It may seem premature to think about the results of some of my recent activity, but the fact is that there have already been significant results—and most of them are all in my head.
To recap: two weeks ago I took a weekend to master the workings of Hootsuite in order to automate regular promotional postings on twitter and facebook. (Also Mailchimp for maintaining a mailing list, see below.) It literally took an entire weekend (in part because coming up with the catalog of content was very draining) but now I have a rotating set of hundreds of different posts, referencing all my projects and publications (both on sale and available for free), with a variety of target links, posting at variable times of day, such that both twitter and facebook will see two to four posts per day, but (ideally) no one will always be seeing the same content in the same place at the same time. Someone who religiously follows my every post in either location may feel that it’s a bit relentless (and I plan to do a reality check with some of them at the end of the month), but the casual reader will just get the occasional reminder without it feeling repetitious. Having done the initial set-up and created a content spreadsheet (you knew there was going to be a spreadsheet, didn’t you) I anticipate that regular maintenance will only take a couple hours a month.
And there have already been results. The most concrete is the additional sharing that the posts are getting. I hardly expect anyone to boost all of the posts (and I’m immensely grateful for anyone who interacts with them in any way). But the “limited shotgun” approach makes it easier and more likely that my existence will be reflected into places where people may not have encountered me before. In essence, I’ve set up an automated pitching machine, making it very simple for people to hit things out into the world when one of the posts arrives in a convenient batting zone. Another benefit of having automated my promo is that I find myself having a lot more emotional space for focusing on promoting other people and their work. (As well—to be sure—as feeling the incentive to be sure my feeds have a proper mix of non-self-promotion content!)
But, for me, the most important consequence that I’m already seeing is that I no longer have that sense of each individual promotional post being a major emotional project that leaves me feeling drained and depressed. By separating the act of content creation and the act of sending that content out into the world, I’ve removed a major emotional weight from the process. (Or at least displaced it into a concentrated period set aside for the purpose.) I no longer feel like I’m drowning in invisibility and struggling just to draw one gasping breath at a time. I look at my timelines and I’m there. I’m present. I exist. To the best of my recollection, I haven’t had an episode of book-related depression in the last three weeks. I’m sure I’ll still have them, but maybe I can reduce the frequency. And—before anyone thinks to do so—please do not say anything along the lines of, “Don’t you wish you’d done this sooner?” This was a massive amount of emotional work. I had to fight through a lot to get to it. I did it when I could, and not sooner.
Along with automating the promo, I’ve put two major new things out into the world. One is a monthly author newsletter. The first issue went out this morning, and to encourage new subscribers, I’ll be giving away some books to a random selection of people subscribed by November 30. (I’ll put up a separate posting with the details about that.) Originally I was figuring that the November newsletter would be a “test run” to make sure the system worked properly, but I have over 30 subscribers already! The newsletter certainly won’t replace the writing-related content on my website (though I may be cribbing from some older essays on Alpennia world-building to recycle). There are people who simply don’t follow blogs who are happy to have a mailing list appear in their in-box. Once a month is a manageable schedule. Besides the hypothetical benefit to my fans/readers, it’s much easier to track numbers of dedicated fans via a mailing list than by trying to decipher blog traffic or other open-access contact points. The newsletter will provide two additional intangible benefits. Because I plan to use it as an outlet for material that is either exclusive to the newsletter or that will only be made publically available later, I’ll have more of a sense that I’m creating things for people who genuinely appreciate it, rather than tossing messages in bottles out into the waves. That gives me more incentive to create things like non-commercial short fiction. Secondly, the newsletter provides an opportunity for fans/readers of my work to feel a sense of community—at least I hope so! It’s a phenomenon I’ve never entirely grasped as an experiencer, but I know it’s important to many other people. Important enough to be worth creating.
The second new project might not seem like a promotional thing, but I assure you that I have only selfish purposes in doing it. The lesbian history podcast will be publishing some original short fiction, and I expect to get two certain and one less certain return from this. 1) Lots more people will know about the LHMP blog and podcast. There’s nothing like a call for submissions to get the word out about a project, especially one that comes with the chance of professional-level payment. 2) One of the goals of the LHMP has always been to promote the creation and enjoyment of great lesbian historical fiction. Publishing stories is a very direct way to achieve that goal. 3) This is the less certain item. I hope that taking on this project (and succeeding at it) will enhance my professional reputation in ways that will improve the chances of future opportunities, whether in the same genre or more on the SFF side. My current limited plan to publish two stories is a manageable project, whether it’s wildly successful or whether it flops. If it’s successful (even if not wildly), there’s a better chance that I may be able to take on similar projects in the future. If successful, it may help connect the LHMP with parts of its intended audience that have been resistant so far.
So, all in all, I think it’s been a very productive last couple of weeks.