Category Archives: promoting

The Genre Thing

So, my publisher recently purchased an advertisement spot for my book.  Well, she purchased an advertisement spot for a bunch of the books she represents, one of which was mine.  It’s very exciting, the image of my book is about to appear in a magazine.  I’m kind of stoked.

The one thing that bothers me is that the magazine in question is a horror magazine.

My writing is, to my mind, much more comedy oriented.  Action?  Sure.  Adventure? Why not.  Fantasy?  Definitely.

But horror?  I mean, sure, my main character is a monster from nightmares, but it’s from his point of view and he really doesn’t see himself as horrific.  Okay, he kind of does, but… that’s not really the way it’s supposed to come across.

The thing is, I desperately want people to read my book.  Anybody, really.  I mean, I’m getting to the point that when the book comes out in print I may just run up and down the street throwing copies of it at people and screaming ‘read this!  Read it!’

But I’m a little worried about people coming to the book with the wrong idea in mind.  I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve read a book or watched a movie and been disappointed, not in the quality of it, but in the fact that it wasn’t what I was looking to experience right then.  Am I setting potential readers up for that disappointment?  And should I be worried about that?

My publisher is very horror oriented in most of her work.  She is, apparently, trying to expand into urban fantasy, and I’m glad she is, but a lot of the connections that she has right here and now are horror connections, and I’m a little worried….

In fairness, though, I’m always a little worried.  It’s my nature.  It’s why I take pills for anxiety.

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Reflecting as I promote

So, one of the great conundrums in the world of promoting art is how you seek out your audience.

There are places, both real and virtual, where fans of particular kinds of art congregate.  For the sake of this blog, I’m going to focus on the fans of my kind of art.  Science fiction and fantasy books.

The problem is that the places, both real and virtual, which have the largest gatherings of potential readers are well aware of their potential value.  Places like comic book conventions, and io9, where my possible readers come together regularly and in droves, know that have created the perfect place for writers and the like to peddle their wares, so they charge for the privilege.  I don’t begrudge them that, after all they put a lot of time and energy into what they do.  It makes sense that people looking to take advantage of it should have to pay for it.

The problem is that for writers who don’t have an established fan base and can’t count on a certain number of sales, or cannot easily come up with the money required to rent a table, each purchase is a calculated risk.

So instead, when you don’t have the cash flow to buy a spot at one of the big places, you have to look for the little places.  Like blogs.  A few days back I found a list of blogs where people reviewed urban fantasy stories.  I went through them, checked each one out, and whenever I found an active site that looked like they were interested in my kind of story, I sent them an e-mail asking if they’d like to review my book.

The thing that interested me was just how many of the sites were defunct.  You had to keep your eyes open, check out how long ago the last post had been put up.  There were places that looked perfect for my kind of book, it just happened that the last time they’d done anything on their site was 2011.  Funny.  And kind of sad.  A bunch more just weren’t taking reviews at the moment, so, all told, of the hundred and fifty blog sites that I looked into, I think I sent off just a little under twenty five requests.

But man, there were a lot of dead sites.  In a way, looking at all of the review sites reminded me a lot of writers.  There are a lot of writers and would-be writers out in the world, trying to make a go of it, desperate to be seen, desperate to be heard.  We tell ourselves that this is our calling, that this is what we want to do with our life.  But somehow, the longer you go, the more ‘bodies’ you start seeing on the side of the proverbial road.  Eventually most people quit.  And I can’t fault them for it. Pursuing your dreams is a rough road to travel.  You take a look around you and you see the people who’ve made it, you see the io9s and the comicons, and you know where you want to end up, what you want to be.  But at a certain point you just sort of realize that you’re not going to end up there.  You can do well for yourself, potentially you can become  a great niche artist, but your name will never reach the acclaim of, say Stephen King or Jim Butcher.  It’s a bit troubling, when you have to readjust your aim, shoot a little lower.

Delayed Reaction

Woo!  Sorry about that last post.  As  rule I should avoid blogging when I’ve been up for more than twenty hours at a stretch.  I know people who can function after a couple of days without sleep, but let’s face it, I need eight hours a day or I’m delirious.

Anyway, after finding out a couple of days ago that I’ve sold all of seven copies of my book over the last three weeks (SEVEN?!?), I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time over the next couple of days focusing on promotion.

But one of the problems I have with promotions is that the best forms generally take a lot of time, and are incredibly hard to attribute directly to the source.

For example, the form of promotion I think is most effective is word of mouth.  If somebody reads your book and loves it so much that they start telling everybody about it, that is probably the single most effective method of reaching a wide audience that you will ever find.  Now, it’s true that if the person who read it and loves it has a platform, it’s even more effective, for example, if Oprah Winfrey loves your book, that’ll get you more sales than if Ms. Bennett from apartment 3A loves your book, but either way, if you can make somebody a fan for life, then you’ve got an advertisement that will keep on working for you for years to come.  Not to mention the fact that an endorsement from someone who is obviously not being paid to endorse your work will carry more weight than any paid advertisement.  Oh, and by the way, you also have somebody who wants to know when your next book comes out.

But getting word of mouth going requires time.  After all, you have to get the book into the reader’s hand and wait for them to actually read it.  Plus, who remembers the name of a book recommended to them in a casual conversation?  You have to tell it to them half a dozen times before they remember that it was Storm Front by Jim Butcher, not the Butcher Store by Jimmy Front.

And attribution is a bitch as well.  Promoting is a lot like putting on a blindfold and throwing darts at the board.  When you finally take the blindfold off and see that one of the darts got you fifty points, how the hell are you supposed to know which throw it came from?

So even if you find the perfect way to promote your book, once you’ve done it, how the hell do you figure out which of the techniques is actually responsible?

I’m sending review requests to a bunch of book reviewers over the next couple of days.  I’ve done this before, when I was promoting a book under another name.  I sent out reviews to about a dozen bloggers and exactly zero of them replied.  But hey, maybe this time…

A right and wrong way to blog?

So, I’ve been glancing around at a few other blogs, mostly the blogs of people who are following me, and I’ve found them to be strangely organized and well thought out.

It makes me a tad bit insecure, as my approach to blogging has been more of a stream of consciousness type thing.  Well, maybe not stream of consciousness, but closer to that than it is to what I’ve been seeing.

I’m writing this blog, primarily, as a means to promote myself as a writer.  As such, maybe it would make sense if I were to spend some real time on these things, sculpt them into complicated and meaningful works of art, or deep introspections.  Then again, if I was reading the blog of someone I was thinking about reading, would I want an essay or a casual conversation?

Eh, I’m overthinking it.  Frankly I suspect that blogs are only nominally more effective at promotion than twitter is, and twitter, as best as I can tell, now consists primarily of advertisers advertising at each other and occasionally re-posting something random so that people will think that they actually read what comes across their feed.

God, as much as I love writing, I hate promoting.  It would be bad enough if we knew that it was actually effective, but we don’t.  No way to be sure what, if anything, actually works.

Message in a Bottle

So, once a writer gets a book out there, however they got their book out there, they are much like a seaman thrown onto a strange shore, who, having journeyed over the mountains that lay beyond their beach find, to their horror, that instead of being on some foreign continent, they are trapped on a deserted island.

Instead of reaching the end of their trial, they are, in fact, only just beginning it.  Once the book is out and about, the writer must begin to promote it.  There was a time when this was the job of the publisher, and some of the kinder publishers will help you with this step in your journey, but as a rule, the person who is going to do the most work in getting word of your book out into the world is you.

Unfortunately, when it comes to promotion, nobody is really entirely sure how the whole thing works.  Or if they are sure, they’re keeping it to themselves, which is probably a wise thing as nothing seems to work as well once everyone is doing it.

For most of us, promoting our books is a bit like sending a message in a bottle.  Oh, sure, there are certain things you can do that are certain to get SOME kind of response.  For example, you have to tell your friends and family.  They’re basically obliged to buy a copy and tell you that they love it.  But unless one of the people who has to buy your book and sing its praises is Brad Pitt, that isn’t going to be enough to get the response that you want.

Every writer knows, in their heart, that somewhere out in the world, his or her readership is waiting, desperately wanting to find out about their book.  They might not realize that this is what they’re waiting for, but it is.  All we have to do is put the message into the right person’s hands at the right time and it will spread like wildfire.

The problem is that we have no idea who the right person is, when the right time is, and where all of this will take place.  Even when we know that certain things have worked before, like setting up a cooking blog, or selling books at track meets, or sending a copy of the book to a celebrity, we also know that those things worked because of very specific circumstances.  The book tied in with this, or it represented that, or the celebrity in question had just taken their medication… whatever the reason.  The point is, we cannot possibly expect for something that worked yesterday to work today.  It won’t.  Instead we take pot shots.  We pay attention to the big things, the trends going on, and we try to find a way to make our book stand out just a little bit, and we throw our message in a bottle out into the tide here or there and cross our fingers and hope really REALLY hard.

Sometimes I think that there must be a better way to do this, some way to help the cream rise to the top, instead of just advancing the people who are good at promoting themselves.  I don’t have anything against those people, but I think that good writers and good storytellers often get the short end of the stick in the publishing world.

Or maybe I’m just not creative enough or not dedicated enough.  I will admit, I often find myself getting frustrated and walking away from the computer too quickly.  I really am drawing a blank on how to promote myself.

Well, almost a blank, there is that one idea…. and it might be crazy enough to work….

It’s (a)live!!!

My book is out!

Well, sort of.  My book is available in e-format.  Very exciting!  And terrifying.

Now all I can do is sit and twiddle my thumbs and pray that somebody reads it.  And likes it.  And tells their million friends that it’s awesome so they’ll all buy copies too.

Of course, most of my friends are old school, they want the book in paper, and I’m not sure how long it will be before it’s available.  Eh, whatcha gonna do?

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do:  I’m going to sit in a chair twitching and trying not to think about my book, sitting out there, unnoticed…. Oh god, what if nobody reads it?  what if nobody likes it?

I need a valium.

Here we go again

This is not the first time I’ve started a blog.  This is not the second time I’ve started a blog.  I would go on, but it may or may not be the third time I’ve started a blog and I don’t want to be inaccurate.  The point I’m getting at is that these things are ubiquitous.  They are everywhere you look.  You can find blogs by models and blogs by athletes, blogs by celebrities and blogs by politicians.  High schoolers have blogs about the video games they play, and bands have blogs about their music.

Everyone is talking as loud as they can, which raises the question: who is listening anymore?  I signed up for twitter a while back, and in very short order I found myself inundated by announcements from writers who were publishing their first book, and businesses who would love to help me reach my audience, for a low fee.

Not once did I find a post by someone looking for something new to read.  Not once did I get a message from somebody who wanted to hear my opinion.  Now, in fairness, I didn’t exactly ask for any opinions myself.  I’m not judging the people who were on there.  But I can’t help how much of a point there is to all of this.

I am a writer.  I have a book that will be coming out soon.  I hope people will read it.  My publisher has informed me that one of the things I need to do is set up a webpage and create a blog.  I need to connect to my audience.  Or, perhaps more accurately, I need to allow my audience the chance to connect with me.  If they want to.  But I can’t help wonder if this is really the way to do it.

Everyone does it, of course, but that’s the problem.  Everyone does it.  I’m sure that there was a time, not that long ago, when a writer setting up a blog was a new and novel thing.  I’m sure that there was a time when readers who went searching online and found something like this were impressed and interested.  What I’m not sure of is that there’s any real reason for it anymore.  Is there really a chance that somebody who comes online looking to know more about an author will find what they’re looking for in one of these?  Or is this something that we simply do because everybody else does it and we don’t want to be missing one of the ‘magic ingredients’ for success?

Sometimes I wonder.