How can I promote my writing on-line without becoming a spammer?
June 21, 2007 9:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm a writer who has been contributing free works of fiction (novellas, short stories) to the Web for the past five years. I've enjoyed sparks of brief net popularity and these glimmers show that what I put out there is definitely appreciated by a certain faction of the reading population. Is there something better I can do to get my name and work out there than waiting around to get Slashdotted again?

My first science-fiction novel has been picked up for print by a small American publisher, and I'm now negotiating a film option. The producer has asked me to supply "verifiable" statistics of the Web readership and, in an effort to supply such, I've become depressed: my numbers suck.

I took about ten months off last year (life got in the way), and it seems like failing to fan the flames for that period has effectively castrated the momentum I'd been building on after a couple of reasonably well-publicized successes in 2005.

Between working full-time, raising two kids and putting out 10,000 new words of fiction every week I have to admit I'm at a loss (in terms of time and energy) for how to build readership on the Web without becoming a spammer. I can't self-submit to sites like MetaFilter, and the idea of creating/fostering an anonymous dupe account in order to circumvent rules against self-promotion does not appeal to me.

I know there are people who enjoy the stories I tell. I know there is appeal there. The question is how to reach new eyeballs without an ethical compromise. I abhor spam, and I abhor people who abuse user-driven sites to shamelessly flog their wares.

I'm interested in any and all insights to help me gain more traction with my work. I want to be able to boost my numbers significantly enough to wow Fox when the project is pitched to them.

Oh yeah...and I'm poor. Hiring an entertainment lawyer to help me navigate these frakking Hollywood contracts has already put me in a sticky situation with regard to paying the mortgage this month, so I'm afraid any ideas that involve a sizable up-front investment are out of bounds.

If you were a fan of humourous and original stories about robots and spaceships, where would you look for more material to feed your habit? Where should I be trying to be seen?


Cheeseburger Brown
posted by CheeseburgerBrown to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Off the top of my head, you say you "abhor people who abuse user-driven sites to shamelessly flog their wares"... then why not join a user-driven site and start trying to become a member of the community, rather than just using them for publicity.

Groups like livejournal communities, fiction-forums, what have you - they are still communities. You might not have this kind of time, but my suggestion would be to actually join a couple communties. Introduce yourself, give feedback on other people's stories, try to form connections with other users. That is the best way I can think of to gain a base of loyal fans, which in turn will draw more people to your work.

I guess what I'm suggesting is a very drawn-our process, more of a lifestyle than a "promotion tip"... but it's the best I got.

Some other people might have more practical advice for you. Good luck with your work!

[Also: If I were you, I would invest in a personal .com domain to use as a portfolio of my work. A clean, simple, website (it doesn't need to cost thousands of dollars) can be a great place to gather together ALL of your writing (sounds like it's spread all over the web right now) as well as a short bio, favorable responses to your work (comments, blog entries).]
posted by Zephyrial at 10:08 AM on June 21, 2007

Upon Googling (sorry, should've done that earlier!) I see you already have a website. Oops.
posted by Zephyrial at 10:10 AM on June 21, 2007

I would change the website link on your profile to your blog, for starters.

Are you a good oral storyteller? Can you post yourself reading some of your work on youtube?
posted by misha at 10:12 AM on June 21, 2007

I would try to get featured on Escape Pod podcast or Boing Boing. I get most of my new reading from those two places and links form artists blogs. If you know other writers, ask them to pimp your work out, (if they find it good). Creating a portion of your site to interact with other users would be good too.

A good example is (disclaimer I know the author). It is a good example of how to engage your readers, his other topic posting represents a way of pulling in readers interested in the topics you are writing about.
posted by imjosh at 11:05 AM on June 21, 2007

One way you can accomplish this backwards-ly is to go out and talk to people. Booksellers in general love meeting friendly authors, and visiting bookstores and talking up your work can lead to mentions in bookseller's blogs, which can lead to links back to your site.

In addition, start reading John Scalzi's blog. He has (in my opinion) a very good grasp on what it takes to be a successful science fiction writer, and you'll probably be able to get some promotion ideas that you can "borrow" from him.
posted by drezdn at 11:07 AM on June 21, 2007

You can always make a post to Projects; that's what it's there for. And if you write any short-short horror, I'm always looking for more on my own site.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:15 AM on June 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've discovered some new authors that I've really enjoyed through I believe it's free for authors who want to put audio versions of their works up on the site. I think your writing would be right up their alley.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:10 PM on June 21, 2007

Seconding Scalzi - his blog is the reason I started reading his work, and he's stayed in my subscriptions ever since. He writes about things I'm interested in (science fiction, writing, politics, civil liberties, gadgets, the web) and he does it in an engaging, funny way. I've bought everything the guy's ever written, because I appreciate his take on life as well as his writing, and I want to keep him in Coke Zeros.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:28 PM on June 21, 2007

Also, is your name really Cheeseburger?
posted by Happy Dave at 1:31 PM on June 21, 2007

I am a regular reader (comment every now and then) of your blog - thanks so much for sharing your amazing work - and just remembered where I first found you. Anne Arkham had an interview with "Darth Vader" as a plug for the Vader Memoirs story, which I found fascinating, and I've been reading ever since. I know you said you want more than Slashdotting, but what if you shot an email to a few well-read sites (podcasts?) asking if they could do some sort of plug? I'm not really sure what sort of sci-fi blogs are out there, but the Arkham blog was somewhat of a general nerd site, and I'm sure other geeky sites would love to do a post on you.
posted by niles at 1:46 PM on June 21, 2007

What's wrong with a mailing list that people sign up for? There are several authors whom I would love to know when their major new works are out. I only hate when the list is resold, or comes out in a weekly/monthly format with no new info but chat/filler. Done right this is a service to your readers and not SPAM, which is after all unsolicited. Keep it low volume and to the point with one "you signed up for this, do you really want to subscribe?" email at the beginning. Alternatively, you could let people select the interval they want to be contacted, and send a digest of news since the last interval.

The reason I'm fond of this, is that unless you are a prolific and regular writer, you will have these periods of reduced output and lost momentum again. They are much easier to recover from if you can let your fans know you are still alive.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:49 PM on June 21, 2007

Hey CBB, just so you know, your fanbase is still out here, left out in the cold after the rot and collapse of K5... I occasionally check your personal site to see if there's anything new. I have no concrete suggestions, however, except to encourage you to keep at it... after all, you made enough of an impression on me years ago that I still know your intials by heart.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:03 PM on June 21, 2007

If you have a book contract and are negotiating movie rights you have the ingredients for a press release.
Contact blogs and news sites interested in SF with the news and links to read some of your other writing.
Consider getting Baen to publish your stuff? They seem to get have lots of PR.
Send mail to Cory Doctorow offering to give him an article on the experiences of how a lower profile writer can still use the web/creative commons to get readers.
If you get a good response to the first idea, consider writing a story "exclusively" for the biggest site that was positive, and let them link to it for the first 30 days before it is "publicly" released?
posted by bystander at 11:50 PM on June 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who troubled to reply!

I'm not sure which to mark as a "best answer" but there's a lot of good ideas for me to sift through.

Thanks again!
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 5:40 AM on June 22, 2007

TheNewWazoo: Does this out-in-the-cold fanbase know about his regularly updated blog?
posted by niles at 12:47 PM on June 22, 2007

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