don pizarro

Advice for Writers: How to be found on the Internet

Last week I posted a huge list of Asian speculative fiction writers, and yesterday I updated it to over 100 authors. It’s been linked to from several places, including Angry Asian Man (don’t read that blog? You should!) and SF Signal. From what everyone is saying, there isn’t another list like this out there, that so comprehensively includes links to websites, social media, and sample stories.

Having spent all of those hours, I understand why: most of you writers are making that information damn hard to find.

Some of the authors listed don’t have a web presence at all, and the most I could find was a wikipedia entry. Others had only a Twitter feed, or a livejournal account. Why would you do that? You want people to read your work, right? Want others to share the stories they enjoyed, gain new readers, maybe be contacted for interviews? Writing, in 2013, is no longer a career built on in-store signings and print book/magazine sales. With the ease of reading online or in ebooks, plus the power of Google, most readers aren’t going to bother tracking you down. If it’s all there in front of them, they’ll happily devour your latest work. If it’s a struggle to find you, they won’t do it.

These days, you need a website. It doesn’t have to be called “yourname.com”, though that certainly helps. It can even be a free WordPress site, “yourname.wordpress.com”, if you don’t want to spend $15 a year on building your readership. As long as there is a single, dedicated, place that pops up on search engines when someone types in “Your Name writer”. Create it, add the items I list below, and start using it. Include it in your bio when you get published online, link to it when you promote your work, and generally get used to the idea that you have a central depository to collect the artifacts of your writing career.

Make sure your website has the following sections:

  1. Contact. This can be a real form, with data fields for name, email, and comment, or it can be a page listing the ways that someone can contact you. Either way, you need a obvious spot that someone can click on to get ahold of you. So often I see editors and bloggers lamenting that they couldn’t reach a certain author in time to include them in some project. You don’t want to miss out on those opportunities–even if you chose not to take one, let it be your choice, instead of letting your lack of contact info keep you from getting a choice.
  2. List of publications. WITH LINKS. Even authors with websites forget to do this. You think that because you have a Twitter or blog on LJ you’re covered, since you can post when you make a new sale, and your current followers will all know. Sure, do that too, but make a separate page listing your past publications, and any time one is available online, link to it. New readers will appreciate seeing all of your work, and if they can immediately click on a story and read it, that’s even better. On my site, I have three different pages for this information, because I do three kinds of work: editing, writing (fiction), and writing (non-fiction). You don’t have to do that, as long as you have at least one place with this information. Remember, though, that unless you only publish one kind of writing, once your bibliography starts to be longer than two screen’s worth, it will be easier to read if you break it up.
  3. About Me. This can be your two sentence bio, it can be several paragraphs, doesn’t matter. Something about who you are, in case people go looking for it. Mine is on a separate page, and long, because it includes both a short intro and a longer section about my history, interests, and education–even a disclaimer. You can include your contact information or social media links here, though it’s better to have that on the front page.
  4. Other Things. If you plan to be at conventions, make a page listing those events. If you’ve been interviewed or appeared on podcasts, make a page for that. Free fiction on your website? Make sure we can find it!

Once you have a website set up, you can choose from two main ways of generating content. Some people use a website like a blog, but with more functionality. That’s what I do–my posts are sometimes writing-related essays, sometimes updates, and sometimes self-promotion. You can also use the website strictly for promotion–list upcoming book signings, new sales, and so on.

Personally, I prefer the website with a blog on the main page, because it’s frequently generating new content that your readers will want to see. That brings them back to you often enough they’ll also see the content which furthers your career (sales, events, etc). When you only post the strictly business news, readers often get bored, and that doesn’t help you.

Now that you’re ready to be seen, how do you draw new readers to your website? Twitter. Sure, Facebook works too, though it’s used more by older authors and readers, and of course, your friends and family, but you can’t use it as your sole source of online interaction because it just isn’t popular enough. G+ has the same problem. If you use those platforms, absolutely link to your website, and mention when you have updates. However, I’ve gotten the most new readers, referrals, and potential markets, from Twitter. It’s simple, easy to use, and as long as you’re not constantly spamming your audience (please don’t do that) it’s very effective. Make sure to include your website in your Twitter bio, and include a link back to your Twitter from your website.

Click through for samples of sites that work:  (more…)

I Read David Marusek’s “Getting To Know You”

I’d never heard of David Marusek when I was handed this collection*. Just told that I would like it, and I should read it. It sat on my bookshelf for a few months while I caught up with other reading material, but lately I’ve been trying to get through my back catalog, finish tasks, let go of things I don’t need anymore, and move on. Clear out my inboxes. Turn in what I owe people.

Read books that aren’t mine so I can give them back.

The collection of ten short stories was put together after his 2005 novel, COUNTING HEADS, got great reviews. Half of the stories are set in the same future, and one (“The Wedding Album”) won the Sturgeon Award.

“The Wedding Album” is a novella, the longest piece in the book, and switches perspective between a couple of different characters, though mostly it’s told from the view of a simulated Anne, captured on her wedding day. A couple of hundred years pass as civilization rises and falls through the evolution of their technology, but wedding-Anne has no say in what happens around her. It’s sad with brief bits of loving, though it’s mostly a look at how selfish one man can be.

“The Earth Is On The Mend” is a flash piece, well done, a slightly rambling account of one survivor’s day in the frozen wasteland that was the Earth. It tells you enough to suspect this story will end badly. That’s what flash is about – setting a scene, giving you one moment, and enough other bits to hint at a great deal more.

“Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz” was written as a letter to editor Gardner Dozios, who published it and gave Marusek his start as a published writer. The epistolary style isn’t one of my favorites, but this version is light-hearted. It’s got dying husbands and cryogenics and Alaska small-town culture – it qualifies as a science fiction story, certainly. In the end it’s just cheeky, daring you to enjoy it and daring Mr. Dozois to publish it. Worth a read.

“A Boy In Cathyland” was originally a chunk of “The Wedding Album” but was cut from the final version. Marusek revised it into a stand-alone short. It explains a minor detail from the novella, but that’s not what’s important about it. The best part of “A Boy” is that Marusek blends Russian into the dialogue without explaining the meaning. He places description and action around the non-English parts to give the reader enough context to suss out the meaning on their own. The story is weak without the knowledge of what happens in “Wedding Album” but I like his use of language a lot.

“We Were Out Of Our Minds With Joy” is another novella, Marusek’s second published piece and the first of this length. It’s set in the same universe as “Wedding Album” and makes up the beginning of his novel. Like several of his other stories, Marusek introduces an idea, then ignores it while he goes through all of the history and scene-setting, then gets back to his opening toward the end.

The introduction to “VTV” warns that it was an exercise in writing a miserable story, and the reader should feel free to skip it. I didn’t, and I’m glad, because while it contains many of Marusek’s most-used elements, it stands out from the others because of its subject matter. It’s more concerned with making a point which, while still negative, has the potential to affect our lives now instead of centuries in the future. One of the more interesting pieces.

“Cabbages and Kale or: How We Downsized North America” is another one about the same old things. So is “Getting To Know You”. Not bad, but dull after reading all of the rest.

“Listen to Me” is written in second-person perspective, which immediately makes it stand out. It’s about boredom and, again, about isolation and selfishness. But it’s also set aboard a starship, which is different. It’s very short, and I liked it.

“My Morning Glory” is another flash piece, forcefully exuberant, a quick-step shuffle off the edge of the cliff that is the end of the book.

There isn’t much to connect with, emotionally, in this collection, except the overriding feeling of sadness. It’s sad that these people can’t be happy for long. It’s sad that technology outpaces humanity. It’s sad that the only other feeling to come across is one of isolation. I don’t know if Marusek is disconnected from the world or if it’s the one emotion he knows how to write well, but it’s there, with the sadness, in every story. They’re two sides of the same coin – the characters are sad because they’re distanced from the things that make us happy, like love and companionship and hope.

In a way, that’s what makes the book kind of boring. Marusek has a few ideas which he clearly loves, so much that he recycles them through several stories. His “original” ideas, the ones not part of his “Wedding Album” universe, appear in the shortest stories of the book, as if he didn’t want to  - or couldn’t – write about them in the same way he writes about his holos, simulacrum, and clones. He even recycles characters (not just Cathy from “Cathyland” but Yurek Rutz, who’s mentioned in “VTV”) and locations – Alaska comes up a lot. I don’t mind any of that as much as I mind him recycling plot points. After all, so many of the stories are about the exact same thing: how do you handle living in a future where artificial people are common and naturally-born humans are not? 

Apparently Marusek only has one answer to that question. I would like his work much more if he had more to say.

Overall I’d suggest reading this collection for the technique. The structures are crisp, the writing is clean, there’s rarely anything unnecessary going on. Parts which appear to be side stories get mentioned or dealt with again before the tale is finished. Marusek is a skillful writer and is able to keep control of stories with circular natures. This tight hold on where his writing is going takes some of the surprise out of the ending but I look at this collection like the start of something good. If he has this much skill when he’s starting out, all he needs to do is maintain that level of writing while adding in whatever he’s fascinated by next.

Read GETTING TO KNOW YOU one story at a time and take a break in between. You’ll appreciate it better that way.

* Another book loaned to me by Don, who has the best taste in reading, and has shaped the course of my literary education the last few years. He gave me copies of Craig Strete’s THE BLEEDING MAN, Maureen F. McHugh’s AFTER THE APOCALYPSE, Brian Wood’s DMZ, M. Rickert’s various stories, Fran Lebowitz’s METROPOLITAN LIFE and The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard. He convinced me to buy INTERFICTIONS, Ray Vukcevich’s BOARDING INSTRUCTIONS, Aimee Bender’s THE GIRL IN THE FLAMMABLE SKIRT, Karen Joy Fowler’s WHAT I DIDN’T SEE, AND OTHER STORIES, Kelly Link’s STRANGER THINGS HAPPEN, Stephen Elliott’S MY GIRLFRIEND COMES TO THE CITY AND BEATS ME UP and Ted Chiang’s STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS.

He also loaned me Etger Keret’s THE NIMROD FLIPOUT, though, sadly, I had to give that one back. (Click on the links to read my reviews of these titles.)

Site Stats, 2012

By far the most popular post I wrote in 2012 was Fuck You, Weird Tales, followed by Readercon 2012 – the sexual harrasment edition, proving once again that you people like it when I get wordy with righteous indignation. (Good, because it’s bound to happen again.)

I had slightly more than 15,600 views at the site this year, averaging about 45 a day. That’s up from 9000 views in 2011. (WP is only recently measuring visitors vs views, but current data suggests about 3/4 of my views are unique visitors.)

Most of my readers are from the United States (about 2/3), followed mainly by Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, and the Philippines, followed by less than 100 views each from dozens of other countries. I’m pleased to see that I have occasional readers in places like Fiji, Iraq, Nepal, Iceland, Vietnam, Ireland, Israel, and Japan.

Top referrers to my site (after a collection of search engines) are Twitter and Facebook, followed by SF Signal and Functional Nerds, as well as several fellow writers (NK Jemisin, Ken Liu, Matt Bennardo, Jim C. Hines, Matthew Cheney, and Don Pizarro). Which shows that being involved in social networking, writing guest posts, and promoting other writers pays off.

Speaking of search engines, the top search terms that drove people to the site were:

Search Views
carrie cuinn 138
“claude lalumiere” 68
writing about me 30
kanbanpad review 24
history of book cover design 23
what makes a thriller 23
kanbanpad 20
author blurb 19
readercon 2012 19
cuinn 17
book spine poetry 15
dmz graphic novel 13
decolonialism 11
ken liu writer 10

which suggests I should spend a little more time talking about book cover design and typography, and update my post about Kanbanpad.

Overall these stats tell me that the more I post, the more readers I have (which may translate to more readers of my fiction/essays, and more sales of my work). It also tells me most of the people who come to my website are actually looking for me, which is always nice to know. In the coming year I plan to keep up with the book reviews, post more original fiction, keep promoting writers I admire, and continue to talk about the process of writing/publishing/book creation. Don’t worry, though, there’ll be snark and some sarcasm and the occasional rant, too.

After all, I know what you really come here for.

I Like Men. There, I Said It.

Recently Don, who happens to be both a man and a writer, talked about how he needed to read more male writers. He’s a voracious reader and especially loves indie writers, and has introduced me to some of the women who now live in my “favorite writers” list. As he says:

Everyone who does know me as a writer, or has read this blog, knows of my love of M. Rickert, Aimee Bender, Carol Emshwiller, Karen Joy Fowler (her short work, at least), and Kelly Link. I’ve recently acquired and devoured collections by Joan Aiken and Margaret St. Clair. My favorite issue of Tin House thus far is 33: Fantastic Women. The only novel I’ve really, truly enjoyed in the past few years was Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s Madeline is Sleeping. I wish I could write like Lydia Davis, Ann Beattie, and Amy Hempel. I also wish I had Fran Lebowitz’s brain. These writers have really sort of set the bar as far as what I look for in a story.

Sure, there are male writers who do that for me, too. Etgar Keret, Ray Vukcevich, Howard Waldrop, Peter S. Beagle, Harlan Ellison, Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, and… um… and… and…

See, therein lies the problem.

Yes, that is a problem. I know how it used to be, when women didn’t get to be writers (especially not of genre fiction) unless they had a lot of male friends to stick up for them or submitted under a decidedly male pen name. It used to be that the only choices you had were male writers, and as we moved forward in time, the push to include female writers became almost a push back against the men. While you’d never find a convention panel on the mediocrity of female writers these days, panels on “Great Women Writers” abound. This is good, because it introduces lesser-know women to an audience that hadn’t read them before. That’s the point of the panel. Panels on the misogyny of male writers exist too. That’s not OK. (Edited to add: Neither is declining to let panelists speak because they’re “white males” and then following them around to harass them for being male, which I witnessed at this year’s Readercon.)

It’s just as sexist and wrong to label the entire male gender as “bad” as it was to label to entire female gender as “weak”. Yes, we needed to move past the point where men got the word counts and women got to be secretaries. BUT! It seems the drive to promote women in fiction has evolved into open season on men, as if a predominately male field of writers in the past means that men writing now must all be assholes.

Even Don, who loves women writers, and is having to force himself to read more men because his bookshelf is lacking in that department, has to carefully defend his choice lest he be labeled a woman-hater. This is what we’ve done, readers. We’ve allowed ourselves – as a community of writers and readers – to think that talking about women (in a positive way, of course) is right and good, but liking men leads to shady behavior. So here I am, a woman, and a writer, and a reader, proclaiming that when it comes to the authors I admire, I like Men. Not “the best”, not “only”, but there exists in my world a deep and abiding love for some very manly writers, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

(more…)

Free Fiction Online From My Favorite Writers

While I am getting caught up with some writing and editing projects of my own, I wanted to direct you to some fundamental reading you may have missed. List is in alphabetical order by author’s last name:

Camille Alexa‘s “Shades of White and Road“, Fantasy Magazine, April 2009

Cate Gardner‘s “And, The Bride Wore Ashes“, Phantasmacore, March 2011

Claude Lalumière‘s “Spiderkid“, Reflection’s Edge, February 2007 (also in Objects of Worship)

Kelly Link‘s “Swans“, Fantasy Magazine, July 2011, and “Valley of the Girls” Subterranean Press Summer 2011

Ken Liu‘s “Ad BlockKasma Science Fiction, March 2011

Don Pizarro‘s “Combat Stress Reaction,” Crossed Genres, June 2010

K. V. Taylor‘s “Green” in Reflection’s Edge, Dec 2008

In addition, Small Beer Press has a whole page of free fiction available to download here. (Including The Baum Plan For Financial Independence, a wonderful collection by John Kessel!)

Remember, if you like an author’s work, go out and read more of it! Recommend it to your friends, buy their novels/magazines/collections, or mention how much you liked something you’d read the next time you see the author at a convention. We want to know when our work has an impact, and we appreciate every minute you spend reading our words.