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  1. #1
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    Workshops as Promotional Vehicle

    Fung Koo, in a private message, asked me to expand on the perceived value of workshops online and off as a vehicle for self-promotion.

    Here's what I've seen, in both my own experience and in that of other writers I know. In general, teaching writing is not a good tool for promoting one's own fiction writing (obviously, if you're using a textbook you wrote on writing, that nonfiction book will pick up sales.) That's because people who take workshops are there to learn to write their own publishable books, not to find a new writer to read.

    This is really clear in workshops that aren't part of conventions, like Odyssey, Clarion, Sycamore Hill, Viable Paradise, etc. Someone who comes to those has one overriding goal--learning to write well enough to get published. They may come to a particular workshop because they already admire one of the instructor-writers (and hope the success will rub off or that writer will have some tips or some connections) or because of the workshop's reputation for having its students get published. I know people who have taught at some of these, and I taught at Viable Paradise its first year--and if their students care about the instructor's work, they've already read it. If they don't, they're so focused on their own desire to get published that unless the instructor pushes his/her own work as part of the instruction, there's no discerniable interest in sales.

    At SF conventions, the results and the analysis are more mixed. Those who teach at convention workshops--or go on panels aimed at unpublished writers--are also available in other venues--usually they're also on non-writing-track panels, and they're interacting with fans (some of whom may have attended the workshop or writing panel.) If a good number of that writer's work sells in the dealer's room during the convention, it's possible (but not certain) that the workshop and writing panels brought in a few sales. However, what I've seen of that venue suggests that the bulk of the writing sales (when not mostly people who came to that convention to buy signed copies of that writer's work) come from being interesting/witty on non-writing panels and from interacting directly with people elsewhere in the convention. Those who come to the convention for the writing workshop and the writing panels are, once again, focused on finding a way to get their work published. They are as apt to be annoyed to angry with one of the instructors for telling them what they don't want to know ("That story is not ready for submission--fix this, this, and that") as eager to read the instructor's fiction.

    Sadly, many people who go to workshops and attend writing-track panels are not willing to hear what they don't want to hear. They have very fixed ideas about what it takes to get published, what the "hidden truth" is, etc. I sat beside Anne McCaffrey at a long panel on getting started in writing one time, and she gave a ton of valuable advice. At the end, one of the attendees buttonholed her on her way out and said "I know you have to say all that to everyone else, your publisher probably makes you, but what's the real secret to getting published??? I won't tell anyone else..." This sort of attitude--that there are all sorts of conspiracies and secret handshakes and so on--means that a lot of people come away disappointed and upset--and not in the mood to buy the instructors' books, if they weren't already doing so.

    Where workshops do have a promotional effect is in getting gigs for more workshops. That's especially true for those with advanced college degrees, especially doctorates in Fine Arts or English, but also for those with an MFA. If someone has taught at a prestigious workshop, both more workshop gigs and even academic appointments may follow. As a sideline or even main source of income, teaching workshops (for pay, of course) and teaching creative writing at colleges can supplement income from fiction. However, odd as it seems, this doesn't necessarily lead to more fiction sales. I know people whose fiction-writing career has slid downward (rather than climbing) although their workshop-teaching and academic-appearances have increased. One reason (other than student annoyance with instructors) might be that being the instructor for a residential workshop, as the prestigious ones are, is a heckuva lot of work. You have to read all the manuscripts; you have to prepare detailed critiques; you engage with the students every day, hours a day. You have to bend your mind to someone else's vision (every other student's vision) so that your comments make sense to that person in light of what they were trying to do. For some of us, it takes time afterward to wash your brain clean of those other influences, and get back to your own work with your own focus. Do that too often, or too long, and it's a real impediment to your own work.

    Online workshops and posts on writing, as I said before, have a completely untested effect on book sales. I suspect (but can't prove) that they're no more effective than non-internet workshops in producing sales of the instructors' work. After all, that's not their purpose--their purpose is to help the students get published. That's how their success is measured.

    There's a further complication: some really good writers are lousy teachers (and if they attempt it, they alienate more than the usual percentage of their students) and some really good writing teachers are not that good at writing fiction (so any student who is tempted to buy the instructor's novel reads a few pages and wonders if the instructor ever followed his/her own advice...) But I think the big gap that results in few sales comingfrom teaching writing is that the students aren't there to buy the instructor's books--they want his/her expertise. (Or they don't, and complain about it after they get it.)

    An exception that isn't really is the writer's appearance at a university when the university has chosen a book as the "community reading"--and has thus forced faculty and students to read it. But those sales were made before the writer appears...they are not contingent on people deciding, after a writing workshop, to buy the writer's fiction. And the appearance isn't usually a writing course of any kind, but specific to a given book. Some books are included in the syllabus for genre fiction courses (lucky the writer to whom this happens!!!)--but again, that's not self-promotion by the writer.

    So: To promote your fiction, you do personal appearances, you go to bookstores and sign shelf stock, you build a website and have a blog. If you can do it without getting in flamewars, you go to other sites and hang out and try to sound interesting enough that someone might--possibly--check out one of your books, without talking so much about your books that it annoys everyone. Some people have e-newsletters; some people carry around freebies (other than business cards) such as pens or bookmarks. When people ask what you do, you say you're a writer (and then endure all the humiliating questions they ask...sigh. "Could I read everything you've written in five minutes?")

    To promote yourself as a writing teacher, you teach workshops--at first unpaid, later paid if you're successful--and appear on conventions panels in the writing track. You answer endless questions, and offer your experience, both for pay and gratis. If you want to move into more of a teaching role, if your fiction isn't that successful or you just love teaching, you do more of this, and you also get the necessary advanced degrees to apply to teach creative writing in a college or university. (Universities simply will not accept publishing credits as sufficient qualification for being on the faculty. If they have a cheapie night-school component, you might get to teach there, but it won't pay nearly as well. A friend of mine teaches creative writing in the evenings at a major university, but she's never been asked to even speak to the "real" English department creative writing classes.) I don't have an MFA or a PhD, and I wasn't even an English major, which totally freaks out English professors. (I had one ask me, at a university gig, "What made you think you could write, if you weren't an English major?" It is to scream silently.)

    [aside: there's a squirrel on my windowsill, flirting her tail....so cute. Bushy-tailed rat, but still...so cute. I moved the curtain to see better and now she's on a sapling...nope, just jumped to the ground and bounded off somewhere.]

  2. #2
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    what the "hidden truth" is
    The magic secret key! The magic secret key! Are you ever tempted to make one up for them?

    I know you have to say all that to everyone else, your publisher probably makes you,
    This is my favorite part.

    We had a squirrel once that perched on a window sill, right up against the glass, eating a nut, while our dog was lying nearby and then our cat spotted it and got right up next to it. But it kept eating the nut because it knew that glass was a barrier. Everybody was highly entertained and then when it finished, it flounced off.

  3. #3
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    I was very green at that particular convention, and was simply flabbergasted. How could anyone think that after all that (90 minutes as I recall), there really was a sekrit handshake and even if there was, that such an approach would get it??

    As for making up secret keys and magic buttons...no, I'm not tempted. Too lazy, I guess, to do the kind of job it would have to be to fool anyone.

  4. #4
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Thanks, Ms. Moon.

    Not to ask you to put words in other people's mouths, but given that not every author does try to teach (and that some are simply lousy teachers), do you think that those who do teach (and teach at least reasonably well) enjoy more sales than those who do not?

    As you said elsewhere, at the very least you gain some name recognition from teaching. Popular media would have us believe that popularity itself begets popularity, and that exposure and name recognition are hugely important for sales. Whether that flows from word of mouth or the media, it seems to me that increasing your name recognition must have at least some effect on sales (after all, name recognition is really the goal of the entire election process, award process, the basis of celebrity, etc). Hence the question -- do you find that those who teach enjoy greater sales of their own work than those who do not?

    It seems to me that being an involved, active voice in the literary community must increase the sense of one's credibility and skill as an author. I certainly don't imagine that respectability is altogether essential to be a successful author, but credibility strikes me as incredibly important -- especially in light of the notion of "literary" works of fiction.

    So as a secondary follow-on question -- in your experience, does being an involved, active voice in the literary community seem to have any effect on one's status as a "literary" author? And, have you noticed if there's any appreciable difference in this regard between "mainstream" and genre authors?

  5. #5
    Shadow's Lure (June 2011)
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    I'll let Ms. Moon answer for herself, but I will add my two cents if no one minds.

    Short answer to Fung's first question: no.

    It's a matter of scope. Appearing on a panel, teaching a class, doing a public appearance -- these types of events have a small effect on a modern writer's sales figures. That's why publishers, even the big ones, have shied away from the fabled book tours of the old days; they just didn't make much of a difference on the whole.

    I mentioned on another post that I have been considering a second career as a teacher. This isn't to increase my sales (especially because I'm not enough of a jerk to require the students to buy my novel), but because I feel I have things of value to share with developing writers. IMO, this is the only reason to consider an instructional position.

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    You do keep trying to get me to say what you want to hear, Fung Koo. But sorry, it's the same answer I gave you before.

    No, writers who teach do not get more sales *unless* they are selling their books on writing.

    Name recognition does not equal sales. Do you buy the books of every name you recognize? I sure don't. Some names I recognize and think "Eeeuw! Not buying that person's book!" I know what popular media says...but popular media is selling itself. Popular media wants everyone to think that a) what is in it is Important and b) what is in it is True, so that people will buy it--buy the magazines, the newspapers, watch the TV shows, etc. What works is writing books people want to read...and then getting enough people to read that first book so they tell their friends about this new writer they found...and those people tell others, etc. Word of mouth.

    People who come to workshops are far more interested in themselves than in their instructors (there are always exceptions...but not many), and are there to learn how to get published, the name recognition you get from teaching a class or speaking on a writing panel at a convention is minimal. You get far more from being a bestselling writer in whatever you write....but your numbers have to be really high, or you have to have a lot of books out that are slightly less bestselling than that.

    Consider. Everybody knows who J.K. Rowling is. Not because she taught workshops (which as far as I know she didn't) or went to a lot of conventions (which as far as I know she didn't) but because her books took off and sold bazillions of copies. And as is usually the case, many more people recognize "Harry Potter" than "J.K. Rowling" (though if you tell them "She wrote Harry Potter" they will then start bouncing.) If you write a book that takes off like Harry Potter, then you've done all the self-promotion you need to do for the rest of your life. Incidentally, Harry Potter fans are unlikely to buy another book by J.K. Rowling unless it says "By the bestselling author of Harry Potter" on it, because an astonishing number of people don't pay any attention to the writer's name.

    Literary fiction is a whole other ballgame from genre fiction, especially this genre (and romance and westerns are in the same boat with us.) The "gatekeepers" for both name recognition and respect are completely different. You can get clout by writing reviews for the right publications, by teaching at the right schools, etc. If you're recognized as an Important Person in the literary world (you have the degrees, you taught at the right place, you wrote suitable essays in the write magazines, and now you have written a novel that touches all the points by which literary novels are judged) you will be respected as a novelist. That gets you nowhere in commercial fiction. Trying to straddle the line can get you kicked hard from both sides: the proponents of literary fiction are often scornful of good sales numbers (if it's popular, it must be bad) and the proponents of commercial fiction are scornful of literary pretensions.

  7. #7
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Sprunk View Post
    I'll let Ms. Moon answer for herself, but I will add my two cents if no one minds.
    Don't mind at all! Glad for multiple perspectives.

    That's why publishers, even the big ones, have shied away from the fabled book tours of the old days; they just didn't make much of a difference on the whole.
    That's really interesting -- I wasn't aware that this had really dropped off. I assumed it was still just standard practice.

    Why do you think this is? Any pet theories?

    I mentioned on another post that I have been considering a second career as a teacher. This isn't to increase my sales (especially because I'm not enough of a jerk to require the students to buy my novel), but because I feel I have things of value to share with developing writers. IMO, this is the only reason to consider an instructional position.
    Oh certainly -- as a (currently non-practicing) teacher, those who get into teaching because it helps them feel cool or important almost universally burn-out in no time.

    If your primary goal in teaching isn't to teach, students pick up on it very, very quickly. Correspondingly, they lose respect for you. As it's said, to be truly cool is not to care if you're cool.

    But, if writing is your primary profession and teaching secondary, some (like me, for example, who's asking these questions) wonder if that doesn't play into the drive to teach, how one teaches, how one is received by their students, etc.

    Apparently, it's not nearly as significant as I had thought.

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    Shadow's Lure (June 2011)
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    As far as theories why authors don't see as many book tours (or as long a tour) as in previous years, I think it's simple economics. As the profit margin shrank, publishers had to cut back on the perks. Marketing budgets were slashed. This meant less dollars toward promoting midlist and new authors.

    Some authors still get the star treatment, but more and more I believe that is reserved for non-fiction writers (self-help gurus, octomoms, and politicians) rather than novelists. I know Brandon Sanderson was put on a lengthy book tour for the new WoT book (yay Brandon).

    As for the teaching, I won't know until I get off my butt, and dip my toe into the water.

  9. #9
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E_Moon View Post
    You do keep trying to get me to say what you want to hear, Fung Koo.
    I'm only trying to slot what you've said into my conception of things. It's not that I want you to say what I want to hear -- I'm just trying to hammer out how your experience meshes with my perception!

    There's just one issue here that I don't quite get, and that is your assertion that:

    Name recognition does not equal sales.
    This statement is difficult to rectify with virtually every other argument about the role of celebrity/popularity in publishing. There is an identifiable core demographic in genre literature made up of people who will buy any SFF title simply because it's an SFF title, and also author-specific fans who will buy anything that that author puts out. (Goodkind, Brooks, Jordan, Card, Kay, King, LeGuin, Cussler, etc. -- I would expect that you've got some followers, too!) I'm not sure how else to conceive of the advent of such a demographic if not for an equation where name recognition = sales.

    Granted, authors can earn their notoriety in any number of ways -- by no means is teaching the only way to go about it (one would hope that writing really good works of fiction was the best way...). But considering that an author's profession is writing, teaching writing would seem to be an effective way to demonstrate one's knowledge and thereby earn a reputation as a good, knowledgeable author. Or so I've always thought.

    The reality may very well be as you say -- the effect of teaching, compared to any other possible way to promote yourself, isn't all that significant to one's sales. I can see from your description that it's clearly not nearly as significant as I thought. I'm just surprised by this -- in most other professions, being an effective and respected teacher can be an excellent way to improve your reputation and move up the ladder (as it were).

    Perhaps it's just a confirmation bias of my own, though, because of my teaching background. Or, because I come from the so-called "literary" world where teaching and writing operate a little differently, as you've outlined. And/or perhaps it's because teaching others has helped me in my professional life simply because I have a teaching background.

    Curiouser and curiouser...



    People who come to workshops are far more interested in themselves than in their instructors
    You'll get no argument from me on that one!

  10. #10
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    ...and also author-specific fans who will buy anything that that author puts out.
    Anecdotal evidence in that I wil automatically check out something new by a favorite author, say Resnick, LeGuin, Sean Stewart, et al. I will check it out but not necessarily buy it. If the available information, eg., back cover, front page insert, first page of text doesn't draw me in, I'll go on to something else.
    Ms. Moon is a perfect example: I thought - and still think - The Deed of Paksenarion was/is one of the finest fantasies I have ever read. I picked up Surrender None and put it down. That caused me to shy away from Liar's Oath.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the first three boooks in the Serrano legacy but never picked up anything else. Have never been enticed by Vatta's War. Now, this says more about me and my attention span than it does about Ms. Moon's writing talent.
    Ergo, swoyi, and therefore, my anecdotal evidence both supports and refutes Flung Poo's assertion about name recognition selling books.

  11. #11
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    I agree with all of Ms. Moon's points. On the question of whether doing writing workshops provides an author "legitimacy," I would also concur that it doesn't do a thing for sales. But it does buy you some legitimacy with your author peers (assuming you don't do it really badly!) who are also conducting the workshops. And this can be useful, as is serving on panels at conventions. If you are a debut author, or one working primarily through a small press, gaining accepting among the author crowd a) at minimum makes you feel like you actually belong there, and b) can over time provide helpful contacts (introductions and the like).

    My experience at both doing panels and workshops is that the visibility I incur has been beneficial in keeping my name circulating (at least to some extent). And the more panels I do, the more potential there is for new readers to find out about me. While I have actually sold some books to workshop attendees, particularly those interested in my subject area (Asian fantasy), I agree with Ms. Moon that the majority of workshop participants are there to learn and are not all that interested in whatever it is that you've written. But promotion is not why I do the workshops anyway; I do them because I'm trying to give back to the writing community for the similar help I received when I started out. The convention panels, now; those I do for promotion. You can only talk about "character differentiation" so many times and make it exciting, so those bits are actually more like work...

    I would add that the local authors I know who do not do these things, and who only rarely make an appearance at a con, are also the ones that none of my other author friends have heard of either. And if authors who keep up with the market don't even know about them, then it seems to me readers are even less likely to...

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    The kind of name recognition that works in selling commercial fiction books is a reputation for having written books many people want to read. It starts as simple word-of-mouth from friend to friend "Hey, I just read this great book by a new writer named Smith..." and if the friend also likes the book, he or she then tells other friends. At a convention, someone overhears them talking about that book. and that person goes to the dealer's room and buys a copy.

    From that beginning, writer-of-commercial-fiction name recognition moves to the seller level: the bookseller in the dealers' room of conventions, the clerk at the bookstore who is familiar with, and "hand-sells" new writers to his/her customers, as well as introducing readers new to the genre to writers the clerk likes. This leads directly to sales of books, while also increasing that writer's sale of books. I consider librarians to be at the same level, although they aren't actually selling books--but they are introducing readers to books, and some readers who start reading a writer's work in the library may end up buying books. Also, to find a book in the library, you have to remember the writer's name--so library users are likely to link name-to-book.

    When a writer-of-commercial-fiction gets to a certain point (which may be either general name-recognition in the field or personal-knowledge of an instructor) name recognition can enter academia. Name recognition then spreads horizontally from one instructor to another: "Can you send me a list of books I should use in a genre fiction class?" (Yes, instructors who know nothing about genre fiction get to teach genre fiction classes...because they have the right teaching credentials.) Academia has, as Fung Koo pointed out, a different set of metrics. Being known by other academics--and being known for having some academic connection--really matters. For instance, Joe Haldeman's books are used in many SF courses not just because they're good, which they are, but because he teaches at MIT. The books ARE good--and deserve to be taught--but so are the books of other writers whose work isn't recognized by the academic community because so far it hasn't appeared on the lists used by other academics. For academic use--teaching use--writers definitely benefit from having academic credentials--the English lit degree, the MFA and Phd in Fine Arts--and from being recognized as "one of us" by the academic community. Colleges and universities that have programs in genre fiction will not hire a "pure writer" of genre fiction to teach writing genre fiction: they want someone with the right academic credentials...a source of frustration for writers who would like to teach, but don't have the right degrees. (The organizations that credential these teaching institutions rate colleges and universities lower if any of their teaching staff has lower level or no degrees.)

    But name recognition among readers can be negative as well, based either on a particular book or books ("X has really slipped--that whole series is just junk") or on the writer's behavior: "I met X at convention Y and s/he's a total jerk. I'm not reading anything X wrote ever again and you shouldn't either!" When that kind of name recognition emanates from a bookseller (and I watched it happen at one convention, where an irate bookseller stripped all of an author's books for credit and swore never to carry that author's books again) it can have a very negative sales effect. People who say negative publicity can't hurt you haven't been around genre conventions, at the least...and these days, the internet, where people with prickly dispositions are hovering on every venue to notice and magnify whatever a writer does that annoys that reader. (For instance, the recent hoorah on Amazon.) Many more people will not-read a book by someone they've heard something negative and personal about than will read it, if they're not already a fan. And the word-of-mouth by internet travels a lot faster and farther than it used to in person. There's zero chance that other convention chairs (for instance) will *not* hear about a writer's behavior at a convention within 24 hours--and yes, this results in invitations being pulled, chances lost to prove that the writer isn't a raging bull, but merely human and having one bad day. This is less likely to cause loss of recognition on the academic side--sales of the books to professors teaching classes (if you're lucky enough to have gotten on their list) will continue as long as the professors themselves don't meet you and find out you're a pain to deal with.

    In general, a writer's other activities, even if writing-related, don't lead to significant sales. There are people, well-known at conventions, who are very active in the fan community, very busy on panels, doing workshops, etc., whose sales remain low. It's not lack of name recognition, per se: the moment they walk into a convention, everyone recognizes them, greets them, they're often great people to be around and have tons of friends...but they don't have the sales. This is where even positive "name recognition leads to sales" breaks down. Those are the writers popular for something other than what they write: they're fun, they're talented speakers or singers or artists or costumers or gamers, they have every good quality you can think of, but...they don't have the sales. Readers have found, over the years, that they just don't like Wellknown Person's stories. So, though they'll welcome them, flatter them, listen to them, etc....they won't buy the books.

    Still, we all believe (at least for a decade or so) in the old "name recognition is what it takes" and we all listen (at least early in our careers) to all the advice, and try to follow it. As for conventions and genre venues on line...there's also the fun factor. It's fun hanging out with people who share the same interests. Most of us are surrounded by people who don't share those interests; most of us don't have a handy cafe full of SF/F friends to drop into on a daily basis. Whatever enthusiasms you have, you're likely to find yourself in places and times when you can't indulge them, whether it's horses or photography or golf or SF/F. So the urge to merge with those of similar interests can be, and often is, as much or more about companionship as promotion.

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    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Teaching really has no effect on sales in the fiction market. Authors who are college professors may be seen as more literary writers, may possibly be seen more favorably for awards thereby, but the winners of the major awards are in the majority not college professors, so there's no definite correlation, and authors who are college professors are not necessarily top sellers. Academia has little to no impact on marketing of fiction works, so an author being a prominent teacher, or even the fact that the author is a teacher, is generally not known by the potential audience nor a factor in their decision making, nor does it guarantee you an audience in the academic market either for fiction.

    Writers who do fiction writing workshops tend to be mid-list authors and there is no visible link that shows doing workshops bumps sales for those authors. Bigger names may do limited time workshops as a favor, not for marketing. (In fact, such workshops are a big time suck.) Conventions are marketing exhibitions, like book fairs. They are attended by fans who are there in part to meet and find new authors. If they are favorably impressed by an author on a panel, they may then buy the person's book to try them out, same as with a speech/signing at a bookstore. So conventions are part of PR for authors. Teaching they may do at such conventions, however, is largely a mix of social networking and being nice to new writers. Writers conferences tend to be the same, and may be more about a writer getting to meet with agents and publishers and get known by them than selling to conference attendees, although some sales may occur.

    This is all again because in the fiction market, the author is unimportant. Who the author is, what they've accomplished in the past, etc., is largely of no interest to readers beyond idle curiosity. This is the case for both fiction that people label "commercial" and fiction that they label "literary." There are no qualifications required for writing either type of fiction for readers. The fiction author is for readers the conduit who supplies story and characters. People like Stephanie Meyer, for instance, but what they care about is Bella, Jacob and Edward. They like George Martin, but they want him to finish his books. They like to read John Scalzi's blog because he is an entertaining and thoughtful fellow, but when it comes to buying his fiction, they may not if it's not an Old Man's War book set in the world they like, or they'll decide based on their estimate that he is likely to deliver a story and characters of interest to them, not just because he's a prominent blogger. They like Margaret Atwood because they like her works of feminism, alienation and cultural ennui, not because of her personality or whether she teaches school or not.

    So things that alert readers to a fiction author's name and the titles of their books are all to the good -- name recognition. So an author blogging, a book signing event, a convention appearance, a media article about them, etc., may help put that name and title in front of people's faces. But then you have to hope that some of them check out the work, and then that some of those buy the work, which has nothing to do with who the author is and everything to do with how they write. SFF fans do not buy works just because they are SFF. There are several thousand SFF books put out each year. They buy them because someone who's opinion they trust told them it was good, or because they read a review that made the book sound interesting or something about the book appeals to them and they take a gamble. They may read a book because it is free or cheap, and then buy it and more of the author's work. Because of what the fiction author can do for them, which is provide a story and characters, not act as college professor. Any teaching a fiction writer does alerts his name to far fewer people than the average blog post.

    This is the opposite to the non-fiction market where who the author is becomes of prime importance both in getting published and marketing the book. Non-fiction authors provide their expertise and their PR connections. The non-fiction readers' first requirement is: "why should I listen to you and not someone else about this subject?" since the author is supplying them with information. So that a non-fiction author is a college professor and therefore a scholar in the subject becomes a major selling point for non-fiction. Non-fiction writers who teach seminars, give speeches can then sell loads of their books at these seminars and speeches, because they are proving their expertise to supply the non-fiction information. Non-fiction writers who are journalists are valuable because they are plugged into the media and have built-in expertise. Non-fiction writers who as a result of their expertise day job can get media interviews are marketing gold for non-fiction.

    Whereas fiction writers are interviewed on visual media, and now print media, less and less and are likely to get on visual media only if films or t.v. are being made of their works. For non-fiction writers, who you are is very important. For fiction writers, pfff. Which is why the larger and steadier sources of income for book publishing come from non-fiction, not fiction. Fiction is the flashy stuff that can sell really well but is a much bigger gamble because it and the author can't be marketed most of the time like a normal product, even if you load up the fiction with tie-in products.

    And so people get confused. They think the fiction and non-fiction markets operate the same, which is why a lot of new authors are like the one Ms. Moon related accosting Anne McCaffrey and think it is a matter of who they are, rather than the story and characters they have to sell. After all, stuff that they feel is poorly written with awful or badly developed characters gets published. But those stories and characters connected with some folks in one way or another, and will either acquire an audience or not, based primarily on word of mouth. Word of mouth can be enhanced and aided by PR efforts to boost name recognition. But it can't be marketed like a non-fiction author who is an expert in knitting can, unless readers fall for the characters and/or the story.

    So PR for fiction is about throwing the author and title out there where people can see them as much as possible and then hoping the readers go for it. Sometimes, even if the publisher spends a lot in ads and such to get that name out there, they don't go for it. And if ads don't work, being a teacher is certainly not going to do it. For the authors at your book fair, Fung, the book fair itself was the bigger aid, not the teaching stuff.

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