Did you ever do something that seemed like kind of a good idea, and ended up being a GREAT idea? When I put up a blog post breaking down the contents of Wolves and Witches for forensics performers, I figured it’d be a little boost in findability and a good reference to pass on to teachers. Months later, it’s the number-one way people find my site, it’s generating actual book sales, and people are clicking on my story links in a way they never, ever did from my bibliography–even the Read Free page.
So I made another one for my non-W&W stories. Same results. “Free forensics pieces” seems to have a cachet way, way above a simple “free stories and poems”.
For those of us who want our stories to be read (that’s all of us, probably?), this is gold. I’ve said this on Twitter before, but I’m so serious about it that I wanted to blog so I could lay it all out. Forensics performers, speech-class students, and their parents and teachers and coaches all want to read your stuff! But they have to be able to find it.
I created designated posts for this information, but if you don’t blog or have a static website, you may want to apply it directly to your bibliography.
Here are four guidelines for how to list your work so that the people seeking great new forensics pieces know you’ve got something to offer.
Divide your bibliography into two groups: prose and poetry. Most importantly, use the term “prose”! It’s the search term people use when they’re looking for a story to use specifically as a piece for competition or to read aloud in class.
Not all published pieces are allowable for all forensics competitions. The National Catholic Forensics League allows pieces that have only been published electronically. The National Forensics League requires that they have been published in print. Here are the rules:
Works self-published by someone other than the performer are not explicitly forbidden, although the NFL bans pieces that originated in high school publications. Pieces must be commercially available or (for the NCFL) online, i.e. accessible to all competitors.
I have my “More Forensics Pieces” post divided into NFL-acceptable and NCFL-and-NFL acceptable sections. It’s important to let readers know how, where, and when your stories were published, and where they can be purchased in hard copy (for NFL) or printed out.
People searching for forensics pieces primarily need to know three things: the length, the type, and the voice.
“Length” should be given in minutes, not word count. Estimate one minute per standard manuscript page, or about 4 minutes per thousand words. Performances have a maximum time limit of 10 minutes (about 2500 words); however, performers are allowed to “cut” pieces to fit the time limit, so it’s worth listing longer pieces. Performers are also allowed to group shorter stories into a themed performance, so flash fiction is also worth listing. In addition, class assignments for reading aloud are often in the three-to-four minute range: again, flash fiction.
By “type” I mean both genre and tone. If a piece is funny (or even funny-ish), call it “humorous”. The opposite of “humorous” is “serious” or “dramatic”. Readers may search for a genre as we know it (fantasy, sci-fi, horror) but they are far more likely to search for setting or character specifics: “cowboys”, “creepy”, “in space”.
The “voice” of a piece means a description of the primary characters. Readers will want to know the proportion of male, female, unspecified, and other-gendered speakers and narrators. The NFL rules explicitly state that “The gender stated by the author must be honored” and the NCFL rules state, “The author’s words as published in the literature may not be altered for the presentation with the exception that cutting is permitted,” so if your characters are ambiguous (deliberately or as a side-effect, as in first person), this is your chance to officially place them on the gender spectrum or allow the reader to place them anywhere they want. Readers may also want to know things like the age, regional origin (accents!), or profession of the main character, especially the narrator.
I’m told that there’s a special demand for very dark or very funny pieces, so if that’s the kind of story you write, it’s worth noting.
Yeah, search engine optimization, I know, I know, but in this case it’s important, because people searching for these pieces use a different set of terms than most writers use to refer to their work. Here are some words you may not be using yet, but should consider:
Many of the searches that reach me include the word “forensics”, “poetry” or “prose”, and a qualifier like “ten minute”, “fairytale”, or “for girls”. The more explicit you are about the contents of the stories you link, the more likely you are to get that click.
There’s a huge demand for short read-aloud stories and poems, but most writers’ websites don’t easily show that they can supply them. By adding a few details and the right language, you might be able to get your work into the hands of someone who’ll love it, make it their own, and remember it for the rest of their lives.