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22 February 2008 @ 11:10 am
on marketing  

Michelle Sagara, who writes amazingly Big Fat Fantasy under that name, and occasionally under Michelle Sagara West, and who writes the extremely enjoyable “Cast” series for Luna as Michelle West, and who *also* works in a bookstore, has posted an entry about an encounter with a customer who wanted to know about what she did to self-promote her books.

Her answer was, “Nothing,” (but the entry is well worth reading) and it reminded me quite vividly of the first panel I was ever on at a SF convention. The panel was entitled “Shameless Self-Promotion”, or something of that ilk, and I was joined on the panel by, I believe, a self-published author of a SF or F novel, and possibly a poet, and…maybe someone else, but not somebody published with a major house. Oh! Epub, I think, now that I’m trying to remember.

They were talking about how every penny they’d made as a writer had gone back into promotion, while I sat there like a stunned ox. Eventually it came around to me, and they said, “How did *you* promote your first book?”

Um. Well. My publisher paid for me to fly to Seattle (where URBAN SHAMAN is set) and stay in a swank hotel for three days and do radio interviews with people all over the country. My publisher bought full page color ads in industry magazines and local Seattle newspapers. My publisher sent out review copies and collected review comments. I, uh. Stopped in a bookstore in Hawaii to see if they had any copies of my book, because I was there anyway, and they didn’t, so I didn’t even get to sign any.

I do generally run a contest of some kind (frequently “amuse me!”) when a book comes out, but those are seriously not cost-efficient–I have to sell about eight books per one I send out in order to break even.

I suspect a lot of self-marketing goes that way. This is not in any way to say it’s a bad thing to do–like virtually everybody, I think, I wish I had the brainpower to actually do it myself, to think up clever things and to promote myself and my writing through them. (Patricia Bray ordered lizard-shaped bottle openers to coincide with the release of THE SEA CHANGE, in which a lizard is the symbol of the royal house, and they became the Must-Have Item at last year’s World Fantasy Con, so that kind of viral thing really is appealing and does work!) For me personally, though, the best I’ve been able to do is to get out and be friendly at conventions and talk about what I do and how I do it.

Well. Actually, I think the *best* I’ve been able to do is writing books that people seem to want to read, and are willing to recommend to others. That, at the end of the day, really *is* the best I can do, and, like Michelle, I basically think that, not marketing, is my job.

But! Having said that! LJ-user astres is running a contest to give away a copy of FIREBIRD DECEPTION! Go enter! The Dermody books aren’t easy to find at this point, so it’s a rare chance! :)

(There. I’ve marketed for the day! :))

(x-posted from the essential kit)
charlotteu on February 22nd, 2008 11:57 am (UTC)
I'd call blogging a fairly decent bit of self promotion. I can't remember how I stumbled across this blog but it's as a result of reading you here that I now own most of your books.
kitmizkit on February 22nd, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, true, true, and I forgot about that, mostly because I've been blogging/have had an online presence so long it doesn't even seem like it could be marketing, it's just part of my life. :)

And also: cool! That's neat to know! Thanks! :)
irishkateirishkate on February 22nd, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
True for me too. Have all your books now -(published at least) and will be buying (or otherwise acquiring) the rest.
Cat: Picto: Catcuriosity on February 22nd, 2008 12:18 pm (UTC)
As charlotteu suggested, blogging and maintaining a website count as marketing. Especially in the Digital AgeTM. So really, it's not that bad. :P

Edited at 2008-02-22 12:19 pm (UTC)
Autopopeautopope on February 22nd, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
I do the blog thing quite extensively, and that's marketing. But otherwise I'm in the same basket as you. One exception: if visiting a city with a specialist SF bookstore, I email in advance and try to arrange a signing -- even if it's only dropping by to sign stock, rather than a full-on public reading and signing (like the one I just did at Pandemonium in Boston on Tuesday).

But. The SF cons ... well, I was going to them for a couple of years before I even sold an SF short story, never mind a novel. Because I'm a fan. So can I really call them marketing? Well, yes insofar as I go to a buttload more than I'd attend if I was doing them strictly as vacations, and I do a lot of panels and other work there. Don't discount your own presence on that con panel as a marketing activity!
Dreamshadowmorgie on February 22nd, 2008 01:22 pm (UTC)
Well, hey. When I was working at the bookstore, that is actually what I did have the time. Recommend books, either from a general 'I like rl fantasy' or 'I liked this, can you suggest anything else'.

Strangely enough, your stuff was frequentally mentioned. ;)
Childlightchildlight on February 22nd, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
I have found and read the books of 3 new writers(you included) after finding their LJ blogs.
cedunkleycedunkley on February 22nd, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
The author David Louis Edelman has a blog about his own experiences in promoting his first novel: Infoquake. His blog about this is located here: How I Promoted My Book

He breaks down all of the things he tried into groups like : well worth doing; hard to tell; no impact

He also has a follow up to this here: How I Promoted My Book, Part 2

Overall, very interesting insight to his steps taken.