you’re in the area (i.e. Canberra) it’s absolutely worth joining up.
And, finally, to round off a busy authorial month: I’m taking a week off! By which I mean, “I’m taking a week off Day Job to try and finish up the dragon book, which got halfway done last year then put on hold for space demons.” So, yanno. A working holiday.
In other words: it’s gonna be a busy month.
So last night I was invited by our local specific author’s guild, the CSFG, to be on a panel about Blogging For Writers. My fellow panellists were the wonderful and talented Ian McHugh, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, and Nalini Haynes, with the ever-prepared Leife Shallcross directing the discussion and keeping us all in line.
It was a pretty awesome fun night. I was there as the tech geek and “longest running longitudinal study on blogging ever” (I’ve been blogging, more or less consistently, since 1999), though I ended up digressing into a bit of neepery on publishing in general in the middle, mostly because it’s a topic my dead black heart finds endlessly interesting.
Anyway, I’m not going to recap the entire discussion, but have some summary thoughts nonetheless:
- Despite “conventional wisdom”, you do not need an established social media presence to get a publishing contract. This was one of those memes that was going around the industry a few years back, and has now (mostly) run its course. Having a big pre-existing following used to be attractive to publishers under the assumption it would allow already tight marketing budgets to stretch further (you don’t need to do much marketing on behalf of someone who already has a platform… right?). However, this has proved to be not as much the case as publishers originally hoped. Basically, the link between “follow someone on Twitter” and “buy someone’s books” isn’t as tightly coupled as publishers hoped. (It’s not nothing, but it’s not everything either.)
- That being said, yes, your publishers expect you to be an active participant in your own marketing, and that will include being able to write blog posts. Better start practicing now.
- Everyone on the panel used blogging differently. Elizabeth started her blog to promote her freelance editing services1 and then fell into the wonderful world of book blogging. Ian uses his blog as a portfolio and a platform to answer craft questions.2 Nalini runs Dark Matter Zine. I blog because I always have and I like to fiddle with the tech. The point is, find your own use for your online presence, even if it’s just a single static page saying “here I am and here’s what I do”.
- Blogging (in the conventional sense) is kinda dead… but a lot of the industry still hangs around on places like Twitter and LiveJournal. There’s probably a broader discussion to be had in here about “social media for fan outreach” versus “social media for professional networking” that we didn’t get into last night, but… hmm.
- We didn’t really get too much into the different platforms, but continuing on the theme above: different blogging platforms reach different audiences. Know which one you’re going for and target accordingly.
- Never forget that, as an author, your online presence is your professional presence, and to act accordingly. What that means, in a nutshell, is don’t publicly trash-talk other people in the industry: editors, agents, fellow authors, publishers, reviewers, whatever. (Panel-agreed exception: Vox Day. No-one likes that guy.)
- Speaking of: controversial opinions, having them. Being outspoken on a particular social and/or political topic can be part of your online “brand”. If you can work it for you, then work it for you, but be aware that’s what you’re doing.3
- On the same topic, online harassment and blacklash sucks. The panel swapped some war stories and discussed their strategies for dealing with it. Mine, for better or for worse, is that I tone down my public persona quite a lot.
- Finally, it’s never too early to start any of this. In fact, start yesterday. Start ten years ago.
… And by the time we’d covered all of that, it was 9:30 and we got kicked out of the room.
All-in-all, it was a fun night and a good discussion, and I hope people got something out of it. Particularly all the new people (there were a lot of new people, which is rad). I’d especially like to thank Leife and the CSFG committee for inviting me to speak, and to everyone who showed up to listen.
See everyone next month!
- Which she’s awesome at, plug plug. ^
- Ian teaches writing short courses at CIT, which are also awesome, plug plug. ^
- This, incidentally, is one of the reasons I’m always… conflicted about writing publicly about diversity in books/publishing. It’s something I believe in promoting, quite strongly, but because it’s something I believe in it’s something I struggle with writing about authentically rather than as a marketing gimmick. ^