I took advantage of journalist Scott Kirsner’s special South by Southwest offer, and downloaded a free e-book version of his book Fans, Friends & Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age.
Kirsner takes the position that the world in which artists of all kinds — writers, musicians, painters, filmmakers — relied on someone else to promote and distribute their work is gone. Nowadays any creative type can produce work and get it out there inexpensively, and there’s even a good chance they’ll get noticed. But the paradox is, he says, that there are more people putting their work out there than ever before. As he puts it:
Breaking out, somehow, is both more of a possibility than it has ever been – and harder than it has ever been.
Most of the book consists of interviews Kirsner has done with creative types in various fields, including authors. But he does include some core suggestions and provides a list of tools, which is being expanded on a wiki. And his approach is very positive.
I confess that when I pick up books like this, what I’m really hoping is that they’re going to reveal some core secret of Web success that will magically make me rich and famous. Because, after all, people do sometimes take off on the Web and end up rich and famous. But, alas, while the book tells some tales of people who have built effective creative careers online, it doesn’t provide a surefire path for me or anyone else. The truth is, the rules of Web success are far from established and people come up with new ones — often by accident — all the time.
But Kirsner does make some solid suggestions. Here are a few that resonated with me:
- “Create work only you can create.” He points out that in the digital world, no one can tell you that something isn’t what the market wants, and you have a shot at finding enough fans who like your unusual stuff.
- Figure out how to bring in audience participation.
- Choose your online platform — you don’t have to use every new tool out there.
- Make your press kit easy to find and accessible to all.
- “Embrace conversations.”
- Sell merchandise.
That’s far from everything, but it gives you an idea of what’s in the book. And the free e-book is available for a few more days — until the end of South by Southwest on March 21, I think. So check it out for yourself.
Nancy Jane has stories in all three of the anthologies recently published by Book View Press: “The Savage and the Monster” in The Shadow Conspiracy, “Blindsided by Venus in the House of Mars” in Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls, and “Dusty Wings” in Dragon Lords and Warrior Women.
Her collection Conscientious Inconsistencies is available from PS Publishing and her novella Changeling can be ordered from Aqueduct Press. All fifty (plus one new one) of the short-short stories she posted as part of her year-long Flash Fiction Project are available for free here.