On the Dreaded Topic of Self-Promotion

Firefly Avatar

I am in the process of taking a much needed mental break in the midst of lots and lots of editing. Having a fantastic time, really, but because I don’t have anything “big” that’ll be released until next year, I thought it was a good time to revisit my goals and topics related to my career. One of them is about marketing and promoting both myself and my work.

So here’s the part where I get all real and gritty with you. I hate telling you all the reasons why I’m awesome and why you should invest in any project I’ve been a part of, simply because “I” did it. I would much, much, much rather show you why you might be interested, than command you to buy my books. This, I feel, is an important distinction because it really comes down to a matter of trust for me. You are the reader, and you are the reason why I’m writing. (Doubly so if you’re a fan of a license I’m working on!) Thus, I feel it’s my job to pour every ounce of passion that I have, that excitement I don’t know how to shut off, into everything I do because I feel I need to earn your dollars and your support. I’m guessing this partly comes from the way I buy books. I’m not someone who has ever bought a book because it’s popular. I might get a book from the library, mind you, but when it comes to dollar signs I feel that every one of them is a vote. I feel that every time you star a book or review it or talk about it or recommend it — that’s another way to vote.

The lessons I learned this year, however, forced me to rethink this philosophy. (Or, I should say… This is what I’m currently going with.) I cannot ensure that every person who comments actually reads the entire contents of the books I work on, nor will I make every fan happy. I found that obsessing about the comments and reviews is a path to madness and procrastination. That way is shut. It was also not easy for me to realize that often, fandom isn’t related to the specific details of things like which character wore what and when. It’s about the emotional connection to the story, the characters, and who you/me were at the time. Sometimes, fans are reacting to an actor who was in the movie, or the angst toward what a director did, and that’s got nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of how a project is put together. Often, however, authors don’t have control over every step in the process for the production of a book, comic, or game. I do my part, and then I watch it fly away into the ether, until it becomes a real live book–and fans don’t necessarily care about logistics, because reminding people that the production of any show, book, game, etc. has business mechanisms in place robs those beautiful things of their glamour. This did break my heart a little bit, because I’ve always been a DIY’er to varying degrees. Yes, now I know that there are fans who may have loved something I did, but will never get around to connecting with me or writing reviews. Now I do!

I would love/kill/sacrifice my mac-and-cheese addiction for the illusion of control over what happens after a book is released. The brutal honest truth is that I have none. Yes, marketing can help boost visibility and get people interested in a book. Certainly, self-promotion can benefit this, too. That? That I can control. How then, do I talk about me being “me” without wandering around dazed and confused even though there are no mind-altering substances in my system? Or, to put it another way, how do I talk about me being “me”, other than what I’ve already been doing to encourage you to check out my work?

Oh, I’ve heard the mantras. Fortune favors the bold. Fake it until you become it. I’m going to let you in on a not-so-big secret. I suck at being fake, and I have my own way of doing things. You took the stickers off your Rubik’s Cube? I had a screwdriver, took it apart, and reassembled it. The need for me to “pretend” has gone the way of the stegosaurus, unless I am specifically tying an appearance to a performance on stage or at a con. It is boring, uninteresting, and a waste of my time (and yours) to pretend to be one person in this one instance and another somewhere else. I can be polite and professional, but the vast majority of the time? I’m just me with all my quirks and oddities.

Okay, applying this to Firefly… I am scared to death of being funny when talking about The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Phrasebook in the ‘Verse. My normal state is sarcastic, mind you, and this setting is a breeze to write for because of that. Why, if someone were to invite me to write for the comic, I’d… Yeah, okay. Not going there. Anyway! Sometimes My Big Fat MouthTM likes to crack a joke before my brain has the opportunity to catch up. I’m not even kidding. Offensive? Um… There’s been a few instances where I may have potentially said the wrong thing at the worst possible time…

You get the picture.

Here, though, I feel that being funny about the language used in the show is both inappropriate and disrespectful to Joss Whedon and his team, Fox, and my publisher. My role as a language analyst is after the completion of the work, and I felt that this meant I had a responsibility to look as deep as I could into the subject matter. I feel that if I’m being a smart ass, I’m sending a message to you that I didn’t take this project seriously — and I can assure you that is most definitely not the case. It’s the exact opposite, in fact, and I can guarantee that my editor feels the same way about her contribution. This, too, is me being me. It’s just a serious flavor of what I have to offer you as a writer. Even though I am thrilled to be a part of this setting again, I don’t want to F-bomb it up. I love Firefly. Always have. I am proud to be a part of the ‘Verse, and it is my wish that you’ll take a chance on this book when it was released because of that, too.

I better end this post today before I wax even more philosophical. I really don’t know if I’ll ever figure out this self-promotion thing, and I have no clue how to even go about asking you to help me boost the signal. I’ve been doing that, it just hasn’t been consistent and pushy, ’cause that’s annoying. Still, I often feel like my time is better spent writing All The ThingsTM than talking about writing them, but I know that’s not always a good approach. I guess only time will tell.

    Mood: I’m having a bad hair day. Ergo, crabby.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um… Yeah, well ixnay on the okecay erozay?
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: HAH HAH HAH
    In My Ears: That would be Pandora, of the Nightmare Before Christmas variety.
    Game Last Played: Diablo III
    Book Last Read: SON OF A… I forgot the title. Again.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Once Upon a Time
    Latest Artistic Project: Can’t think. Editing.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.


Inside Voices

darkwing duck avatar

People ask me why I’m not aggressive with self-promotion and why I walk my own path. This has been on my mind lately, and after posting this to places like my Tumblr account and Google+, thought I’d expand the topic here. I’d also like to say that I’m having problems with my RSS feed, so alerting you in advance.

  • If everybody’s shouting different things, then no one is heard.
  • If everybody’s demanding a unique reaction, then no one will give them the one they want.
  • If everybody’s screaming “Help me!” “Fix this!” “You owe me that!” — then no one gives.
  • If you get bombarded with “Buy me!” “Review me!” “Share me!” from multiple people at the same time, then those acts turn into a chore and an obligation.
  • If you’re fully vested in what people do for you, especially in a social media context, then you get upset by the actions other people take online, jumping to the worst sorts of conclusions.
  • If everybody’s shouting, then they’re all competing. And that, my friends, can be very bad for the craft of writing and reading in general.
  • To me, this is a cacophony of conflicting sounds that hurt the work and the intent therein.

    All the shouting and screaming and yelling in the world doesn’t get people to pay attention to what you’re doing or “validate” you. In many cases, it’s starting to have the opposite effect — right now popularity is influencing what people read, but it’s not always satisfying to them and attention spans wane. The space is changing rapidly and, if you’ve viewed similar trends in the history of publishing, you’ll see that this can’t last. Eventually, the market will get so saturated it’ll tip back in favor of gatekeepers or forever remain fractured in micro-communities. (I believe the former rather than the latter is true.) Remember, everybody thinks they have a book in them. This is not like dentistry. This is writing. If you can type on your keyboard, then you’re physically performing the act of a writer. While it’s not the same thing as the craft of writing, it’s still something anyone “can” do on a basic level.

    The same is true for so-called book publicity. Anyone can own a Twitter or Facebook account. Anyone can say: “BUY MY BOOK!” Combined, it’s making it that much harder for writers, indie or “pro”, to do any sort of publicity because you have to turn up the volume even more.

    Or do you?

    I don’t shout or yell or scream “PAY ATTENTION TO ME NOW!” because I have work to do. I inform, yes, but I’d rather ask than demand. When I have something to promote, I put together a plan. For bigger projects, it’s a larger plan. But it doesn’t happen before the work is done or as an afterthought. I’m careful with it, and there’s a very, very, very important reason why. This work, my friends, is for you. It’s the core of my growing business, but it’s built on relationships. The trust with the reader. The unspoken social contract with my followers. Relationships with editors and publishers and agents.

    This is what I have to give. Not a shout, but a whisper through the pages of every game and story I work on. I will keep whispering. Sometimes, those are soft and barely audible. Other times, they’re loud. But, they’re never silent. I am always whispering.

    Come and listen.

    Come and play.

    Come and wonder.

      Mood: Fifty degrees? It’s a heat wave!
      Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Blargh-ness.
      Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Well, there’s this thing called “sore muscles.”
      In My Ears: Hoodoo by Muse.
      Game Last Played: Ascension
      Movie Last Viewed: Ted
      Latest Artistic Project: Need to take pictures…
      Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

    On The Need To Assess Self-Promotional Time

    You're An Idiot, Starscream

    Originally, this was going to be a sarcastic, writer meta-fiction post, but I found that it was a little more snarky/mean than I wanted it to be — so instead a short cautionary word of caution on self-promotion. Namely, how can you tell if it’s worth it? If you’re doing too much? Not enough?

    Self-promotion stops being effective when it cuts into your ability to earn money.

    Note that I did not say “write” or “deliver projects on time.” I said “money” — and for a reason. Self-promotion has a cost benefit to it that only YOU can assess. If you think about writing as a career and not just as a hobby you pick up on every second Saturday of the month — the money you make is the reason why you write. Only you can assess what your satisfactory write/get paid balance is, but I can tell you that self-promotion can be a huge time sink — especially if you’re replacing the time you spend on writing with administrivia and publicity. That, my dear Readers, is what a publicist/agent/business manager does.

    People work in full-time careers as publicists and marketers earning money to promote a person, company, or product. You, on the other hand, aren’t getting paid directly to self-promote.

    Yes, I know that you could Tweet about your book and get a sale off of it. I’m saying “direct pay” as in a “salary” for marketing full-time here. This last statement was also meant as a reality check. The hours you’re devoting to this means you’re effectively working as your own unpaid publicity intern in addition to everything else you’re doing.

    Self-promotion won’t replace words on a blank page.

    While I feel the modern-era (e.g. slogs like me whose career hasn’t yet taken off) writer now has to wear more hats, self-promotion should complement your work and not supplant it. Remember, there’s really no limit on what you can do for self-promotion.

    I feel (strongly so) that everything you’re doing must come back to planning and what you want to get out of your efforts. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to a bookstore to do a reading or sit online on Reddit waiting for people to ask you questions: whatever you do has to bolster your bottom line, so don’t be afraid to be analytic about it.

    Because at the end of the day, you need something to promote: novella, short story, game, novel, etc. Otherwise, why sell yourself as a writer if you don’t plan on writing?

      Mood: Focused
      Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Max, Max Pepsi MAX to the MAX!
      Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Ask me again when I’m not feeling guilty.
      In My Ears: My Whiny UK-ish Boy Band itunes playlist
      Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
      Movie Last Viewed: Spiderman the new one.
      Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
      Latest Release: “The Dig” The Lovecraft eZine Issue No. 19

    Arrrrr, Thar Be An Interview (And A Career)

    Fire She-Ra Avatar

    The folks over at Charisma Bonus interviewed me a few weeks ago, and in my haze of travel/vacation/writing/etc. I forgot to mention it. So let me rectify that right now, before I get back to my daily slog. Hop on over to The Ladies Table with Monica Valentinelli to read about my thoughts on horror, horror in gaming, and other fine inquiries.

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to right myself to center, to re-align my thoughts with my goals, and figure out what it is my original stories mean to me on the pragmatic side of the equation. And I have one word, really, to describe it: career. Applying that? Whether it’s in a part-time or full-time capacity? Means many things, since folding my original work back into what I do professionally is really just a logical progression on the stairway to heaven.

    Or, to quote The Princess Bride: “Fool!” cried the hunchback. “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'”

      Mood: Okay, I just need to out with it. I’m hungover.
      Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: There really isn’t enough.
      Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Groovin’ and shakin’
      In My Ears: Macalania Woods Final Fantasy X-2 Soundtrack
      Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
      Movie Last Viewed: MirrorMask
      Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
      Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

    Announcing Redwing’s Gambit, a Novella for Bulldogs

    Love science fiction? Have a soft spot for origin stories?

    I am thrilled to announce I am polishing the final draft of Redwing’s Gambit, a novella about a Bulldogs! RPGnewly-formed crew for the Bulldogs RPG from Galileo Games. This story is about an ensemble cast who has been hired to transport a high-profile politician from one end of the galaxy to the other. The only problem is: there’s a saboteur on board and they’re way out in deep space.

    Written as a science fiction mystery, Redwing’s Gambit is the origin story for the ship’s crew and clientele. The plot was designed to help readers get to know these characters and offer a glimpse into the expansive Bulldogs! setting. Oh, and there will be a little ass-kicking along the way.

    The novella will debut Fall/Winter of this year. A firm publication date has not been set.

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