Tag Archives: publicity

Deep Thoughts

For a holiday weekend, there’s been an awful lot of introspection and serious thought going on out in the interwebs.

If that’s not enough wisdom for you, have an extra bit of brilliance from Emily Post, writing about social media interactions 89 years ago:

A gift of more value than beauty, is charm, which in a measure is another word for sympathy, or the power to put yourself in the place of others; to be interested in whatever interests them, so as to be pleasing to them, if possible, but not to occupy your thoughts in futilely wondering what they think about you.

Would you know the secret of popularity? It is unconsciousness of self, altruistic interest, and inward kindliness, outwardly expressed in good manners.

Those of you who were at the Worldcon panel on social media may remember me fumbling to remember that quote. Here it is in its beautiful entirety. If this were displayed above the text entry boxes on Twitter, Facebok, and Google+, I think the internet would be a much more pleasant place.

SFNovelists Members Release Sampler Anthology

I’m personally not a fan of teaser chapters–once I start reading a book, I want to be able to choose whether I keep reading it–but they can be very useful for those who want to try before they buy. Now you can try 25 of them at once:

OPENING ACTS [is] a sampler of 25 first chapters from 25 of  SFNovelists’ members.  And best of all (from your perspective):  it’s free!  And available in a multitude of formats!  And you can read it, pass it on, share it with your friends!

The author list includes a lot of well-known names: Laura Anne Gilman, T.A. Pratt, Martha Wells, Marie Brennan, Jim C. Hines, C.E. Murphy, Janni Lee Simner, Louise Marley. Even the most hardened e-book skeptic might be tempted.

Since publishers are shoving the burden of publicity onto authors, it makes sense for those authors to pool their resources, reduce their individual burdens, and ride one another’s coat-tails–that’s a sufficiently disparate group of authors that every download means some of them will get to reach a fan they might not have reached otherwise–while individually spending less time on promotion, which means having more time for things like writing. I hope SFNovelists posts a follow-up telling us how many people have downloaded the book. If it’s popular, other groups could follow this example. For instance, I’d love to see a SFWA free online library where readers can download anthologies of sample chapters and short works by SFWA authors. No need for editing, unless some up-and-coming anthologist wants to work for free to show off their own skills; make ‘em grab bags, selected at random from among the available works. Sure, there will be some duds, but it’s free. And you never know what gems you’ll find.

Literary Rock Stars

This was on the back page of today’s Metro New York (a free daily paper):

There’s been a lot of talk about writers making more money off of in-person appearances as revenue from the actual sale of books declines, but this is the first time I’ve seen such an emphatic portrayal of writers as professional performers. There is absolutely nothing to distinguish this from any number of ads for concerts, solo shows, etc.

Oh wait, yes there is: tickets are $5, or about 10% of what they would be for any other comparable performance at Lincoln Center.

So much for performance as a source of revenue!

The Future of News is the Future of Book Blogging?

If you’re a regular blog follower, you might notice that some non literary focused blogs have began trends in book blogging.  Outside of places like Tor.com and John Scalzi’s Whatever, blogs with communities in their comments section are starting to house part time book clubs.  Ta-Nehesi Coates’s blog at The Atlantic hosted a long term, in depth discussion of Battle Cry of Freedom that caught my attention.  On a more genre focused trend  Firedog Lake, a progressive political blog is covering China Mieville’s new novel, Kraken.  While blogs like Instapundit were good places for John Scalzi to get a recommendation, I’m more interested in the idea of well known political and social blogs being courted by publicists in the same way that TV talk shows are.

Kraken‘s appearance on Firedog Lake includes a discussion in the comments section with the author. This takes advantage of the interactive nature of blog comment sections.

Do you think I’m overhyping a nonexistent trend?  Has it already gone as far as it’ll go?  Is it the future of book clubs?  Have publicists for fiction, specifically genre fiction already turned to big league non-genre blogs for attention? Let me know what you’ve heard.

[Edit - readers or detractors of Instapundit, please take notice, this blog entry is not an appropriate place for you to air your approval or disapproval of Instapundit or to debate said topic, thank you.  Comments of that sort will not pass moderation]

A Note for Publicists Who Handle Media Tie-in Books

As we hope most of you know, PW does not review media tie in books.  At least not in the F/SF category.  Genreville, however, can cover those books as we see fit.  Though I can’t promise to cover everything sent our way, I have read a number of the Star Wars books, and especially enjoyed the X-Wing novels by Allston and Stackpole.  I’ve also enjoyed media tie in books from Star Trek, the X-Files, Dungeons and Dragons, and other properties.  So I’d be happy to give some love to the neglected media tie-in novel from my little corner of PW. Send queries to josh@genreville.com.

Suppose They Gave a Book and Nobody Came?

As Glenn Beck made headlines over the weekend, this popped up on my Twitter feed:

@Pres_Bartlet: Can we have a rally about how technology has, by and large, made the need for rallies moot?

Like activism, fandom is moving online–or is it? The extraordinary popularity of events like Comic-Con and Otakon would seem to suggest otherwise. I haven’t heard writers fretting about underattended signings, and the KGB Fantastic Fiction and NYRSF readings I go to here in New York (where 24/7 public transit admittedly makes it easy to stay out until all hours) are always packed. Nonetheless, there’s this persistent idea that unless you make people show up to a book-related event, they would really rather stay home and tweet their Goodreads updates.

Brandon Sanderson would seem to rank high on the list of authors who have no reason to fear empty seats. Since he took on the Herculean task* of finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, he’s been one of the highest-profile authors at Tor (not exactly a shrinking violet of an imprint). A recent charity auction for a pre-release copy of his latest hardcover, The Way of Kings, brought in $510 in just three days of bidding. The man clearly has dedicated fans. That isn’t stopping the publicity team at Tor from rolling out an unusual promotion that seems designed to boost attendance at signings. From the press release:

Starting tomorrow, Sanderson (co-author of last fall’s The Gathering Storm, the first in a final trilogy to complete the series) goes on-tour for new original novel, The Way of Kings. Simultaneously, an exclusive secret from the Wheel of Time will go live on Brandon Sanderson’s website.

But it won’t go live without a fight: the page will be entirely encrypted.

To unlock it, fans will have to hunt down the many unique digital codes, printed on the back of Wheel of Time bumper stickers that Brandon will hide inside copies of The Way of Kings along each stop on his tour. (Which kicks off tonight!). Each tour city has at least one hidden code.

This sort of promotion is pretty pricey, as is a multi-city tour. Will it be offset by readers buying copies of the enormous, shiny hardcover? Will those readers offset their own costs by selling the bumper stickers on eBay? Hard to know. I’m just trying to figure out why Tor is putting this much effort into publicity for an author who doesn’t really seem to need publicizing, and into motivating fans who don’t seem to lack motivation.

* Is it more like obtaining the girdle of the Amazonian queen or cleaning out the Augean stables? Your call.

They Called Him Mad at the Academy, but the Promotion Will Live!

Brian Freeman from Cemetery Dance wants us to know that people called him crazy for giving away the e-book and audiobook of his novella The Painted Darkness before the paper edition is even available. I say that sort of insanity is a great idea. Freeman’s press release bears out his crazy wisdom:

So far we’ve:

* sold out a signed Limited Edition of 750 copies priced at $75 each in less than 24 hours — remember, this is for an unknown author, not a big name, and that was our fastest sell out since our special edition of The Passage by Justin Cronin

* sold more preorders for the $19.99 trade hardcover edition than we’ve sold for any book not written by Stephen King in our 22 years in business

* generated more sub-rights inquires than we’ve ever had for any title, including a New York publisher who wanted to know if they could take over publishing the hardcover (!)

* almost 2,200 people entered for a chance to win an advance review copy through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers, making it one of the most popular books in the history of the program

* WOWIO.com has asked to make The Painted Darkness their “Free eBook of the Month” on the front page of their site for October, with a large marketing push to support the promotion

More than 10,000 readers downloaded the book for free during the first two weeks alone, and sales strongly back-up our decision to try this “crazy” idea to promote the book.  The free copies have generated more attention for The Painted Darkness than any traditional method of promoting the book could have — at least on our small press budget!  :)

I’ve cited a gaming company, Evil Hat, in its frequent freebie giveaways, and the stats they posted bear out the success of this sort of promotion.  Adding value to a product on the web is an inexpensive way to promote it.  Audible.com and eMusic.com both offer free downloads to first time subscribers and are doing quite well.  Baen’s e-ARCs are a boost to both sales and as a promotion.

While I do have an reflexive distaste for self-publishing hucksters who bash “traditional publishing”, there’s a lot of room for publishers to experiment, and in the current environment, standing still is not as safe as it once was.  What do you think of this promotion?

The New York Times Profiles China Miéville

The Times profile begins with a paragraph that exemplifies the paper’s handling of genre fiction:

If your idea of a science fiction writer is a scrawny guy with computer-glow pallor who’s a little too interested in whether warp speed is a realistic rate of travel, China Miéville is not that person.

To be fair, that is most people’s image of a science fiction writer.  But it’s arguable that Miéville’s novel The City & The City is not actually science fiction as most would define it, if they bothered to think about a definition.  To be fair, the Times claims:

For the record, Mr. Miéville, 37, calls himself a science fiction writer — or, for those steeped in genre subdivisions, a purveyor of “weird” or “new weird” fiction. But he stands out from the crowd for the quality, mischievousness and erudition of his writing.

Is it just me, or is “quality, mischievousness and erudition of his writing” sort of like saying that he stands out because he’s “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy“?  While the profile is a good one, and I’m glad to see Miéville getting mainstream attention, the Times still lacks continuity in its genre reviews.  Since David Itzkoff abandoned his hipster snark filled “Across the Universe” column, the Times book section has only had one review by Jeff VanderMeer. It has otherwise returned to a general stable of people who mostly hold the genre and its authors in some form of mild contempt and can be surprised by something like China Miéville having a nicely toned body.

That said, the mainstream attention Miéville is gathering, combined with his notable personal charisma, could well propel him to a level of recognition enjoyed by writers like Neil Gaiman. Miéville’s writing is even more quirky and highbrow than Gaiman, and he lacks the fan base created by Gaiman’s start in comics. Despite that, among the genre crowd, he is known as a “rock star”.

I bemoan the NY Times focusing on his physique, but I’ve known plenty of fans, writers, editors and critics who get twitterpated about Miéville’s good looks.  So perhaps the Times was on to something. Will genre rock-stars of the future have to look the part as well as write it?

A Good Few Weeks for Catherynne M. Valente and Fans of Boundary-Busting

Many congratulations to author Catherynne M. Valente for winning the Norton Award for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and the Lambda Award for Palimpsest, the latter of which is also a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award and the Hugo.  The only novel to win both the Lammie and the Hugo was China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh, which also won the Tiptree Award, won by Valente for The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden.

The Norton is a ground-breaker in many ways.  Fairyland (for short) was first published as a crowd-sourced novel, and uploaded in installments to the author’s web site, along with audio recordings of the author reading the story.  I’m pretty sure this is the first time that a self-published novel has won a major science fiction award.

Before the award was granted, Macmillan imprint Feiwel and Friends bought publication rights to Fairyland, and they’ll be putting out an illustrated edition next year.  Some vehement proponents of ebooks, especially free ebooks, took exception with Feiwel’s requirement that Valente remove the last chapter of the book from her website.  I’m frankly appalled at the rudeness and entitlement in some of the criticism.  But this is also a learning period for publishers and authors, as the web can allow an author to get a large following of vocal fans without the usual path to traditional publishing.  Feiwel will offer a color print book, distribution, and promotional efforts for Valente, and she will bring a loyal following, as well as attention from sites like Boing Boing, and fellow authors.

Moving on to the Lambda awards, Palimpsest was a great choice.  Most of the previous Lambda SF/F winners have been for books primarily featuring gay or lesbian characters, and it’s heartening to see that the Lambda judges (who this year, in full disclosure, included Genreville’s own Rose Fox) took this opportunity to reward a book with bisexual protagonists.

Palimpsest also benefited from some unorthodox publicity moves.  As the recent rounds of layoffs hit Bantam Spectra, the book was given less attention than it might have if there had been the same person in PR dealing with the book throughout its launch and early career.  The launch tour was mostly funded by the author, who traveled from city to city with musicians, jewelry artists, and at times a performance art troupe.  This culminated in a train trip from Chicago to New Orleans with performances in both cities.  It was a unique and impressive artistic venture, and Rose and I were lucky enough to go along for the ride.  The train tour created a close knit group of core fans who feel a personal connection with the artists and help promote Valente and Tucker’s other work, acting as evangelists for it in a way a typical fan might not.

And finally, the Mythopoeic Award is a good follow up to Valente’s win in 2008 for her Orphan’s Tales books.  The award is less well known in the mainstream than the Hugo, Norton, and Lambda awards, but it is well respected among academics and scholars of myth and fairy tales.  Many of the stories within stories in Palimpest are reflections and refinements of real world myths.  In fact, Fairyland was such a story, included in Palimpsest as a fairy tale that a character loved.  In this way, the recursive theme of Valente’s fiction mirrors the real life life cycle of Palimpsest and Fairyland.  An adult novel, with sexual themes, gave birth to a charming book for children.

Both books had an unorthodox life cycle, and were embraced nonetheless.  An author with determination, skill, and a solid network of supporters can create a marketplace for books that might otherwise slip through the cracks, and publishers and literary awards are willing to consider books with unusual provenance.  With Amazon looming on the horizon experimenting with Amazon Encore, publishers must be willing to innovate, and to trust their authors.  SF/F/H fandom is particularly open to innovation: look at the reception for  Cory Doctorow’s model of making all of his books available online for free. But most of Tor’s authors don’t get the leeway to experiment in that direction. As publicity budgets drop and staff are spread thin, publishing companies need to loosen the reins on what authors can do to self-promote, and to accept the risks that come with trying wonderful new things.

Book Trailers

Harry Connolly mentioned that he was thinking of making a book trailer for his upcoming book Game of Cages, and a fan helpfully created this one:

Connolly’s response: “The folks at Random House are going to be so excited!”

Let’s test out our shiny new WordPress setup: in the comments, link to your favorite book trailers. Note that if you haven’t previously had a comment approved on the new site, or if your comment contains more than two links, the comment will be held for approval. I’ll go through and approve them all as soon as I can.