Friday, January 23, 2015

Con Report: IllogiCon 4, Saturday, Part 3

Branding & Marketing
Chris Kennedy, Lynn McNamara , Gail Z Martin, Clay & Susan Griffith

How can we reach more people? How do we distinguish ourselves  in a busy marketplace? How do we reach the *right* people?

Branding - what does it mean?
  • Get your book above the noise level, get into the Amazon algorithm, get enough people to buy and comment to get Amazon promotion to be seen
  • Sell *yourself* as much as one book – you want your audience to know your name, preorder your next books!
  • Covers –consistent looks or themes help establish your identity – easy visual cue to reader
  • Engage fans: blog, cons - get fans to remember you
  • Publishers don't do enough any more - only about 5-15% Big fame is one in a million - grow your little fish
  • Common elements through your work – how your fans recognize you
What's your hook? Your Human story?
  • Married couple writing together? Overweight? Pets?
  • Engage your fans with your story on a personal level (which isn't the same as an all access pass to your life)
  • Keep the relationship warm, maintain a dialogue, presence, so they keep coming back
  • Readers build expectations (they’ll give a lot of latitude to the superstars like JK Rowling or Stephen King)...
  • Bean traveling roadshow - branding extraordinaire – a rare example of a *publisher* with a loyal fan base
Can an author cross genres?
  • Know you'll leave some fans behind, but some will come with you
  • Hopefully you'll build more fan base in the new genre who will flow back to check out what you've done previously!
Top tips from the panel
  • Style guides - build consistency in all you put out, whether email, web, social media, print, etc.
  • Blog tours are a great way to spread your message
  • Bookstore staff – ask them, “How can I help you?”
  • Always be nice - you never know who will have an impact – build relationships wherever you are
  • Retirement homes! Gaming stores (buy something!)
  • Watch what you say on social media! Don't sink your ship!
  • Never respond to bad reviews! Yes it stinks- and of course they're dead wrong and idiots to boot! Just accept negative comment and move on!
  • Boost a post on FB every month – get new people on board, gets a little wave for a few days after
  • Goodreads is a good community
  • Build a blog
  • Don't stretch yourself too thin - if you're only on to sell, no one will pay attention - participate?
  • Reddit fantasy - don't connect to your own links (it's not considered okay)
  • Pick a few platforms and stick with them – build your presence
  • John Hartness “Literate Liquors” on YouTube
  • Alethea Kontiss “Fairy Tale Rants” on YouTube
  • Writers have to write - 30% of time can go to marketing/social media, but you can't let it suck you in to the detriment of your writing!
  • Have a website, even if it's simple, Have a signup for notifications
  • Newsletters, blogs, email - don't send fluff, don't send too much
  • Mail chimp is easy to use!

Live Action Slush

Misty Massey, James Maxey, Ed Schubert, Gray Rinehart

Okay, I have to set the stage here a little bit. The folks debuted the Live Action Slush at ConCarolinas last summer, with no idea of what kind of reception it would get.  It was standing-room-only for two one-hour session, and the ConGregate folks spontaneously invited them to bring it to their con the following month. I was in all of these sessions, and this is one of my new con favorites.  Seriously, if you are a writer, check it out when you have the opportunity!

So here's the deal. Editors are not sitting at their desk waiting for bated breath for your diamond-in-the-rough manuscript to appear. They are wading through slush piles, sometimes dozens of manuscripts in a day, looking for any excuse to cull the pile. Don't give them an easy excuse to cull yours!

So here’s the setup: three panelists act as editors, and the fourth reads anonymous first pages of manuscripts handed in by audience members at the beginning of the panel. One page is about 300 words. Can you hook the editors to turn the page and keep reading? Or will something turn them off before the reader gets to the end? If an editor hears a “turnoff”, s/he raises a hand. If all three raise hands, the reader stops, and they describe what turned them off.

I know, it sounds negative, and at its heart, it is.  But the editors do a magnificent job of providing positive feedback, which a slush editor will rarely do.

And so, with background explanations complete, we begin!
As it turns out, I didn't capture many notes, because they were usually very specific to each story. Here are a few general comments:
  • Standard manuscript form - check your target market’s submission guidelines! If there aren't any, use William Shunn’s guidelines. Some debate among publishers if they prefer Courier and underline or Times Roman and bold/italics. But in general, 1-inch margins, double spaced, 11 or 12 point font size, page numbers…
  • Volume of submissions is overwhelming - editors aren't looking for your great manuscript - they're looking for a reason to reject you and move on
  • Hemingway famously said, "All first drafts are shit" – but you've got to start in order to finish!
  • One of the panelists said (and I think had herd and liked), “My first draft is just me shoveling sand into the box. I'll go back later and sculpt it…”
  • A sure sign of info dump: "As you know, Bob" is a common reference to when the author uses two characters talking to splain to the audience - don't have characters say what they already know. You'll have to find a better way to reveal it to the reader.

Diversity in SF and Fantasy

Michael Williams 

Natania Barron fantasy author, steampunk, outer alliance support network,
Jacqueline Carey GOH, Fantasy epic series Kushiel’s Legacy features a bisexual, divinely ordained courtesan-spy-heroine
Allegriana, costumer and model, voice of readers

Diversity can mean many different things: sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity

What character 1st moved you as a reader?
  • Allegriana's mother is Chinese Jamaican - she sought out books & stories w/women of color - Allegriana grew up thinking this was the norm!
  • Jacqueline Carey - Wizard of Earthsea - grew up thinking of them as Polynesian – the movie whitewashed them! It was disappointing, but did help to bring this controversy to light
  • Michael Williams - horror? African … ? (Darn – I missed his answer)
  • Natania Barron – Stephen King’s The Stand – among the survivors on the “good” side is a lesbian couple the fact that they were lesbians was no big deal in the story, it just *was* - it was first time Natania felt like there was permission for this to simply exist
Why do you portray different characters in diverse ways?
  • Michael Williams - when people reach for a book, they want it to reach back. They want people like them, but different from them too, otherwise they'd just look in the mirror
  • Michael creates a conscious cast of characters – he wants to challenge himself and his readers
  • Done a lot of research on ethnic groups represented in NC, because all his stories are based here
  • There is a large Vietnamese group that immigrated and settled here after the Vietnam War
  • Jacqueline Carey - so many fascinating facets of life and humanity – she wants to weave that into her stories
  • Historical fantasy – so many paths open - one of the hardest to write in an authentic voice (without negative judgement) was Aztec human sacrifice
  • She’s always been frustrated by the phrase “Write what you know” and thought the response is "know more"
  • Allegriana – Phèdre is one of the first characters she's cosplayed who is fair skinned – she was intimidated by fan comments on a recent tanned actress’s proposal to play Phèdre online
  • Cosplay can be a challenge to go outside the accepted norms of what that character looks like
What's one good and one bad example of diversity in literature or media?
  • Lt Dax in DS9 - she's been male, female, had lovers on both sides, wrestled Klingons for fun
  • Michael couldn't remember the name of a *Bad* novel about a gay spy, supposedly BDSM – the spy basically assaulted straight enemy agents until he "switched" them!
  • Jacqueline Carey recently discovered NK Jennison
  • Bad would be any example of tokenism
  • Allegriana - Airbender and Legend of Korra - 2 female characters confirmed as a couple on a *Nickelodeon* show!
  • Bad novel Save the Pearls - black and white, blacks were doms
  • Some romances where the male homosexual is the villain, unseduceable and unsaveable by the woman because they are immune to her sexual charms
Let’s talk about the ugly… Rape issues, GamerGate, Paris shootings - has it gotten easier or harder to be diverse/non-mainstream in the world?
  • Michael William says, “Me, I'd like to think the world I live in today is a little better than yesterday, every day”
  • Part of growth is growing awareness of the things that are wrong in the world - we have to keep talking about the bad, shine a light on it, keep raising awareness
  • Jacqueline Carey definitely turmoil, but on balance easier because there are audiences clamoring for voice, for characters, for stories
  • There aren't as many gatekeepers as there used to be
  • Korra on Nickelodeon - Faking iI on MTV is  humorous and sensitive
  • From a creative standpoint it's easier - but a la Paris shootings, there's inherent risk
  • Allegriana –If you look at tumblr, we need diverse books – she recommends books and authors on there
  • Social media has been a huge boon for the community, supporting authors, giving voice to the industry
  • On the Flip side of social media, you see the truly ugly side, the worst of humanity, with things like gamergate and the Paris attack - people are afraid of change -there's still the potential for a bonfire
  • Natania Barron - What happened in Paris is especially horrible because it's supposed to be such a beautiful and inclusive place
  • Good story - Miss marble 17yo Indian girl (?)
  • Michael Williams wants to promote diversity and make it "more ok", but sees a difference in pandering - you know it when you see it
  • Does the way the work is presented make you feel commoditized?
How do you market your work and still maintain diversity in your work?
  • Jacqueline Carey says she never took that into consideration - just tried to write a really great story
  • You're writing fantasy! You make the world and the rules!
  • Increased diverse representation is good, even if it's not perfect
  • We empathize w/well-written characters because we can identify with them - even when they're not like us!
  • We are still amazingly insular – a recent Facebook study showed 90% of Caucasian users had no more than 1 other ethnicity (or 1 person of another ethnicity?) in their friends lists
  • The thing that defines someone as a minority is usually a huge part of their very existence!

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


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