Sunday, February 15, 2015

Being a Writer # 2

A writers list that I belong to is having a discussion about networking and self-promotion. It's well known that publishers do very little promotion of most books. The big guys only promote the books they expect to be best sellers. The independent presses simply do not have the resources for promotion. So it's up to the author.

There are two problems. One is that many writers are introverts and do not like networking and self-promotion. Among other things, it feels pushy and obnoxious to be always talking about your work.

The second problem is, it isn't clear that self-promotion works. It seems to in a handful of cases. But when authors get together, they talk about all the things that don't work. Forget about having postcards and bookmarks and refrigerator magnets made. They do nothing. Appearances at bookstores might work a bit, but organizing your own tour is difficult; and it's always a drag when three people show up for a reading, all of them relatives.

I am thinking of making business cards, which I do need, with the cover of Hidden Folk (my latest book) on one side. I have e-editions of my first three novels, all long out of print, coming out from Aqueduct Press. I'm thinking of having bookmarks made to publicize them. I am serious in saying I don't think bookmarks work, but I like bookmarks. They are useful. Business cards and bookmarks celebrate my publications and help me remember that I am, in fact, an author.

Maybe I will do this, and maybe I won't. I do need the business cards.

I don't enjoy readings or signing and don't go looking for them, though I will do them, if asked to.

(One big rule in self-promotion is, do what you enjoy. If most of it doesn't work, then have fun.)

I maintain this blog so people can find me on the Internet. I once lost a sale to Harper's, because the person who wanted to buy a poem of mine couldn't find me. Never again. I've made a handful of sales because people could find the blog and the email address associated with it. I've gotten a few pieces of fan mail. That is all to the good.

If you have a blog, you need to keep it more or less up to date. People won't revisit a blog, if the last entry was two years ago. They may suspect you are dead or in a nursing home. So I try to post every week or so. I try to make the entries entertaining, though I do not have John Scalzi's gift for chat at all.

Blogs are supposed to be out-of-date as methods of promotion. We are all supposed to tweet. I will stick with my blog, thank you. My natural length seems to be novelettes or novellas, and the same goes for posting. I like room to say what I want to say.

I do facebook, because I enjoy facebook. I haven't gone out looking for facebook friends, so I have only 700. Almost all of them are members of the science fiction community: writers, editors, publishers, critics, reviewers, fans. This is because most of my social life revolves around writing and science fiction. I treasure the handful of facebook friends who are not in the community. They remind me that there is a larger world.

Most of the time, I don't push my writing on facebook. Instead, I talk about the weather, what I've done during the day. Trivial material. There are also photos of Iceland and cute animals from around the world. I usually link to at least one political article a day, though I try to limit these, since so much news is unhappy-making.

Always pushing your career makes you seem, well, pushy or a narcissist.

I go to local conventions and to Wiscon, in order to meet with friends. I do panels, because I enjoy doing panels, and they get me a free membership. Once in a long while, I go to out-of-the-region cons. I belong to a couple of e=mail lists, one made up of SF writers, the other made up of feminists in the SFF community.

I do a column for Strange Horizons six times a year. I took me a long time to get in the swing of writing those, but I have now written three columns ahead, because they were fun to write: one about Chinese detective stories, one about Ghost in the Shell and one about vanishing pieces of SF history.

I have probably written most of this entry before, because writers are always mulling over self-promotion.


Blogger Foxessa said...

We've been thinking of this a lot too. We have some plans, and are even starting the implementation of them now, though pub date is October.

We have this really splendid friend, who has made millions in the old music business. He's retired from that (mostly) for a life of political activism, particularly in terms of the environment. He's so politically radical he makes us look conservative.

He's also an unquestioning advocate for whoever it was who told the world that all one needs to succeed is ten people posting about your thing on twitter and fb, and then there will be ten more, ad infinitum.

He's determined to do something like this with our book, calling it a marketing plan. In his days in the music biz he formulated and ran many a successful marketing plan.

But I don't believe hes got any idea of how this would work with printed matter, much less a book like ours whose content is extremely sensitive to so many people including our primary audience (we think) of African American women.

Now for years people like us have been seeing other people like us trying to do this for their books, and with cross-posting on every platform they can ferret out, screaming ME MY BOOK REVIEW MY BOOK INTERVIEW ME GIVE ME AMAZON STARS, they fail, and additionally look pathetic and stupid. I'm so afraid our friend will do this to our book, while meaning to accomplish just the opposite.

Even now, what is good for music is not necessarily good for books. They are not exactly the same.

It's very hard to wrangle somebody who has a buzzing bee in bonnet, and is always all his life in the position of authority, who is, as his production record proves, in fact, almost always right. But what he thinks he's going to do with our book is not right, and we cannot allow him to do it. At least, not without a huge amount more of very clear discussion of what and who and where and how and when.

Twitter and fb posts are not a marketing plan, unless you're already deeply successful within that very particular community. Or so it seems to me.

12:36 PM  

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