Friday, February 25, 2011

The Vacuum of Self-Promotion & Dead Space

Last weekend I paid a visit to my favorite independent mystery bookstore, Murder By The Book, to skim the new releases, and catch up with my friend and writer colleague, Nick. He’s aware that I’m pursuing self-publishing, and when I selected the recent issue of Crimespree magazine, because it featured a pair of successful e-publishers sipping brandi in lounge chairs, a large garbage can full of their dead tree books burning, with the caption “The Future Of Publishing” at the top, I thought it would be packed with insider advice.
Nick encouraged me to read the article of the two writers interviewing each other before I purchase the issue, because it was more about a pair of good old boys patting each other on the back (a mutual admirations society), than sharing knowledge on e-publishing. I read the first column of the article and found that Nick’s opinion of the piece was accurate. I was a little disappointed. Then I figured maybe the magazine editor spun the article wrong, because one of the writers maintains an awesome blog loaded with information about e-publishing.
Nick commented that he too was hoping the article would’ve shed some light on how e-publishing is going to effect the future of publishing. I recommended The Complete Guide To Self-Publishing by Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier, because the 5th edition contains a new chapter on social media marketing.
My friend responded that one of the reasons he would continue to pursue traditional publishing is that he doesn’t want to be bothered with matters of marketing and promotion. ‘I just want to write,’ he said. Well, before this debate could get any deeper and enlightening, more customers walked into the bookstore, so I had to leave.
This post is the perfect platform to get the idea to my friend and other newbie writers out there, whether they’re pursuing traditional or independent publishing.
The success of your writing hinges on your own efforts to sell your stories.
Sure, Big 6 publishers in New York/L.A. throw thousands of dollars in marketing and promotional campaigns for the Stephen King, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, and James Patterson books in their houses, but that’s because a large publishing house’s job is to sell paper, not the stories printed there.
Every day more and more writers (J.A. Konrath, Lee Goldberg, Marcus Sakey, Barry Eisler) are using electronic platforms (Kindle, PubIt, Smashwords, iBooks), social sites (Facebook, Crimespace, Goodreads), and blogs to build a readership.
How are they doing this? Most of them are starting out with baby steps, releasing novellas and/or short stories, either stand-alone, or as part of collection, and usually for ninety-nine cents or three bucks (especially on Amazon’s kindle because when you price you’re story at $2.99 or more you receive a 70% percent royalty, which is a preferable stipend compared to most traditional contracts only offering 15-20%).
Sorry. I got off track there for a moment.
This post is about how to begin using social media marketing to build a readership. Read the other posts on this blog. You’ll find information on the craft of writing, personal journal entries on dealing with and surviving rejection, and occasionally, flash fiction short stories.
On social sites you can build a page that’s for your personal identity, or even a character in your story. My illustrator on Facebook has a page for his personal life and a separate page for his artwork and the fans that portion of his life is for. As with chat rooms, use social marketing carefully and respectfully.
I’ve gotten in touch with a number of successful writers on Facebook and friended them, but if the pop up window says to only friend them if you know them personally, I only send a courteous, professional message and leave it at that. A mid-list author wished me a happy birthday once. As a result, I follow her work, even though it’s more soft-boiled.
The worst thing for a new writer to do is to post an ad about the release of their first book on the wall of another person’s page. You can ask for permission if you want, but even then, I still wouldn’t do it, as that published writer you made contact with will probably delete you from their friends list with a click faster than a sip of coffee. They’re apt to label you a spammer forever. Posting an ad of achievement on another person’s wall is the equivalent of a foreign country landing on the moon and spray painting the plague that commemorates the Apollo 11 landing.
A good method to start buzz and gain reviews for a book is to offer free electronic copies through your blog or a message board, as long as the reader agrees to post a review (positive or negative), on their own blog, website, or Amazon. J.A. Konrath did this with Draculas and Lee Goldberg did it with a re-release of his thriller Dead Space, which I recently participated in. Now, what’s your guarantee that the reader will just take the free book and run, giving you the middle finger, and not posting the review?
Faith, my friends.
You can also file that person’s name in the back of your head and if they ever show up at a signing for an autograph, refuse to give them one, then regale everyone in the bookstore how the jackass took a free book from you and didn’t follow through with their part of the bargain.
Just kidding. That may cause waves in the bookstore, or diminish the brightness of your star trying to sparkle in the void and vacuum of self-promotion.
Thinking of space brings me back to Lee Goldberg’s Dead Space. Thanks for the free e-book. It was a blast. Here’s a review.
Dead Space by Lee Goldberg
Four (out of five) Stars
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Meets Trekkies
I’ve never read Mr. Goldberg’s books before, but after finishing Dead Space, I’ll probably check out his back list of other titles like: The Walk, The Man With The Iron-On Badge, or Three Ways To Die. The first book to feature ex-cop turned studio PI, Charlie Willis, My Gun Has Bullets, is already in my virtual kindle library, waiting to be devoured.
In Dead Space, Mr. Goldberg successfully plugs the reader into a world of satire that molds together corrupt Hollywood studio systems, a PI (think Bruce Willis from The Last Boy Scout combined with Val Kilmer’s character in Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) engulfed in a murder mystery, and the illusions of fandom (from the perspective of aging movie stars and their fans).
This thriller had me howling with laughter, clicking the Next Page button on my kindle faster than normal, and cringing at the over-the-top violence reminiscent of a Tarantino flick.
If you grew up watching the original Star Trek series when it re-ran in syndication throughout the 70s and 80s, you will enjoy this ride.
From a writer’s perspective, I admire Mr. Goldberg’s craft in keeping these themes flowing like a concentrated laser beam projecting a bullseye on the moon.

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