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25 February 2015 @ 02:36 pm
Recent Reads: The Art of Asking  

I found THE ART OF ASKING to be a rather strange read.

A lot of it was familiar to me in one way or another: I’ve watched Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, I followed her Kickstarter and its aftermath, I periodically read her blog, I used to read Neil Gaiman’s blog regularly, etc. I’m not a fan of either Palmer or Gaiman, which is to say their art doesn’t particularly speak to me, but I’ve met them both, albeit briefly, and it’s hard to be in my line of work and not know who they are.

So basically the thing is I’ve never read an autobiography by someone I know, or am modestly familiar with, and that’s what TAOA ended up feeling like. There were things in the book that illuminated tweets that made no sense at the time, for example, and that’s a fairly strange experience. Or–there was one particularly surreal moment in the book where Palmer writes about talking to Gaiman during a week he spent in Ireland, nominally writing but actually totally laid out with the flu; that week a friend of mine (who had never met him before) saw on Twitter that he was flu-ridden and brought him carrageen and spent some time with him and so my perspective of that particular moment is…reading about it in TAOA was like encountering an unexpected funhouse mirror. It was a very strange read.

The book is nominally about making art and crowdfunding, although it’s also greatly about Palmer and Gaiman’s relationship and the art of asking for things within the context of a relationship and could arguably fall under the category of self-help, as well. Overall it’s a nice symbiosis, and given that I read it in one afternoon, it’s clearly a *very* readable book.

It’s also about building a community, and how that community is what comes together when you run a Kickstarter. It’s how Palmer made a million dollars on her Kickstarter, how Evil Hat made nearly half a million on one of theirs (and I have no idea how much they’ve grossed total from their Kickstarter projects other than ‘a lot’), and how the two Kickstarters I’ve run have succeeded beyond expectation: you start ten years ago and build up a group of (listeners, gamers, readers) who dearly love what you’re doing and are willing to support it. Then you go crowdfunding and come out looking like an outrageous success.

From the point of view of trying to learn how to do my own personal community-building better, it’s…well, several things.

One is that it’s clear that the more you live your life online, or the more open/raw/unfiltered you seem to be, the more passionate your supporters become. They feel like they really know you. That’s something I’ve observed in the past anyway, and I struggle with, because part of me is deeply, profoundly envious of the ability to make that kind of connection and harness legions of followers.

Another part of me is either unable or unwilling to throw myself into it that hard, and I’ve become more reluctant to do so since I’ve had a child, as he didn’t sign up for a semi-to-public life. I’ve had a blog for literally twenty years, but I have only a fraction of the readers that (Scalzi, Wendig, Palmer, etc) have. I don’t have enough of a theme. I don’t post often enough. I don’t swear at people (often); I have none of the shock jock technique that others (including Palmer, IMHO) have employed. My life is not generally a train wreck and when it is I don’t expose that to my readers.

And I’m not, as musicians often are, on the road all the time and able to meet readers in real life that way. I don’t know how to bridge that gap, although I’d love to be able to. I often feel as though I’m perhaps failing, not just myself but my readers somehow, and perhaps even potential readers, by *not* being as good at community-building as I’d like to be.

So it was an interesting read, but not, perhaps, enlightening in the way one might hope.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on February 25th, 2015 02:19 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way about the blogging/connecting. I'm amazed by how well some folks do it, but I don't know how to become one of those people, or if I would choose to even if I could. I know I would probably be more successful as an author if I was, I don't know, more willing to raw-ly expose my life (although frankly, it is pretty boring, unless you are very fond of cats and living in the country). But I'm a pretty private person and I already find it kind of a stretch to be constantly talking about me, me, me (and my books and my cats). And then, of course, there is the amount of time it takes. Let me know if you magically figure out the answer, will you?
kitmizkit on February 25th, 2015 04:07 pm (UTC)
I'd do it in a heartbeat if I knew how, but yeah. It's a pretty strange old world right now. :)
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on February 25th, 2015 07:35 pm (UTC)
Well, so would I. I'm just too boring :-)
Geek of Weird Shit: weldinggows on February 27th, 2015 04:20 am (UTC)
I think, quite honestly, that one has to have a schtick, a hook of some sort. Cherie Priest talks about her dog and cat, fercrissakes, and people LOVE it.
Geek of Weird Shit: statlerwaldorfgows on February 27th, 2015 04:25 am (UTC)
Also see: George Takei and cat memes. :P
M. C. A. Hogarth: presenthaikujaguar on February 25th, 2015 02:31 pm (UTC)
I think in much the same way that video killed the radio star, the internet has created a new generation of people primed to succeed using its technology while the people who ordinarily would have succeeded are relegated to the chorus line, if they even end up on stage at all. Crowdfunding in particular requires its benefactors to be internet-ready, unless you already have a fanbase built back from before the internet erupted. I'm sure a big name from the Before Times, like a Lois McMaster Bujold, could bring a million fans to a potential Kickstarter did she decide she wanted to do one.

Building that fanbase from scratch in this era is a lot more challenging, and a lot more like a career in politics, than I think a lot of writers want.
kitmizkit on February 25th, 2015 04:08 pm (UTC)
One of the very frustrating aspects of it for me is that I'm an Early Adopter. I've been online for a very, very long time. It seems like I *should* have defaulted into one of those "prime material" spots/personalities by dint of having been here first. This is clearly not the case, but I genuinely do find it frustrating.
M. C. A. Hogarth: presenthaikujaguar on February 25th, 2015 04:11 pm (UTC)
I hear you. I've had a website since 1998...! And was active on BBSes! But some styles of personal revelation are more interesting to people than others, and overwhelmingly people seem to prefer women to be... much more outspoken on topics I'm not interested in discussing. (Have you noticed a gender disparity between how successful online personalities operate? I have, and am hoping it's not just me.) I also hate the whole snarky/ranty/outrage style and this is also supremely popular.

To be popular while also being kind is... a lot harder.
kitmizkit on February 25th, 2015 04:20 pm (UTC)
(Have you noticed a gender disparity between how successful online personalities operate? I have, and am hoping it's not just me.)

*sigh* I have. It's not just you. And what I've observed is that the women who seem to have the rabid followings tend to be the ones who are living train wrecks. Their popularity seems to be based at least partly in the "OMG let us rescue you, you poor darling!" mindset, which is as tiresome to me as the shock jock thing. Possibly more so, even.

To be popular while also being kind is... a lot harder.

Apparently so. Someone once said to me that based on a picture in a programme somewhere I was presenting that they thought I was going to be some kind of broody dangerous cyberchick, only, they said, "You're actually really nice and wholesome, aren't you?!"

:} It's not that I mind being nice and wholesome, which, frankly, is a pretty good description of me--in fact, I really don't like being an asshole--but I can recognise how much more mileage I'd get out of being a broody dangerous cyberchick. :}
M. C. A. Hogarth: presenthaikujaguar on February 25th, 2015 05:09 pm (UTC)
Also viable is the "Sexual Tell-All" model for women, which involves frequent discussions in detail of their sex lives. I find I don't enjoy that from women or men so while I don't care if people want to do it, I'm not interested in it and I certainly don't want to do it. (And Lordy, the offers I've gotten as it is are bad enough. Being more "open" about those matters... I can't even imagine the kind of personal attention I'd have to fight off at that point. "So I see from your books you're into violent, abusive orgies! I'm down with that! Should we find my room?" was already bad enough.)

Oh, you can pull off broody dangerous cyberchick! Maybe you can get by just posting smoldering photos of yourself and let them do the work for you! >.>

I can't do broody or dangerous. I'm afraid all I've got is 'glittery, with a side of blubbering.'
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on February 25th, 2015 07:37 pm (UTC)
Maybe we need to attend some Broody Dangerous Cyberchick classes?
Ellen Millionellenmillion on February 25th, 2015 07:04 pm (UTC)
This is something I find myself thinking about a lot, too. I would probably be more popular/sell more art/be higher profile if I were less day-to-day and more shock-and-opinion than I am.

But I always decide that I wouldn't really want to be famous or controversial. I'm not even sure I want to be just famous. Guppy plays some role in that, but even without her, you know, I'm kind of happy being non-threatening and obscure. Some days I feel like I'm letting my artists down by choosing the quieter route, but then I'll watch some dramafest explode in someone's face and decide I'm doing exactly the right thing.

And I'd never, ever, ever be able to pull off dangergothchic. Not even when I dyed my hair black.
Merlin Of Chaosmerlinofchaos on February 25th, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC)
I feel like the trick is this:

You have to always have Something to say, you have to Say your Somethings a lot, and enough people have to find that Something interesting enough to share it.

The "a lot" is important because the internet forgets (which is weird because the internet never forgets. Except it only never forgets bad things, it constantly forgets good things).

It takes a lot of effort and/or passion to get to that point where you talk about your Somethings a lot and people share it. You don't necessarily have to expose your family life, except the problem is that Something and A Lot tend to be "What I know" and once you've got a family, "What I know" is has a lot of that in it.

My problem is how rarely I have Something to say that I think should be shared, and when I do, how much effort is required to do that.
martianmooncrabmartianmooncrab on February 25th, 2015 10:52 pm (UTC)
you are fine, they are your words and your standards, and if you arent comfy sharing something, then done.

I dont use family members names in my LJ, they have descriptive monikers, which sometimes goes wonky when I have two cousins whose names begin with J, and two whose begin with R.

you arent a Kardashian.. thanks the Ghods~