Follow Up on Visionary Fiction for Readers

Reading VFThe copious comments and suggestions that greeted my post, “Visionary Fiction for Readers” of December 2, 2018, shows that the suggested sea change of emphasis from authors to readers on the our website is both necessary and welcome at this point in our genre’s evolution. I apologize that I did not follow up with the speed appropriate to your interest, but a family emergency, now resolved, and the holidays intervened. However, our Steering Committee resumed discussion and planning on this project in our meeting of 1/16/19, and we resolved to proceed posthaste.

Member Comments of Note

The consensus is that both Visionary Fiction itself and our presentation (promotion) of it must be relevant to readers. The VFA must show that it fulfills a perceived need, this according to Hal Zina Bennett (more from him later). M. Franck concurs: “What is of interest to readers? Sex, love, war, violence, biographies, etc. One can think of these interests and focus the blog entries to show the ways that visionary fiction stories address these issues. In other words, visionary fiction is not just zoning out and getting spiritual.” Focusing too much on writers, according to Michelle Frost, puts us “in danger of being a club for kindred spirits instead of a platform to reach the masses.” Apart from the content of our books, we must account for the public’s perception of the stuff we write, as Jodine Turner observes: “Many of our novels delve deep into issues relevant to today’s world. Some dark and painful issues, both culturally and personally, and we want our readers to know about that.”
Hal Zina Bennett
Hal Zina Bennett
In an email of 1/11/19 to Margaret Duarte, excerpted here with her permission, one of VF’s early developers, Hal Zina Bennett ruminates on the site and makes this incisive critique: Having just viewed VFA website, I have some thoughts. The POV [point of view] of the website for VFA pretty much misses the mark in terms of selling books. The message that gets across to the viewer, is a kind of plea to be recognized—an argument for why VF should be better recognized. If you try to get in touch with the average reader, I think they are not going to be interested since the message doesn’t appear to be aimed at them. It’s not really even aimed at readers of VF. It’s something else. What I’m getting at is that the message should certainly not be a plea or a complaint that the genre is underappreciated. It should just be more along the lines of “Here are some great books that speak to a particular part of us beyond the NYT bestseller lists or the mega-online booksellers.” … It’s sort of coming at it from addressing the “perceived needs” of the person who already knows about VF and who is maybe disappointed by the usual book lists because there’s a part of them (spirit/soul?) that isn’t getting reached with other book genres. [Hal then makes some suggestions for a bookstore, an action we are already taking, which I will cover below.] …That quest to understand our experiences beyond ordinary, everyday consensual reality is what the VF readership is about. Promise this in the website. Don’t make a lot about the fact that it’s under-recognized as a genre. Nobody cares except maybe you and me. …The first questions publishers and agents ask is, “What does the book deliver to the reader?” What’s the perceived need it promises to fulfill? …This is a big conversation. Not easy to really nail it. Publishers spend millions for promotion that identifies the perceived need of a book to properly target its market. This perceived need thing is absolutely the key for unlocking your book’s readership and putting together strategies for reaching the readers the book is intended for. When we get that, it’s like waving a magic wand. From the comments on my earlier article and the discussion of all this among the members of the VFA Steering Committee, Hal’s comments further focus us, and rightly, on the perceived needs of our readers.

Details, Details, Details

To meet this need, we will take some immediate and short-term actions. Besides the blog and page content changes suggested in my previous post, the site is being reorganized to better invite and accommodate readers. A work in progress, this will be done by creating a tab on the main menu “For Readers” with sub-menu items that point to materials suited to VF consumers. (For example, “Blog Posts for Readers.” And sub-items linked to pages of basic orientation to VF.) While a small percentage of current members have designated themselves as “Reader,” readers should outnumber authors. We will revise the “Join the VFA” page to include “Reader Benefits” as well as “Author Benefits.” Gulp! that we did not notice this omission earlier. Then, among the comments to my previous post were the following suggestions worthy of consideration: Michelle Frost: Adding a section for VF movies to draw interest towards the books for those who have never read much before. Amber Foxx: When the bookstore is up and running again, could it link to Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple as well as Amazon? [Bookstore does currently link automatically to B&N and Kobo as well as Amazon. There is field for Apple iBook, but that link has to be added manually.] Robin Gregory: Is there a way to generate more readership through the Goodreads connection as well? [Vic Smith: Using Goodreads is a great idea. A couple of years ago, we posted there regularly. We should get back to that.] Deepak Menon: Offer readers a choice of about 30 books by the member authors free for reviewing. Once any reader selects the book, the author can receive a notice from the coordinator or perhaps an automatic info alert from the software itself and can send the reader an electronic copy of the book – maybe Kindle, Nook or whatever – even PDF. The reader can then review it to be eligible for another book to read and review. [There are a couple of other models under consideration to get a review system in place. Margaret Duarte is heading up that effort.] Elizabeth Beckett: I have another suggestion … [about] Trade Fairs. I contacted the Bay Area (San Francisco) Book Festival this year about gaining exposure without actually being there in person and it is not possible. There are many such events in California that are a good audience for Visionary Fiction. Perhaps a shared VFA stand or presence might work? [Vic Smith: We’ve considered book fairs before. A very valid idea. There is a big one here in Tucson in the spring (Google Tucson Festival of Books). Likely too late to get in this year, but its site might serve as an example. At the moment, a cost and manpower issue, but I can see a joint effort (a group of authors donating front money for having their books represented, and then a few in the show area donating time) succeeding.]

VFA Bookstore Reopens

Grand OpeningIn a previous version of the site, we had a bookstore that featured the titles of members and other popular VF writers so that they could be sampled and easily purchased from Amazon. This has now (1/17/19) been replaced with a spiffy new plugin called WP Booklist. The starter collection, largely culled by the hard work of Margaret Duarte, is composed of a mix of active VFA authors (those who have contributed posts in the past, and/or regularly comment on the site, and/or contribute to the VFA otherwise) and some well-known authors whose works can be considered VF. Since the site is produced and maintained through the volunteer efforts of our members, we are exploring ways to make listings in the Bookstore function as a productive award for members who actively contribute to the site and the Facebook page. A tab for “Bookstore” has been added to the main menu and most of the pages have a widget at the top of the right sidebar with a link to the Bookstore. A future page/post will further cover the basic operation of and procedure for the Bookstore. For a sneak peek, click HERE. Since the Bookstore is a work in progress, not aIl titles have been loaded yet. If your books do not appear there and you feel they ought to be there, please let Margaret know via the Contact tab. And if you have VF favorites other than your own that you feel ought to be in our library, let Margaret know that also. Yes, with “baby steps,” we have covered considerable territory. As individual authors we may not be best-sellers yet, but in the interim the VFA has become a strong team with a powerful purpose. Now, we have a united voice with which to get the word out. Let’s shout it!
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14 thoughts on “Follow Up on Visionary Fiction for Readers

  1. vmfranck says:

    Finally…finally someone heard me. I’m V. M. Franck, by the way, not M. Franck. I’ve been saying this in various ways for over a year. I’d actually given up on this site being for readers and given up on the idea of writing blog pieces for it. I learned my lesson about writing my blog in part one, two and three. I won’t make that mistake again. When one is trying to make a point one does not want part three separated by several months from the other parts. I do have a blog about the readers written, but frankly, this is a wait and see.

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    • Jodine Turner says:

      V.M.,

      On behalf of the VFA, I sincerely apologize for the unfortunate typo regarding your name. Of course we know you are V.M., not M – you’ve been such a potent participant in the VFA with your posts, and comments on others’ posts.

      The VFA is evolving and transforming from its original mission to increase the publishing world’s awareness of VF as a genre – a genre that is credible and needed. That is not to say that mission will be abandoned. We are expanding, and as ideas are discussed in our meetings, it takes a bit of time to bring them into fruition. We have been discussing an increased and important focus on readers, and now we are bringing that idea forth in the form of an updated bookstore, and blog posts to address the importance of readers. Other practical ideas to further that mission are welcomed, as the VFA admin team is small and made up of volunteers

      I hear your frustration about the spacing of your three-part blog post. We’ll make sure to address such issues so that these spacing concerns don’t happen.

      Thank you for being forthright and sharing your concerns. I encourage you to continue to grace the VFA with your valued participation.

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  2. The Keeper Of The Diary says:

    This is very exciting – I’m absolutely thrilled to read this! I’ve wanted to write a post since I joined – maybe 3 years ago – but you know how time goes. However, I also could not quite get a fix on what I wanted to write given the majority of posts I was reading. Making the the site, our books and the genre reader-friendly gives things a whole new slant. In the end – we want our books read – right? I mean I wrote mine because I wanted to impact the way people think- open them to new possibilities – I’m sure all of us want that! So, now, maybe I’ll actually write that post and somehow find a way to become more activally involved!

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  3. V. M. Franck says:

    I know you know I’m not M., but others would not necessarily. I would have mentioned it to Saleena, but I didn’t what to bother her at this time. I won’t be writing pieces with more than one part. I learned. I do hope you continue in the direction of addressing readers. I will watch and see. As it has been I saw no increase in my book sales as a result of my participation.

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  4. Jodine Turner says:

    Hello V.M.,

    There are behind the scenes decisions regarding scheduling posts that those other than the admin team wouldn’t, and needn’t, be aware of. While we make every effort to schedule a blog series close together, I think if a post serves the reader, then separating them won’t impact their importance or interest.

    Oh, how I wish every time I comment on social media, or websites, or posted a blog, that it would result in a book sale. That hasn’t been the case for most of us. Would you agree that it is an effort of endurance and persistence, laying down layers of online participation, step by step, that hopefully one day reaches a critical mass and gets noticed?

    The VFA certainly hopes each individual’s participation would result in sales of their book. That is not our only purpose, though ultimately, an important one. We are also a networking, and information sharing resource. The work of the VFA is definitely a team effort, and the goal is connecting those interested in VF. As a VF author friend of mine says, ‘There is a lot of giving in the VFA, for, what at first may seem like little or no reward. Just like writing.’

    I hope you continue to hang in there with the VFA, and more so, enjoy the connection.

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    • V. M. Franck says:

      I’ve been writing books since 1981. I educated myself in these areas. It takes me a long time to write and perfect my blogs. I won’t give up on VFA. I do wish you well. May all your writing goals come to fruition and the goals of VFA which are also my goals, come to fruition. Thank you.

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  5. reanolanmartin says:

    Thanks for this, Vic, and to everyone else who contributes ongoing to this considerable effort. I totally agree with the comments on curbing the emphasis on VF’s under-recognition. It reminds me of the lengthy forwards on books authored by scientists about the connection between medicine/physics (any science) and spirituality. I realize they’re anxious to defend their identities as legitimate scientists, but methinks they doth protest too much. (Show don’t tell.) So much visionary content is showing up in Hollywood these days, as well as on Netflix, Amazon, etc. even if it isn’t the crux of the story. Perhaps whenever one of us sees a show that fits VF in any way, we should post it somewhere on the site (special place for this?) There are so many shows now that none of us can possibly see them all, but together, we may be able to compile quite a list.

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    • Victor Smith says:

      Well said, Rea, and the rationale behind posting so much of Hal Zina Bennett’s email. The task going forward seems to be to “show” not “tell” what VF really is. We have had several plans like yours to do this (anthology, conferences, trade shows, etc.) but limited resources and people power. We do believe the Bookstore is a huge “show” step even if it is only a baby step towards our overall goal, Progress.

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  6. Jodine Turner says:

    Rea,
    Yes, that is a good resource – examples of VF shows and movies. We actually do have a page called ‘Examples of Visionary Fiction’, that lists some books, but also T.V. and movie examples. (under the ‘What is VF’ tab on top navigation bar).

    If anyone wants a movie or TV show added, just let me, or Margaret Duarte or Vic Smith know and we will add it onto that page.

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    • Robin says:

      Hi Jodine, You have my blog but, if this makes it easier, here are a few visionary films: Black Panther, The Shape of Water, A Wrinkle in Time, Dunkirk, Whale Rider, Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Pan’s Labyrinth …

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  7. Robin says:

    You are right, Vic, the bookstore is a huge step in the right direction. Well done Vic, Jodine, and Margaret! I’m most grateful for all your efforts. I wholeheartedly agree with Hal, the marketing approach would be more positive!

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