Archive for August, 2008

I’m here to sell you something.

August 7th, 2008 11 comments

It’s a book. Or more precisely, it’s a pair of books. They’re titled Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth, and I’ve been working on them–one way or another–since the very beginning of 2003.

This is what they look like:

Pretty, aren’t they? They’re about Christopher Marlowe and Will Shakespeare and faeries and queens and devils and spies and swordfights and blackest enchantments, and I bet if you read them you would really like them a lot–

–You know what? Reboot. Forget that. I suck at self promotion anyway.

And anyway, okay, I admit it.

I lied. I’m not, actually, here to sell you books. Not directly, anyway. What I’m here to do is something far more insidious. I’m here to promote myself as an interesting person, who has interesting thoughts, and therefor whose interesting books you might like to read. I’m here to improve my notoriety, in other words, so that the next time you are in a bookstore you might see my name on the spine of a book on the shelf and think, oh, huh, Elizabeth Bear, haven’t I heard something about her?

Sure, but that’s in the future. And so, right now, reading this column, you might ask, well, why do I care? Bear, why are you telling me this? How on Earth did this get to be a subject for a column? Do you think you’re Pen and Teller? (I would have to be the one that talks a lot. It’s true.)

The reason you care is because there’s only one reason for you to be on this website, reading this column right now. And that reason is that you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of writing books and surviving in the publishing industry, because that’s what we talk about here. Either you’re an aspiring writer, or you’re a writer who wants to improve her career, or you’re for some insane reason interested in what other people do at their jobs all day without actually being involved in the process yourself.

So here’s something writers do at their jobs all day, when they are not actually writing books. They figure out ways to get people who might like their books to pick them up and look inside.

See, that’s half the battle. And it’s the part we as writers have the least control over. It’s what cover art and cover blurbs and blog tours and book-signings and ComiCon giveaways are all geared towards: getting people who might like this book to pick it up and look inside.

A lot of writers have this idea that if only the entire world knew enough about their book, they would buy it and read it and then buy more copies for all their friends, and then the writer in question would be catapulted to superstardom and a house on Martha’s Vineyard. Sadly, this theory is borne out neither in experience nor experiment. I attest my own self–see, as a writer, I read a lot of best-sellers. Books that would not normally interest me, because I want to keep an idea on what the state of the industry is. And the thing I notice most about them is that only very rarely do these books appeal to me. I am not, in a phrase, the target audience for these books.

Thus, I must assume–sadly–that there are many readers out there for whom my books would be equally unsuccessful. So it would seem that getting my books into their hands is an endeavor roughly equivalent to placing classified ads looking for vocalists interested in joining a choir of pigs: wasted effort, a public nuisance, and all that.

Ahh, but somewhere out there there are readers for whom these are the perfect books. And them, I have to find. Them, I have to lure into picking the books up and opening them. And reading the first sentence, the first page. The first dozen pages. Maybe a chunk in the middle, so they can see if the style holds up.

Once I’ve done that, well. If they were the right reader. If these were the right books.

Then I’d have made a sale.

And that is the purpose of promotion.


Swedish pony image from egevad on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.

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