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.

Ad Astra 2014: It’s a wrap!

Doctor Who Welcomes You

The TARDIS and a Dalek formed the welcoming committee

I’ve been blogging this puppy for a month and a half now (!)

There was so much more to Ad Astra than the awesome sessions, though. There was so much that I couldn’t take part in.

I mentioned waaaaay back in my first post that there was Klingon Karaoke (not karaoke in Klingon, though that might be cool …). There was an anime lounge with various series and movies running all three days of the convention, an art room, a Lego room, the book store, author readings, and signings.

Also, for every session I attended, there were, like six others. There was astronomy in the parking lot at night, the masquerade, gaming sessions, Consuite events, and book launches by various SF/F publishers.

And there was the Guest of Honour brunch, which I foolishly chose not to purchase a ticket for (hey, it was my first time, I didn’t know it would be so awesome).

If I thought it was possible, I could have stayed up for the entire three days and done something different every hour.

What I did do (aside from the sessions)

I attended readings by Patricia Briggs, Julie Czerneda, Marie Bilodeau, Matt Moore, and Dennis Lee.

Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs

Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda

I bought (way too many) books and got some of them signed by the authors.

I bought a couple pieces of jewellery and a t-shirt.

Had a tonne of fun.

Not bad.

Think I’m going back next year 🙂

The book haul

The book haul

What about you? Have you attended any conventions or conferences recently?

Ad Astra, day 3 (finally): Science in Urban Fantasy

Panellists: Shirley Meier; Alyx (A.M.) Dellamonica; James Alan Gardner; Dennis Lee

SM: I write fantasy and science fiction.

AD: Science fiction with an ecoscience bent.

DL: I recently coauthored a science fiction book with Mercedes Lackey.

Q: How do you reconcile fantasy with real world science?

SM: In Dead Girl Walking, zombies are a part of the world. My protagonist wants to be an astronaut. How do you hide your essential nature (rigorous medical testing). Does she have the “rot” stuff?

JAG: Urban fantasy is contemporary-ish. Can, or should, magic be explained? Charles de Lint doesn’t explain his magic, it’s wondrous. What is the attitude toward magic in your novels? Is it threatening, or saving?

DL: Magic is an underlying, mysterious thing for me, but it follows the rules of science, the laws of thermodynamics. My mage does magic by completing complex equations in her head.

SM: Most people accept our technology as magical. Flick a switch and you have light. Push a button and you can communicate with people all over the world.

JAG: Magic and technology are not indistinguishable. In urban fantasy and superhero subgenres, 1% have “bought” immortality. The blue collar class has lucked into it somehow. It’s wish fulfillment. Neil de Grasse Tyson says that you don’t have to “believe” in science. It works for everybody. In fantasy, you often have to be “the right” person. The one. Anyone can learn science.

AD: Access to science is privileged too, though.

SM: Barbara Hambly’s editor wouldn’t buy one of her books because it was written in terms of fantasy. The science wasn’t explained.

AD: What about Thor? Marvel’s tried to explain that all of Asgardian magic is, in fact science, but it’s not explained either. What about Pern? Lord Valentine’s Castle?

SM: Dracula was born out of the fear of women’s power of creation and “blood magic.” People are as afraid of science or nature as they are of the supernatural.

JAG: They are placed side-by-side, too. The virus zombie vs. the raised, Vodoun zombie. There’s a story from the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where the writer’s would put in a placeholder: Jeordy – tech. This would be the cue for the researcher to come up with some kind of plausible explanation for what science had apparently just made happen.

SM: With NCIS, it’s the same thing. Their placeholder is: Abby – technobabble.

DL: The project I’ve been working on has been a Google Docs collaboration. Each author has a specialization and lends their expertise to the project. Pharmacology, molecular biology, etc.

JAG: Peter Watt asked the question, “At what point is your bafflegab authentic enough?”

DL: It has to be grounded in something real.

JAG: Orson Scott Card says that there are three questions the reader shouldn’t ask: Huh? So what? and Who cares?

SM: When did we stop trusting “once upon a time”?

AD: Are there better branches of science that fit better with fantasy?

SM: The so-called “soft” sciences: sociology, anthropology, political science.

JAG: In my latest novel, I have four young protagonists, a physicist, a chemist, a biologist, and a geologist. All of them are “supers.”

SM: Is the increasing prevalence of autism evolutionary? It’s one of the questions that intrigues me. I inherited the history library of a professor friend of mine. It’s an excellent resource for steampunk. The science in steampunk needs to be shown, not explained.

DL: One of my characters is a geomancer, so she has to have math and physics.

SM: Look at Dresden. Magic is the realm of the guy in the basement with a hockey stick wand. Magic has a cost. Science does not.

DL: Science has to have a cost.

AD: Why? I want to write magic that works and has no cost.

SM: Then we have the problem of Superman.

Q: Does is come down to the transfer of energy? The way I see it, once that’s broken, so is the science.

JAG: Iron Man breaks science all the time.

Q: Do you explain it?

SM: You have to sell it, make it believable.

DL: Serve the story.

JAG: Like the faster than light in Star Wars; you either buy it, or you don’t. You can’t keep technology a secret.

Q: What about explaining the force in terms of “midichlorians”?

JAG: Midichlorians doesn’t really explain anything.

SM: Is A Wrinkle in Time science fiction, or fantasy?

Q: Or the technomages from Babylon 5?

SM: And we’re back to the Superman problem. Read A Canticle for Leibowitz. There is science beside the new church and its radiation saints.

JAG: Ultimately, you have to serve your story the best way you can.