Among the many, many gems to emerge from last week’s pop culture fiesta, Comic-Con 2012, was this trailer for the fifth and final season of Fringe.
It’s a punch summary of the drama to come, and has me salivating for the return of the only team that can save the world TWICE – Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) and Blair Brown as Nina Sharp.
This amazing team of people who have battled threats from within our world and alternate universes, face their biggest threat yet when The Observers, almost omnipresent beings who have figured prominently in the four seasons to date, decide to invade the Earth of our time when their version of it in 2609 is no longer habitable. They are cold, calculating and will stop at nothing to fulfil their goal, and from the looks of the trailer, the team will have their work well and truly cut out for them.
Of course, all is not lost as Dr. Walter Bishop makes clear when he exclaims in the 3 minute season 5 promo:
“I know how to rid our world of the Observers!”
Season 5, which is sadly the show’s final one (although John Noble hinted that a Fringe movie is a real possibility – “I would think a film is very possible down the track”), picks up right where season 4 left off according to the show’s producer, Joel Wyman.
I discovered Husbands quite by chance one day when I saw a post by a pop-culture obsessed friend of mine on Facebook.
Respecting her judgement immensely, and intrigued by the idea of a series focusing on an accidentally married gay couple – as a gay man , it is a subject near and dear to the heart of both myself and my partner – I quickly jumped to the Husbands the series website … and instantly fell in love with a show about two newly dating men who find themselves suddenly married after a drunken night in Las Vegas, that was bitingly funny, socially conscious, and packed full of more insight in each approximately three minute episode than most sitcoms manage in 22 minutes.
I was instantly hooked. I followed everyone associated with the show on Twitter, read everything I could find about the show, watched the episodes again … and so when co-creators Jane Espenson (Executive Producer; also writer for shows like Once Upon a Time and the latest series of Torchwood) and Brad Bell (Cheeks) started a Kickstarter campaign (crowd funding – check here for a definition) seeking funds to make a second season, I didn’t hesitate.
While my contribution may not have matched the one donor who took out the $5000 package – levels of giving ran from $10 through to the aforementioned amount each with their level of rewards such as a DVD of season 1 and an autographed cast photo – it was crucial, along with many others of the same amount to getting this project of the ground.
And now it is a reality! My package arrive from Husbands HQ last week with 2 DVDs of season 1 and a glossy autographed photo of the comically- gifted cast – one of my lucky friends will receive the spare copy as a birthday gift thus spreading the Husbands love – and with the promise of an exciting series to come.
A recent announcement at the just concluded Comic-Con 2012 underlines just how special this next season will be. It seems that pop culture wunderkind and geek god, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Avengers) will be appearing in all three eight minute episodes of the show in what he considers his acting debut (a brief cameo on Veronica Mars). It underlines the point that Joss Whedon, a long time friend and collaborator of Jane Espenson, can pretty do as he likes right now such is his cachet in the corridors of the entertainment industry.
He joins an illustrious group of guest stars including a woman with similar nerd cred to himself, Felicia Day (The Guild, Eureka) who, it’s promised, in a role that will showcase her as never before, Tricia Heifer (Battlestar Galactica), Amber Benson (Supernatural), Dichen Lachman (Being Human), Aasha Davis (Friday Night Lights), Clare Grant (Robot Chicken), Sasha Roiz (Grimm), and Magda Apanowicz (Kyle XY).
(An interview with the cast of “Husbands” released August 2011)
The Oz books by L. Frank Baum are a magical series that transport you to a land filled with wonder and creatures strange from our dreams. They are populated not just by the Wizard, the cowardly lion, the tin man, the scarecrow and Dorothy but by a plethora of creatures who bring to life a land teeming with all the imaginative possibilities L Frank Baum could conjure up.
Yet they retain a basic humanity – love and concern for others, greed and avarice, hope for a better life, good vying for power with evil. They spoke to people as much about the human condition as they transported them to the far, exotic realm of Oz, and people embraced this magical land as if it was their own.
Metro Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 classic production of The Wizard of Oz (which was based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), with its luminous colours, its vibrant songs, and its focus on friendship, home and the things that truly matter in life, perfectly captured the spirit of the books, and brought the books back into the zeitgeist in a big way.
And there they have remained ever since.
So it’s only fitting that at long last, a prequel of sorts is being made. It centres on the Wizard’s arrival in Oz, and looks, by the visuals in the trailer and the lush posters released to coincide with this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, to match the gloriously colourful tones of the 1939 movie. Of course the key thing will be whether it captures the magical tone of the books so beloved by many.
In the hands of the supremely talented Sam Raimi, who was responsible for the recent successful Spiderman trilogy, I think that is entirely possible. Gifted as a director who imbues his movies with as much humanity as spectacle, this movie has every chance of being a worth accompaniment to the 1939 classic.
When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity—and even a bit of wizardry—Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.
Oz: The Great and Powerful (with music by Danny Elfman) is due for release in 2013, and I can’t wait to once again head down the yellow brick road …
The Olympics, which I don’t mind watching here and there, especially if Australia is doing well, or male swimmers or male gymnasts are competing (I am only human after all), come to town (virtually or if you’re in London this year, literally) and all other worthwhile TV programming goes to the dogs.
I am not sure why this is. If I was a competing TV network – in Australia a commercial channel, 9, carries the Olympics coverage – I’d be throwing all the best quality programs I could find to divert people from watching the quadrennial sporting spectacular. But for some reason all the other channels wave the white flag of surrender, retreat to their bunkers for the duration, and we’re left with either the Olympics (fine in small doses) or repeats of Neighbours, and So You Think You Can Dance (c’mon we know who wins! OK I didn’t watch it so maybe I don’t … but hell I can Google it!).
So I am delighted that the BBC, and thus the national broadcaster here in Australia, the ABC, will showing a new program – the Ab Fab Olympics special on July 25. It was confirmed by the ABC’s Director of Television, Kim Dalton via Twitter on Thursday:
While full details of the episode haven’t been released to the public, Joanna Lumley who plays the part of Edina’s (Jennifer Saunders) alcoholic friend and socialite, Patsy did give out some details at a marks and Spencer event recently:
“Bubble (Jane Horrocks) takes [the Olympics] to heart, Eddie (Jennifer Saunders) and Pasty… we do get into the Olympic Arena and for one magic moment we feel that we might have been two Olympic heroines” Lumley said while speaking at a Marks & Spencer event.” (via rte.com)
It all sounds like it’s going to be a classically hilarious Ab Fab episode and I will be watching with “I’ll just have a champers Pats” at the ready for what is billed as the long running series final episode (although a movie is in works with an undetermined release date).
Another sci-fi series. Another bleak dystopian view of the future.
The thing is that Defiance looks immensely promising, both because of its imaginative premise, but also because of the ability it will have, if properly exercised, to look at major social issues such as immigration, social cohesion and scarcity of resources.
Defiance is set on a ravaged future Earth, after a devastating war waged by 7 alien races (grouped in a fractious alliance called the Votan) have unsuccessfully sough to wrest control of the planet from humanity to use as their new home following the destruction of their own solar system.
During the war they dropped terraforming agents on the planet which have left it a dry, scorched wasteland, and its cities mere shadows of their former selves. After the war was fought to a bitter stalemate, aliens and humanity were forced to find a way to share a planet that is nothing like it once was.
But what hasn’t changed is a lust for power and resources, one true constant among all the true races, and there series examines what happens in one refugee camp called Defiance, which is built on the site of old St. Louis, Missouri. The events of the series are seen through the eyes of Jeb Nolan (Australia’s Grant Bowler) who arrives back to his hometown after fighting in the war to find it a wholly different place and one in need of some law and order.
So he takes up a position as Chief Lawmaker, seeking to keep the calm between the eight races seeking to make the frontier town home, and protecting them in turn from unscrupulous visitors seeking to use the struggling populace for their own gain.
He will be joined by Julie Benz as Amanda Bridgewater as the ambitious mayor of Defiance, Tony Curran as Datak Tarr, right hand man to Amanda, and Stephanie Leonidas as Irisa, a warrior member of an alien race called the Irathients, who serves as Nolan’s deputy.
It is being developed for television by Rockne S. O’Bannon (Alien Nation, Farscape) in conjunction with Trion Worlds who will release a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) video game at the same as the TV series premieres in April on 2013 on syfy.
Continuum is a new Canadian sci-fi drama that premiered on Canada’s Showcase channel on May 27 this year.
Its compelling premise revolves around a policewoman from 2077, known as a Protector, Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) who enforces law and order in a world where democratically elected governments have ceded their mandate to rule to corporations in exchange for a financial bailout. With eerie intimations of where the current financial troubles in the Western World may lead us, the show presents a future that is breathtakingly glossy and trouble free, at least materially and technologically, but which, some feel, has forfeited its humanity for a financially safe world.
Some of those dissenters have formed themselves into a movement of freedom fighters called “Liber8”, who are fighting, violently, for the restoration of a free and just democratic society.
However, then as now, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and the authorities in charge of a futuristic Vancouver in what’s called The North American Union see these objectors to the ruling order as nothing more than thugs who will stop at nothing to further their cause.
And to an extent they are right. “Liber8” conducts a series of morally suspect campaigns, which brings into sharp relief the enduring debate over whether the end ever justifies the mans, culminating in one event that has far reaching ramifications for both the organisation and the corporate government they are sworn to tear down.
Those responsible for what is deemed a terrorist act, and it is horrific in its scope are arrested and sentenced to death, and it is at their scheduled execution that the show kicks into high gear.
Sent into the execution chamber itself at the last minute, Keira is caught in an unexpected explosion, which sends the eight prisoners and herself as she rushes in to stop them (sensing too late that something is amiss), hurtling back in time. But instead of going back just six years as planned, they are catapulted back to 2012, and both Kiera and the prisoners are forced to adapt on the run to a wholly unexpected turn of events.
When Kiera finally realises what has happened, after a desperate pursuit through downtown Vancouver to apprehend one of the prisoners, she is overwhelmed by the overwhelming sense of loss and isolation that sweeps over she realises she may never see her beloved husband, Greg (John Reardon) or her son, again.
But help is at hand in the form of Alec Sadler, head of a corporation called Saotech in 2077, who is just a young man in 2012 and surprised that anyone is operating on his as yet experimental technology. Of course to Kiera, it is standard bread-and-butter technology and so at first she is suspicious of this person claiming to be the technology’s inventor.
But as the true weight of her current circumstances press down upon her, and she is pressed into a desperate battle to stop “Liber8” achieving their aim of altering the timeline, she forms an alliance of sorts with the Vancouver Police Dept and especially handsome detective, Carlos Fonnegra (Viktor Webster), to thwart the amoral objectives of “Liber8” and preserve the timeline so she has a home to return to.
Having heard almost nothing about this show, other than the fact that several Stargate alum would be in it, including the lovely Jennifer Spence (who played Dr Lisa Park on Stargate Universe), I watched episodes one and two with no expectations at all.
It’s unusual to approach a new show with so little expectational baggage and I revelled in simply assessing a show based purely on its merits and not being influenced by what a legion of internet prognosticators had said about it.
The result? I was pleasantly surprised.
The pilot, which is the critical episode for any show wanting to attract, and more crucially, hold fans, was water tight. It explained, with a minimum of fuss, and a lean, sharply poised script, what the future was like, why there was a conflict, and why its unintended spillover into the early 21st centre would be a bad thing for all concerned.
I was impressed with Rachel Nichols performance, and while Viktor Webster doesn’t match her volley for volley just yet in the acting stakes, the chemistry between the two characters is real, believable and not forced.
The “Liber8” group are still reasonably cliched bad guys at this point of viewing with the exception of Lucas Ingram (Omari Newton) and Matthew Kellog (Stephen Lobo) who have begun to be subtlety yet substantially fleshed out as real people, and not just mindless terrorists (or freedom fighters depending on your view of the struggle central to the show’s existence).
Given I have only seen the first two episodes at this stage, I am impressed with how much they have managed to achieve in such a short time. It isn’t a perfect show by any means – the acting by one or two of the secondary characters leave a little but to be desired, and there a few plot contrivances (such as no one bothering to verify Kiera’s credentials at the police dept and then being royally pissed off when she turned out not to be who she was initially claiming to be) too many, but by and large it is a robust engaging debut.
How engaging you ask? Well I can’t wait to see more episodes, which is a good sign that this show, as with any new show, is doing a great job of telling the stories it wants to tell.
You know that kid in the candy store? The one who’s excited beyond belief, most likely on the sugar high to end all freaking sugar highs, and bouncing off the walls like a super-bouncy small rubber ball. You know that kid?
Good … because that’s how I am right now. As I face the end of Eureka, a mere week or two away, a show I come to love and adore for it’s witty dialogue, imaginative story lines, and first class acting, it’s good to know that some shows I like will be around for a little while yet.
And one of those shows will be Falling Skies, which TNT has just announced will be back for a third season of 10 episodes in 2013. While a renewal was widely expected given the healthy ratings the show is enjoying (the show, according to the press release that announced the renewal, is currently averaging 5.9 million viewers including people watching on PVRs, meaning the series ranks as basic cable’s #1 summer drama with adults 18-49) , nothing is a given in the cut-and-thrust world of TV and you would have been a brave person to lay a bet on the show’s renewal with 100% certainty.
But in this case the confidence has proved well founded, and the continuing story of earth’s plucky resistance, personified by the everyman figure of Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) against the overwhelming might of their alien invaders will roll on for at least another year.
Announcing the renewal, Michael Wright, president, head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) had this to say:
“Falling Skies is television storytelling at its very best, a powerful drama that’s told on both an epic scale and on a deeply personal level. With all the memorable and surprising moments taking place during the second season of Falling Skies, we can’t wait to see what DreamWorks Television and Falling Skies‘ terrific production team and cast members have in store for season three.”
I am even more excited because season 2 has been spectacularly good so far. The plots are getting tighter and tighter as each episode goes by, Connor Jessup (Ben Mason) is marking himself as an actor to watch, and the chance that the ragtag bunch of resistance fighters in the 2nd Mass., will receive assistance from an unexpected but powerful source is intriguing to say the least.
It all augurs well for a show that has many enthralling stories left to tell, and now thanks to this renewal, another year in which to tell it.
When you say the phrase “author platform” it conjures up images of an earnest writer perched high atop a teetering wooden rostrum, fingers perched above typewriter keys, their face a knot of perspiring concentration.
An interesting image to be sure, but it does beg the question of what an author platform is exactly? And why does it have so many writers, publishers and even literary agents, either breaking out in a cold nervous sweat or punching the air with excitement?
To properly define what it is, we first need to start with a description of what it used to be.
Back in them there olden days
Once upon a time, all an author had to do was write a book, and hand it to their publisher, who would distribute the book to stores, and spend a reasonable sum of money publicising it to a hopefully eager public.
While that description massively underplays the blood, sweat and tears that went into producing the book, it is a succinct and accurate description of the process as it once existed.
One downside of this old system however, was that it made it hard for writers to be masters of their own destinies. They had to hand over this aspect of their careers to a publisher since they were the only ones who could bear the prohibitive costs of marketing.
Kristen Lamb, author of Are You There Blog, It’s Me, Writer, has perfectly described the old state of affairs in her article, “Understanding Author Platform Part 1-Making Platform our Art” on her website, warriorwriters.wordpress.com:
“Back in the day, platforms were generally only available to those who could afford one. Hiring a PR expert, distributing a newsletter and even building a website were all extremely cost-prohibitive … And if we happened to be fiction authors, then just forget about building a platform. It was simply too expensive. The only way we had of building a platform or brand was through publishing our books … and that too went to a slim percentage of people who made it through gatekeepers.”
The times they are a-changing … and how Then an almost magical thing happened. That once far distant gleam in the tech geek’s eyes became a reality. The digital revolution ushered in a new age of self-publishing and control over not only the way your book was published but the way in which it was publicised.
Almost overnight, and to the great alarm of many, authors suddenly had a degree of control hitherto undreamt of. It was an extraordinary change and heralded a whole new way of doing things for authors.
Lamb describes what this momentous tide of change meant for writers:
“Technology … finally made it fiscally possible for us to do what other artists have been doing for generations … The digital age has changed the learning curve/career path for the writer-artist.”
Writers now have the power to build their brand, reach out to their readers directly and have a direct influence on the way their books are marketed.
But with it came all sorts of questions. Chief among them was what is this author platform that so many people are talking about?
What it is and what should be in it
In its simplest terms, an “author platform”, as it has come to be known, means building a profile, and attracting a community of readers usually via a host of social media platforms such as blogging, Twitter and Facebook. While authors have always connected with their audience in one form or another, largely via bookstore tours, or appearances at writer’s festivals, or even good old “snail mail” fan letters, the contact has become much more direct thanks to these new technologies.
Whether you choose to use a website, or a blog, or a fan page on Facebook, the key to successful interaction with readers is creating what Jane Friedman, former Writer’s Digest publisher, calls “your hub”. An author’s site, which should come up immediately on Google when readers search for their book title/s, should capture the writer’s “voice” and become a one-stop shop for their readers.
At its simplest, and regardless of the social media platform, a writer needs to make sure that their “hub” has all their basic biographical information correct. It may sound like a basic element but it is critical to establishing an author’s credibility with his or her readers.
And clearly too, it’s important if the press are going to be able to easily access information about the writer. Regardless of the changes in play in the publishing world, the media are still critical to gaining the necessary visibility to appeal to a wider audience.
An author should also make sure that their site sparkles with their “voice” or personality. It’s important that visitors to the site get a sense of the sort of person whose writing the books they love. There needs to be something of the author laid bare, to whatever degree they are comfortable with.
Getting to know you, getting to know all about you
Pippa Masson, literary agent with agency Curtis Brown stresses that an author needs to determine what they will and won’t share before embarking on the creation of their platform since it will determine the nature of the conversation with fans that follows.
“It’s important to give a little bit of yourself because that’s what people want. But at the same time, guarding your privacy to the degree that you want to is very important as well. I know some people are happy to share a lot but others are not. So you’ve got to work out how much you’re going to tell before you embark on it because you can’t suddenly pull back when you’ve been freely sharing information.”
Readers no longer want to simply read the book; they want to know the person who committed the words to paper (or pixels).
Masson stresses that the key thing to remember that it is a conversation you’re having with your readers, not a sales spiel delivered to a captive audience. She advises against treating this dialogue as an opportunity to promote yourself.
“Don’t look like you’re promoting yourself too much. In social media and blogs as well, it’s not really the place to be doing that. You want people to feel it’s part of a conversation, that your readers will get to know a little bit of who you are … if you’re on Twitter, kind of sending tweets about “here’s a link to my review”, that’s the worst possible thing and really puts people off.”
One way to avoid offending people with might appear to be a blatant grab for their wallet, is to commence building your platform, and getting to know your followers before there is a need to promote a book. This won’t be possible for everyone, since many authors embark on writing first, with thoughts on where and how to publish and who to sell it to, only coming up once the manuscript is complete.
But Scott Stratten, author of Unmarketing, in a video conducted with Valerie Khoo of the Sydney Writers’ Centre says that ideally you should be building your audience is advance of the book. This is so that when it arrives, people buy it because they know you and not because you are pushing the title as if your life depends on it.
“… it really takes time to build [a] platform, so authors and writers should be building it before we actually have the need for the book itself … I had no book to pitch, no program to pitch, so it allowed me to give unconditionally. So when the book came out everybody bought it, because I had given so much already.”
Now you have them, how will you keep them?
But there is no point launching into a conversation with people when you’re not entirely sure what you will be saying. While finding your “voice is important, so too is working out your engagement strategy. In other words, what do you want to achieve when you’re interacting with your readers?
For Stratten, who places a premium on effectively using every second of his time on Twitter, this is paramount:
“It’s a business. It’s a marketing platform. It’s a tool that you should have some focus and some plan, because you spin your wheels all day on social media if you don’t have some kind of strategy.”
The strategy will vary between fiction and non-fiction writers.
Non-fiction writers, by and large, will want to establish themselves as experts in their field since that is usually why people will want to read their material. Their objective is usually to be the go-to person for information on their subject matter of choice.
Their author platform should include as a minimum:
becoming known as the expert in your chosen field
seeking media interviews where possible
networking at industry events and speaking engagements
getting gigs writing for magazines, newspapers, major media online blogs and publications
a website that showcases your expertise with an attached blog that allows people to become subscribers
a regular email newsletter
a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr
Apart from increasing your visibility in your area of expertise, Stratten points out that part of your strategy should be to trial your book. See if it will strike a chord with potential readers. It’s a good bet in this wired age that publishers will be paying keen attention to your efforts and may come running.
“Well you have to understand that the writing isn’t what speaks for itself, it’s the ideas, it’s the concepts. People need to run with your concepts, they need to relate to your concepts and actually want to embrace them. The thing with building a platform is you can test those things out … It was like my own R&D.”
It worked for Stratten. In the midst of actively tweeting to his growing legion of fans, he says a publisher did show interest.
“So for me I just built a platform, I built a large following on Twitter, a big following on my blog, and the publisher came calling, and Wiley came calling, and my editor Shannon called and said, “Why haven’t you written the book yet?”
Masson underlines too your strategy should be as multi-faceted as possible. When she is looking to sign up a new non-fiction author to represent, she says she is looking primarily for people who already have a multi-faceted author platform which includes blogs, websites, even traditional media columns:
“Publishers want to know they can promote someone very easily, and if they have all those different facets obviously that helps.”
Fiction writers on the other hand tend to focus more on establishing relationships with other writers, and potential readers. In their case, their strategy should involve the following things as a minimum:
getting to know fellow writers, publishing figures, bloggers on Twitter
having an active blog or website (with the potential for people to follow you)
a Facebook fan page – guest blogging on other peoples’ blogs
becoming active in discussion forums on relevant genre websites
constructing an email list perhaps by offering the first chapter of your book in exchange for a reader’s name and email address
Their strategy usually pivots primarily on the relationships they build (which means authors need to spend time regularly connecting with their readers), and not so much on their expertise in a certain area. Having said that though, fiction writers may choose to give writing tips, or share short stories that aren’t available in their books, or give insights in their posts on why they made a certain character behave the way they do.
Of course they may become known as a guru on the craft of writing if that’s what like to blog about, but by and large, their author platform will function as a way to facilitate relationships with fellow authors, and their readers.
But must you build a platform to succeed?
Masson believes that fiction author aren’t under as much pressure to have a platform as their non-fiction counterparts.
“We’d always recommend they have [a website] … but I don’t think it’s as integral to the book’s success as it is for non-fiction [writers].”
Even so she cautions that this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t build one, in tandem with formulating a sound engagement strategy, since the absence of a platform will mark you as a potential risk to a would-be publisher. Or if you are self-publishing may doom you to languish in the backwaters of oblivion far longer than you need to, assuming you can escape at all.
Is there more to it than just amassing fans?
With this emphasis on getting more and more eyeballs focusing just on you, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is the only focus of having an vibrant, well-thought out author platform.
But as Chuck Sambuchino, editor for Writer’s Digest books, says in his article “5 Encouraging Reasons To Build Your Writer Platform” on writerunboxed.com, having your platform also gives far more control over how you are promoted and to whom.
“… platform building means you’re establishing concrete, solid connections through media outlets, with other professionals, and/or social media channels. If you build these avenues, you can use them to sell books later. Creating a platform is an opportunity to, as writer Alex Grant put it, ‘make your own luck.’”
He also mentions that being in possession of your own direct links to your readers enables you to be the “ideal marketer” of your book since in theory anyway, no one knows your audience like you do.
In short, you have the power to control how successful you are, and what sort of career you will enjoy. While the degree of control may vary depending on whether you are signed or unsigned, the fact is that you are able to have a profound effect on the form your career takes, something unavailable to writers even a few years back.
Torn between two approaches
So while the case for having an author platform, and a workable strategy to go with it, seems reasonably sound, and agreed as necessary by most writers, not everyone agrees that it’s an absolute must-have.
While Tara Moss, bestselling author of the Mak Vanderwall and Pandora English series of novels is a firm believer in the power of author platforms, she admits that not everyone is.
“I enjoy contacting other authors and being in touch in a way that isn’t arduous or time consuming and I can also communicate with my readers in that way … [but] authors who don’t want to do it, I totally understand that. I have a lot of friends who aren’t inclined at all to social media. And that’s also completely valid. It’s a different sort of perspective or personality.”
Jane Friedman acknowledges this mindset in her article “Should You Focus on Your Writing or Your Platform?” on writerunboxed.com:
“I think there’s a backlash against some of these people, which I understand. It’s applying the get-rich-quick Tim Ferriss model to the world of literature, where we tend to believe that blood, sweat, and tears (and rejection) are demanded before you gain recognition.”
While respecting writers who don’t wish to have a platform of their own, she believes it is possible to find a happy medium between the “‘writing is all that matters’ and ‘audience is all that matters’” camps.
But whether you acknowledge the need for an author platform or not, and let’s face it most writers do, you must then decide on the philosophy that will underpin the way you operate your blog.
Should it be strictly quarantined from your writing activities and be seen simply as a sales activity?
Or is it a natural extension of your writing? Part of a wholistic approach where the writing of your book flows naturally into the running of, and writing for, your author platform?
Writing is a business like any other
John Locke, self-published author whose book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in Five Months is packed full of advice on the best way to use your author platform, falls firmly into the first camp. He argues stridently for the fact that you need to approach your marketing activities, especially if you are a self-published writer, as a sales activity plain and simple.
His primary focus is on who his readers are, and how to establish great relationships with them, and not the writing itself.
“I wasn’t trying to become a great writer. I simply wanted to be an effective one. You might be a better author than me, and I hope you are. But my strength lies in knowing how to find an audience for the books I am writing.”
He goes on to say:
“I have never taken myself seriously as a writer, but always felt I’d be able to write effectively enough to acquire and keep 10,000 loyal fans.”
It may not surprise that he is from a sales background. For Locke, treating your marketing activities as a business activity makes perfect sense. As far as he is concerned the writing and the way it is sold to the masses are two distinct but obviously related activities.
Not everyone is a salesman
However this business-centric approach is seen by some as so unpalatable that it puts them off attempting to construct an author platform in the first place.
Christina Katz, author of The Writer’s Workout, reassures writers who fear having to be a salesman that it shouldn’t even be an issue. As far as she is concerned, operating an author platform should simply be an extension of your ordinary writing activities.
She was quoted in an article by Jane Friedman, “Distinguishing Between Straight-Up Advice and Paradigm Shift” on janefriedman.com in May 2012 as saying:
“I am a person who does not distinguish between writing, selling, specializing, self-promotion, and continuing ed, and also a person who sees all of these things as essential and necessary to my writing success … For me, there is no separation. Writing is the center [sic] … I find it impossible and irrelevant to distinguish between writing activities and platform building activities. My approach is far too holistic.”
It’s a viewpoint shared by strategic marketer and author, Matthew Turner who said on his Turndog Millionaire site in June 2012:
“Why see an author platform as something separate, when all it really is, is YOU. Your writing, marketing, networking … it’s all part of the process that you create. Rather than see it as a hindrance, embrace this engaging process because all you are doing is embracing who you are.
“It may be about creating a brand, but you’re creating a brand around you and the things you believe in. When it comes to doing something you don’t want to, surely this is a pretty good compromise.”
Lamb underlines that authors shouldn’t feel pressured to write solely about the craft of writing on their blogs (unless of course they, like her, write books about writing). They should instead make their platform a reflection of what their passions are.
If you like pop culture then make it the focus of what is featured on the blog, or cooking or whatever is a passionate interest for you. Of course you will still discuss your book but the primary focus should be on what you love so that readers get to know you, which for a fiction writer especially, is the point of having an author platform in the first place.
As Lamb says in a post “Sacred Cow-Tipping–Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad” on her blog:
“Here is a critical point most people miss. Fiction authors are not blogging to become experts. You are blogging to connect with as many people as humanly possible and recruit them to your team. Period. That simple.”
Non-fiction authors in contrast should blog about the subject matter of their book since that is why their audience is following them. They can certainly throw in information about any passions and interests they have aside from this since it humanises them, but they should always focus on their area of expertise.
Bottom line, your author platform should reflect you, regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction.
Wherever you fall philosophically, author platforms are seen as a necessity for many people, though not all, and at some point each writer will need to work out where this activity fits into their overall career plan.
But however you choose to go about letting the world know about your book, the essential fact remains that first and foremost you must produce a well-written book that everyone will want to read. No matter how much author platforms are in vogue, or what form they take, or what philosophy is behind them, the need for a book that enthralls its audience will remain the one prevailing constant in the ever changing world of books.
* This post was originally published on writing bar.com
Now before you get too excited, there will not be, alas and alack, new episodes of one of the best sci-fi shows ever produced coming our way any time soon, if ever. (It was such a gift to have the tale concluded in the movie, Serenity, named apart the ship in the series.)
But the next best thing surely is a documentary called Browncoats Unite – “browncoats” is the name adopted by avid Firefly devotees, who seek to keep the show alive via any means possible; they are named after the Browncoats in the show who were the independents (among them Captain Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe, two members of the crew of Serenity) fighting the overwhelming evil of the Alliance – which will feature, among other things, the Firefly reunion panel at this year’s Comic Con in San Diego.
The gathering of a number of the show’s cast and production crew which will include Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcolm Reynolds), Alan Tudyk (Hoban “Wash” Washbourne), Summer Glau (River Tam), Sean Maher (Dr. Simon Tam), Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb), show runner Tim Minnear, writer Jose Molina and creator and creative wunderkind Joss Whedon is in honour of the show’s 10th anniversary. As well as featuring the panel in all it’s glory, the cast will be interviewed in an in-depth roundtable discussion, answering all the questions fan have been longing to ask, moderated by Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen.
Once it’s all edited together, it will be shown on the Science channel on Sunday November 11. Debbie Myers, general manager and executive VP of Science announced the special thus:
“Firefly is a landmark work of science fiction and a favorite with our viewers. Ever since it premiered on Science, fans have asked us to do something special to mark its 10-year anniversary. With this signature celebration, punctuated by Browncoats Unite, we will connect the minds behind this classic franchise with its legions of passionate fans.”
While sad that I will likely never have any more episodes of Firefly to feast my eyes upon, I am enormously thankful that they are marking Firefly‘s anniversary this way and that we have been granted a chance to look behind the scenes via the cast and crew’s recollections of this truly memorable landmark sci-fi drama.
I am not sure when it happened exactly, since zombies still scared the proverbial out of me, but thanks to my housemate, who is a devoted viewer of The Walking Dead, I have begun to appreciate what a cleverly constructed drama it is.
Like many genre shows such as Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and Once Upon a Time, it effectively uses a place and time removed from our day to day reality – although a zombie apocalypse could be closer than we think, some suggest, given our modern predilection for gene-splicing and biological experiments on a god-like scale – to tell a dramatic tale, that could work equally as well in reality if it has to.
But whereas we may tune out to a show anchored firmly in the world we see every day, we will happily watch a genre-based show, and watch a drama that we might not otherwise pay much attention to.
I may not watch a show about the breakdown of society if it is set in the city I live in in 2012 but I will watch the world go to hell in a hand basket when it’s set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse or when aliens are invading from the skies, and we must stand guard or be forever wiped from existence (Falling Skies).
That’s why The Walking Dead, which would be a top grade drama no matter what genre it ended up in, has captured me as a viewer. It is just good TV. Period.
So to my surprise, and the eternal shock of my house mate, I am actually looking forward to season 3, which kicks off in October in the U.S. That anticipation has been heightened by the following clip, which shows the various actors being interviewed just days after filing commenced.
It augers well for a dramatic, full speed ahead that will take no prisoners.