Talking about Personas

Mad Hatter Avatar

I was going to talk about Mary Stewart and The Crystal Cave today, but instead I’m going to talk about personas. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while as a follow-up to some posts I’ve offered in the past like this one and this one, but esteemed writer Wesley Chu reminded me of what I’ve been meaning to say. I say all of this with love and my repeated mantra: do what works for you.

I don’t care about personas any more. You know, I used to. Being in marketing and business as long as I have, I thought they were important and expected, a much-needed tool to fabricate an image to be memorable. Me? I’d rather be true to myself and worry less about how that’s perceived and received “officially” via a persona. I am a seeker of change and growth, personally and professionally, and I hope that’s reflected in not only what I do, but how, when, and what tools I use to pursue my goals–regardless of the fact that all too often the internet, in particular, never seems to forget a faux pas!

I asked myself, when thinking about personas a few years back, what I care about when I interact with fans, peers, and professionals. Being someone I’m not online takes work, because I have to remember who that persona is in real life interactions, meetings, and correspondence. That’s a helluva lot of work to play that role, and that is so anti-everything “Monica” it’s not even funny. Plus, and I ran into this quite a bit, my audiences overlap so much I couldn’t separate out Monica the Persona for TheDayAndNightJobTM versus Monica the Human Being who has friends and loved ones.

Instead, what I worry about is being a good person. Yes, sometimes, I worry about this too much. I feel terrible about it, but I had challenges remaining positive going to conventions not knowing anybody because I was intimidated and didn’t understand the differences between PERSONATM I met online and HUMAN BEINGTM in real life. That’s nothing anybody else did; that’s my issue. Anyway, to me being a good person means that I need to be someone other people want to be around, and too often personas, when not done well, can be a disillusionment, a turnoff, an extreme aspect of a personality, a permanently attached soapbox that controls the person inside, etc. I also see through them fairly easily, because of my background. Big name celebrities? Need personas. Not only is it part of their job, it’s a coping mechanism to deal with that many people. However, right now I am not a “big name” celebrity. When and if I ever get to that point, then maybe I’ll reconsider. But for now, I’m a WYSIWIG person. What you see, is what you get. Energy levels, as always, are dependent upon caffeine.

Over and out.

    Mood: In a state of zen. Wait… Are the cats up to something?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: More than I care to admit and less than I’d like to believe.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Well? If my achilles tendon ever heals…
    In My Ears: Lady Crescent Moondragon’s tank, yet another pot of coffee…
    Game Last Played: Ni-No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch
    Book Last Read: The Greywalker series
    Movie Last Viewed: Sabotage
    Latest Artistic Project: Ch-ch-ch-ch-chainmaille!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Things Don’t Go Smooth
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, and novels.

Inside Voices

darkwing duck avatar

People ask me why I’m not aggressive with self-promotion and why I walk my own path. This has been on my mind lately, and after posting this to places like my Tumblr account and Google+, thought I’d expand the topic here. I’d also like to say that I’m having problems with my RSS feed, so alerting you in advance.

  • If everybody’s shouting different things, then no one is heard.
  • If everybody’s demanding a unique reaction, then no one will give them the one they want.
  • If everybody’s screaming “Help me!” “Fix this!” “You owe me that!” — then no one gives.
  • If you get bombarded with “Buy me!” “Review me!” “Share me!” from multiple people at the same time, then those acts turn into a chore and an obligation.
  • If you’re fully vested in what people do for you, especially in a social media context, then you get upset by the actions other people take online, jumping to the worst sorts of conclusions.
  • If everybody’s shouting, then they’re all competing. And that, my friends, can be very bad for the craft of writing and reading in general.
  • To me, this is a cacophony of conflicting sounds that hurt the work and the intent therein.

    All the shouting and screaming and yelling in the world doesn’t get people to pay attention to what you’re doing or “validate” you. In many cases, it’s starting to have the opposite effect — right now popularity is influencing what people read, but it’s not always satisfying to them and attention spans wane. The space is changing rapidly and, if you’ve viewed similar trends in the history of publishing, you’ll see that this can’t last. Eventually, the market will get so saturated it’ll tip back in favor of gatekeepers or forever remain fractured in micro-communities. (I believe the former rather than the latter is true.) Remember, everybody thinks they have a book in them. This is not like dentistry. This is writing. If you can type on your keyboard, then you’re physically performing the act of a writer. While it’s not the same thing as the craft of writing, it’s still something anyone “can” do on a basic level.

    The same is true for so-called book publicity. Anyone can own a Twitter or Facebook account. Anyone can say: “BUY MY BOOK!” Combined, it’s making it that much harder for writers, indie or “pro”, to do any sort of publicity because you have to turn up the volume even more.

    Or do you?

    I don’t shout or yell or scream “PAY ATTENTION TO ME NOW!” because I have work to do. I inform, yes, but I’d rather ask than demand. When I have something to promote, I put together a plan. For bigger projects, it’s a larger plan. But it doesn’t happen before the work is done or as an afterthought. I’m careful with it, and there’s a very, very, very important reason why. This work, my friends, is for you. It’s the core of my growing business, but it’s built on relationships. The trust with the reader. The unspoken social contract with my followers. Relationships with editors and publishers and agents.

    This is what I have to give. Not a shout, but a whisper through the pages of every game and story I work on. I will keep whispering. Sometimes, those are soft and barely audible. Other times, they’re loud. But, they’re never silent. I am always whispering.

    Come and listen.

    Come and play.

    Come and wonder.

      Mood: Fifty degrees? It’s a heat wave!
      Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Blargh-ness.
      Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Well, there’s this thing called “sore muscles.”
      In My Ears: Hoodoo by Muse.
      Game Last Played: Ascension
      Movie Last Viewed: Ted
      Latest Artistic Project: Need to take pictures…
      Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

    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

    On The Need To Assess Self-Promotional Time

    You're An Idiot, Starscream

    Originally, this was going to be a sarcastic, writer meta-fiction post, but I found that it was a little more snarky/mean than I wanted it to be — so instead a short cautionary word of caution on self-promotion. Namely, how can you tell if it’s worth it? If you’re doing too much? Not enough?

    Self-promotion stops being effective when it cuts into your ability to earn money.

    Note that I did not say “write” or “deliver projects on time.” I said “money” — and for a reason. Self-promotion has a cost benefit to it that only YOU can assess. If you think about writing as a career and not just as a hobby you pick up on every second Saturday of the month — the money you make is the reason why you write. Only you can assess what your satisfactory write/get paid balance is, but I can tell you that self-promotion can be a huge time sink — especially if you’re replacing the time you spend on writing with administrivia and publicity. That, my dear Readers, is what a publicist/agent/business manager does.

    People work in full-time careers as publicists and marketers earning money to promote a person, company, or product. You, on the other hand, aren’t getting paid directly to self-promote.

    Yes, I know that you could Tweet about your book and get a sale off of it. I’m saying “direct pay” as in a “salary” for marketing full-time here. This last statement was also meant as a reality check. The hours you’re devoting to this means you’re effectively working as your own unpaid publicity intern in addition to everything else you’re doing.

    Self-promotion won’t replace words on a blank page.

    While I feel the modern-era (e.g. slogs like me whose career hasn’t yet taken off) writer now has to wear more hats, self-promotion should complement your work and not supplant it. Remember, there’s really no limit on what you can do for self-promotion.

    I feel (strongly so) that everything you’re doing must come back to planning and what you want to get out of your efforts. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to a bookstore to do a reading or sit online on Reddit waiting for people to ask you questions: whatever you do has to bolster your bottom line, so don’t be afraid to be analytic about it.

    Because at the end of the day, you need something to promote: novella, short story, game, novel, etc. Otherwise, why sell yourself as a writer if you don’t plan on writing?

      Mood: Focused
      Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Max, Max Pepsi MAX to the MAX!
      Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Ask me again when I’m not feeling guilty.
      In My Ears: My Whiny UK-ish Boy Band itunes playlist
      Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
      Movie Last Viewed: Spiderman the new one.
      Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
      Latest Release: “The Dig” The Lovecraft eZine Issue No. 19

    New Guest Post: Writers Getting Social. Is it Worth It?

    This month at the How To Write Shop I talk about my experiences this year with social media.

    So what does this mean for you? Well, as an author you have to figure out the best way to reach your readers. Social media is temporal and fleeting. Sometimes, that isn’t the best channel to connect because your readers may not be online the same time you are. For others, they feel (as I do) that there is a price to pay for being too well connected to your audience. — SOURCE: Getting Social: Is it Worth it?

    What do you think? Have you taken a look at what social media means to you?

    Next Posts

    Monica Valentinelli >

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


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