Marketing is in an upheaval for both big publishers and small self publishers.
What to do?
Take a look at the play book of John Scalzi who uses both something old and something new.
The something old is the juggernaut of science fiction publishing houses, TOR. Often I check out the Acknowledgments in a book. Since I am reading The Human Division for my 2014 book list, I looked at what John had to say there. John thanks TOR’s editor Patrick Neilsen Haydon for his support…and Irene Gallo for the art, Sona Vogel as head copyeditor, cover artist John Harris, book designer Heather Saunders, and TOR’s publicity TEAM. (numerous names here) He thanks fiction agents selling overseas and tv/movie agents who are involved in an “Old Man’s” movie project. He acknowledges the team at Audible who are putting together an audible version. It’s a picture of wide distribution and an entourage of professional help with his book. The Acknowledgments run two and a half pages.
Whew! I could sell a few novels with that kind of support.
He mentions a rigorous signing tour for Red Shirts during which he writes episodes of The Human Division. This brought up the memory of a year and some time ago when he came locally for a signing of Fuzzy Nation.
It was John Scalzi.
Running late, I slid into a seat in a packed section of Powell’s bookstore. The man next to me introduced himself and before I knew what was happening, he’d gone to grab a book for me, saying that they were running low. He handed me a $25 hardback edition of Fuzzy Nation. It had an ugly cover.
He acted like it was a great favor.
Needless to say, Scalzi put on a great performance, both witty and informative. I figured that half the cost was for the live entertainment. And I got a personally signed book…for a crowded bookshelf. Of course, paperbacks of older works were also available, but the new one was only available in hardback for signing. So, being charming to your reading public when they’re holding your $25 novel is a good strategy.
I spent a lot of money that night.
The Human Division is now available only in expensive hardback at the bookstore, but fortunately we have Amazon and Kindle downloads for us high tech frugal folks…if you don’t mind foregoing the illegible signature.
BUT, John doesn’t just old school it.
If you are involved in the Twitterverse, you might be following Scalzi.
He tweets some of the more enjoyable snippets and is very funny. While others scream, “buy my book” or tell you what they’re eating for breakfast, John offers up humorous anecdotes in the life of a successful author and even makes humdrum daily events hilarious. He is a prolific tweeter.
In addition, John talked TOR into releasing The Human Division not only as a print book, but electronically in episodes.
Okay, okay…Charles Dickens did it through print newspapers a while ago, but electronically episodic is still a new path for most science fiction writers. Not too long ago, Hugh Howey used this form of marketing to break through with his Wool series and has become quite successful. Now he’s selling trade paperbacks in bookstores. (6″x9″ $15-$17)
John also has a very popular blog: www.whatever.Scalzi.com
He is plugged into the science fiction good old boys’ and girls’ network and lists a number of well known science fiction authors who helped him while he did “a staggering amount of travel.” He apologizes to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (premier science fiction association) for being distracted with publishing The Human Division during October and says, “it won’t happen again while I’m president.”
So, this shows me how important networking and interacting with fellow writers can be, and also that getting involved in prominent associations and conferences is also helpful in getting recognized, and boosting sales.
The Human Division is also “in the universe” of the very popular novel, Old Man’s War, which was nominated for a Hugo…so winning awards, or even a nomination, and especially a Hugo, plumps up sales, and writing within a popular series helps sell any new book in that series.
Which gets me back to old school basics…
Write a great book…and they will come help you market everywhere.
And keep writing…as you tour, as you tweet, as you blog, as you serve on committees and attend cons.
Then you will sell…
Quite a lot.
Ps. Next week I’ll review The Human Division