Sunday, December 19, 2004

Promoting Short Fiction

Since I began blogging I have become interested in the phenomenon of blogging itself. As a result I read way too many blogs, especially those about blogging and marketing. This morning I read a posting on Scobleizer, a blog written by Robert Scoble, a Microsoft employee, that kicks Microsoft's ass for the piss-poor marketing campaign they have for Microsoft's Portable Media. The iPod is trouncing them.

So, you ask, what does a rant about marketing portable music and players have to do with short fiction? I'll tell you. Everything Scoble says can be applied to short fiction just as easily as music. He makes two very important statements.

"Listen, music is all about CULTURE!"

"For those of you who want to sell like the iPod: start to think about how to create a cultural movement."

The American Heritage Dictionary defines culture this way:

culĀ·ture n. 1.a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population. 2. Intellectual and artistic activity, and the works produced by it. [Emphasis mine]

Fiction is no less culture than music. For crying out loud, look at science fiction fandom. If that's not culture, what is? Scoble went on to say:

"I learned that if you get three people who a lot of people want to have dinner with that you'll have a large interesting group. So, I'd start by getting three musicians who everyone knows and respects and build a marketing campaign around them."

Getting three celebrity writers might not work too well. I mean we're trying to attract people who don't already read extensively. Preaching to the choir is not good marketing. Could we, the writers and readers of short fiction, convince people like the Mystery Writers of America, the Science Fiction Writers Association, the Dell Magazine Group and others to go out and find three movie stars, TV stars, musicians that like to read short fiction, or even LISTEN to short fiction [more on this later] and finance at least a modest advertizing campaign. God knows it's in their best interests as much as it is ours as writers and readers.

And what about the iPod and its ilk? What is stopping us, the writers, from recording our short stories and putting them up for sale on iTunes? Granted, it's not quite that simple, but it isn't that complicated either. There's also
Audible. Their business has increased by leaps and bounds every year since they got into business. They have an awful lot of collections and anthologies for sale over there. Might not they be open to selling recordings of individual short stories? What would it take to find out? And then there's Fictionwise, the ebook seller. They're starting to sell an increasing number of their books as MP3 files. They already sell a lot of individual short stories as ebooks. What would it take to get them to sell MP3 files of individual short stories? [Guy Belleranti, are you listening?]

And what about some grassroots effort on the Internet? At this point I don't know what that might be, but I'm going to be thinking about it. Aldo Calcagno over at Mystery Dawg prints out short stories he likes from the web and leaves them at hotel pools, meeting rooms, restaurants, and other places for people to pick up and read. I mean, damn, people! We're creative. Let's create!

The opportunities are out there. All we have to do is find them or make them.


At 2:07 PM, Blogger Dave White said...

great topic Bob. I know a friend of mine worked in a library would do the same as Aldo. Print out my stories and then leave them in the library for others to read.

At 6:26 PM, Blogger Graham said...

Instead of an iPod, I have three kids, but my sister has one and I am convinced that it and Audible are the future of spoken books.

As far as promoting short fiction, what would it take to get Borders or B&N to create in-house fiction mags in various genres, then give them away free in their stores? I mean, the costs would be negligible (for them), and they could shill all the books they wanted. Even organize reading groups around each new issue.

I know a lot of people who run magazines would probably hate that idea, but for writers, well, a market is a market.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Bob said...

Graham said, "I know some people who publish magazines would hate that idea . . ."

Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it would get them off their asses so they could do something different.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Megan said...

Well, it's not like the existing fiction mags are getting prominent shelf display as it is....

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