Saturday, February 6, 2010

Writer, Get Thee Online!

By Shanna Germain (Guest Blogger)

As I write this post, I’m teaching my first-ever online erotica class. I’ve taught in-person writing classes for a number of years, but this venture into online teaching is a whole new deal. I miss sitting with my students, exploring writing, laughing at each other’s stories, and feeding off the interaction that happens in the classroom. On the other hand, this new medium is bringing writers from around the country together in one spot, and creating a safe, semi-anonymous space for them to work on their fiction. In lieu of sitting in a real classroom, we’re using the virtual classroom to share links, insights, new work and successes. It's different, for sure, and a little discombobulating, but it's the future, and as a writer, I need to be part of it.

As an industry (and as a culture), we are moving online, more and more every day and I think that the erotica/romance world is forging much of that web-wide path. Long before other genres were interested in e-books (except, of course, for Stephen King’s early online horror novel, which was so far ahead of its time that people were confused by it), erotica and romance writers and readers were embracing this new market. Now, books are being sold on Second Life, readings are taking place via You Tube, and authors are offering contests and giveaways via their websites and blogs.

Chances are, if you're a writer who's reading this, then you're already online and you have an inkling of how beneficial the Internet can be to your career. But are you using it to your best advantage? Are you ready to move forward into the web-based future of writing? Putting the web to use for you as an author is a fairly easy endeavor. It just requires a little know-how, a little time and a willingness to try new things.

Here are five ways to take advantage of all the web has to offer to you as an author:

1. Get a web presence. This could be a blog, a website, a Twitter account or a Facebook page. Whatever you choose, however, make sure it's at least somewhat professional (blogs are great for this, because they're usually free and they have templates that are clutter-free, simple to use, and flexible enough that you can showcase your personality). Readers should be able to find you by Googling your name (or your pen name). Thus, having a site that's gorgeous and fun, but doesn't have your name on it is mostly useless. As is having a site that has your name on it, but is cluttered, hard to read, or just slow to load. There are a number of things you should consider having on your website -- this article at Dear Author does a fantastic job of outlining the must-haves.

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress

I don't care if you have never published anything -- having a web presence is an absolute must in today's world, even for beginning writers.

2. Join a support or critique group. There are a ton of these out there -- some of them are helpful, some of them are time wasters. Ask around, and get suggestions from other writers you trust. These offer a place to bitch about your recent rejections, crow about your successes, promote your work, and get tips and ideas from your peers. The web has already created a proliferation of writing magazines, websites and classes. Don't be afraid to check into these -- there's a lot to be learned online, and you can do so at your own pace, in the privacy of your own home. The Erotica Readers & Writers Association has a great email-list-based critique group called Storytime as well as a writer's discussion list. For more information, visit:

http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/EmailList.htm

3. Learn about the online markets that are available. From websites to PDFs to e-book readers, there are a lot of ways to get your words out there without going the traditional book route. The sales of digital romance/erotica books are rising and rising, and there's a good chance that trend will continue. Many authors are choosing to reprint their stories in some sort of e-book format, as it creates additional revenue for them and introduces them to a whole new category of readers. Erotica Readers and Writers has a list of online erotica and romance publishers, as does ebookcrossroads.

http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/G/Call_For_Submissions.htm

http://www.ebookcrossroads.com/epublishers.html

4. Brand yourself. While doing all of the above, from your web page to your Twitter to your emails, present yourself as professional, interesting, talented and contactable. Watch your spelling and grammar, don't post irate blogs about the editor that rejected you (it's going to come back to bite you, says this voice of experience), don't slam other authors or their work out of spite. Give at least a basic email signature on every email, with your name, email and website.

And most of all, remember: everything you do online is going to be online forever and ever. Even if you remove it, there's a good chance that it will stay in caches and be available to those who know where and how to look.

5. Get off the Web and write. Twitter, Facebook, Foursquares, Google Wave, Yahoo groups: If you dig deep enough, you can fill every waking moment scouring the Internet for the newest, coolest technology and promotion tools. It's a great procrastination technique, and there comes a point where promoting yourself doesn't do any good if you're not doing the real work: writing. In order to use the web (and not let it use you), make sure you don't get so caught up in promotion, announcing and surfing that you start cutting into your writing time.

Right now, I have a website, three blogs, a Twitter account, a Facebook, an online class... and I'm sure a few more things floating around out there. If I let it, the Web would tangle me up and take over my life and I wouldn't have time to write another thing. But I refuse to let it, because when it comes right down to it, it's the writing that matters. The web is just the tool I use to get that writing out in the world.

Personally, I'd rather see everyone with a tattered book in their hands than an e-book in their pocket. And I'd rather have my students sitting in front of me, where I can see their faces as they discover their writing strengths. But as someone who makes a living with my writing, I know that the digital revolution has arrived, both for writers and readers, and that by using the Web to my advantage, I can boost my sales, increase my available markets, enjoy the support of a community of peers, and promote myself. And that, for any writer, is the kind of opportunity you can't afford to miss.

BIO: Shanna Germain writes for traditional print markets, as well as for a wide variety of digital formats. Her work can be found in places like Alison's Wonderland, Best American Erotica, Best Gay Romance, The Cougar Books, Hint Fiction and more.

Visit one of her many online homes at www.shannagermain.com, www.sexyonthepage.com or www.mindfuckfiction.com

1 comment:

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Shanna,

Welcome to Beyond Romance!

I know exactly what you mean about getting OFF the web. It seems that more and more of my time is spent on promotion, and less on writing. It's like quicksand!

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