Archive | February 2014

Promotion…what it means to ‘go viral.’

The concept of ‘viral media’ is hot for researchers right now. Everyone wants to know why Joe Blow’s youtube video of his cat becomes a must-see overnight, and the ten billion other cat videos don’t. It’s almost mind-blowing, when you stop to think about it.

Well, marketers don’t really give a damn about Joe Blow’s cat…what they care about is the behemoth of potential marketing power that is ‘viral media.’ They want to be able to break it down into a formula and make it repeatable. We all do. Who wouldn’t want to put some nonsense on the internet at have it spread to 2 million consumers who are eager to buy the newest meme-based T-shirt?

The problem is that there is no formula…not yet. I did, however, come across a really informative book that discusses the idea of things going viral. To date, this is the best material I’ve read on the subject and it’s backed with research and case-study data.

Book

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

There’s a ton of useful information in this book, but I’ll go ahead and key you in on one of the major things you’ll learn; Going viral is all about feelings. Big surprise, right? If you’ve been following me, you know that my mantra is: “Writing is about feelings. It’s about making the reader feel what you want them to feel.” Well, to expand upon that, almost everything you do that has anything to do with human beings is about feelings. Marketing is no exception…not by a long shot. Marketing and promoting is all about making people feel what you want them to feel.

Sometimes, though, the trick is knowing what you want them feel. In the case of viral marketing (according to this book) you will want the reader/viewer to feel like they’ve found some privileged information. You see, in this mile-a-minute world of information exchange, it’s hard to be the cool guy who ‘discovered’ the new funny video, the hilarious website, etc. So part of getting people to spread your media at viral speeds is to make everyone want to be the first to say “HEY! Look what I found!”

It’s social-need validation thing, and it really has more to do with things going viral than you might believe. Marketers and self-promoters need to know this stuff. I highly recommend that you read this book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger.

New service on fiverr.

Just a quick update (since I’m taking a break from writing the article on constipation that I’ve been hired to do.)

Find my gigs on www.fiverr.com!

In my last post I told you that I’ve been offering a number of services on fiverr, from making awesome book covers to writing web content. I’m now offering a service that other writers might want to take advantage of: workshopping.

Think of it as a one-on-one writer’s group meeting. Check it out here:

http://fiverr.com/users/onemindstudios/manage_gigs/workshop-your-fiction-writing

Writing for profit.

(This is straight talk from my WIP book “Codename: Pitchcraft.”)

At the end of the day, money is always a factor. You can’t write if you can’t eat, and while being a “starving artist” is probably one of the more socially acceptable paths to poverty, it’s not fun having to live hand to mouth. Trust me, I’m well exercised in doing so.

I’ve always been an advocate for pursuing ones artistic inclinations. Do what you love. However, I’ve also been chided by the artistic types for always trying to figure out how to make a profit from doing it. I’ve been accused of trying to get people to “sell out” more times than I can count. My argument against this is simple: people don’t mind paying for good work. If you paint something, you’re not selling out by putting a price tag on it. If you’re a musician, you’re not selling out by trying to market your music. What you’re doing is pursuing the path that takes you from being a hobbyist to a professional: a payday. There is nothing immoral or wrong about seeing the value in your talent and skill.

What’s the other argument I hear the most? “I don’t write/paint/play/draw the kind of stuff people buy and I don’t want to change my style just to make money.”

First off: Bullshit. People will buy anything if it’s good. There are fans for your work, whatever it is…whatever the style. Just take a look at Etsy and see the kind of stuff that people sell. Some of it makes me go “what the hell…people pay $200 for THIS?” But my opinion doesn’t matter. Neither does yours. Not when the guy selling it was able to quit his job to do what he loves for a living.

Secondly: Get over yourself. I can be harsh about this, I know, but I’m an artistic-type myself and I know better than anyone that the thing that we often need is for reality to kick us in the ass. If you can quit your day job by writing what other people want instead of what you want, isn’t that worth it? If you say “no,” then can you really consider yourself a writer? Or are you a waiter/clerk/accountant who writes?

Any work that you do in your field will push your art into greater levels of success. I want to be a professional author, but for now I’m a professional writer. I write ad copy, business letters, marketing strategies, articles, press releases, web content and blog posts every day for money. It’s not what I want to do with my life, but when you boil it down, it is writing. I am continuously honing my craft and my art through “selling out”…and all of the money I’m making goes right into my brokerage account where it can earn a percentage. Some day, I’ll have earned enough from “selling out” that I can stop working for other people and sit on my butt all day writing novels. That’s my artistic vision. It ain’t pretty, but it’s a plan.

There is nothing wrong with having a rich portfolio of professional work. I highly recommend that any artist pursue a bit of income from their talents. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to get started:

Decide if you want to sell your artwork or be a freelancer. Or both. Do you want to make things and then see how much you can get for them, or do you want to do commissioned work?

Find a venue. There are scores of web sites out there which can serve as your storefront or your agency. If you’re selling your artwork (things that you’ve already made, not custom work) then Etsy is a great place to start. You can also try eBay, which is still a very viable place to sell your work. If you want to be a freelancer and do commissioned work or contract jobs, try deviantArt, fiverr, or eLance. Do your research and find out what services will promote your art the most effectively.
* Best for writers that I’ve found: eLance and fiverr.

Promote yourself. This is the marketing part. Want to know all about this? Wait until my complete book is released and read it. Codename: Pitchcraft will be a self-contained marketing course, followed by very specific information on how to find success as an independent artist. I’m even working out deals with some of my fellow marketers that will allow people who buy this book (or course, if you want to call it that) to take advantage of our ever-growing promotional network.

You don’t have to wait for my book, though. Now is the time to take your skills to market and start being a pro. Hit up those websites, make your free account and get selling.  

Outlining…it’s a matter of style.

The topic of outlining comes up frequently around writers; Should I? Shouldn’t I? Does it really matter?

The best advice that I can give in regards to the topic is this:

Try it. Try as many different ways to outline or plan your work as you can think of. Eventually, one of these methods will stick.

This is coming from me, a guy who swore off outlining years ago. I’ve always hated writing to a plan. That is, until I figured out the way of outlining that worked for me, and now I can’t imagine “free-wheeling” it ever again. 

My outlining method is a simple, three-step process. First, I write out a timeline of the events in the story. This can take as little as a minute or it could take days, depending on the length and depth of the story. This is also an unrefined brainstorming session. For instance:

  1. Guy finds a magic rock.
  2. Rock makes him go insane.
  3. Wizard comes to village for ?? and learns about the guy with rock.
  4. Wizard confronts him and explains that the rock is his older brother, an evil sorcerer who he turned into a rock years ago.
  5. Rock-sorcerer takes control of guy.
  6. EPIC BATTLE (this is where sorcerer-rock gets so angry he makes the guy throw him. Then the connection is lost and the guy is returned to normal, wizard destroys rock, happy ending.)

This is not a real story, by the way, although it might be some day. (Another piece of advice: no idea is stupid enough to be thrown away.) So, once I have this little breakdown of the events, I typically rewrite them so that each event carries any important information. This includes names of the characters, the locations, any bits of dialogue that see fitting well in the scene. Example:

1. Guy finds magic rock.

becomes:

1. POV Johan Applethorpe is walking through woods near his village. He is distraught over the loss of his betrothed. He is thinking about her when he sees a glowing thing in the stream. Reaches down, picks it up. The stone uses the memory of his dead fiance to take control of him. 

Finally, I write the story piece by piece, going over each point as I write. For point one, I would write out the scene. Then I would delete that line on the “outline” and move to the next. This is pretty much how I write everything now…even business articles, reviews, ad copy…you name it. 

Maybe some of you will click with my system of outlining, but that’s not really important. What matters is that every writer experiment with the conceptual/planning phases of their craft and work to hone an effective, repeatable means of outlining. Once you’ve nailed down your style, you’ll be glad you did!

Slainte.

 

 

Lost

Lost

Another bit of visual poetry. This is the first and last portions of a much longer poem. The complete poem is going into my private stash because it earned an entirely new layer of personal meaning this week.

Art and words by yours truly.

Longing

Longing

A bit of visual poetry. I’m experimenting heavily with combining prose and my photoshop art. My projects “Seven Seals” and “The Diary of Dr. Seward” are both leaning heavily on this concept.

I might be unconventional.

I’ve been seeing a lot of success on fiverr over the past couple of weeks. Aside from graphic design work, I’ve started giving feedback/editing other writers’ work. I was just punching out my feedback for one of my clients when it dawned on me that I could go into very heavy detail on “where I’m coming from” when I give suggestions and input.

So here goes.

I like to consider myself unconventional as a writer (and as a person in general.) It’s probably all of the philosophy books I spent ten years reading, but I think having an open mind is critical both to success as an artist and to being a happy person. As such, I will spend as much time trying to think of ways to destroy the “marketability” mold as I will trying to fit inside of it. My feedback and input will reflect this.

Regarding “Style” – It took me a long time to figure this one out. What is a “writing style?”  Your “writing style” is how you adapt your work to best convey your message. It’s a functional element, not a flourish. I believe that style has to evolve from good fundamentals. First, you learn how to write correctly. Then you learn how to bend the rules to fit your whims. If you START by bending rules, you won’t know which ones are important and why, and you will write poorly. Learn the rules, then spend the rest of your writing career figuring out the best way to smash them to pieces.  

Regarding Rhythm – To me, writing is all about rhythm. I’m not a musician and I don’t fancy myself a poet, but I must think like one. When I read, I set the words against a metronome. There’s a reason for this. Music is something that has penetrated and thrived within every human culture (it even defines some cultures!) and it has done so for a reason. It’s pleasing. The human mind loves the mathematics of music. It revels in the beats and measures. It’s relaxing, familiar, comforting to have input streaming into you that follows a cadence. Think of your story like a song. Every narrative is a poem. How does the rhythm of your words make you feel? If the scene is fast and choppy, make your sentences fast and choppy! Make the reader’s mind dance the beat of your drum. 

Most importantly, mind your measures. When you change the rhythm of your words, the reader will notice. Don’t do it unless there’s a reason. In other words, try to keep the number of beats in each sentence the same until it’s time to change the mood. This is fast. My words fly by. My fingers strike the keys and words erupt on screen. Quickly now, I think. I must blog. Notice anything? If you didn’t consciously feel the difference, your subconscious picked up on it.   

Regarding Purpose – What’s important in writing? The feelings, the message, the words. In that order. Words mean nothing, which is why I finally learned to use the simplest words whenever I write. The message (the story, in fiction) is far more important, but still borderline meaningless when put into perspective. The feelings matter. That is the purpose of writing. We write to make the reader feel what we want them to feel. This is where style becomes important, and rhythm as well. 

You can make the reader feel rushed, tired, angry, sad or excited just by changing how many words are in the sentence. You can make the reader feel scared by using dissonance and varying the rhythm. Think about the scary movies where the screen flashes randomly to spooky pictures. The duration of each shot is random, varied, chaotic. Our brains hate that, and used effectively, it can make the reader scared or angry. 

That’s about all the time I have tonight. Keep on writing, and go study some music theory!