This is something I was mentally sketching at various points over the weekend. (Yes, I draw graphs in my head for fun. Is anyone surprised by this?)
It’s a representation of things I keep reminding myself: for one thing, that the Internet is not as big as we think it is. For example, the Elizabeth Moon/Wiscon debate from last year was a huge deal in my online circles … but when it came up during the Political Correctness panel at ConFusion, we had to stop to explain what we were talking about.
Likewise, the idea that online arguments in general are going to destroy an author’s career … let’s just say I’m doubtful that the average Internet authorfail does any appreciable damage to said author’s sales.
The circles might need to be shifted a bit — there’s probably more overlap between Fandom and the Internet, now that I think about it. And every author’s graph will be a little different. From what I’ve seen, I’ve got some moderate name recognition online and in fandom circles, so I nudged that overlap up a bit. Independent stores and convention sales make up a nice chunk of my overall sales, and I get a decent number of hits online. But it’s still only a fraction of my overall readership.
It’s something I try to keep in mind when it comes to publicity/promotion. There are a lot of readers who don’t go to cons and probably wouldn’t identify as “fandom.” Likewise, a lot of readers aren’t hardcore Facebook/Twitter/LiveJournal users, or whatever. I could come up with the most brilliant online promotion ever, and it would only reach a fraction of my potential audience.
I’ll continue to do conventions and hang out online, both because I really enjoy it, and because it’s still an effective way to connect with some of my readers. But I also try to keep in mind that I’m only reaching a fraction of those readers.
What do you think?
January 25, 2011 @ 12:31 pm
First thought: But HOW can you reach people who aren’t online?
Useful reminder, that.
Jim C. Hines
January 25, 2011 @ 12:33 pm
Conventions, booksignings and other tours, advertisements in magazines, short stories in anthologies, bookstore presence… There are a lot of ways. I don’t know how many are *effective*, mind you, but there are ways.
January 25, 2011 @ 1:44 pm
Yeah, I was kind of stunned that we needed to explain that, given the crowd was already a self-selected group drawn from fans who pay attention to the genre.
And there were also times when comments came up in panels (from the audience, mostly, but sometimes echoed by the panel) that my initial thought was, “You don’t get out very much, do you?” Mostly they were parochial thoughts and “my genre is better than that crap over there” comments.
And it’s nice to know if I face plant in a serious manner, it’s not going to sting for that long.
Jim C. Hines
January 25, 2011 @ 1:47 pm
I had the opposite thought, actually — maybe I need to unplug from the Internet and get out more 🙂
But yeah, it’s surprising when the information we consider widely known in one subgroup turns out to be news to another.
January 25, 2011 @ 8:35 pm
From my perspective as an Australian, the internet is invaluable for finding different authors to read. I returned to reading fiction a few years ago and if I just solely relied on the two main Australian bookstore chains, I would have exhausted the range of SF & F books available – and 80% would have been Fantasy.
As I commented in the e-book piracy post, SF & F is very poorly served by the chain bookstores in Australia. I’ve found one store that is an outlier – it’s provides a large amount of shelf space to Sf & F – and there is also a fair amount of imported paperbacks taking up shelf space. Otherwise the number of SF & F authors in the average bookstore is in the 30 – 45 range.
In my city (which is the second largest one), there is one specialist bookstore that carries plenty of SF & F titles. About a year ago I was in Montreal for some technical training and in the few days I had before the course I found a Chapters bookstore on the main business area street. The sheer range of SF & F titles on the shelves was a real mind blower.
As an aside I also read the occasional western and my local library system (and inter library loans) is the only source for me.
So IMHO I feel that on-line presence can help in getting some overseas readers.
January 25, 2011 @ 11:06 pm
Very interesting point. I forget that there’s a world outside the interwebs. It’s still there, right?
January 26, 2011 @ 5:13 am
Is this more aimed at keeping in touch with those that currently read your books or is it about getting newbies interested?
I think if I enjoyed a book I would go to google and see if I could find the author’s website to find out if they had other books etc. and just kind of find out more about them.
Ways to get newbies might actually be to collaborate with other authors and get a few mentions on their sites? Then you are in touch with their fanbase.
To be honest though, when it comes to Fantasy and Sci-Fi, I find myself overcome by the sheer volume of options available so I usually get started on authors who have been recommended to me. So maybe a good way to get new people interested is actually to develop a relationship with your current fanbase? Especially since a lot of them are likely to be just a little bit geeky (and you know how us geeks get about our fandoms 😉 )
Also, I agree with Ben about the online option for readers overseas – America or British authors just don’t really come out here for face to face to really be an option for us.
Jim C. Hines
January 26, 2011 @ 7:27 am
That’s what they tell me, at least.
Jim C. Hines
January 26, 2011 @ 8:36 am
It’s not really aimed anywhere in particular; mostly this was just musing on my part.
In a perfect world, I’d be doing both — keeping my readers engaged and connecting with new fans.
I do think it’s very important to have some sort of web presence; at the very least, readers should be able to look up an author and discover what else s/he has written.
Personally, I’d love to do some overseas travel! Unfortunately, I’m going to have to get much more successful before that’s going to be an option, financially speaking…
Jim C. Hines
January 26, 2011 @ 8:38 am
That makes sense. And there are still some problems with international shipping and regional restrictions on e-books (which I’ll be getting into in a different post), but I think we’re making some progress. An online presence is one way to start to break past international borders.
January 26, 2011 @ 10:34 am
I’m an avid reader but not really part of “fandom” in the sense that I’ve never been to a con, & haven’t any interest in signed books. I have favorite authors, though, & as the internet has grown, I’ve followed their websites to keep up with when their new releases are due. Then they started blogging, & that was like having mini-doses of their “voice” to tide me over between new releases, which was AWESOME.
Then I started writing, & I found podcasts on iTunes by writers about craft & business, & my favorite writers started blogging about craft & business, & I learned TONS of stuff. From there, I started clicking on links to other writers’ blogs (which is how I found your blog, Jim).
I’ve followed the writings, & occasionally I purchase a book from a writer I discovered via blog-linkage & podcasts (I really liked Goblin Quest, btw, & plan to pick up more of the goblin books – wouldn’t have ever picked it up if I hadn’t stumbled across your blog).
Interestingly, I find that I often enjoy a blog but have no interest in the writer’s books. This is frequently because, while I’m interested in their journey as a writer, I’m not always the right audience for what they write. While I enjoy several genres, I have fairly picky tastes, & some writers go too dark & emo for me, or use tropes that simply don’t appeal to me.
But I have definitely found a lot of writers via podcasting & internet linking trails that I would never have stumbled over on my own, & I’ve sampled books I never would have picked up in the store, & purchased some books from the samples that I never would have bought without the exposure of the blogs.
I hadn’t really thought about the overlap, but it’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind as I press on as both a reader & a writer.
January 26, 2011 @ 6:02 pm
In Australia the three largest cities, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have writers’ festivals, and the other two main cities, Perth and Adelaide have writers’ weeks as part of their art festivals.
Melbourne’s broadsheet newspaper, The Age usually prints a guide to the writers’ festival. The majority of guests are Australian writers. SF & F writers (both local and overseas) are very thin on the ground.
I can’t think of any other times when overseas writers come to Australia – if they do the publicity must be minimal.