Please welcome our esteemed guests!

Paul Raven @ 06-09-2010

OK, so, let’s cut to the point here: yours truly is going on holiday for a week, starting tomorrow. And we’re talking a proper holiday, as in a period of time devoid of the usual demands of one’s working day, and – more specifically in my case – a period of time during which I won’t be connected to the internet*. Like, at all**.

But fear not, faithful followers of Futurismic – for I have drafted in some friends to mind the place while I’m away, and to discuss interesting things with you. Who are these people, exactly? Well, I’m glad you asked…

  • Gareth L Powell has actually guested here before, and was a regular link-out fixture back in the days when a bunch of us were still rocking the Friday Flash Fiction movement. Gareth has just recently sold his second novel to Solaris Books, and is in the process of finishing it. He’s also a good friend, a fiercely dedicated writer and a very very nice guy. His mutant power is the ability to discern stress fracture points in Victorian-era railway bridges from a surprisingly large distance away.
  • Aliette de Bodard‘s first novel, Servant of the Underworld – a kind of mystery-fantasy mash-up set in an alternate timeline where the Aztecs are still a major power – was published this year by Angry Robot, with sequels to come. Aliette is half French and half Vietnamese, a self-identified tech-geek and computer obsessive, and very very smart. Few are the novelists who get published in what is effectively their third language, after all! Her mutant power is the ability to transmute base metals into pre-doped semiconductor wafers just by looking at them.
  • Lavie Tidhar probably needs little introduction; it seems you can’t so much as turn a corner on the intertubes these days without bumping into a new short story of his (including this month’s offering right here at Futurismic, no less). Seemingly in constant motion across the entire surface of the planet, Lavie somehow finds time to maintain the World SF news blog as well as writing his own work and editing anthologies, and I’m very grateful he’s agreed to spend some of whatever precious little time he has left on posting stuff here in my absence. His mutant power is the ability to cram seven extra hours into the space usually occupied by twenty-four… or to unfailingly locate chilled beer in extremely remote locations. Possibly both.

I don’t know exactly what my guests are going to talk about, because I’ve pretty much told them to talk about whatever they fancy, provided there’s some connection – however tenuous! – to Futurismic‘s usual “near-future speculation” remit. The posting density will probably be thinner than usual because – unlike my sad hermit self – these wonderful people have real lives to attend to as well. Even so, I think you’ll enjoy having a few fresh voices on the mic while I’m away!

So please extend a welcome to my esteemed guests, and be sure to comment on their posts; I’m very grateful to Gareth, Aliette and Lavie for stepping in to help me, and I hope you will be, too.

Now, I need to do some packing… 🙂

[ * Yes, I’m really looking forward to it. The last twelve months have not exactly panned out the way I thought they were going to, to say the least, and a chance to step off the merry-go-round for a few moments and collect my thoughts is much needed. The prospect of sitting in warm sunshine and reading for pure pleasure is also rather appealing. ]

[ ** Well, I might tweet once or twice, but that’s pretty much it. The regulatory bodies may have capped cellphone roaming charges for data in Europe, but they’re still pretty terrifying… and that’s all the excuse I need for a week-long digital media fast. Time to make some serious inroads on the old To-Be-Read stack… 🙂 ]


Quicklinkage: writers on writing, Godin on slush

Paul Raven @ 22-03-2010

Some quick links collected in a spare segment of a manic Monday, in lieu of our usual fare (i.e. me waffling on about stuff): here are some science fiction writers going all meta on our arses and writing about writing:

And to close up with a topic for discussion, here’s Seth Godin’s take on the oft-reported death of the slush pile:

If you have something good, really good, what’s it doing in the slush pile?

Bring it to the world directly, make your own video, write your own ebook, post your own blog, record your own music.

Or find an agent, a great agent, a selective agent, one that’s almost impossible to get through to, one that commands respect and acts as a filter because after all, that’s what you’re seeking, a filtered, amplified way to spread your idea.

But slush?

Good riddance.

What do you think: is this a case of Godin just not understanding the way fiction publishing works, and hence applying an inappropriate business model to it? Or is he prophesying the unavoidable future of fiction publishing? Your thoughts and opinions would be appreciated.


How to Communicate More Effectively, Part 7 – Bringing it All Together

Gareth L Powell @ 17-01-2009

[How to Communicate More Effectively is a series of guest posts from Gareth L Powell. In case you missed ’em, here’s part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6.]

As writers, bloggers, editors and publishers, we’re in the business of communication. Over the last week, I’ve outlined one strategy you might use to get your message across to your audience. There are other methods, and I suggest you check out as many as possible, which is why I’ve included a list of reference books at the end of this post.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide. Personally, I’ve found the discipline necessary to write good marketing copy has helped me in my creative writing endeavours.

In summary, some final advice for you:

  • Know your audience and write for them.
  • Start with a killer title that they can’t resist
  • Hook them in with the first sentence and don’t let them go.
  • Get them emotionally involved as soon as possible. Make it personal. Give them a reason to care.
  • Use as many short sentences as possible to create pace.
  • Use evocative words that conjure impressions in all five senses – smell, taste, touch, sound, and sight.
  • Avoid clichés.
  • Use positive, action-packed phrases to make your prose come alive.

In these times of dwindling magazine subscriptions and slumping book sales, we need to use every tool we can in order to attract and retain our readership. If we put a fraction of the care and attention we invest in our creative endeavours into marketing them, I’m sure it’ll do us all the power of good.

Further Reading:

  • Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins (Free download: http://pge.rastko.net/etext/100010)
  • Write To Sell by Andy Maslen
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly
  • How to Write Sales Letters That Sell by Drayton Bird

How to Communicate More Effectively, Part 6 – Generate Action

Gareth L Powell @ 16-01-2009

[How to Communicate More Effectively is a series of guest posts from Gareth L Powell. In case you missed ’em, here’s part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.]

Having got your audience wanting to subscribe to your magazine, read your blog post, or sign up to your email newsletter, you simply have to close the deal.

You have to tell the reader what you want them to do. Would you like them to contact you? Would you like them to support your cause or buy your book? Or simply check out the other posts on your blog? In order to get them to act, you have to tell them exactly what you want them to do, and how to go about doing it. Keep it simple, direct and to-the-point. You’ve got them wanting your product; all you have to do now is to tell them how to get it.

In addition, you should make sure that what you tell them to do is easy and straightforward. It’s no good asking them to fill out an eight page online questionnaire in order to access your site, because they’re unlikely to bother. Instead, make your download available with one click. Allow them to subscribe online to your magazine. If necessary, give them a phone number and an email address for queries. Make it easy for them to contact you (or take the action you want them to) and they will.

For example:

  • Order online by March 1st
  • Download the new issue FREE by clicking here
  • Send your completed order form to this address
  • Follow this link to buy “A Guide To Space Monsters” on Amazon

How to Communicate More Effectively, Part 5 – Build Conviction

Gareth L Powell @ 15-01-2009

[How to Communicate More Effectively is a series of guest posts from Gareth L Powell. In case you missed ’em, here’s part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.]

Making your audience want your product is one thing, convincing them to actually put their hands in their pockets is quite another. You have to get over their natural reluctance to buy or act. This can be done in a number of ways, the most common being the testimonial and the product comparison.

Testimonials are short quotes from celebrities or satisfied customers endorsing the product. Including one or more of these helps to reassure the reader that their decision to buy from you or use your service is a wise and sensible decision.

Comparing your product with a more expensive option also helps to encourage the conviction that the decision is correct.

Similarly, if you’re in a position to offer any sort of guarantee (“Your money back if not 100% satisfied) then this is the place to do it.


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