September 23rd, 2006, 09:12 PM
If we agree that books succeed or fail by word of mouth, then we agree that the only effective promotional tool is a good book. (By that I mean a book that people enjoy and want to talk about, not necessarily good in a technical sense.)
If you want people to shill your book on your behalf you need to (a) write a good book and (b) get it into the hands of people who might enjoy it.
No author can determine whether (a) is true (that's for readers to decide, remember?), so you have to concentrate on (b). And so I recommend you concentrate on giving away copies of your book instead of telling people how good they are.
Yes, it's expensive. So is proper advertising, and while that may sell a few books, it won't generate word of mouth unless they're any good.
Another thing to note: You don't see established authors heavily promoting their books via newsgroups or forums, and so the first thing people think when they see a self-promo effort is 'great, another unknown author shilling their work' - assuming they bother reading the post at all.
September 24th, 2006, 03:24 AM
Excellent - i'll check it out - not had a chance to read everything in this thread yet!
September 24th, 2006, 03:28 AM
Hey Simon - isn't that weire - i was just reading your articles on your website the other night! Couldn't agree more - you have to be very careful not offend in the online arena- you articles were great by the way.
September 25th, 2006, 03:45 PM
Well yes, giving books away is traditional publicity for fiction, though it usually is targeted. You are more likely, for instance, to be giving copies to people who are doing reviews of books on the Web than just people passing on the street (though that's not necessarily a bad idea either, if you can afford it.)
Basically, the Web replicates and expands what has been going on in the sff community for a long time. Amateur fans and sff writers started up magazines and publishing operations. Now they also start up e-zines, e-books, blogs, newsletters, review sites. They held conventions and events, now we also have websites with forums, author websites and on-line stores. Fans used to send fan mail to authors, now they leave comments on an author's blog. It's just all much, much bigger, where you can reach now. Of course, that means we're all lost in the miasma too.
Saw some interesting new strategies while I was updating my lists from publisher newsletters. Josh Conviser, a sf author with Del Rey in the States, is offering free copies of his novel, Echelon, to those websites and blogs that will run a banner ad for the book. Now, big sites, which already get free books, won't bite, but smaller ones and blogs may. It's not a bad idea in any case.
Joe Schreiber, who has a horror thriller called "Chasing the Dead," which is put out by Ballantine Books in the States and crossmarketed to sff through Del Rey, is doing a Blair Witch sort of blog -- http://www.chasingthedead.blogspot.com -- where he has a character or made-up investigator checking out weird happenings in towns related to the novel and keeping a blog about it.
Now, the few publicity tricks I've learned, I've learned from authors, and it does not appear that Ballantine/Del Rey is sponsoring these efforts but that the authors are doing them by themselves. I would be highly surprised if the publisher had anything to do with it, though they are happy to let people know about such sites/promotions. And in any event, it's the sort of thing an author could reasonably do, even without a major publisher.
September 26th, 2006, 09:10 AM
Just Another Philistine
Dave Barry, a U.S. humorist, describes in his blog his promotional trips around the country for his books as strumpeting. That is such a good term, I could not resist borrowing it.
Sue has posted the opening chapters for Hat Man, Llafn Meistr, and Oracle on our site. I, too, have posted opening chapters of three novels. You can get to them through our bio pages.
September 26th, 2006, 02:21 PM
Edited for submission
Not bad HE, not bad... Now all we need is someone to read them ROFL!
September 26th, 2006, 11:07 PM
I AM too a mod!
You naughty little strumpets! It sounds less dirty that way.
October 8th, 2006, 01:59 AM
I AM too a mod!
Further reading for any wannabe strumpets: justine larbalestier blog
I like Garth Nix's comment, number 5 on this page link about the quality of the work and the magic word of mouth.
October 10th, 2006, 08:51 PM
I am an author a bit down on his luck. I was involved for a number of years in the fanfic community (no gasps of revulsion, please) and graduated to completion of my first POD book. My problem is that I simply have no time to make friends and create an on-line presense for myself. I am a full time restaurant manager, office administrator, and parent with a hefty mortgage. Whatever free time I have I use it to write; I also have to sharpen my skills by reading others' works. It's been tough going because a lot of people view me as just another sales person looking to hawk my wares. Truth is, I'd love to socialize, but the best I can hope for is a few short posts like these a week. It's really too bad; the internet is a great way to meet people, but if you're selling a POD book you're just one face in a million, it seems. My conclusion is that POD and self-published works don't sell. Critics tend to have an extremely skeptical view of anything without the magic seal of approval from a publisher. You have to get bookstore shelf space to get anywhere in this business.
Last edited by EMMAXIS; October 10th, 2006 at 08:54 PM.
October 10th, 2006, 09:09 PM
\m/ BEER \m/
Start a blog, join Live Journal and/or MySpace. They are great tools for networking and getting your name out there.
There are quite a few writers who I first discovered or became aware of because of their Journals/Blogs:
These writers got me interested in their work because of their on-line presence. Chances are, if they can make their daily doldrums the least bit interesting, they might have a good handle on storytelling and fiction writing.
Anytime you join a community, for example a fan-run community such as SFFWorld, Chronicles-Network or FantasyBookSpot one key thing any new member should do is OBSERVE how discussions progress.
As this thread evidences, continually posting to promote your work will not win you friends or potential readers. I don't mean just Mr. Eggleton, but in general.
Writing and publishing take a great deal of time and effort and for most of us, it starts out as something we do in the morning before work, after dinner or on our lunch breaks.
If getting a full-flegded Web site is tough, start slow with a journal or blog. The software is all there when you sign up.
The tough part is that writers, in some cases, do have to be salespersons for their own books. The key is not coming across like one, be subtle.
October 13th, 2006, 10:10 AM
Well, there we face one of the dilemmas between POD books and self-publishing. Self-publishing, where you have a printer and do up a certain number of copies -- 500, 1,000 -- has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that you have to pay for all those books to be made, and they may then sit there unsold in your garage or basement. The advantage is that you can get those physical books into bookstores, and even in some cases chain bookstores. It does take some marketing effort and an ISBN number, but I know people who have done it, and even been good enough at it to have hired a distributor as their own small press to service accounts and help place books in stores. It's a lot easier with non-fiction books that serve a need than with fiction, but it's possible with fiction. And from that, you can build a local and regional fanbase, which is how most authors start to build an audience in the first place. And reviewers are less nasty about such self-published works and more willing to give reviews.
Whereas POD becomes a book when a sale is made. The advantage is you're not out a load of printing costs and you can do most of your marketing efforts on-line. The disadvantage is that you don't have the chance for people to find you in bookstores and you are, as you say, one of thousands out there on the Web. As a new form of publishing, POD is also very suspect, as self-publishing itself once was, and so reviewers aren't as interested, especially when the publishers are putting out so many titles at once.
But there are ways to enhance things. A weekly blog is one possibility. Trying to get some short stories into the sff mags or an anthology is another -- building up other pub credits and getting your work read. Going to a local sff conference with some bookmarks of your POD work, not act ashamed or be pushy about it, but just get in there and talk with people about sff, about what they are doing and into, and let them know who you are, even if some of them act rude about self-published authors. Giving away copies of your book, as have come up, so that some people are reading it. Try to get the fanfiction community you started in interested in your new project. Offer to do reviews for sites.
Of course all these things take time and sometimes money. You are your own publisher and therefore have all the costs of getting your work out in the market. But POD is not going to disappear, which means eventually it will be an established part of the market. So try to learn all you can about it, to be part of the sff community as well, and do what you can do. You may have to get kind of creative.
October 13th, 2006, 05:40 PM
I AM too a mod!
Just because it's a POD, doesn't mean you can't hire a publicist to do the promoting for you.
I was talking to a teacher from a university the other day and telling her about the long and winding road my publishers were taking to get their marketing up to speed and she suggested letting her marketing students have a go at it as an exercise. So perhaps you know someone teaching marketing and can get some ideas from their students or even high a brilliant young brand new publicist to work for you.
October 15th, 2006, 11:28 PM
Well there you have the gist of the matter in regard to POD and self-publishing -- you have to be your own sales person (or hire someone else to do it for you, if you have loads of money). This is something I've said over and over to writers who are considering self-publishing: do you have the time and the drive and the people skills to be a great sales person? Because successful self-published writers have all those things, and those who self-publish without giving due consideration to these matters are doomed to disappointment.
Originally Posted by EMMAXIS
It's not so much that POD and self-published books don't sell, it's that they are generally much harder to sell, and too many writers who go that route go in with unrealistic expectations, which is a great recipe for discouragement ultimately leading to bitterness. They think of it as a short cut, a way to avoid all the delays and frustrations and hard work of traditional publishing. But there are no short cuts. Take any self-published writer who has been even moderately successful: they work very, very hard at selling their books, and they have the social skills and a sufficiently engaging personality to do so without becoming obnoxious.
If you want your book to sell Emmaxis, you're just going to have to carve out some time to devote to seeing that it does. Some of the suggestions people have made will help you maximize that time, but in the end, as trite as it may sound, you're only going to get as much out of the process as you put in.
October 16th, 2006, 10:19 AM
On a topic related to POD and self-publishing, does anyone have any experience with publishing cooperatives and promotion. Do they have the same issues/problems as POD?
October 22nd, 2006, 07:11 PM
I've started a weekly video blog on my website. I've done this for two reasons, first of all I wanted a blog but not just a written one. Secondly, I felt as though I should include a photo of myself on the site, but on a lot of other author's sites I've visited their pics always look so cheesy. The author is either smiling inanely (probably what I who have done), or looking all thoughtful and moody. I've also added an information service, which is a flash name for a mailing list to which I send one email a week.
If you want to see yours truly in all my gruesome glory, go to http://www.simonwoodhouse.com and follow the link to the weekly video blog.
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