Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tipping Points

The Tipping Point is defined as the moment of critical mass, the threshold, and the boiling point. It is the point when everyday things reach epidemic proportions...the fact that little causes can have big effects, and that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment.

- from The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

When I woke up yesterday, a lovely little email from Camille Gooderham Campbell was waiting for me. My story, "The Sub-Basement" was the most read piece for April 2009 at Every Day Fiction, earning yours-truly an interview.

Me: What?

(after a moment)

Me again: But that story was published in January...

It seems "The Sub-Basement" somehow managed to garner around 4,000 hits during April despite being published three months ago. One of the questions in the interview dealt with self-promotion of my writing (i.e., what did I do to promote the story?).

Me: Nothing.

Wait...I do blog. I mentioned "The Sub-Basement" when it was published back in January. The story has a link on the right side of this page. Other than that...is it luck? Maybe an invisible "tipping point"?

Self-promotion is a necessary evil. The new mantra in publishing is "develop a following" and that is before your book is even picked up by an agent. I'm not sure I know how to develop a following. The right kind of self-promotion is part science and part art. It baffles me. Too much "me-me-me-it's all about me" and say bye-bye to any loyal readers jaded by egregious self-pimping.

I do know how to grow potatoes (I have twenty lovely plants in the garden right now). You have to shove the cut seed potatoes in the ground, wait...wait...wait. I dig deep, plant the seeds low, and then fill the holes in with dirt as the plant grows, providing more room for the plant to sprout baby taters as it reaches for the sun. It's a slow process. Then the plants die, and the miracle happens.

Wait two weeks or so, and you find full-sized potatoes hidden under the dirt.

I think the same is true with writing/publishing. I have a long way to go yet, but I'm filling in my holes, bit by bit. Write a new story...rejection. Revise the story...publication. Someone reads the story, checks out the blog. He/she is offended by my use of an Emily Dickinson quote in the title and never comes back. Start the cycle over again, hopefully landing a reader that might just come back.

It takes time, I guess. Is it luck? Yes...but I think luck is a matter of being in the right place for a long time. Sooner or later, something positive is going to happen. I hope.

Little tipping points are everywhere. I have to believe they are.

16 comments:

Jamie Eyberg said...

That is very cool that your story has some staying power in a place that trades in the old for the new everyday.

K.C. Shaw said...

How awesome! It helps that it's a good story, of course. I loved The Tipping Point--fascinating book, and I love thinking about the ebb and flow of interests throughout various subcultures of the world. Sounds like one of those info mavens started recommending your story as a good read. :)

This is also why letting magazines archive stories online can be such a good thing.

Benjamin Solah said...

Nice work. Surely, the magazine can track where it's getting all the hits from.

All this talk of ezines and exposure markets on various blogs lately makes me think again. Maybe I should go for these places again.

Aaron Polson said...

Jamie - good point...I didn't even think about the old for the new bit.

K.C. - somehow, the traditionalist in me wants my name in print, but online is where I'm being read.

Benjamin - thanks...exposure can be good, I suppose, if it's the right kind.

Rebecca Nazar said...

Congrats! Very impressive and just the beginning. :-)

Catherine J Gardner said...

Ah the dreaded beast 'self promotion' - a psychologist would have fun decoding my use of the Wolf Dude to do a lot of my promoting.

Congrats again on the story. 4,000 hits is amazing.

Aaron Polson said...

Rebecca - thanks...I hope this is just the beginning.

Cate - I love Wolf Dude! (and I do have a degree in psychology...I wonder what that means)

Barry Napier said...

Very cool. Congrats on the awesome readership.

katey said...

Aaron, huge congratulations! I like the potato metaphor... then again I like everything to do with potatoes, since they're my favorite. I'm bland and extremely white like that. (Or so my husband tells me.)

You say something here (self-promotion done right!), we read it, it's good (key point right there!), we go and tell everyone else we know. Yay for the internet, man.

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks Barry.

Katey - the internet is made of awesome. I've heard that so much lately, but it seems to be true.

Natalie L. Sin said...

Thanks for the potato advice. We have some growing in the garden, but no clue how/when to harvest them.

PS: If self promotion is bugging you, come join the Werepig! Greg is very good at getting even the shyest of us (myself included) to strut.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/The-Funky-Werepig

Danielle Ferries said...

Woo Hoo! Great for a writer to receive - most read piece!

Aaron Polson said...

Natalie - I've been hearing things about this werepig...

Danielle - I thank you.

Robert said...

Excellent ... (speaking in Mr. Burns voice, tapping my fingers together)

BT said...

Excellent news - congrats.

As for self promotion - you're already doing it.

I wouldn't get overly concerned with ramping it up just yet - it would help if you had a contract deal on the table before you worry about that side too much.

You are obviously moving in the right direction. Just keep moving...

Aaron Polson said...

Robert - release the hounds...

BT - momentum is a strange thing