The Introvert Salesman, Part 3
While I ultimately want the blog to be read and appreciated by interested strangers beyond just my friends and family, I figured the Facebook circles were the place to start. Likewise, my forthcoming publication from Beating Windward Press—Right Behind You, a collection of three short stories to be offered as a free e-chapbook—will contain a link to the blog site. With any luck, curious readers who download those free stories will be led back to my blog, and word can spread beyond the warm-but-limited circle of my family and friends. I may attempt a blog tour or some other such online promotional in the future, but at present, I’m still researching my options, while at the same time trying to maintain momentum on the blog itself. Still, just having a marketing plan isn’t enough: I need to define just who it is that I’m blogging to.
Who, then, do I hope to attract? ‘The whole wide world’ is the obvious answer; ‘my mom’ the only one guaranteed to succeed. A happy medium must be struck, wherein I define a sensible subset of the populace that might wear the brand ‘my peeps’ but still be narrow and defined enough to present direct marketing opportunities.
So, what label do I apply to myself? In specific terms, I’m a fantasist, but that’s a fairly academic term that is really only used by other writers. I could call myself a genre writer, pointing toward the trifecta that best defines me—horror, fantasy, and sci fi—but even that leaves out the westerns, crime stories, and literary novels that I would like to someday write, as well as the everyday stuff that I might choose to blog about. In the end, given my vast range of interests, my particular range of works, and the fact that no suitable term seems to exist to define how I see myself or my ideal reader, I’ve settled on the only descriptor I could muster, boiling my stock down to its thickest and most essential gravy: ‘literate geek.’ It’s an imperfect appellation, but, for the time being, it was the best I could do.
What the hell does that mean, you ask? Consider: my fiction is designed to appeal to smart people with broad yet slightly off-kilter interests, from genre fiction to comic books, role-playing to video games, movies to music; the sort of people who eschew discussing mortgages, pre-school options and sports stats with their friends in favor of lively debates regarding whether or not Robert E. Lee was all the general he was cracked up to be, just who would win in a mano a mano between Superman and Batman (I say Batman, because he could outsmart Superman), or whether or not a steam-powered spacecraft built of riveted iron and glass could operate outside the Earth’s atmosphere. My blog, therefore, will cover the same: what I’m reading, what I’m watching, what I’m listening to, as well as the ups and downs of working in said genre, off-the-beaten path researches and ruminations, and random forays into history, conspiracy, mythology and magic. Nevertheless, although the labels I apply to myself and my readers might be helpful in directing my effort and helping me make editorial decisions, I must always remember to define my labels, while not allowing them to define me.
So, given my experiences thus far, have my efforts paid off?
Short answer: it’s too early to say, being only four weeks and six entries into the blog. So far, I’ve attracted very few regular followers, most just friends and family (though I have had two subscribers right off the bat who were complete strangers—God bless you, complete strangers!). All comments posted are from people I know, and thus far, the most feedback I’ve had arose from a two-part review and deconstruction of the film Prometheus that I posted (it’s a movie that seemed to really divide audiences—especially geek audiences—so it didn’t surprise me that many of my movie-geek friends wanted to argue about it). Given the blog’s youth, I won’t panic just yet that I’m fading into obscurity. We live in an age of ubiquitous online information: every Tom, Dick and Harry has a blog or a website, so drawing interest beyond my immediate social network will take time, as will finding my perfect voice as a blogger and grooming the site to radiate its own magical mojo. If I go for an entire year without gaining any more readers than I have now, I may seriously ponder the usefulness of having the blog at all—but that time is far off, so for the time being, my job is simply to keep posting, and make decisions about what comes next.
But, that’s where one’s expectations must remain realistic. I was immediately slapped in the face by the realization (perfectly reasonable) that even family and friends aren’t willing to drop everything, read your blog, and comment on it. I suppose it hurt my feelings for a second or two, but it really shouldn’t leave any lasting scars: we all live busy lives, and time is precious. Unless someone is deeply invested in what I have to say or how I say it, I probably can’t expect them to give my blog any more than a cursory look. But, this is where I look to myself as a measure of what to expect: there are at least half a dozen writers I love, love, love who blog on a regular basis (the aforementioned Steven Pressfield, the incomparable Dan Simmons)—and yet, I always have to remind myself to read their blogs. Why? Because between working a day job, maintaining a marriage, caring for a newborn and trying to produce new work of my own (while also getting some sleep or catching a movie on occasion), I’m busy. Reading someone’s blog just isn’t a high priority. It’s more like that phone call you keep meaning to make to a friend of yours who you haven’t checked in with for awhile. That’s no deterance, though—just a realization of what I’m up against, in terms of drawing and keeping an audience.
So, what’s it all about, Alfie? What is it I’m hoping to get out of all this? Ultimately, I am attempting to walk a tightrope with my blogging endeavor and the formation of my ‘online presence.’ I want to take the task seriously, to write entries worth reading, and to gain new readers. But, I also try to remind myself that however important building a platform, establishing a web presence, and networking might be to the fledgling writer, the most important thing—first, last, and always—is writing well about stuff that excites you. If the day comes that I have to choose between writing a new book or maintaining my blog, I’ll abandon blog for book without hesitation.
At the end of the day, there is only one thing that I’m marketing, one product I’m pushing: my stories. Without those stories, the blog, the Facebook page, and whatever else I may add to the pile have no reason to be.