Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taking It To the Streets


Dave talked about how to promote ourselves. Well, my blog tour seems to have helped with my current books, at least looking at Amazon numbers, for what that is worth.

But I’m looking for ideas. I always am. When you’re a midlist writer in this economy, you have to do what you can and sometimes what you can’t.

So, I’m going to float some ideas and you guys can tell me what you’d like to see or not, and other ideas you might have.

Things that are right out – I’m NOT giving away my cats for promotion. I’m not giving away my kids for promotion. No naked pictures and no bikini pictures unless and until I lose another forty pounds.

Things I can do and have done:

Blog posts

Contests

Blogs for my characters

Give away stories/books

Have comics drawn for my books -- like this one: http://fatallybored.deviantart.com/gallery/#Draw-One-in-the-Dark


The problem is that sooner or later my blog posts will offend everyone. It’s the type of opinions I have. Contests – there’s only so much I can give away. Blogs for my characters... that one is a doozy. I simply don’t know what they should write about. Particularly Athena. What the heck would you like her to write about?
For give away stories and books my problem is time to write them in addition to the paying properties. Oh, yeah, and printing the comics and distributing them gets expensive.

Other things I’ve considered:

Live chats/either typed or voice/with camera/not. Possibly with my fellow mad geniuses, and other special guests. “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Chat” type of thing. And “Mad, Mad, Mad readings.” But also café klatches of sorts. Prime Crime has these with their authors the month before their books comes out – typed chat in chat room, only, but with interaction with readers and other writers.

Would anyone be interested in that sort of thing? It might be tricksy what with our antipodean members, but fun too.

Another thing is having virtual chat/signing, in which, after it’s done, we collect addresses and send off signed bookplates. (Of course, small bookstore owners encouraged to participate.)

Yet another thing is doing a webcomic about the writing life. I can draw enough for that, and it occurs to me it could be very funny.

Ideas? Comments? Suggestions? Remember we’re all more or less broke and overworked. But we’re willing. Very willing. :)


UPDATE: Just put up a free electronic collection of all my Elizabethan Era short stories, which include alternate history, mysteries, fantasy and... sigh... vampires. (yes, I am very sorry. You may kill me afterwards. http://tinyurl.com/2847dge)

54 comments:

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I'm glad to hear the blog tour helped make people aware of your new book, Sarah.

I'm getting book plates done. I'm going to sign them and send some to all the specialist books stores in Australia. My Publisher is going to do the same for the UK. They weren't expensive. $80 for 1000. (Why did I have a triple barrel name?)

A blog for characters strikes me as slightly twee. (Not wanting to give offence). I

went onto JR Ward's site (she writes the Black Dagger Brotherhood) and she interviewed some of her characters. It must appeal to some people, but I felt it was asking me to suspend disbelief, across genres. I believe the characters exist within the frame work of the book, but not in an interview on the writer's web site. Maybe I'm being too picky.

Jonathan D. Beer said...

The idea of blogs from the POV of characters... that's an interesting one. Straight off I'm thinking "urgh, that's a bit wierd", but I suppose for the right character (and right genre) it might work. I'm sure for the current trend in "paranormal romance" for sparkly vampires and co-dependent women could certainly play into POV blogs /snob.

I really like the idea of Mad Mad Chats and virtual book signings. That last one in particular could be very cool - everyone has tuned into podcasts (and I'm sure that thats an option) but there must be some chat software out there that lets you do an IRC-style thing, and then you swing out the bookplates - those are a GREAT idea by the way.

I'm hoping that I can create and keep a fanbase happy (when I start to try and gain one) with free mini-short stories and that sort of thing. I have been involved in forums and that style of thing for years, and the key point to gaining and keeping a happy community is interaction and a feeling of exclusivity - that by following your blog or your webpage, they gain a degree of knowledge (or content) which others aren't.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Rowena,

The book plates would work great if there were ENOUGH specialty bookstores in the US, or even a way to track them down.

LOL -- no offense. Actually it first occurred to me as a way of allowing the character to interact with the reader. Mostly Athena, which I guess you'd have to read to understand. The problem is I can't seem to WANT to do it. either it turns into a story, or who cares?

Mind you, I've considered and will probably eventually do a blook -- a book composed of blog posts, that DOES allow the readers to interact as it progresses. I think it's a way to exploit the new technology. I just havne't had time.

A lot of people interview their writers to get to know them before the novel. Doesn't work for mine. They reveal themselves inside the story.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Jonathan,
Actually the only character I thought to have in a blog is my kick-ass, action heroine Athena. And after one post I realized either the posts would turn into a lengthy novel over time, or I didn't want to do it.

Yeah, I like the idea of chats too. Traveling has become so much non-fun, and everyone is tight for money, so I'm thinkin how to reproduce the writer interaction of a con.

Anonymous said...

I wondered what had happened to Fig-mental Menagerie. Threatening to turn into a book would do it. I had a character of mine reply, but it was several months later and Athena had moved on.

How about a free posted online anthology of Christmas stories from a collection of authors? Toss the link onto facebook and such.

Matapam

Jonathan D. Beer said...

Sarah,

Having done a very quick search, there seem to be myriad companies offering virtual conference hosting - given some thought and preparation I can see these being a big success. It would require advertising, to be sure, but a collective of several genre fiction blogs perhaps could pull in a good number of speakers and interested readers. I'd certainly be curious enough to pay a small fee to attend.

MadGeniusCon 2011!

Amanda Green said...

Great post, Sarah. For everyone else, Sarah's being a bit modest about the success of her blog tour. Her numbers on both Amazon and B&N have increased as a result. In fact, you can see the spike after each guest appearance. The lesson -- more exposure means more readers.

As for character blogs, my first thought was, "WTF?" Not so much because it would cause me to suspend disbelief too much, but because blogging as one character while trying to write another would drive me absolutely bonkers. I'd have difficulty keeping the voices straight. That said, there are some very successful "character" blogs and I see more and more authors and agents "interviewing" characters.

Rowena, I like the idea of signed bookplates. The problem here is that most bookstores would just trash them. Their first argument would be that they couldn't confirm the author actually sent, signed and authorized them. It doesn't matter that they came from the author. The second is that they would argue -- and, no, I'm not kidding -- that the bookplate decreases the value and desirability of the book. I've seen them turn away authors IN THE STORE who want to sign their stock.

Any way, just my two cents worth.

heteromeles said...

Depends on who owns your material, but I'd ask, "What would Cory do?" Cory Doctorow's been having lots of fun with his CC licensed stuff, because he gets fans doing their artwork versions of his stuff all over the place. Then again, he's Cory.

So, maybe flip the contest idea, and get your readers to do some free artwork for a change, perhaps as part of a contest? Depends on how you feel about that loss of control.

Ellyll said...

Actually, I kind of like the idea of the webcomic about the writing life. It sounds like fun.

It might bring in a whole new audience, in a way.

C Kelsey said...

I really enjoy the character blog posts. I've been tempted to do a character blog all my own just for my imagination. If I might suggest, don't have your characters just do blog "posts". Have them interview people. Athena could interview you, the author. Or she could interview Kyrie. You could reach out to other authors you know and have her interview them, then see if the author would do a guest post from the POV of one of his/her characters. I think it should be a playground, but that's just me. :)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Matapam,

I just don't know what to post. Partly because of all the "surprises" in my books, as the characters develop, I have trouble writing either the "former" Athena or a future Athena. And a future Athena has ALL sorts of spoiler issues. Sigh.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Johnathan, we were thinking of a free site that takes up to twenty people. While this limits the audience, I doubt that would affect us either in the beginning or if we do regular ones. (Too late this month? Try next month) and that way people wouldn't have to pay.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Amanda,

Half the time when I do a drive-by signing these people don't seem to know WHY I'd want to do that. It's a very unnerving experience.

warpcordova said...

Sara,

I always enjoy a character blog. Heck, didn't someone start a myspace or facebook for their character? Just seems like a good (and free) way to interact with fans while keeping them interested in the books while waiting for the next release date to roll around.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Heretomeles,

As far as having fans play, I've long toyed with a fan fiction page for my website, for the Shifter's series, called "At the Diner" Or perhaps "Where everybody knows your shape."

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Ellyl,
I wanted to call it Write Now and do the sort of weird thing that have happened to almost every writer, that are only believable in a comic format.

Like, the time I got a rejection on a Saturday morning, fed ex, with special fed ex Saturday delivery and I had to SIGN for it.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris,

It might not be such a great problem for Kyrie to blog as for Thena, because I figure there are semi-normal days at the diner. "Connan tried to shift in supply room. Burned a bag of pitas. Again." Or "Oven went out, so Tom suggested shifting and blowing into it." BUT Athena's life is so... full of surprises, it's more difficult.
You enjoy them because they make character more real.

I think I'll have to do my blook experiment. Maybe with different name, like Haute as Hell.

Quilly_Mammoth said...

Cons have been the traditional means where authors have gotten attention. They have limitations. However, I think you might have just put down the seeds for a new format.

Virtuacon 2010!

Most major cities have a place where you can host internet meetings. I go to a training class about every two months that is completely on line with about 300 people watching/participating.

So you set up a complete Con using that venue...virtual panels, virtual signings, virtual cosplay...... I'd bet you could find a few authors to go in with you and then you get the word out through Locus, Baen's Bar and so forth.

You could probably cover cost with a small Convention Pass fee.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Hetermeles said:

I'd ask, "What would Cory do?"

LOL -- good point. There are people out there who are very web promotion savvy.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Quilly Mammoth -- Virtual Cons!

What an interesting idea.

Quilly_Mammoth said...

I was at Conestooga this last weekend and saw people at panels looking at laptops as the panel proceeded.

A VirtuaCon completely eliminates the fear of having to sit next to a fan that has...uhmmm...less then perfect personal hygeine.

You can eat or drink what you want and can carry on a conversation with others and not disturb the Panel.

warpcordova said...

@Quilly: but the hygienically challenged congoer is what makes a con a con. Right?

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

well, actually I was thinking more that virtucon, by er... virtue of not requiring to fly out could have alot more writers. And it wouldn't necessarilly eat a weekend of writing for a writer. It would be more like "Um, panel at nine, panel at twelve. I can write in the afternoon."

For me the greater incentive is NOT catching some dread bug. I love the cons, but they cost me a month of writing because if one other con goer is sick, I'll come home coughing my lungs out.

Chris McMahon said...

That's a pretty impressive list of things. I know give-aways really work - its about the only marketing technique that hooks me in for other things - provided the giveaway is actually something you want. In your case its a no-brainer people will want your books!

If I could manage to do half of what you have I'd be ahead of the game, Sarah!

Quilly_Mammoth said...

I nominate Sarah as chairman of the ConCom for VirtuaCon 2010. Maybe you could get Dave Freer to be guest of honor.

We'd have to get pass since Sarah isn't a SMOF...but that's a minor detail

Mike said...

Re: Virtual cons? Keep an eye on Coyote Con -- it is apparently going to be a month long digital conference? This one talks about it...

http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2010/04/coming-soon-coyote-con-virtual-digital.html

and here's the con link

http://coyotecon.com/

Mike said...

While I'm at it... You might consider the Fledgling/Saltation thing -- that was a combination of storyteller's bowl, first draft on the net with people "buying" the next episode, and an active discussion board -- where the fans took each episode apart in depth, without the authors really getting too involved.

I think (ask Steve and Sharon) that it probably helped them -- I know the fans enjoyed it, and I think it probably sucked in more fans.

I do know that one point that had to be repeated again and again was that this was a first ROUGH draft, and that all the rough edges and hanging threads were NOT going to get resolved in the first draft. There were people who got pretty upset about that, feeling that they had somehow been cheated.

Kate said...

I love the virtual con idea - and having panelists from all over the world also means that the events schedule can run 24 hours - if there are enough panelists!

Ooh! I could even get to the late night sex panel, if it was scheduled for late night somewhere that's early evening for me :-)

Anonymous said...

Several thoughts-

1. The red-shirting works. I know you got at least 2 early sales of DST because I'm part of the crew of "Howl at the Moon." Had I not been red-shirted, I would probably have waited for the mmpb (as usual) and my public library probably would have not purchased it's first Sarah Hoyt book (which HAS circulated, and not by me).

2a. When you mentioned character blogs I was reminded of a Mercedes Lackey short story from several years ago about something like "The Author's Nightmare" where all her characters came to nag her in the middle of the night for more stories. It was kind of funny.

2b. The idea of Kyrie having a character blog of the weird/normal days of running the George taken into a book form would probably be very similar to a book I enjoy very much _Up the Down Staircase_, which in it's original short story form was apparently called "From a Teacher's Wastebasket," and is full of funny notes, memos, etc.

3. Get more books into the Baen free library! That's what hooked me on reading most things Baen to start with as I started reading an author I knew and liked and then read everything s/he coauthored and then the coauthor's stuff.

Coauthor? I find books in this web of coauthored books and anthologies and if you like so and so, try this other author.

4. Very local- does your library have local programing? My town's library sometimes has meet the local author, poet, artist afternoons- I usually can't make them but it might function kind of like a VERY mini-con.
Also- on the library idea, does your library (or other similar public space, at the local college for ex) have display cases were people can put stuff for a month at a time? Could you fill one with large pictures of your book covers, a brief bio, other stuff...

5. Book plates sound nice- I'd really like one for my copy of DST, if I can't get it signed someday (only if we ever manage to be in the same state at the same time).

Best,
"Lady" Dawn

Kate said...

Um, Sarah?

Have you considered offering NOT to give people your kids if they buy your books? That might be a winner.

(runs away)

Stephen Simmons said...

Sarah, data point:

After I started reading this blog regularly, I made a point of looking for authors from here on my trip to B&N the next payday. They had "Darkship Thieves" up front, but NONE of your work on the regular SF&F shelves, and none of Dave's, either. For Rowena I saw "Desperate Alliances", but neither of the earlier two in the trilogy.

Following payday, Books-A-Million, I still didn't see Dave on the shelves at al, sadly. I did find "Gentleman Takes a Chance", but not "Draw One in the Dark", which makes the second kind of pointless ...

I don't know what the answer is, but I know that we can't buy what we can't see.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Mike,

Sort of. What I'll be doing with Haute as Hell will be a rough version of the book, then giving people the option of buying the ebook.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Lady Dawn,

Oy, I redshirt for the fun of it. I even redshirt baenites in my mysteries. :D
Local library... Probably not much promotion going there, though the books I donate to my kids' school library (mine and Monkey's) are NEVER on the shelves. :) this is good. "Get them while they're young."

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Stephen,

The writer has ABSOLUTELY no say over what goes on the shelves or how. (You know this, right?) It's one of the many things over which we have no control including title and cover. Publishers don't actually make an effort unless you got a minimum 50k advance or were the college roomate of your editor. (It's different for Baen who do try but their distro is third party.)
As for Draw One In the Dark... the hard cover got a micro print because of the cover. The mmpb had a better cover, but of course the "numbers" are set in stone by that point. If you want to see how BAD a cover, send me your address to my hotmail account (under the last thread in diner) and I'll send you one. Yeah, I think at this point lack of availability of DOITD on shelves is affecting the sale of Gentleman Takes A Chance. However, for the record, there is nothing I can do. (And I'm saying this also for all those people out there who send me angry letters because the Musketeer Mysteries were canceled and/or because there isn't a sequel to DST out yet. Some things ARE out of my hands.)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Oh, Lady Dawn, in addition, getting more books in the free library is not just a matter of my offering to do so. Eventually -- I hope -- Baen will put out the "Sarah A Hoyt" packet that I sold them for electronic rights... a year? ago. And then afterwards, hopefully, my second collection will go on the free library. But the novels are up to Toni, not me and I can't even second guess her decisions. I don't sit in her chair.
I totally agree freebies are a great way to get interest, which is why I'm putting a bunch of them on my site. :)

matapam said...

Perhaps the RLF needs to blog. They can go everywhere, and spy on every author's characters.

Some things that are very funny, but don't fit a standard publishing matrix, such as the adventures of Rex Mason, and Knights in Tarnished Armor or whatever that thing of Kate's was, might draw in people, if they were disseminated more widely. If they were associated with a e-book store they could at least have a tip jar, even if they were never going to be organized into anything more polished and coherent. They could get people checking back once or twice a week for the latest installment.

Interactive writing. Let the audience cheer and jeer at a much earlier stage than even a rough draft. That's how the Martian Lawyers got written.

Synova said...

Bubonicon.

:-)

Kate said...

Synova,

Is that the con you avoid like the plague?

Dave Freer said...

Stephen - you are putting your finger on a source of enormous frustration there. And it's a sort of vicious chicken and egg syndrome. Bookstores won't order a lot (unless pushed) if you don't sell a lot. And they won't re-order unless on request (and that is pretty iffy)so it's very hard to push those numbers up. So for eg, I painstakingly tracked the availability of one of my early books at various B&N's - roughly fifty IIRC 1)It was never in about two thirds of them. 2)There were very few copies and most of them sold out in two days... And did not re-order. So the only way to improve my figures (and get more copies on more shelves) is to get more internet orders. That is the only chink I can see in the system's armor that authors can exploit.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Warp,

It's just difficult for me to do because my characters are SO non-static, or even often linear. They... er... get ideas.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris Mc
Actually I'm a totally laid back lazy bones. You should see what other authors do. My problem is I want to hide and write. Sigh.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Quilly,

I can't be chairman, unless I get a LOT of willing slaves. I have ... three books almost finished and one being revised and a to-write slate longer than my arm. I do second Dave as GOH, though

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Synova and Kate,

In a book I need to finish (the one with Flint) I have Marlowe running around most of the time in the t-shirt of his modern day bf. It's an oversized t-shirt with rats all over it and "Bubonicon, come be infected." Seemed so weirdly appropriate.
Bubonicon is of course in NM.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Dave,
And the issue with that is that -- though I don't know if this applies to Baen (doubt it. In fact, would wager they do, considering they sell the electronic on site) -- most publishers do NOT count internet sales. About ten years ago they dismissed Amazon with "It's only the equivalent of a large brick and mortar" and I have not seen a retraction of that policy.
Before you go Librarian, though, they MIGHT have changed and not told anyone.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

LOL, Matapam, I love the RLF idea. Unfortunately before I start a blog for them, I'll need to draw the various recruits -- squirrels, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice and ferrets (yeah, but don't tell them) -- in their gear. LOL. And their ongoing war against my characters AND myself would certainly be funny. If it doesn't get me committed.

Jonathan D. Beer said...

I was reading a copy of Empire this morning (movie magazine, for those not in the know - does Empire have a circulation outside the UK?) and the thought suddenly came to me - extras.

Not extras in the acting sense, but the "added to the DVD to sweeten the deal" sense. Whats to stop an author creating a bunch of things which are exactly the same concepts as those used on a DVD - an author's commentary, a making-of video (in fact this could work while you are writing - as well as blog updates, a quick stint of video once every few weeks of the author letting off steam, talking about how the last few passages you've written have been great, etc), perhaps gag reels of stuff not used because you've realised how naff it was - although that might have publisher issues, I dunno - etc, etc.

Am I crazy for thinking these are good ideas?

matapam said...

Sarah, the RLF could steal "Secret Reports" AKA novels, and analyze them with much failure to understand. Sort of very, very twisted book revues.

EvMick said...

Web Comic?

I follow some web comics via Google Reader/RSS.

I'd probably follow VERY CAREFULLY a web comic pertaining to THE GEORGE.

Don't have a clue as to how it could be monetized though.

Dave Freer said...

Sarah, I know Baen do. Way back it was already running at nearly 1/3 of sales I gather.
"Before you go Librarian, though, they MIGHT have changed and not told anyone."
Me go librarian? Nonsense! Things are moving on there. Why there was an employment advert from one of our industry's leading lights in the NYT just the other day saying they were looking for someone for their adminstration with a working knowledge of Ptolmeic Demotic and tally sticks, as they're a forward looking company.
Who would have thought even five years ago that the demise of Frühdemotisch and merely using fingers and toes was so close! ;-)

Stephen Simmons said...

Dave and Sarah,

(If you're still reading this thread ...)

Could I have a bibliography, in order, for each of you?

The way to get the books back onto the shelves in B&N is for people to special order them at B&N, not order them from Amazon, n'est pas? I need the ones I don't have. Our needs coincide ...

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Dave,

Very good then. The other publishers have more trouble reporting the sales of paper on line, possibly because they are so massive. As for ebook sales... well, I'm supposed to believe I sell the same ebooks I did ten years ago, before the advent of the kindle.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Stephen,

You can find my bibliography here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Hoyt and Dave's here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Freer

Synova said...

Yes, Bubonicon is in New Mexico. Is it okay if I say that it's a great little con? It seems to me that it's got a pretty unusual author to fan ratio, as those things go.

The only real problem is that it tends to fall a weekend away from World Con. Bleh.

But I thought I'd throw it out there just in case anyone (and particularly Sarah) might slap her forehead and exclaim, "Bubonicon! I've always wanted to go to Bubonicon." :-)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

LOL, Synova, I HAVE always wanted to go to Bubonicon. Unfortunately -- can you tell I'm editing something set in the regency -- the dibs have not been in tune. Either I have the date clear and no money or money but am attending worldcon and... oh, putting homeschooled kid through exams so he can go into public highschool right on top of the date. This year it's probably the first with a bit of the latter. I've been meaning to go to it since I saw the name, which is why I borrowed the name for a T-shirt for Marlowe :)
I will definitely try to make it next year. If we start crossing fingers now, maybe it will happen.