There was a time, I’m told, when New York book publishers promoted not just their A-list authors, but also their mid-list authors. Concurrent with the birth of the Web, those houses began devoting virtually all their marketing dollars to their sure things, pushing mid-list authors to market their own books. The trouble is, most authors are introverts. Plus, time spent chasing down opportunities for public appearances is time away from writing.
With the rise of the Web, those authors found a somewhat easier means of promoting themselves, and in a less transient way. Build a blog or post on social media, and it’ll be seen longer and by more eyes than just at a local bookstore or library book signing.
Before long, many of them discovered that if you’re going to market yourself, you might as well publish yourself.
Here I’m going to pause to recommend Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking as an encapsulation of the way authors, bands, and other artists [including, ahem, tabletop game designers] can succeed in the Information Age by gathering a clan of fans and treating them as friends, for moral support as much as financial, through the emotional rollercoaster that is being an author, musician, or other artist [game designer again raises hand].
The question is where best to interact with the online community. Let me offer a quick parallel to illustrate the point: When I was first introduced to hobby games in 1979, we had a tight-knit little group who met every Friday night to blow off steam from the workweek by board gaming and role-playing. Lifelong friendships were built there. A few years later, as my career in game design took off, making a living also required exposure to a larger public through store demos, convention appearances, and magazine articles. My friends and I still played on Friday nights, but I also gamed with thousands of people over the years and built a reputation through my work both on-staff and freelance.
Internet same same but different.
There are several people with whom I game online on a weekly basis. Some I originally met online, others from convention travel. We now meet either via Messenger, or more recently Discord. Gaming with them is effectively like those close-knit Friday sessions, and our relationships have grown close, sharing not just gaming, but real-life sorrows and celebrations. Our cozy corner of Discord is like that private basement.
But my profession requires a public presence outside that corner. It involves interacting with a much larger group of friends and acquaintances met virtually or in person during the course of my career. And an expanding exposure of Lester Smith Games publications is also essential.
For years now, Facebook has been the easiest, perhaps most effective outlet for that exposure. But not everyone I know nor hope to know uses Facebook. I’ve begun double-posting there and here on my own website. Now experimenting with posting just on my website and sharing to Facebook. (Though I’m not yet convinced people on Facebook click through to blogs. If you did just now, please message me there so I’ll know. Thanks!)
In Twitter’s earliest days, I was actively present there, as well. Then HootSuite changed its terms, Twitter went from 70 to 140 characters, and Trump had even more room to blather, leaving me less inclined to Tweet.
And just when I began to venture back into my Twitter account, Elon stepped in.
Facebook is still my primary presence because of family, friends, and many fans. But I’m looking to expand that social media outreach personally and professionally. I’m currently “@lestersmith” on Bluesky, CounterSocial, Hive, Instagram, Mastodon, Post News, Threads, and Twitter. Exploring, seeing where my contacts are, which are the best sources of news, where my personal mix of game design and social justice posts best fit.
If you’re on any of those yourself, please click their link above and message me there, okay? Or if you have different recommendations. I can use the guidance and encouragement. Thank you much.
P.S. If you know a way to auto-share WordPress posts to any of those, I’d appreciate that as well. Thanks!