December 1st came and went, leaving in its wake a formidable backlog of reading material on my Sony Pocket, and - perhaps more significantly - a flurry of new ideas bouncing around my head thanks to the webchat discussions.
(Side Note: The discussion comments are still viewable on the Free-E-Day blog, and many of the giveaways are still available. So even if you missed out on Dec 1, it's still worth a click.)
One of the topics that I found most relevant was the limitations of online marketing and promotion. The question is this: giving the ethereal nature of web content, how can you really be sure your work is reaching interested readers - particularly when you consider that page view do not always equal downloads, downloads do not always mean people are actually reading it, and social networking friends/followers aren't necessarily readers?
PD Allen drew an interesting parallel to activist groups that think they're doing a lot of great work and making an impact, but they're so insular that no one really knows about them but their handful of own members. It resonated with me given my own experiences with political organizing/instigation (back before I became a sellout).
His comments and others' got me thinking about my own online marketing. I mean, I see the traffic stats from my website and the download counters on Feedbooks and Smashwords, but are people really reading this shit? Am I doing enough to reach living, breathing readers? Or is my work only reaching a small handful of other indie writers (who have been incredibly supportive and inspiring and helpful)? Did anyone come to Free-E-Day, not as a contributor who also picked up others' stuff to show support, but solely as a consumer, just the average reader/listener looking to find something new?
Also, if this is indeed a problem, how much of it is specific to the limitations of online/e-format art? Oli Johns had some interesting things to say about the success he's had with Gupter Puncher Magazine and made the point that word-of-mouth is easier in the real world than it is online because you've got something physical - be it a book or CD or 45 or zine - that you can pass of to your friend, rather than just hoping they click on a link.
Now, I'm of two minds about this - I agree up to a point, but I also think people are becoming more accustomed to passing art on electronically. For instance, I regularly trade music with friends through flash thumbdrives (fuck the RIAA). But for a large portion of people, a book is still a bunch of paper, music is disc they can hold in their hands, and they're far more likely to try out an indie artist when they see a living, breathing person behind a merch table at a performance, reading, or exhibition.
Certainly I think there's more I could do to market myself in the "real world". But it's also not just about me. I think I'm pretty realistic when it comes to my own limitations as a writer and the selective appeal my writing has; at the same time, however, I'm becoming more and more invested in promoting the work of other indie authors.
"It's not about promoting yourself as a single independent e-book author. It's about creating a thriving independent e-book community." I wrote that, a couple posts back. And as cheesy as it is, I actually believe it.
And then I realized that we have the perfect opportunity this month for introducing friends and family to indie art using those old fashioned paper-and-glue books and hard plastic CDs.
It's called Christmas.
Operation Indie Christmas
The idea is simple: You're going to buy people gifts anyways, and a good portion of gifts will be books/CDs/DVDs. But instead of just buying a bunch of bland corporate crap, why not throw in a couple books from indie authors? Your money goes to a more deserving source, and the recipient gets introduced to a great new artists, and now has a physical object that they hopefully can lend and share with others.
Credit where credit is due, the idea really came from MCM, who created the Safe Holiday Guide, is a listing of books, music, and film released under Creative Commons licenses that are also available in a physical, purchasable, and giftable format.
MCM's guide lists plenty of deserving works to pick from (including Marc Horne's outstanding Tokyo Zero) but you're by no means limited to stopping there. Plenty of other indie writers have books available from Amazon or print-on-demand sites like Lulu. Did you like Free-E-Day? Show some love and order someone a copy of Dan Holloway's Songs from the Other Side of the Wall.
Or Oli John's Benny Platonov. Or MCM's The Vector. Or Marc Nash's A, B & E. Whoever the bookworm on your gift list is, there's sure to be an indie writer to fit their tastes.
Operation Indie Christmas: Spread the word, show some love.
Shameless Self Promotion
In deference to the public's lingering taste for dead tree pulp, I've caved in an made a selection of my shorts available as a print-on-demand release.
I called it the TreeKiller Sampler.
As fair warning to potential buyers, I decided to format the thing to look as little like a legitimate book as possible, lest anyone mistake it for a serious literary work. It's a big, comic book-sized, saddle-stitched monstrosity from my Cafe Press store, and it reeks with the sickly-sweet stench of deforestation.
If you have anyone on your Christmas gift list who's been particularly naughty this year, I humbly submit it for your consideration. It's the literary equivalent of a lump of coal in your stocking.