Written by Mur Lafferty
A few weeks ago I posted an essay about achieving success in the publishing industry that included a link to an article posted on Time Magazine’s website. One of the people quoted in that Time article was a friend of mine named Mur Lafferty, a fiction and non-fiction author who has built her career on using new and open media. She can be found on Suicide Girls as a regular columnist, on Tor.com as a blogger, or on her home page, murverse.com. Her first novel, Playing For Keeps, is available via print and free audio podcast (and was reviewed on IGMS by James Maxey). She graciously agreed to write more about the subject of new media, for which I am grateful. I’ll let her take it from here…
Edmund posted recently on this blog about podcasters getting publishing contracts. He then invited me to guest blog here, and I wanted to discuss this in more detail.
I am a podcaster who built an audience of over 40,000 via free giveaways of audio podcasts and PDF podcasts, so you can guess I’m rather gung-ho about new media. Podcasting my book led directly to it being picked up by a small press and released in print.
Yes, print publication, or “old media” is my ultimate goal. Giving work away for free is not a way to directly make money, obviously. But new media allowed me to connect to an audience, make them care about my work, and then ask them to help me with the marketing of the small press book. Many bought copies of the book for themselves and to give as gifts. I received one email from a woman who appreciated the free podcast so much that she promised to buy several copies for Christmas gifts. I’m never clear on what number makes a small press book a success, but I earned out my advance and had a strong showing on Amazon for several weeks after the release, so I’m pretty pleased with the sales numbers of a book that never hit the bookshelves.
New media is not a fad or a gimmick. It’s not a pipe dream or a crazy idea. It’s a way to connect directly to an audience in a way that just a website will not do. Established authors with existing audiences can afford to look down on new media, but new authors with no audience would do well to consider audio or ebook releases of their work.
The relationship with the community is what it’s all about. What I’ve discovered from the listeners who hear my voice talking to them in intros and read me on blogs and Twitter, is that they want me to succeed. I’m not an author in an ivory tower to them, I’m a person trying to climb a pretty big mountain and can’t do it alone. (Yeah. Sometimes I mix metaphors.) When these people see my book, they don’t think, “Oh, a superhero novel by that author I heard of once.” They think, “Mur’s book came out! Awesome!”
I had a man approach me at DragonCon last year. The conversation went something like this:
HIM: You’re giving your PDF book away for free?
HIM: The whole book?
HIM: I read ebooks exclusively. What’s to stop me from downloading your book and putting it on my reader and never paying you?
HIM: But I won’t buy the print version. What are you getting out of this?
ME: Hopefully a new fan. And someone who will tell a friend, who does buy print books, that there’s a new author they should check out.
I’m not the best advocate for Creative Commons or giving work away – if you want to read some fantastic arguments for this, check out this Cory Doctorow’s essay – (or his collection of essays, Content, which is available in print and, yes, as a free ebook. ) I will say that I’ve experienced nothing but good things using new media, and I can personally vouch for everything that Cory mentions in his essays (that apply to me, of course.)
I’m only a small example of the power of new media. Scott Sigler hit the New York Times Bestseller list with his latest book, Contagious, this past January. Scott built his career on podcasting as well, and has vowed to always have a free version of his work available (usually audio podcast). His legions of fans are rabid and dedicated and do a lot of his marketing heavy lifting for him.
For me, new media is a key part of the foundation of my writing career. I am hopefully building an audience who will stay with me for years, evangelizing my work whether it’s out for free or in print. “Old” media is not dead; it’s vital if you want to feed your family on what you make as a novelist. But it’s becoming more and more important for new authors to consider new media as a way to engage their audiences, build communities, and get that zealous fanbase. Marry the two, as it were.
How do you do it? Here is a small checklist, but it doesn’t cover everything:
1) Contact other authors doing the same thing. My audience already knows about this whole “they give it to you in one form and hope you buy it in another” situation. They’re also already built in to receive and appreciate audio podcasts.
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