Last weekend I had the privilege to speak at the annual Makers and Shakers summit in Somersworth, NH. The line-up of speakers was incredible, with presentations on everything from a local MMA start-up, to what libraries can do for you, to how print media still has value in the community.
I had been toying with an idea to somehow make the author and self-publishing industry relevant to people who don't care one wingnut about the industry as a whole, and I came up with several different speeches that hopefully do something relevant to that concept. The one I chose for this presentation was focused on how authors can help the community and how the community can help authors. Maximum time was 8 minutes, and I think I did a decent job.
The event overall was a great experience, and it's really cool to see all of the awesome things that are going on in the Seacoast, both in Portsmouth and beyond. It also served as a great networking event, and I forged a good number of new connections.
It's a free event, and I highly recommend attending next year.
Below is a video of my presentation, and underneath it, the transcript. Enjoy.
Introduction by Vanessa: She is a freelance writer by day, and the founder of New England Independent Writers. She is a self-published scifi writer, with three novels and one children's book. She started writing as a child, and in her free time she likes to go swing dancing and explore the woods. Without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Ariele Sieling!
Ariele: Thank you.
I'm going to start today by taking a quick poll. Raise your hand if you own an ereader of some sort: an iPhone, a Kindle, a Nook, an iPad, a tablet... most of you do, I would hope, at this point.
Second question: raise your hand if in the last year, you downloaded and read a book on your ereader. Excellent, glad to see so many readers in the audience.
Last question: raise your hand if, after reading the book, you went online and wrote a review. Thank you (to the one person that raised their hand).
Most people don't. An interesting statistic says that less than 10% of people who purchase a product will go online and write a review, but between 72% - 90% of people, depending on what study you read, will use reviews to decide whether or not to buy a product. That means that less than 10% of people are influencing how 72% of people choose how to spend their money. I think that's a pretty significant statistic.
So, does it really matter if you write a review of a book, or a blender, or anything? I think it matters and I think it matters a lot.
Everybody tells stories. I tell stories--this is a picture of me with one my books. You tell stories, via Instagram or Facebook or whatever your preferred choice of medium is. Parents and teachers tell stories, politicians tell stories--even the news tells stories. But stories are just words on paper or a computer screen until somebody reads it, shares it, criticizes it--gives it a few minutes of their time.
And the stories that get the most support from their communities--those are the stories that make a difference.
At New England Independent Writers, we're all about stories. Our goal is to support independent storytelling via the medium of books, and our vision is to help local authors that are dedicated and strong to rise to the top of the industry.
What this means for us is that we're constantly looking for opportunities to find ways for local authors to connect with the local community. We do this in a variety of ways, like putting together an anthology of short stories by local authors, we might go to local events or festivals, or we might do presentations like I'm doing right now--but the goal is to help authors find the support and the criticism they need to tell stories worth telling.
What this means for you is that you have direct access to some of the best storytellers in the community. You can influence what stories are told, and you can influence what stories end up making a difference.
I spend a lot of time talking to people in the community, librarians in particular, trying to find ways for authors to connect with and give back to the local community. I would venture to say that connecting with the community, for any storyteller, is one of the most difficult, and possibly one of the most important things they can do.
Let me illustrate with a story.
Once upon a time, there was a guy I met that wanted to be a writer. So he wrote a book. He self-published it on Amazon. He got one review--from his mom. And nobody knows who he is. He didn't get any community support. But he continued, and wrote two more books, and no one still knows who he is.
I'm going to tell a different story--wait let me clarify. His story was bad. It was not copy edited, poor plot structure, gratuitous violence--bad.
Once upon a time, there was another guy who wanted to be a writer. He wrote a book, published it on Amazon, and got dozens of reviews. He wrote more stories, clumped them altogether in one book, and now he's a millionaire. His name is Hugh Howey, author of the popular dystopian book, Wool.
So what's the difference? Aside from the quality of the writing. They both wanted to be writers, they both self-published, they both wrote more books...
The difference starts with writing a story worth telling, and one of the stories was obviously not worth telling. But it takes off when it gets community support.
Most authors that I know are somewhere between these two authors. I don't personally know any self-published millionaires, but I know plenty of authors that are making a living through writing, or at least supplementing their income pretty significantly. But there are still plenty of stories out there that are worth telling, but are lying dormant because their authors don't have the resources to access the community.
Every good story starts with an idea, as words on paper, as an empty canvas, or as a simple photo. And then the story needs community, resources, and time to grow.
So if you find a story that you love, I encourage you to find a way to support it, whether that means donating money, volunteering your time or skill set to give that story a larger impact, or sharing it with your friends and family.
It's like voting, except that instead of only one vote, you get as many votes as you're willing to put the time and energy into casting.
So why not start by writing a review?