My publisher, in what I hope is just the beginning of an ALL OUT MEDIA BLITZ, just put up a little article of mine on their blog telling people why they, as fantasy fans, would probably dig my work.
No, seriously. Go. Now.
Okay, so for me there always seems to be a balance to be struck between being a human signpost for my work (i.e. super annoying) and being a shirking violet who dare not impose upon others with gauche entreaties to read my pitiful prose (i.e. completely worthless).
This came up at Worldcon, where I had neglected to inform my publisher that I’d be there and I had a signing. This was stupid. I also barely managed to see my editor, which was also stupid (my agent, helpfully enough, made fun of me for not doing so and I was able to hastily remedy the situation).
I’m too used to thinking of myself as invisible – a published author whom few people know about. What I forget is that there is actually something I can do about that. I mean, not a lot – all the self-promotion in the world is only going to net you a couple hundred sales – but something. In any event, I shouldn’t sell myself short. I deserve some attention. I think I am talented. I think people will like my work. And it’s important (and a little cathartic) to actually tell people so from time to time.
And you, too, shouldn’t shirk away from speaking highly about your own work. Do it. Just don’t do it all the time (that’s arrogance) and don’t overdo it (that’s bluster), but tell people all the same. You deserve it.
Oh, right, and BUY MY BOOKS!
Hey, gang! I’m going to be interviewed on the Steve Katsos Show tonight at 8pm EST. Short notice, I know, but very exciting! If you’ve ever wanted to hear me talk or watch me be a real, live person, tonight is your chance!
I’ll be talking about my books (current and upcoming), my journey as a writer, and other things of (hopefully) popular interest.
It should be a fun time! Tune in!
When you are a small-time published author (such as myself) or an aspiring published author (such as myself as of a couple years back), you are constantly thinking about how little old you could, somehow, make the big-time. Now, obviously, the immediate answer would seem to be “write a kick-ass book.” Thing is, though, you’ve done that. You know you have. You know you’ve written books better than (insert name of best-selling author of choice here) and nobody noticed or cared. How is that possible, you wonder? How can there be books out in the world no better than my own that sell millions while mine languishes in obscurity?
So, that’s when you set upon an insidious idea: There must be some trick. Some eldritch formula. A secret handshake at a dark doorway.
All that remains, then, is for you to use the secret catchphrase in a query letter or, perhaps, make allies with somebody powerful and influential, and then the money will rain from above!
Case in point: Just at the end of last week, my publishing imprint signed Wesley Snipes to a book deal. Not only my publisher, mind you, but my specific editor at said publisher is going to be working with Mr. Snipes. Cool, right? And of course, my initial thought was this:
Boy, I hope they plug my book inside the back cover!
Because Snipes is going to sell a lot of books. A lot more than me, at any rate, and this is regardless of how good his book actually is (which, mind you, it may be quite good – I know nothing of Mr. Snipes’s talent as an author). Snipes has fans everywhere. They will buy. If it’s a good book in its own right, and one assumes it is (my editor has good taste), it will sell mountains of copies.
I and my friends over at Harper Voyager had our own private little freak-out over the opportunity having a big-name Person Of Note in our imprint might represent. Would there be group signing events? Could we get Snipes to blurb our books? Might there be Harper Voyager panels? We were literally falling over one another with ideas, partially in jest, but also partially because we, as low-end to mid-list authors, savor any possible way to make ourselves known. We are hoping for some magic escalator to the bestseller list.
You run into the same thing, sometimes, at cons. People see a successful author, they want to talk to them, and as much as they know they’re a person with thoughts and feelings and likes and so on, the primary motivator for wanting to talk to them is the desperate, slim hope that they might hit it off and become friends and then your good buddy (insert name of best-selling author here) will introduce them to their mega-agent and then super-stardom is not far behind.
But it doesn’t work that way. Well, not exactly. Yeah, networking is important – it’s always good to be a familiar face – but having a five minute chat with somebody from Locus on an escalator once does not get you some kind of magic ticket. Even supposing, by some miracle, I happen to run into Wesley Snipes at a convention and we are sitting next to each other at a signing table and we realize we like the same movies for the same reason and we hit it off and hang out all night and become best buddies, that does not equate to my books riding that magic escalator. That’s just not how the business works. Your book sells or does not sell thanks to often unpredictable market forces over which you have very limited control. Granted, there are ways you can improve the odds in the margins (to paraphrase Chuck Wendig: you can, through great personal effort, move hundreds of books, but only the big publishers can move thousands, and only the public at large can move millions), and networking is one of those ways. Riding coattails, though, is not a guarantee of success.
And this is even without considering the fact that trying to befriend people just because of how they might assist your career is a shitty thing to do. Those are called “false friends” and they suck. Don’t be that person. Don’t aspire to be that person. You should befriend other authors (successful or otherwise) because they are nice people that you like and admire, not because you hope by clinging to them you might scrabble to the top of some heap. Besides, even if that is your goal, being genuine friends is vastly more likely to achieve it. That, of course, means you can’t fake it – which means it can’t be a stratagem or a ploy, and therefore is not something you can consciously employ for your own gain.
So, yeah, it’s really cool that Wesley Snipes and I share an editor. I hope I get to meet him someday. But I’m not planning on riding his coattails. I’ve got too many of my own books to write.
This Friday (10/7/16) from 12pm-2pm EST, I will be taking over the Twitter feed of local bookstore, On the Dot Books. Thus will my dominance of all local bookchains be assured, as they will quake in terror of my wrath ever after.
By which I mean I hope to have a lovely conversation with all of you wonderful people out there on Twitter regarding my books (read The Saga of the Redeemed!), writing, scifi/fantasy, and whatever you like. Ask questions, trade pithy jabs, and even be exposed to my vast store of stock photography and memes. It should hopefully be a lot of fun and serve to promote not only myself but also a great independent bookstore here in Boston.
So, this Friday, stop by during your lunch-break to pick my brain on Twitter at @onthedotbooks – great fun will be had!
Hi! Did you know I have a book signing this coming Thursday, September 8th? No?
Well, I do! Come to Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, MA for me to sign copies of No Good Deed and even, perhaps, do a little reading! I’ll be there from 7pm to 9pm. It’s free!
And…and I also desperately want this thing to be at least a modest success so the guys and gals over at Pandemonium continue to like me and the book sells and I’m not sitting there at a table, all alone, while people shuffle past me to buy Magic: The Gathering cards and try not to make eye contact with me because oh GOD would that be awkward.
I’ve done 3 book signings in my career thus far. Two have been successful (yay!), and one has involved me sitting alone behind the Nook displays at a Barnes and Noble mostly by myself, save for a handful of friends and that one guy who talked to me for a good hour and then didn’t buy the book.
So, in brainstorming over how I can improve my chances, I’ve come up with a variety of things that I probably shouldn’t try. Here they are:
- Anyone who enters the store between the designated hours is trapped inside of a labyrinth (complete with minotaur) that they have exactly two hours to escape and win fabulous prizes. The only way to avoid being devoured by the minotaur is to BUY MY BOOK.
- I shall impose a geas on all in attendance. They must either buy my book and recommend it to friends or turn into an attractive topiary garden-version of themselves until I get 50 reviews on Amazon.
- I will bring cookies. The cookies will contain a slow-acting poison. On one of the pages of my book will be the antidote. Or maybe there isn’t any poison. Maybe I’m making that up. Maybe.
Anyone who refuses to buy the book will have to face Trial By Combat. My champion is Ibtihaj Muhammad.
- Two words: Mind Control.
- I grow much more hair, make it more curly, and then wrap my book up in the dust jackets of Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind. Then we see how long it takes people to catch on.
- I summon up Lucifer and we negotiate (through my agent) for a distribution deal in which every bookstore I sign in has a line of the damned stretching out the door. You know, to drum up a whisper campaign.
I do the whisper campaign Kermit the Frog tries in Muppets Take Manhattan, but instead of in Sardi’s, I do it at every PokeStop in the northeast, and instead of Rizzo and his friends, I use white guys in clever T-shirts and cargo shorts.
- I coax the Kaiju to attack Boston. There is only one Jaeger pilot left, and he is holding stick-fighting auditions in the basement of Pandemonium. It’s the perfect plan.
- Rather than sit there at the table like a chump, I stalk through the book stacks, stealthily slipping signed copies of my book into everybody’s purse, bag, back pocket, or waistband. I whistle the Pink Panther Theme the entire time.
- I slip flyers under the windshield wipers of every car in a mile radius. Written in a hasty scrawl are the words “No Killer Clowns in Pandemonium.” The genius of this, of course, is that it is literally true.
- My cthonic spawn lay their insidious eggs in the water supply of the Boston area. Soon they will hatch, and all will be my slaves. I will use my newfound power to have them buy my book and then force them to use public toilets and outhouses responsibly and cleanly for the rest of their natural lives.
Alas, due to budgetary concerns, I have foregone all of these brilliant strategies. Instead, I merely ask you to show up, bring friends, and give a new(-ish) author a chance.
See you next Thursday!
Hey, folks! Some publicity news, some No Good Deed stuff, etc, today. Check it out:
Read the Prologue to NO GOOD DEED!
It’s up on the Harper Voyager Facebook Page, so go there to read it RIGHT NOW! Yes, NOW! Put down the bagel sandwich, man, and read!
I’m going to be on Grim Tidings Podcast!
I’m recording a podcast with Grim Tidings this coming Saturday morning, so look for it soon! It’s a top-flight interview podcast with really, really awesome guests, hosted by the ever-personable Rob Matheny! I’ve very excited to have been invited and it ought to be just spectacular. If you haven’t listened to any of their other interviews, do so!
Reading/World-building Discussion on June 30th!
If you happen to live in or near the Boston area, I’ll be doing a reading of NO GOOD DEED and hosting a talk on world-building in science fiction and fantasy at the Hingham Public Library on Thursday, June 30th, from 7:oo-8:30pm. I’m going to read a brief excerpt from the book and talk about how worlds can be built, made real, and sustained throughout a novel or series of novels (or movie or television series, for that matter). It’s free, so come on down!
Pre-order the Book!
NO GOOD DEED is available for pre-order now! Also, if you’re new to the series, check out The Oldest Trick, which chronicles the beginnings of Tyvian Reldamar’s journey. It’s James Bond meets a high-magic Westeros in an adventure reviewers have called “a romp in the style of Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss.” For a mere four bucks, you can’t go wrong!
Talk to you all soon – I got a lot of blog-posts to write for my publicity tour. Thanks for all your support!
Quick post today – getting to the end of the semester, and free time is dreadfully rare.
This weekend in my fair city of Boston, PAX East is coming to town! Now, time was I would attend each year to throw down in a 40K tournament, but lately passes have been harder to acquire and I’ve been more and more busy, so I won’t be there in the flesh. I will however, be there in spirit. And also in the form of my book, for free, for you.
Regardless of whether you can make it to PAX, too!
So, click on THIS LINK to give you hours and hours of fantasy and science fiction stimulation while you stand in line in the good ol’ BCEC!
In addition to my book, The Oldest Trick, by me, a local author, there are also a ton of different titles bound to tickle at least one of your fancies, if not all of them at once. Chuck Wendig! Lexie Dunne! Dan Koboldt! Elizabeth Bonesteel! Nathan Garrison! Laura Bickle! I could go on, but you get the idea!
Go go go!
Did I mention FREE?
For years now, I’ve just had my name up at the top of this place. Figured this whole thing here is to notify people as to my doings and existence and writing projects and what-not, I may as well get top billing. But then I get to thinking. “Auston,” my brain says to me, “Auston, look at Scalzi, look at Wendig, look at myriad other mighty authors and their mighty web-platforms and their catchy titles! Mayhap you ought follow their example!”
Yes, my brain really talks like that. It says “mayhap” all the time.
What? It’s a cool word.
Anyway, let’s just indulge my inner voice for a minute or two and think about what I could possibly call this blog (with the subtitle being “The Musings of Author Auston Habershaw”). Hmmmm….
- Aimless Complaints
- Nothing Doing
- The Haber-shed
- Big Words, Placed in Order
- Will Yowl For Cash
- Bad Nerd Rising
- Ninja Space Clowns
- BAM! (No Affiliation With Emeril)
- The Woes of My Enemies
- Professor Habershaw’s Magical Emporium
- Explosions Are Cool and Other Obvious Statements
That’s all I got at the moment. I hate all of those in their own unique, special way. Man, titles are a bitch, ain’t they?
Any suggestions? Should I change the title? Does it even matter?
Starting today, my fantasy novel The Iron Ring (the first half of The Oldest Trick) is on sale for a mere $0.99! It’s also available through BookBub for the same discounted price! This means you can get the entire first book of the Saga of the Redeemed (The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood) for a mere $2.98 or so! Here’s the sales pitch:
Tyvian Reldamar—criminal mastermind, rogue mage, and smuggler of sorcerous goods—has just been betrayed by his longtime partner and left for dead in a freezing river. To add insult to injury, his mysterious rescuer took it upon himself to affix Tyvian with an iron ring that prevents the wearer from any evildoing.
Revenge just got complicated.
On his quest to get even, Tyvian navigates dark international conspiracies, dodges midnight assassins, and uncovers the plans of the ruthless warlord Banric Sahand—all while running from a Mage-Defender determined to lock him up. Tyvian will need to use every dirty trick in the book to avoid a painful and ignominious end, even as he discovers that sometimes even the world’s most devious man needs a shoulder to lean on.
Sounds exciting, yes? Go check it out! If you are a fan of Scott Lynch or Max Gladstone, you’ll find a happy port in this book, which I’ve been pitching as “James Bond in the Fantasy Renaissance.” And, never fear, once you’re done with The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood, the third (or, really, second) book in the series, No Good Deed is coming out early next year! You’ll barely have a month or so to wait! Go for it!
So, a friend of mine, also a fantasy author, was venting a bit today. It’s been about six months since her first paperback release and the paperback returns are coming in (by the way, did you know that unsold books at bookstores can be sent back to the publisher for returns? No? Well, they can, and the author has to give the royalties back. Very sad.) and she’s had royalty statements where she owed money back to the publisher. Oof. She, like myself, feels a bit helpless in the face of this. What’s a relatively unknown author to do?
I mean, yeah, you can join the echo chamber over at Twitter and scream your book title into the void (much good will it do you – Twitter seems to be a vast ocean of salesmen with no customers). You can organize a few book signings at local book stores and sell maybe a few dozen books each time. Maybe a case or two. You can give presentations at conferences. You can sit on panels. You can do readings at local libraries. All of this nets you…what, exactly? A hundred sales, maybe? It all seems fairly futile.
A wise man – Eric Flint, to be precise – told me (and my fellow Writers of the Future winners) that a lot of self-promotion is a waste of time. He said the best advertisement for your last book is your next book. The best publicity for your work is more publications. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. This business, as much as anything else, is an accumulative process. The gradual building of an audience, a fan base, a network of professional connections that will, someday, add up to something substantial. It’s very hard in the meantime, though. People tell you that you should just be satisfied having published a book, but there’s the whole other ocean of uncertainty on the other side.
I guess we just ought to lock arms with our friends and just keep swimming, right?
Anyway, buy my book, will ya? It’s good, and it’s only $0.99. And thanks.
Recently, I said I was hoping to do a Goodreads giveaway as a promo for the paperback release of The Oldest Trick. I’ve got a bunch of electronic contributor copies burning a hole in my pocket at the moment and nothing much to do with them, so I thought giving them away would be pretty cool. Giveaways I’ve hosted here on this blog haven’t worked very smoothly (mostly because there isn’t a good system in place here to trade contact information, track entries, and so on), so Goodreads seemed a natural alternative. There’s just one problem: They don’t run giveaways for e-books. Bummer. Back to the drawing board.
This disappointment is just the latest in a long line of troubles facing the author who publishes only electronically. Now, don’t get me wrong – having a novel out of any stripe is pretty damned exciting and I love that there are people out there who have read and loved my books and I’m immensely grateful to Harper Voyager for publishing them. That said, I’ve found it much harder to promote and sell an e-book than I thought.
At the Writers of the Future Workshop (enter the Writers of the Future Contest, budding SF/F writers!), I had the unique privilege to listen to Tom Doherty of Tor speak about the publishing industry as it exists today. The basic theme of his talk was this: the primary difficulty for new writers and for publishers is the issue of discovery. “The Internet,” he said, “is great if you know what you’re looking for. It’s a really difficult place to discover new talent.” So, for already established authors – folks with back catalogs and name recognition – the Internet is wonderful, since people who like your work can find everything you ever wrote and buy it (a great improvement over bookstores which would only be intermittently stocked with older titles). But for the little guys (like me), I’m just one very tiny mote in an endless sea of book titles from relatively unknown authors. Many of these books are wonderful and an equal quantity are, well, not. It is very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff for anyone, editors, agents, writers, and fans all alike.
Of course, the author must promote his work. This – what you’re reading right now – is one author’s attempt at promotion (I hope that, by reading this blog, you might become curious about my work and buy it without me having to sling mindless Twitter ads at you day in and day out. I have no idea if it works). While the internet is a powerful promotional tool, the e-book is still a harder sell than a physical copy. According to Forbes, e-book sales make up 30% of the market and sales have risen sharply over the past few years while independent bookstores have dropped by more than 50% in the past twenty years. While those are harrowing numbers for print, the fact remains that 70% of books are still sold in print and, while you might not be buying it from an indie bookseller, there are good odds the book is still made of paper, no matter its place of origin. The age of the e-book is very much here, but it isn’t the lion’s share of the market by any means. And it’s worth noting that the 30% of the market that is occupied by e-books, is very much swamped with a vast array of traditional and self-published titles alike. Getting recognition from that 30% is very difficult. Print, a full 70% of the market, is somewhat more rarefied air, if you will.
I have tried to think of ways to effectively promote my e-books beyond simply shouting into the Twitter-Void, annoying people on facebook with ads, and writing blog posts. Here are the things I’ve tried:
- Blog Tours, which are the equivalent of book tours, but online. You go around and ask blogs to feature your book on their blog, interview you, or let you do a guest post. It works okay, but it is frequently impersonal and you need to be careful setting them up. The most successful ones I’ve done have been when I got writer friends of mine (in the same genre) to let me post on their blogs or asked them to feature me.
- Giveaways are possible, but getting an e-book to somebody as a gift is technically complex, involving codes and programs to download and passwords to submit and so-on.
- Getting Reviews has also been a significant part of what I do. I bug people I know have read the book to write me a review on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever. This helps my visibility, which helps me gain recognition, which helps me sell books. It is very slow, very incremental work though. A lot of people don’t want to write a review for some reason, even if they do like your stuff. Also, badgering people about it won’t get them to do it any faster. It is likely it will turn them off to doing it.
And…that’s it. I’m stumped after that.
A real book, though, still has a number of other options available to it – options that authors have been wielding effectively for years. Observe:
- Book Signings: People like signed books. People like meeting authors. Sit at a table with a stack of books to sign and you’ll make new friends, new fans, and so on. You won’t always be successful (my second WoTF book signing was pretty much just me sitting at an empty table talking to one guy who didn’t end up buying a book), but you’ll encounter and engage with more people you’d do otherwise.
- Book Readings: Yeah, you can read your e-book, but not as many people are likely to whip out their iPhone or Kindle and buy it right there. If you’ve got a stack of books and you’re reading from that book and all these people have come out to see you, odds are you’ll sell more. I’ve gone to book readings, and I feel weird if I don’t buy the book. It’s almost as though I’m insulting the author if I don’t.
- Book Giveaways become easier with a paperback. You just stick it in the mail and off it goes. Maybe even with a nice, personalized message or something.
- Impressing Guests is an underrated part of book promotion, I think. Some guy asks you what you do, you answer with writers, and he says “what have you written” and bam, there’s a book in his hands with your name on it. Your friends and family get to do the same thing – your book on their shelf. With an e-book? It’s always an explanation as to why your book is currently invisible.
- Bookstores, while dwindling, still sell a lot of books and are still the best places to browse for new titles. There you are, on a bookshelf alongside the greats, cover art on display.
All this, coupled with the fact that traditional books still control the balance of the market (I have people asking me when the print version of The Oldest Trick is coming out every day; it’s September 29th, by the way), means there is a lot to be said for the paperback, even now. Certainly, e-books are key, but they aren’t perfect yet. They don’t have that feel, that smell, that weight that makes it seem like somebody’s work and effort means something more than just the words on the page. E-books are whispers in the air; the physical book is letters on stone tablets. I, personally, cannot wait to have both at my disposal.