Sunday, September 27, 2009

Characters on the Web, and Other Preemptive Publicity Attacks

So, I follow quite a few authors (and wannabe authors) on Twitter. One of them just Tweeted a link to her new web site, which is from the POV of her main character (of an unpublished book for which she is unagented). The site is professionally done and looks great, but I'm wondering how smart it is to have (and promote) a site for something that a. readers can't even buy yet, b. readers may never be able to buy, and c. potential agents might see.
This is not a bad thing. If she's writing a blog from the POV of her main character and gets a good-sized readership, that may help quite a bit in getting a book deal. Even if it's just a website and there is no proven readership, having a good-looking site promoting a book is a Good Sign to editors and agents-- it shows this is someone who is decent at promoting herself and is proactive about it. We like those qualities.
My WIP incorporates blog entries as part of the storyline, and so obviously I've been toying with the idea of registering the domain name and posting teaser blogs that tie into my WIP. I've always held off, though, because I wasn't sure how agents/publishers would react to that. What are your thoughts on this? Should people with finished manuscripts yet no agents or contracts be registering domains and creating online personas to reflect their characters?
As long as you're sticking to teasers (ie, you're not posting a major part of your book online for free), there should be no problem. (And, you know, some people do post all of their book online and get away with it.) It's never too early to make a good impression on the editor or agent who googles you.


Chris Eldin said...

Re the first question--
*jumping up and down* YAY!!! Is it me? Is it me!

I LOVE when writers step out of the box! Get fun, get crazy! And I also love that conversations about branding are starting to pop up more and more.

Literaticat said...

I am sure I'm probably in the minority, but I personally am not a huge fan of this putting stuff on the internet while you are still at the agent-seeking stage.

If I become your agent, I want to choose how to pitch you and present your book in a certain light, to certain specific editors. If you've already put your business all over the web, you've taken that away from me. And I worry that if editors have already seen the work, when I show it it will seem shopworn.

Teasers on your blog - ok, maybe. But whole chapters? Your query letter? Blogs devoted to characters? These characters are not under contract yet, and may change significantly - why keep them frozen in amber?

I say, with VERY few exceptions, wait for the publicity push until such time as the book is actually a reality - close enough that people can see the real cover and pre-order it.

(On a similar note, I've also seen people with CafePress stores on their websites, to promote their book that they don't even have an agent for. Your book may not keep its title, many do change when they are acquired - do you really want to start selling merchandise with the title on it at THIS point? It just seems excessive and a little weird.)

But again, that is just my gut reaction. I guess it wouldn't make or break a deal either way.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Lit, seems like if an author's going about things in the right order and submitting to agents before editors, then there's still time for the agent to make the author tweak their web presence before an editor would see any of it, yeah?

Editorial Anonymous said...

re: cletterin' dishes
I didn't know you're a fan of Cold Comfort Farm! I heart that book.

Emily Blackapple said...

EA - If ever an author of yours disappoints you mightily, do you ever consider bellowing: Did I cowdle thee as a mommett for this?

I think I might.

Jane Lebak said...

In the past I've had a character from my novel guest-post on my weblog, and it's always been received well by my readers. Most of the comments are of the "Oh, I wish I could buy this" variety, which probably means one in ten of them actually would. (I'm cynical that way.)

I can't see sustaining something like that over the long term, though. Once in a while on a regularly-maintained blog goes a long way. But knowing it's a fictional character doing the talking, I'm not sure how well it would go over.

Anonymous said...

For six months, I ran a fictional blog "written" by two teenage characters. For the first few weeks, it had no audience, but by the time the story ended, it was being followed by a community of readers who "participated" in the story by leaving comments for and making suggestions directly to the two lead characters. It was a fantastic experiment that told me a great deal about what the audience found interesting in the story and what they didn't. However, the final product was not polished enough to be published. I used it as the basis for an outline and ended up writing a more traditional manuscript, which threw out pretty much everything that was in the blog.

Based on my experience, I think blogging a story is a great way to discover what you want to write about in the actual manuscript, but not a great way to *write* a manuscript. The process is eye-opening; you'll discover that the techniques you use to convey plot and emotion in blog format are wildly different than the ones you'd use for a novel format.

If you think that you can write a scene for a live blog audience that will also work for a printed novel without any changes, you're wasting both mediums. They are as different as novels and film scripts, and the author needs to consider the unique advantages of working in each format before plunging into either.

The blog I wrote is now offline, as it does contain a small handful of spoilers still relevant to the novel I wrote, which I want to be read with fresh, unassuming eyes by the target audience. I might be willing to dust off the archive of the blog and share it again someday, but it's more than likely it'll stay hidden away, as it was meant to be an immediate and "present" story experience for the audience, and loses a great deal of its power now that the experience is over.

One last thought: unless you write, rewrite, and polish the entire blog story in advance, you will be showing the world your rough draft skills, not the polished work you might prefer for them to see. A lot of writers have tried their hand at "live" writing like fictional blogs written on fly, but very, very few are good at it.

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

You've got my marketing wheels flying! What a great idea to add to my marketing PLAN, for when an agent asks for it!

I have a fabricated tourist attraction in the book I'm planning to sell. A website for this place is a great idea and I can have some preliminary pages planned no matter what the title of the book ends up being.

I also have a pair of hilarious secondary characters who would love their own blog. They will also be the catalysts for sequels.


Anonymous said...

I'm confused. What's new! I've read how promoting the first chapter of your book is good to do. That's how I discover Dennis Lehane. Here it sounds like post parts of your manuscripts for building promotion for when mss becomes a book. Yet I've come across a few articles (sorry no links available) that warns about upsetting future publisher by messing up your future electronic rights by publishing any part of your mss before a contract. Can you please explain whether to or not to post parts of unpublished mss? And if a person does so will this hurt future chances with electronic rights? Appears both are impossible.
Jo Ann Hernandez
BronzeWord Latino Authors

Bluestocking Mum said...

This is very good advice.

A year or so ago I posted a link to the first three chapters of my novel. With hindsight I see that it was insecurity that made me do it, my lack of confidence - I wanted other people to read and comment - to either endorse it or give constructive comments.

I took it off a couple of months later. Now, after a MAJOR re-write, I'm just doing the final tweaks before sending it to an agent. I'm so glad I deleted it. Who knows what changes an agent might suggest? I would hate to do anything to jeopordise my one chance!

Marshall Buckley said...

I seriously considered writing a blog under the guise of my MC, but decided against it - for fear of somehow jeapordising any deals with spoilers etc.

But I do think having a blog (or some kind of web presence) before your published (not pre-published!) is a good thing.

If/when you get that deal, surely it's a good thing to have some web history? Unless, that is your blog/website is really bad.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the OP so this is in no way directed to him/her or anyone else on this blog...

I always sigh a little when I read posts like this. People are wasting tons and tons of time with twitter, facebook and blogs when they haven't even taken the time to WRITE A NOVEL.

It's almost like no one wants to be a writer, they just want to busy themselves with all the trappings of one. "But it doesn't take that much time," everyone says. I beg to differ. It does. Blog posts take time and mental energy, checking back to read the comments (and comment on them) takes even more time and mental energy. Combined with twitter (which will more than likely be a joke in a year) and the endless checking in with other writers on facebook/myspace, when, I ask, does anyone make the time to write? By the way, if facebook is supposed to "secure your fanbase" why are the only "friends" added OTHER writers? i.e. not fans or readers?

Remember the good old days, when you didn't worry about branding yourself until you actually got farther along than halfway through the first draft of a WIP? Lots of fakers out there now -- not alot of writers.

Jen said...

I know of a few wannabe-author friends who put this kind of stuff out into the world. And I think it's cool. If you're good at making websites and can handle juggling multiple twitter accounts then go for it.

But, for myself, it's not something I would ever do. Those kinds of things seem very time consuming. And I would rather spend my hours writing the book now and deal with the publicity once I know the book is on its way to a shelf near you. Of course I might feel differently once my little one starts school and I actually have a little more time to consume.

Khanh Ha said...

First complete your novel, rewrite it, revise it, polish it. Then post teasers of it on your blog when it has been bought by a publisher. Why this way? Because by then it has enough power to transmit to those who read your blog. Posts from self-published novels do turn people off. Posts from WIP are like diet soft drinks.

If your novel is under contract with a publisher, ask your publisher how much from your forthcoming novel can be posted. Usually you can post parts of it possibly as long as a short-story form. Be sure that you don't give your novel away.

mode said...

A blog I started reading a while ago (Petite Anglais, see link below) has just gone belly up. It's interesting because she originally started blogging (as an English woman living in France) as a hobby. Her employer found out and fired her. She sued for wrongful termination. She won. She also got a half a million dollar book deal out of it. The first book being "Petite Anglaise."

This is the question for me and always has been -- how long before your own life no longer seems interesting, or before you realize that maybe it never was? AND THEN you have to deal with all your "stuff" being "out there."

I think about this whenever I go on author blogs. Diaries used to be secret. Struggles to get published or raving about a movie you saw last weekend used to be reserved for friends. Now everyone not only needs to chronicle every thought they have, they expect others to care. I DON'T LIKE IT! Please, someone tell me this isn't just me.

JEM said...

I think it's a great idea if your book lends itself to such marketing. If it's a period piece (and the period is not: now) it doesn't make as much sense, and might take the reader out of the true experience. Also, if someone is spending that much time and effort on something that is not finding an agent, they don't seem to have their priorities set up correctly.

Kelly Bryson said...

Mode, I am having frozen pizzas for dinner tonight. How could you not want to know that?
Seriously, you are NOT the only one who doesn't want to hear every thought that goes through someone's head. On my blog, I try to write about interesting topics, not make myself interesting. This week, it's neuromarketing!

mode said...

Alright KayKayBe --

What kind of pizza?

Anonymous said...

"It's almost like no one wants to be a writer, they just want to busy themselves with all the trappings of one."

Couldn't agree more. The whole aspiring author web presence thing is ridiculously silly! They're completely backwards, publicizing before having sold, and then these are the same types who, if they do manage to sell, will spend all their time writing and none publicizing! the way to do it is 1) sell book and don't publicize until you do and then after you sell 2)publicize book and don't write until you do

To sum up, if you haven't sold yet, you should be focusing on the selling (or perhaps the writing, if that's the problem), not goofing around on the internet playing Let's Pretend.

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