Thursday, February 24, 2011

Promoting the Digital Me

I'm an amateur writer. I'm fortunate enough to be able to make my living doing something else so I've taken the view that I don't need to be paid for what I write. Publishers get twitchy if they can't pay you - paying you is how they know they've bought something - so I sign a contract that donates any income to the Red Cross. So far they've been happy with that.

This is self-interest rather than altruism on my part. Not having to get paid is very liberating. It means that I only have to self-publicise to attract readers and let them know where they can find my stuff.

The self that I promote - Mike Kimera - is an internet construct. He only exists as the guy who writes erotic stories and contributes to blogs. It's logical then, that his existence is promoted primarily through the internet.

More by luck than judgement, Kimera was born with a name that is not widely used, so if you google for him you come up with list like this full of links to his stuff. This makes him easy to find once you know you want to look for him.

I brought Kimera to people's attention by getting my stories on ERWA and Clean Sheets, excellent venues that are widely read and have a reputation for good quality. Getting Kimera published there made him visible to editors like Susannah Indigo, Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Alison Tyler, Lisabet Sarai and Seneca Mayfair, who have been willing to publish my stories, and in in Susannah's case, even to edit a collection of them.

Once Kimera had things in print, I promoted them primarily through lists on Amazon and on Good Reads and I set him up with a blog "Inside Mike Kimera"

I did this for about nine years and slowly Mike Kimera started to get some name recognition but I had no idea how many people read my stories or what most of them thought.

Last year, with help from the internet savvy Remittance Girl, I set up a website on WordPress for my stories: "Mike Kimera's Erotic Fiction"

This is perhaps the ultimate self-promotion on the net. Vanity publishing of a kind. I invest in it because I can see the traffic I'm getting and which stories are being read and because some of the readers take the time to comment on what I write.

WordPress provides an impressive stats tool that lets me know that I typically get between 100 and 200 visits a day and that on some days, for reasons that I don't understand, I hit up to 280. I know that hits go up as I publish new stuff and that the more regularly I publish, the higher the average number of hits.

I also know what searches bring people to my site. Last month, for the first time, the top of the search list was no longer "Dominance and Submission" but "Mike Kimera". I was very happy about that.

The website changed things for me in ways I didn't expect.

I had to come up with a visual identity for Mike Kimera. Not just the Gravatar that comes after my name but a look and feel for the site that sets some expectation of its content. I had a lot of fun with this and it started to shape how I looked at my own work – here are a some examples:
















I had to find ways of classifying my stories and tagging them to make them easier to navigate. This made me analyse my work and sensitised me to the themes that run through them.

I started to get comments from regular readers and I look forward to finding out what they think about a particular piece.

Once the website was up, I found my way to twitter. I'd never understood what twitter was for but I was intrigued to watch what Remittance Girl was doing there so I signed up. I discovered what fun it is to write twitterfiction live in little slices of 140 characters a time and I discovered that when I posted links to new stuff on my site, I got more readers.

Recently it has occurred to me that Mike Kimera now has a brand. People read his stuff with an expectation of what they will find. For the most part this helps me to have happy readers. Sometimes it means I disappoint. Clean Sheets posted "Sex With Owen" a few weeks ago. The title is perhaps poorly chosen because the piece, while graphic, is a kind of romance. One reader commented that the story wasn't up to my usual standards and that he preferred my earlier, grittier stuff.

Which poses the question, what happens when I want to write outside the Mike Kimera brand?

At the moment I have two thoughts about this: I'm adding catagories to my website to incorporate the mainstream and erotic romance stories into the brand and I'm setting up another website for stuff that is too dark or too violent for Mike Kimera.

I'm considering creating another internet construct for this: Kim Remaike an anagram of Mike Kimera but more sexually ambiguous, with a less Western background and a fascination with the beast within us and what happens when it runs free. The look of the website is edgier and pulls on the erotic images (copyright free) of Egon Schiller. Here's an example

The main thing that gives me pause is whether I have the energy for two internet constructs or whether I should just show people that there is more to Mike Kimera. What do you think?

4 comments:

  1. Hi Mike

    This is so full of practical information, you should post it to ERWA in the author area to keep as a reference. I'm going to stash it away to think over in the future.

    I find it interesting how you evolved a brand over time without especially thinking of it that way.

    Egon Schiller is an interesting find too.

    Garce

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  2. Yes, this is very interesting, Mike. Good thoughts to consider. Your approach is well thought out.

    File under "for what it's worth," but I like the idea of trying to show that there is more than one side to Mike Kimera rather than building a new brand.

    The question becomes, if you broaden the horizons of Mike Kimera, will this lose some of your readers of the earlier types of work?

    I don't think that it will.

    Led Zeppelin made a career of pairing hard rock songs with acoustic works, sometimes dabbling in other styles of music quite different than their core work. They took some hits for this, both from critics and from fans, but it is one of the things that made them great. I doubt they lost even a fraction of the fans that they gained by taking chances and stretching their wings. The Beatles fall into this category too and there are other notable examples.

    Does this convey from music to writing? I think that it can.

    The key (going back to Charlotte's post) is to continue to do quality work, which of course you will. You can take some chances, try new things, as long as you keep the central core of the work consistent and strong, and continue to explore the type of work that got you where you are.

    Oh, and my verification word is "modish." Yes, maybe it helps to be a bit modish too...

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  3. Hello, Mike,

    There are many lessons in this post. One is that it does indeed take time to build a brand - even when you're not doing it deliberately. Another is that once you do have a brand, readers may be disappointed if you experiment with something outside of your usual style.

    I love the images. And I look forward to reading some of Kim Remaike's work. Perhaps he or she would like to be a guest at Oh Get A Grip (or Beyond Romance, for that matter).

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  4. Hi Garce,
    I found this a difficult subject to write about.I was surprised, when it came to it, that I had anything to say, so I'm particularly pleased that you found this helpful

    Hi Craig

    I'm still thinking through the Kim Remaike thing. I think the deciding factor will be whether letting myself write under than name brings out something distinctive and new. I will, in any case, broaden what I post as Mike Kimera.

    Hi Lisabet,

    thank you for the feedback and the offer around Kim. If something good comes out I'll talk to you about whether you'd have somewhere to place it.

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