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