Sunday, June 21, 2009
I remember how Baby Boomer pre-teen girls kept their most personal thoughts written in a small book secured with an equally small lock and key. This was to keep their pre-pubescent revelations out of the hands of little brothers. Thank God there was no internet back then. The worst he could do was share the curious findings with a few young friends. Now, when one blogs, thoughts, feelings and opinions go out to the world. Quite intimidating, actually. Well, I'm not here to tell you about my pre-pubescent musings, but about the Author's Bootcamp I attended over the last two days in San Francisco.
In way of introduction, I'm a published non fiction writer and am doing final edits on a novel. It's a story that pulls heavily from my career as a paramedic. For the last several years (since that same little brother gave me my first iPod), I've fallen in love with the world of iTunes, podcasting, and those who share their novels through that medium. I watched their careers blossom and listened to their struggles as they tried to convince print markets that building an audience by *giving away your stuff* actually does make sense.
Scott Sigler is one author who has not only made that leap and published a number of novels, but made it to the new York Times best seller list. He went to publishers with a solid fan base including people who were willing to make a grass roots contribution to his success by helping to build his website, create art and merchandise, or do viral marketing through the internet. Do people do that for Stephen King? Does Stephen send them e-mail updates or personally respond to their posts and tweets? Scott does. Seth does. Seth Harwood is another writer who just broke into print with his novel, "Jack Wakes Up". He's putting a lot of time and effort into marketing his book, and is a genuinely nice guy who is sincere in his desire to help other authors become successful
How did I get there? Following a link from Twitter (from Seth, I believe), to the Author Bootcamp website. It was explained there that "Scott & Seth want to share their method for building an audience before you approach publishers and agents. If you can show that your work has fans, fans that will buy your books, it changes the game and elevates you in the eyes of publishers." It seemed to be just the right time for me with a book almost completed and wondering what I was going to do with it. I decided San Francisco was only a short train ride away and that this class might give me the knowledge and encouragement I needed to take my efforts to the next level.
We started before the class with "homework" which included gathering pictures and bios, then downloading music and the specific programs we would be using. We came with our laptops and headsets. Interestingly, it was a predominantly MAC crowd. It was also a small class, which was great. Scott and Seth talked about their own writing careers; the state of publishing; how to understand blogs, hosting, domains and RSS feeds; and the most fun ... actually recording a short piece of text and adding intro and outro music. We learned how to manage the software, fade in, fade out, normalize, and do stuff I thought you had to be a major techie to manage. Seth worked 1:1 with the MAC people and Scott with we PC people. Wow, what a sense of accomplishment! I was so inspired, Seth loaned me his H2 recording device to play with at the hotel that night. That was another thing that fostered a lot of questions ... what device do I use? There were three of them that we experimented with. Seth and Scott were very clear on the ones they preferred, which, unfortunately, weren't the same. Decisions, decisions.
Day two found us feeling much more comfortable as we launched into a discussion of "what do we do now with this first podcast we created". The nice thing was that accounts were already set up for us on blogging and host sites. The only glitch for me that morning, was when I started having Internet Explorer connectivity problems with my PC. Maybe it's time for a MAC. Seth swears these things just don't happen to him! Scott wondered if there wasn't virus (or poltergeist, I was thinking) lurking in my Sony Vaio. One of the other students, deemed the technical advisor for the day, was able to give me the electronic file for Firefox, which seemed to resolve the problem.
I really enjoyed the afternoon which was about marketing your work (or in Scott's word, "pimping"); creating and sharing promos; social networking tools; Podiobooks.com; and how to build (and keep) an audience. Although they followed a schedule, they were flexible enough to understand and adjust to their students as far as our writing , publishing , and computer experience went. They answered all our questions and shared anything we wanted to know about what it was like in the beginning of podcasting (what, four years ago?) The other thing Scott made clear was that podcasting is still a cutting edge phenomena. There isn't a lot of people who have figured out that this is a great way to build a following. It's not just throwing up a website, that your publisher might require you have, and let someone else manage it. It's constantly blogging, researching what's out there; and making yourself visible to your audience through your own website and the social media sites. They told us to use our author name liberally to build our "brand".
At the end of the second day we were all pretty much on information overload, but happy and satisfied with what we'd gotten out of this class. Although Seth was tired (keeping up with Scott's high energy is a challenge), we ended the day with some food and drink and casual conversation. We all learned more each other as writers, and where we're planning to go with our careers. The nice thing is that I can still stay in touch with them through the Author Bootcamp website forum.
As I reflect on this today, I know I'll always think of Seth and Scott as my mentors and credit them for giving me the tools and inspiration to help me become successful. If anyone out there is considering taking advantage of this class, check the schedule at www.authorbootcamp.com. They plan to take it around the country. If you're a writer and want to learn the secrets of marketing in the new world, take advantage of this opportunity and remember these three words: Content, consistency and promotion. If you're not sure what they mean in the context of writing and podcasting... well, I guess you'll just have to take the class!