Today, we’re going to talk about the rising tide hashtag.
I think, to a certain extent, it’s self-explanatory, but I also believe it’s much deeper than its surface connotations. I believe, if enough of us get on board, we can change things. Hopefully if you’re reading this, you’ve seen the Facebook and Twitter engagements I’ve done with it, and you’re curious. I hope you’re curious; I want you to be curious. Truthfully, I want more than your curiosity. I want your anger, your fervor, your engagement. I can’t express how much I want those things and how much the independent market needs it.
The weekend of September 27th, I attended the Context convention in Columbus, Ohio. During one of the few panels I listened in on, an author named John Hornor Jacobs attributed the following quote to Chuck Wendig: “A rising tide lifts all ships.” Wendig didn’t come up with that gem on his own, as I first heard it in an economics class many years ago in college. But the principle is sound and its application to the independent press market is twice as important.
You see, we, authors and small, indie publishers, are in the unique position of being both the tide and the ship. Most (most, mind you, not all) small press owners/publishers are also authors, and any self-published authors are obviously publishers as well. But more than that, we all have one thing in common, which is a distinct lack of backing from one of the “Big [insert remaining number here]” publishers. That brings with it a certain sense of community and while both big, traditional publishing and small traditional/self-published authors are both responsible for a good portion of their own marketing, those of us on the small side of the fence certainly have to do more. It’s expected and, if you don’t, quite detrimental. I think we all know most publishing houses check an author’s social media presence. Shitty? Yeah. Sad? Sure, but true. That begs the question why aren’t we helping each other more?
Lack of time? I don’t think so.
Lack of compassion? Maybe.
Lack of desire? Most likely.
And that’s the desire to help a fellow author, mind you. I’m not sure how many times I’ve retweeted or shared this or that for people (I have certain people I do this for, though that number has dwindled) and never got any sort of quid pro quo. It used to piss me off (and, really, it still does), but I realize now that there’s nothing really there for anyone to invest in. Someone may retweet me today, but not again for three weeks, or a month, or ever.
This is what we have to change.
An author friend, Violet Patterson, and I, have started the ground work for an author co-op here in central Ohio, where we share the costs of booth space, time, transportation, and the other miscellany involved in attending a local event. So, even if I can’t make it, my work is represented by whoever is there. And if I can make it while another co-op member can’t, then I’m going to be doing my best to sell their work to people who want to read it.
We’re artists working together to elevate each other to the next level. This is a group of people I’m proud to throw my hat in with, a talented sect of writers who can only make me that much better, not only at my craft, but at being a decent human being.
That, my friends, is the definition of a rising tide lifting all ships.
And it’s what we need to do for each other online. Form a social media co-op with a couple close friends or with people whose work you’re passionate about, then form another with different people, and always be there to share, retweet, and promote what the people in your co-op are sharing, retweeting, and promoting. Exposure starts growing exponentially at that point. While I understand exposure doesn’t always lead to sales, it’s never going to hurt sales. If you’re sitting at 0 and no one buys anything, you’re still at 0. It’s a win/win situation, so long as everything isn’t a “BUY MY BOOK” post. We can’t forget the general rules of social media etiquette. We need to engage with a broader audience, not drown them in bullshit sales pitches. I’m currently interviewing authors, cake sculptors, a musician or two, artists, and even web designers. Anything to help promote creative people, so if you want in on that, drop me a note. We can do this.
Because we’re not in a zero sum game.
We’re not playing Shirts vs Skins or Blue Pinny vs Red Pinny. This isn’t grade school, gym class, the back of the bus, or the local swimming hole. This is the publishing ocean we’re swimming in, ladies and gentlemen, and it is our future.
We’re not going to change it overnight, or in a week, or possibly in a year. But two, three, even five? If there’s a ceiling here, it’s made of glass, and we can bust through it. Join me, use the hashtag #risingtide, and share this blog post, retweet the fuck out of it.
Bring your friends, and let’s lift our boats high.