Developing an online presence is crucial to the career of emerging writers. Writers are now applying their prodigious creativity to the issue of marketing itself. A perfect example is Brisbane writer Joanne Schoenwald. She is sharing her novel Woodford Virgins for free online: . Here’s a quick interview Speakeasy did with Joanne earlier today about her experience. We look forward to hearing how it goes, so stay posted!

MV: What gave you the idea, or prompted you, to share your novel for free through Scribd, rather than to use other strategies?

JS: Woodford Virgins is a novel that I began about seven years ago and it has gone through three completely different versions (and several drafts of each version) in that time. It’s a novel that I really love and, as an artist, I want to be able to share my work. If a painter or sculptor creates something, they can find myriad ways to display it and share it but I felt frustrated that my work was sitting on my computer or in reams of paper on my shelves. I am really driven to write about topics and themes that bring joy to the world and I can only do that if it actually makes it out into the world. :) So, I opted to do something constructive and I thought I would embrace the opportunity to release it to the wider community for free, rather than having to invest money into producing hard copies. 

MV: How did you research and choose which social media platform to use, and was the process straightforward enough?

JS: Attending Kate Eltham’s workshop on "Promoting Yourself Online" last December really inspired me to embrace the many technologies out there that are not only available to authors but which have possibly become a necessity. I have built my website with WordPress because that was Kate’s recommendation and I can see that WordPress has so many more features than other types of blogs. I came across Scribd while searching through the WordPress help forums.

I wouldn’t say that it was a straightforward experience–I have spent many hours investigating ebook options and websites and the forums of WordPress itself. But I don’t consider myself to be a technological whizz and I managed so I think anyone who has an understanding of the web could manage it. Having done it once, I am keen to apply the same process to other projects (including for my husband’s business). It’s the kind of thing that’s a bit fiddly but once you’ve got the system up and running it’s very easy to replicate. The beauty of all of this is that it has all been for free, from ‘designing’ a cover for the ‘book’ to creating pdfs to hosting the book and website. Doing things for free means that there are sometimes a few extra steps along the way but it’s well worth the effort because you would pay so much more to get someone else to do it. 

MV: What do you hope to gain from sharing your novel for free?

JS: I’m a big believer in just ‘putting things out there’ and seeing what happens. :) The highest priority for me was to finish the cycle of creating a novel, from first idea through to sharing those words. I am open to the idea that people might read it and give me constructive feedback that I can use to continually improve the book, so that it becomes a living document. I am open to the idea of building a following that could serve me down the track. And, of course, I am also open to the idea that soooo many people will read the book and love it that a publisher cannot help but pick it up ;) 

MV: What do you see as the benefits of social media for writers?

JS: It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the role of technology in the lives of writers and the future of writing. But now that I’ve jumped on board, I can see that this could really be an exciting time for us. Basically, the future possibilities are fluid, changing all the time, and I felt I needed to jump into the pool now so that I could know into which direction to swim as the currents change. It’s the great unknown of it all that is both a little intimidating and exciting. Social media provides a way to get back some of the control of your work and to feel empowered by choosing its destiny, rather than sitting back and waiting for something big to happen.

MV: Congratulations on initiating this exciting experiment with social media. We wish you every success, and encourage all our readers to go and download your book!

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