Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Fans, your bread and butter

Panellists: Dennis Lee, Jane Ann McLachlan, Gregory Wilson

JAM: How and when do you acquire fans?

DL: Work with another author who already has them. I was playing City of Heroes and met Mercedes Lackey online. I couldn’t have planned it. Our collaboration started as a podcast. No one wanted to read superhero stories by Mercedes. They were too invested in her fantasy. We had to find voice actors who were willing to work for free. When you offer something for free, people will find you. We also got an opportunity to be a part of the Humble Bundle. We moved 50,000 copies. It’s all about word of mouth and good will.

JAM: Offering something for free is a great method of attracting fans. If you’re working with a publisher, they’ll want to know the number of your followers. You’ll need to know something about marketing.

GW: Draw upon existing groups. I draw on readers of my existing publications, the audience for my show on Twitch about story and narrative in games, and I have a speculative fiction podcast for which I’ve interviewed a number of well known science fiction and fantasy authors. You have to make the connection between where you are, where you existing fan bases are, and where you want to be.

JAM: Once you have fans, how do you keep them?

GW: You have to write more and get better. You have to continually interact with your fans and be able to seek out feedback without being irritating. Respond to your comments.

DL: I agree. In my case, I was part of a group of four authors working collaboratively. We set up social media accounts in our characters’ names and we interact with our fans in character. Sometimes we get provocative.

JAM: Write well and interact. If you wait until you’re ready, publishers won’t beat down your door. Take too long between books (posts and events) and your readers will forget about you. At the same time, you shouldn’t write so fast that you compromise quality. Start a newsletter. Build an email list. Value your fans. Fans like books. Friends value authors.

DL: Mercedes and her husband interact differently with their fans than they do with friends.

JAM: How do you encourage your fans to spread the word? I’d have a light touch. No one wants to be manipulated or told what to do.

DL: It’s hard to ask. We don’t. We assume that if they like what they’re reading, the fans will talk it up without our having to ask. Be polite.

GW: I’m happy to ask. But it’s an ask, not a tell or a manipulation. Fans will spread the word if they want to. Sometimes they need to know that the effort is appreciated, though.

And that was the last session of day 1.

Next week, I’ll move on to the day 2 sessions with “And agent and an editor walk into a bar . . .” Of course, I’ll be back with Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday as well, and if I get off my bloggish butt I might have another Wordsmith Studio homecoming post about what I’m reading these days.

Thank you for reading.

Stay tuned and be well.

Fusion: An Ekphrastic Experiment

July 1, 2009.

In light of the Willisville Mountain Project and the Cross-Pollination Series, the Sudbury Writers’ Guild decided to try their collective hand at ekphrasis.  For the curious:  Ekphrasis is the graphic, often dramatic interpretation of a work of art, thank you Wikipedia.

I became interested in ekphrasis in graduate school during a course on the Rossetti’s.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti was founder and member of the Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood and their paintings frequently feature poetry either in the artwork itself or as part of the frame.  The verse typically described the subject of the painting. So when I had a chance to participate in something similar, I jumped at the chance.  While not true ekphrasis, the Fusion project was nonetheless interesting and fun to participate in.

Essentially, writers and artists pair up and create a composite work of writing and art.  The written work can be either prose or poetry, and the visual component, while usually painting or photography, could be anything.  In our group’s case, quiting, stained glass, and a place setting of tea and cookies on china were included in the mix.  Each interested writer from the Guild paired up with an area artist in January of 2009 with the goal of having a composite work assembled by July 1st.

My partner in crime was Robert Luopa, fine arts teacher at Espanola High School.  You might say that what we worked on was the reverse of ekphrasis.

Due to our limited ability to get together and work in a truly collaborative fashion, Robert felt that creating a painting based on one of my unpublished pieces of poetry might work out better.  I sent him a likely selection of suspects and he chose “Fire and Ice.”  From there, I described the original inspiration for the poem and Robert then when out and took some pictures.  He drew up some concept sketches and we further discussed the eventual form of the final painting.  In addition to presenting the poem with the painting, I used one of Robert’s photos and Gimp‘ed it into a background for the poem.

The Fusion Project was first displayed at Art Berries and Jazz in Espanola July 1, 2009 and then was displayed a second time at the Sudbury Theatre Centre for the month of August 2009.

Have you ever collaborated with another artist?  It doesn’t have to be ekphrastic in nature.  My poet-friend Kim Fahner had one of her poems set to music.  Some people have their stories turned into short films.  It’s good to get out of your own art-form sometimes.  I’ve found it offers respite and perspective.  What did you learn from your creative experiment?