Online and Away

by wjw on September 3, 2009

So . . . I’m off to Dragoncon. I’ll try to check in with you all, but I may be having too much fun.

But since I’m going to be away for a while, I thought I’d leave you with a question.

Actually, it’s the usual question. How can Walter get more fame and money?

I couldn’t help but notice that this year’s Hugo novel list was tilted toward people with a high online profile. Cory, Charlie, Neil, and John Scalzi all have a big web presence, and while Neal Stephenson doesn’t, he’s nevertheless idolized by cybergeeks for writing stuff like Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash.

It’s not like I’m particularly letching for awards per se, but rather the sorts of things you get when you win lots of awards, which is to say a very large readership, respectful attention for your work, editors beating down your door, and money.

I had the whole interlinked web scenario laid out for me at this last Worldcon. “Your tweets bring people to your Facebook page, and your Facebook page brings people to your blog, and your blog brings people to your web page, and your web page brings people to your books.” (Nothing in the advice about writing well, because that seems to be secondary. As we all knew, I’m sure.)

It was also explained how one person on the panel one an award. “I told all my online friends to vote for me, and they did.”

More online charisma than me, I thought. Or very suggestible online friends.

How many people are really interested in tweets about what I had for lunch? If you are interested in my lunch, would you also vote me an award and buy my books when I told you to?

I asked the audience, two thirds of whom tweeted, whether they’d do Twitter if they had to pay for it. Two people raised their hands. (Just a data point, I don’t really have a point about this one way or another.)

Oh well. Late night, after packing, and me not thinkin’ too clear.

Bruce September 3, 2009 at 5:18 am

Bottom line: You're a heck of a good writer, Walter. And not just in your fiction. So when you write about your lunch, it's an interesting piece. Or pretty much anything else you write about.

If Angel Station is a means for staying in touch with friends, it's successful. If it's a means for posting assorted thoughts and observations, it's successful.

If it's a means for improving your career and sales… maybe not so much.

But I'm not sure what would be the best path to such success, or whether Angel Station would be a major part of that path.

Talent is great, but sometimes it's just a matter of luck, of the right circumstances, right people, and right time all coinciding to make someone's career go viral. And while there are steps that can be taken to maximize your luck, it's still a crapshoot whether it will ever happen at all.

(And should I mention that from some people's perspective, you already have a wildly successful career?) (Yeh, yeh, you can't eat Hugo nominations….)

It would be nice if you ever had a movie made from one of your books. That would help a lot. (Options are nice, but even a moderately successful movie could be a much bigger boost for your career. But winning that particular lottery takes a -lot- of luck.)

Max Kaehn September 3, 2009 at 6:00 am

If you write the sequel to Metropolitan and City on Fire, Iโ€™ll be touting the whole trilogy to all my friends. Are there any particular publishers to whom I should be saying that?

Zora September 3, 2009 at 7:56 am

I don't twitter and I can't even keep up with my Facebook. So neither of those would entice me.

Fame? Money? If an author is writing for that, he/she is not going to hook me. I want a certain amount of sincere obsession. I think I can recognize it. It's not enough (many bad writers are obsessed) but it's crucial.

Paraph September 3, 2009 at 7:58 am

A few months ago, George RR Martin, on his own blog, bemoaned the bad ending to *Battlestar: Galactica*, and a weeks later, as he lamented the dreadful, latest installment in the *Star Trek* franchise, called for NEW universes to be developed for the big screen, or for interesting novel to be adapted as TV series. One of the potential series he mentioned was your very own |Dread Empire s Fall|. Would he happen to have any Hollywood leeway to help such a feat see the light of day?

Oz September 3, 2009 at 11:49 am

Blogger, IMO, does not create traffic. It's isolated. People come across it by accident and have to get a feed to see if you've done an update. Which is fine. But your blog comes in as an excerpt on my feed and I have to actively click through to see The Whole Story.

The addition of twitter and/or facebook increases the chances that folks will find your blog entries.

I can quickly see a tweet that you've done a new blog post on a particular subject. There's less chance it gets buried under the noise of my 200 feeds.

And, if you followed for a while, you'd see that tweets aren't just about food. Although I could name a few writers who tweet about food all the time.

Siristru September 3, 2009 at 11:59 am

Zdravo Walter. I agree with Max Kaehn ๐Ÿ™‚ I'm still waiting for sequel to Metropolitan and City on Fire.

I can improve your site again. Together we could made from it a nice portal with integrated blog, gallery, guest book, forum, on-line shop.

There could be a place for articles, book excerpts, fan fiction and so on. It could even become a small community portal.

More interest of Internauts you'll gain – more popular you'll become. If you become more popular – you'll gain interest of publishers or even directors ๐Ÿ˜€

If you want to have a proffesional portal – just write to me. I'll be happy to do something for you.

Lawrence M. Schoen September 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Hmm. I routinely cast votes for your work, but now you do have me wondering what you had for lunch.

davidkeck September 3, 2009 at 3:35 pm

I have often wondered whether instigating a well chosen criminal act (or spree thereof) might attract attention: something clearly tied to the latest project and perhaps involving celebrities. Is there a good way of having Brangelina attempt a home invasion and your warding them off with a space-borne laser of some kind?

Obviously, I am not a publicist, but surely something could be arranged. (On my own behalf, I've been toying with employing a lance to thwart Octomom and her kids in the act of carjacking my Oldsmobile. Is she available, do we think?)

halojones-fan September 3, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Sequel to Metropolitan and City On Fire, particularly given the resurgence of interest in the "Urban Fantasy" genre. The series could easily be marketed as "Harry Potter Meets Manhattan"….well, maybe without the Muppets associations, but I'm sure you get the idea.

…and as I've pointed out elsewhere, the situation in the second book has some remarkable parallels to the Iraq invasion. You could do something with that. (I'm keeping my original, though, in case you try to do any Card-esque rewrites to match your current political opinions!)


Failing that, you could always try to get a job working for Cory Doctorow or "Wired". Or even just give up and, following Pournelle's example, just flat-out beg people to send you money.

Ralf the Dog September 4, 2009 at 3:15 am

Mr. Williams, your biggest problem is that you write for smart people. This is good for your ego, however the greater part of the population has trouble with the mysteries of the proper use of tooth paste. Let me help you out by writing a bit of your next book.

"So, like I was walking and this hot zombie chick jumped out at me. I was so like, 'I so want to shag this chick but she is dead and would eat my brains and stuff.' The smell was even worse than the first zombie chick I shagged.

What did I do? I whacked the zombie chick with my new Sword of Power, Thwack! zombie brains everywhere. Then, guess what, 15 more zombie chicks!!!! So, Like I could not whack 15 zombie chicks, even with the Sword of Power. As they came closer dropping bits of clothing here and their, they backed me into a corner!!!!! I pointed at the spattered zombie chick and said, 'Hey look, free brains!!!!!!'

The zombie chicks all turned and started digging out on their formerly undead sister. Escaping I snagged one of their fallen G-Strings."

Thus ends chapter 147 of "Quest to Shag the Zombie Princess part III".

Ralf the Dog September 4, 2009 at 3:27 am

If you don't want to dumb your writing down to, "See Spot. See Spot drop her swimsuit." You might think about offering to do a guest writer spot for one of the better web series.

Legend of Neil or The Guild are both good.

Pat Mathews September 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Fame and fortune? Write vampire porn with a heroine who's always in jeopardy, maybe. Just kidding.

Let's face it. Some writers are mass market and some are gourmet.

Shash September 4, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Adding my two cents: I can't imagine that most people in the tweeting crowd have a long enough attention span to read any book over 150 pages with no pictures.

Sorry. Not that tweeters aren't intelligent but they don't seem to sit still for very long. Tweeting is like noshing at a cocktail party; reading your books is like a 7-course meal with a friend you don't get to see often enough.

Maybe your problem is we all want to keep you to ourselves and we only tell our BFFs about you.

Ralf the Dog September 5, 2009 at 12:41 am

Product placement!

The hero is about to step into the reactor room of the fusion plant set to overload. The temperature gauge shows 142. Before he goes in he puts on an extra layer of Ban Roll on, the deodorant of heroes.

Mark Hughes September 5, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Twitter isn't about what you had for lunch (nobody cares, unless you're a hell of a good cook and post drool-worthy pictures or recipes); it's about what you're actually doing or thinking, and talking to people with similar interests, or fans of your work. It's a little more personal and immediate than a blog, less so than an IRC chat.

It would certainly help your online presence. My largish but self-enclosed little bubble of Mac dev friends on Twitter drives considerably more traffic to my blog (or whatever I link to; I use to track how many people click my links). When I make new game releases, I see a spike after the Twitter announcement.

Twittering (at least a couple times a day) about your books in progress, writing ideas, mention important new blog posts, etc., could only help, and wouldn't take much time.

Mark September 7, 2009 at 9:19 pm

WJ —

I would cheerfully pay real cash dollars for a food and travel writing project. I really like the way that you tell stories to give context to recipes.

I have a feeling I'm not alone. Perhaps you can find someone to pay you to travel and eat well?

Failing that, maybe there's an opening as an enforcer for other authors. I hear GRRM is looking for someone to deal with all the nags re: A Song of Ice and Fire. *evil g*

halojones-fan September 8, 2009 at 4:32 am

Oh hey, another option: Sue the guys who made "Gamer" for ripping off your concept for Albrecht Roon's house and using it as the main bad guy's base. (Although Roon didn't have his goons do a musical soft-shoe routine before sending them to attack.)

Max Kaehn September 8, 2009 at 5:21 am

Or do more writing for role-playing games. I quite admired that WJW did the Hardwired supplement for Cyberpunk 2020 himself. Thereโ€™s a lot of good stuff being done with the Fate system lately: Spirit of the Century already gave rise to Diaspora and Starblazer Adventures and (soon) the Dresden Files RPG.

RJS September 8, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I have no idea if raising your online visibility would lead to awards or not, but it might be worth trying. My understanding is that the goal is to give people as many points of entry to… well, to *you* as possible. Tweets, Facebook entries, links to and from as many other people as possible (your blogrolls is relatively short), are the wide end of the funnel.

I had a lot of reservations about Twitter, and have only been on it to any real degree for a couple of weeks now. I'm following a few writers and a few dozen publishing industry people. The main use I get so far is a stream of pointers to articles or blog posts I might find interesting. (I'm not sure yet if I would find it worth paying for; good question.) I have to assume that Orbit's publicity budget is slim, but do they have anyone on staff who specializes in this sort of thing?

If this blog is going to be the narrow end of the funnel, you might want to think about how it's presented–I agree with Bruce on that. I've been reading for years and obviously enjoy it (I love the movie reviews), but it often feels a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation among friends. Hence the long wait before I posted my question about TINAG. ๐Ÿ™‚ You might want a second blog that's more focused on the books, and more clearly a point of contact for fans, or else to beef up the percentage of posts here that are related to *your* writing.

And if they make any of your books into a movie, just to be contrary I'm going to cast my vote for _The Crown Jewels_, in which the single line, "Barbarian," is one of my favorite things in the world. ๐Ÿ˜€


Cait September 9, 2009 at 1:57 am

If you're looking for an interesting way to have an online presence as an author, you could join Goodreads — there's already an author page for you which imports this rss feed….

Ralf the Dog September 9, 2009 at 3:14 pm

"Buy one of my books and try for a chance to win as much as $100 Million or more!"

Then spend a dollar on a lottery ticket and put it in one of your books.

Paraph September 11, 2009 at 10:00 am

Another *clever* idea would be to make yours the Secret Union of Librarians and Booksellers so they'd push your sales and the consumption of your novels in all places literary. As a bookseller myself, I never pass on a chance to sell one of your books, or talk about you as the best living writer out there…

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