Thursday, October 22, 2009

Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer - A different kind of guide for writers

There are a slew of writers' guides out there, every one of them chock full of well-meaning advice: How to write better, how to get published, how to self-promote. But not one of them talks about how to live a whole booklife, that is, a life that allows a writer to balance writing and the creative process with the very real modern necessities of self-promotion, personal branding and planning long-term career goals. (Oh, and somewhere in there? You're gonna want to eat, sleep, breathe and poop.)

Jeff VanderMeer's brand new book Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer addresses all of these things. (Well, okay, maybe not the pooping part.)

Some of what Booklife talks about:
• Using new media: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, podcasts, and IM
• Effectively networking in the modern era (why it’s not all about you)
• Understanding the lifecycle of a book and your role in the publication process
• Finding balance between your public and private lives and personas
• Creating a brand and identity tied to your strengths and your writing
• Working with your publisher: editors, publicists, marketing, and sales
• Taking the long view: establishing short- and long-term professional goals
• Getting through rejection and understanding the importance of persistence
• Enjoying and enhancing your creative process
Booklife comes with a great accompanying website, Booklife Now, that will provide fresh content every week from publishing professionals and published writers, as well as chats with some of the many contributors to Booklife. (Hey, I even have a couple of short chapters in the book, and will be answering questions online at Booklife Now on November 4th!)

If you're a writer and you're at all serious about it as a profession, I recommend that you go get yourself a copy of Booklife NOW!

Here's a brief excerpt from the book:
From Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer:

Many different factors determine your public brand in terms of a Booklife. Every publisher, every book cover, every online forum, every interview request you accept helps define you as a writer. Reviewers, critics, publicists, even your agent will define you as a writer too. However, you can have an important role in shaping your destiny by what labels you accept through your actions and what labels you reject through your actions. If you’re interested in being proactive in this area, a quick way to evaluate your current situation is to ask yourself a series of questions, the answers to which require research on the Internet. The content you produce plays a role in labeling, but not as large a role as you might think.

>>How do my readers perceive me and my work?

A simple Google search should answer this question, especially if you take the time to thoroughly read all entries across the web, categorize each mention as about you or about your work, make a determination as to the influence each forum, blog, LiveJournal, website, or other online entity exerts, and then build a composite picture of both yourself and your work from that research. Other questions you might ask in this context include:

--What do the covers or other design aspects of my creative projects convey to readers?

--How does the reputation or slant of my publisher (or other gatekeeper) affect how I am perceived?

--Which authors am I most often compared to — by reviewers, consumers, and my own publisher? (Do these authors correspond to my own desired parallels?)

>>What does my blog/website tell people about my work?

Usually, blog subject patterns are very revealing. No matter how you might want to be a different kind of writer, your blog eventually tells you who you really are by revealing what interests you and moves you to write. Many times I have seen bloggers try to re-imagine themselves by either archiving or deleting an old blog and starting a new one, with a fresh emphasis. Most of the time, the new blog starts looking like the old blog within five or six months, in terms of the type of content presented there. If this is the case, you are fighting against your core nature and should practice acceptance. You’ll be much happier.

>>What websites and blogs have I added to my favorites in my web browser, and does reading them support my efforts at branding?

You’re shaped in part by the content you digest. If you aspire to be a mystery writer but the geek/reader part of you has decided to visit mostly fantasy or pop culture sites, you are absorbing content that isn’t directly supporting your writing goals. While there’s nothing wrong with diversity or using part of your day to play, just be aware that in doing so you are making a choice. Indeed, you may be telling yourself you don’t want to write mysteries after all.

>>What does the online trail of my doppelgänger look like?

Never underestimate the power of mimicry. If you have a writer you admire who you feel a kinship with--their writing is similar to yours in some way and their career has the trajectory you want for your own--use the Advanced Search options at to map out their online presence on both blogs and websites. You will find out where the writer you want to emulate has and hasn’t been reviewed and interviewed, where they’ve been welcomed and where shut out.

You can then determine at least two things by implication: a general outline of that writer’s tactical decisions (roughly, what they said yes to or had a chance to say yes to) and the perception of that writer and his or her work on the Internet. Comparing that perception to the perception of your own persona and work helps to define the gap between where you are and where you want to be. (It also performs the useful service of uncovering possible opportunities and contacts.)
Booklife launched this week; Jeff's new novel Finch pubs on November 3rd. Starting THE VERY NEXT DAY, Jeff embarks on what can only be called the Book Tour of Insanity: 27 events in 36 days. Check out the tour schedule and head on out to meet him at a bookstore near you!


crossoverwriter said...

You've sold me on it. I'm ordering it from amazon right now.

Alena Thomas said...

Thanks, Colleen! Sounds like really useful stuff. I just ordered it!

ryan field said...

This was a very interesting post.

Jill Edmondson said...

Ahhhh, sounds like I need to rush right out and pick up a copy!

As a new author (almost - my first book will be released next month), I have been on a steep learning curve - about the publishing biz, about promotion and PR. I have no idea if I am doing the right things or not. And I am certain there are tons of ideas that I have not yet thought of/not yet tried.

I am particulalry interested in the idea of a book's lifecycle. More to learn... all beneficial in one way or another.

Cheers, Jill

Ann D said...

I can't wait to read BOOKLIFE. It sounds fantastic -- very creative and inspiring.

Ann Douglas

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Hmmm...sounds interesting (I have a book coming out with Artisan Books) but that following your doppelganger part seems awfully complicated.

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