Friday, July 25, 2008

Fandom

Let's talk about fandom. This morning I watched Miley Cyrus on the Today show, doing one of their live concert series. And as is already established, I'm a fan of hers. So I enjoyed the song I saw.

But what really, really struck me was the entire crowd of people: adults, children, male and female... all singing along to "7 Things". They knew the words. They were into it. They LOVED her. And they were true fans of her work.

In terms of music, I think I tend to agree with the people who say that she's a breakout star in terms of Madonna more than Britney Spears. I was a teen during the whole Britney phenomenon, and it's nothing like the rage around Miley. If I was a fifteen year old girl still, I would be begging my mom for tickets. I may beg my husband to come with me to a concert at some future point...

As a special musical treat, I'm embedding one of my favorite anime music videos which is set to my "favorite" version of a Britney Spear song. It's a cover of "Baby, Hit Me One More Time" and the footage is from Utena. It includes violence within the video, although if you've seen the anime, it makes sense. Feel free not to watch it though.



But getting back to the point of the post...

Obviously, Miley Cyrus has some pretty devoted fans. But how are devoted fans built up for authors? How do you get to the same level of obsession that I saw on the TV this morning? How did Stephanie Meyer or J. K. Rowling do it? I want to hear your analysis of the situation. Please discuss. =)

14 comments:

dragongirl said...

Well, I'm a 'Twilight' fan. I first read it in October '06. And I'm still in love with the books, and involved in the Twilight Lexicon, one of the main forums.

But I read a lot. I've often wondered why I'm so into this series, still, and I think the main reason is because of the Twilight lexicon. I finished reading the book, and went online to find somewhere I could talk about it with other fans. I find this lovely, pretty, happy forum, with loads of topics that I can't wait to explore. We are still talking about things from book 1, and book 4 is about to come out. I think I'm such a fan because I've got other enthusiasts to talk to about the books.
I'm saying it was the forum, because there are other books I've read that I think have a lot in them that could be discussed with other fans, and when I go to find the fansites that go with them, the topics are very limited. Very generalized. So, you could maybe talk about them for a wee while, but eventually the conversation will be exhausted. I'll move onto the next interesting book or series that I find in the shop.
So, I think you need some kind of site for fans to get involved from when a book is launched, or fairly early in it's 'life'.

Kristine Overbrook said...

I fell into the Harry Potter mania late. When the fourth book hit and kids were on the news and excited because it is "the thickest one yet" I knew there had to be something behind it.

I remember Rowling did readings that got larger as time went on.

I'm not sure who asked the book stores to do it, but they had midnight parties to start the sale of the book, inviting patrons to dress as their fav character.

I know the author usually sets up readings and signings...but who would encourage a party? That would only happen once the series took off right?

Her website is fantastic, but that came about after the fourth book too.

Kristine Overbrook said...

dragongirl, that's a good point. I found mugglenet for harry potter fans once I got into the series. I guess that would be the place to start. Get a site that looks into the backgroud of characters, givs maps of the "world".

The Mirrored Heavens has a nice site. Was that David's idea?

Jenny Rappaport said...

THE MIRRORED HEAVENS site was indeed Dave's idea, although he used part of his advance to get it done all fancy.

But I very much like the idea of using book forums for promotional opportunities. Has anyone else had a similar forum opportunity?

Jenny Rappaport said...

Whoops, the last line should have been: "Similar forum experience".

Jill Christine said...

I had the opposite experience with a few forums -- one of the reasons I burned out on Anne Rice was because I encountered so many unpleasant fans of her work online.

The Internet's changed the way buzz builds, and writers who figure out how that works can build impressive followings before their work even hits the shelves. Commparing that to the music industry, I think it's closer to Lily Allen, who grew her fanbase on MySpace, than Miley Cyrus, who has the unstoppable Disney marketing machine behind her.

Natalie said...

I think Miley in particular gathered a huge fan base that started with her show. Disney is a powerful opportunity. (Look at Hillary Duff, Shia LeBoeuf, Britney, Timberlake, etc.) Little girls love that show--my sister included--and then their parents and everyone else in the house had to watch it too. They got sucked in.

Because she is considered a good role model, parents encourage their kids to focus on Miley and not some of the other teens in that age group who aren't being as good. (Also the same with Harry Potter...not so much with Twilight.)

Finally, those songs are dang catchy. It's fun. People like fun. That and she's cute as a button.

Lisa Iriarte said...

I used to read Hatrack.com which is Orson Scott Card's website and forum. I made a lot of friends that way, many of whom I've met in person, and it built great support for the author.

Authors who respond to emails in a timely manner really win over my heart and secure my fandom. I appreciate the drain on their time, but a personal connection with someone you admire is priceless to a fan.

And authors, unlike pop stars, simply aren't in the public eye as often and therefore don't attract as much attention. The ones who go to events like ReaderCon, WorldCon, and so forth, are more likely to have bigger fan bases because, again, there is that personal connection. I met several of my favorites at ReaderCon this past week and connected with some authors whose work I haven't read yet, but now intend to.

Lisa Iriarte

Ryan Field said...

Jackie Collins seemed to do it with Sex and dirt.

Truman Capote knew the right people and worked them, and his peculiar looks and personality, to the limit.

But these days who knows. Like the song from Gypsy says, "You Gotta Have a Gimmick, if you wanna be a star."

Jenny Rappaport said...

Well ok, let's say you don't have the Disney marketing machine behind you then. What do you do to make your novel appeal to fans?

Ryan suggests a gimmick. A gimmick can sell a novel (witness Naomi Novik), but it still has to be well-written. Let's assume you've written a perfectly good novel that gets picked up by a big publisher for publication. How do you draw the fans in, who don't know you and your novel from Adam?

Merry Monteleone said...

How do you draw the fans in, who don't know you and your novel from Adam?

That's a good question - first, I think it has to start with the writing, because, for authors, the books that will really cross genres and build a massive audience, have to pull the reader in, introduce a new world, characters you can live in...

I like a lot of the comments here already on online marketing. One thing, I think a lot of new or aspiring writers do with their online time is blog - but many of us wind up doing writer's blogs, which don't appeal to the larger readership we're aiming for. And I do think personal interaction can be a great thing for a new writer. Participation in book clubs and forums for your genre, both in real life and online... the internet provides a great deal more personal interaction if you take the time to maintain a site, answer fan emails, and make yourself available to your readers.

I hosted a book club blog on Lottery by Patricia Wood last December that ran for three or four days, and Pat checked in on the blog all the time and answered every single comment... it was wonderful. I emailed her through her website to ask if I could have a book club (her book had just come out over the summer and I didn't want to take a chance on too many spoilers online if she wouldn't like that and that sort of thing) It was the first time she'd spoken with me, and she offered to participate.

I think those type of appearances, that you can do from home no less, can be great - for both the writer and the readers... though I can't say this type of grassroots thing by itself will build huge sellers...

Gord Rollo said...

Hi Jenny,

Great topic, and very interesting to me because, as you know, my novel THE JIGSAW MAN hits the street this week. July 29th in the States and August 8th in Canada.

As a first time mass market author, I'm feeling a bit helpless as to what I can do to help sell books. My small press titles I had more control of and felt less pressure to deliver sales. I already do the convention circuit and I'm lining up book signings and readings all over the place but I'm worried nothing is ever enough.

I'll be watching this thread with interest. If anyone hs ideas for me, I'd love to hear them. And hey, even if horror novels aren't your thing, please take a minute and face my book so the cover is out. I really think little things like that help a book sell.

Bests,

Gord

L.C.McCabe said...

Jenny,

You wanted to know about fandoms and how specifically J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers created such a rabid fanbase.

I think their fandoms evolved organically, similar to the
Star Trek, Star Wars, Buffy, and X Files fandoms spontaneously sprang up. However with today's computer technology it is far easier for fans to connect with one another than it was years ago. I think the element that is necessary for a fandom to be created regarding a book, movie, or television series is fascination with characters and doubt as to where the story might go. Doubt about where romantic relation-ships are going to go is also a plus.

I also came to the HP fandom after book 4 was published. I was blown away by her inclusion of small clues in early books which didn't come to fruition until later books.

Once I went online and did a little digging I soon discovered her use of symbolism in her stories and was even more impresses. (For example the name of Hedwig for Harry's owl was in honor of the patron saint for orphans.)

I discovered the Harry Potter Lexicon and some of the essays there. Then the Harry Potter for Grown Ups list serv which is HUGE and global.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HPforGrownups/

(Currently over 27,000 members worldwide). The discussion there was centered around spinning marvelous theories and debating about character motivation, plots, etc.

Then I discovered HP fanfiction which held a lot of people's attention during the years long intervals between books. The biggest website for that is fictionalley.org, but the discussion boards there are a mixed bag of adults with teens and tweens. Not as sophisticated as the HPfGU's list, but easier to navigate topic threads of conversations.

JK Rowling only introduced her website after the 5th book was written (not the fourth as was suggested earlier.) But that was after her fandom was already in full swing and on a course the author could not reign in or control.

In fact, after the publication of her sixth book, she granted an interview to two online fandomers and that interview divided the fandom. It could have and should have been handled differently.

It came to be known as the Interview from Hell or the Interview of Doom, etc. by many of the fandomers.

As for advice to Gord Rollo, check out Joe Konrath's ebook that can be downloaded here:

http://tinyurl.com/6mazu4

It is a compilation of his wonderful blog posts that cover many, many aspects of publishing and self-promotion.

I could go on and on about the HP fandom, since I am a recovering HP addict. Anything else you want to know Jenny?

Linda

shariwrites said...

I'm new here, and thought I'd chime in. I agree that the internet is a great way to market. Book signings are good and all but (at least from what I've seen) they don't sell that many actual copies for a new author. I love the authors who have web pages. I love blogs even more. I want to know about their writing process, I want to know a little about them (maybe not how many diapers they changed that day, but you know). Forums are also great because they connect fans together. It's fun to go ask questions and get other people's opinions on aspects of books.

And yes, I am a huge HP and Twilight fan. I'm eagerly anticipating an all-nighter Friday so I can read Breaking Dawn.