When Cyber-Dreams Don’t Become You

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

It’s been a long week. In addition to work, we had another blizzard. The near-constant grey skies have infected me, dragging me down, pulling the clouds over me like a wet blanket. So I’m taking the weekend off. Some project planning, but mostly? Housework — which can be very therapeutic after deadlines — and art. I have a painting I want to start, and a contest entry I have to finish. Mostly though, I need to dump my hands in paint or soil or beads or something — and surround myself with color as evident by my hot pink nails. I knew I was getting stressed out, because I played lots of instrumental frou-frou music and watched animated movies as much as possible. Now, there’s been some studies on cartoons and how they’re bad for you, just like there has been studies about television and cigarettes, and too much of anything is obviously harmful. But, as someone who doesn’t watch TV, on occasion having happy, bouncy characters dance across the screen in the background is quite relaxing when your insides are churning.

Anyway… That’s been my week. Everything’s been delivered. Lots of wheels in motion. And I’m *thrilled* I can relax a bit, because business is healthy for me. Also on my mind has been my interaction with other writers and editors lately. Many people are heavily focused on promoting books (which is different from selling, mind you) so they tap into the latest and greatest marketing-related idea. This is a natural occurrence and something I tend to ignore until it gets in my face. Remember, I’ve spent many years learning everything I can about aspects of the business, working in many corners with volumes of data, primarily so I wouldn’t do that and make better decisions for myself about which publishers I want to work with.

This is why I’m not keen on taking up the call whenever somebody says YOU MUST DO THIS OR ELSE. As a consultant, my job isn’t to demand my clients to do anything, but to present options and ask questions. This is what I do for myself as well. A lot of it has to do with a very simple fact: in order to publicize, you need an audience to promote to, and you get audience through content, and connecting to the readers who are vested in what you create. I know where many of my readers are and how they connect with me. But (and this is the most important concept here) what works for Stephen King isn’t going to work for me. So, if King said: “Every author should…” because he did something amazing that worked for him either now or a decade ago? Sure, I’ll take a peek at what he said, but I’m not going to drop everything to go do that.

I’m seeing how the need to promote constantly is affecting people. Besides ruffling feathers, it comes across as desperation if all you do is say: “HEY I HAVE THIS CRAP OVER HERE YOU MUST PAY ATTENTION TO.” Now, this doesn’t happen all the time, because often this depends upon the strength of your existing audience and, sadly, how much time you spend online. The more you’re on the internet, the more stressed you’ll be — if you aren’t grounded in the real world. Somebody famous… Say… Like King… Can get away with that sort of PR thing. But, chances are you won’t if your readership is a fraction of his, because there’s less forgiveness among readers and, more importantly, peers. The flip side to that, of course, is temporary fame. And hey, if that works for you? Brilliant!

There’s a lot of people who I adore for who they are, but I can’t stand them online or wouldn’t work with them. I take a pragmatic approach for the simple reason that I won’t ever focus solely on heavy amounts of promotion. It’s not a good long-term solution and a huge time sink. I care about working with great publishers, developing readership, and creating high-quality content that people will want to consume. That means I need to have a good relationship with a publisher (or retailer) who has a better reach than I might just through selling on my website, and I have to plan a release schedule either for myself or with someone else. It’s not the reach I have via traffic, it’s whether or not people will take action after responding to my work — like many did with The Queen of Crows, which is just a small taste of what’s to come.

All of this heavy attention to online marketing via social media is really sad to me, because it’s happening ad hoc and is not the only way to promote or sell books. Publicity is secondary to the work — especially if you don’t know who your audience is. PR feeds on itself and word will spread if you have people who care and don’t feel obligated to help. Believe me, I’ve seen the referrals that happen secondarily to when someone famous Tweets — it’s not as powerful as you might think. You still need people to care about your work, not just you. I know everybody’s talking about platform, but this is just one way to generate interest. It’s not the only way. What are you creating? Don’t you want readers who care about your art?

Word of mouth, because of the time and uncertainty involved, has traditionally been the last PR stand, not the go-to method. Worse, when it doesn’t work? Or you’re broke? Well, you resort to desperation because you think that over-sharing is how you get readers — because if Stephen King can do it, then you can, too. This will pass. It’s happening now because of the saturation of content, but it’ll become less effective the more changes we encounter online and, more importantly, the more people rely on this tactic, too.

For myself, I’m going to keep writing, keep making art, keep building relationships, keep doing my thing.

    Mood: 80s synthesizer nostalgia
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um… I need to get some. More. LOTS MORE.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Blargh
    In My Ears: Livin’ On A Prayer
    Game Last Played: Castle Panic with the Wizard’s Tower Expansion
    Movie Last Viewed: Atlantis
    Latest Artistic Project: Contest design (In progress)
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

Want an interview? If you’d like to interview me or request a guest blog post, please connect with me via the contact page, too. Due to time constraints and other communicative concerns, I typically don’t follow up on requests via social media.

Keen on sending fan mail? I am also happy to engage with readers and fans. Please note that I am unable to reply satisfactorily to certain types of queries related to the companies I work for due to the agreements I typically sign. If you have a question about a TV show or a line of books, the best way to get your answer is to contact the studio or publisher directly.

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