Here’s the third and final part of my look at the inner workings of crafting, selling and promoting fiction. Thanks for sticking with me for the entire series and special thanks to Edie for having me aboard! If you like what you’ve seen here, drop in over at http://lincolncrisler.com for a steady flow of information, fun and venting from a tempermental artist!
Where do you go from here? A publisher has taken on your work, which we’ll assume for the sake of argument (since the bulk of my experience is with short fiction) is a short story appearing in a magazine or anthology. Now you need to entice fans to read your work.
Most publishers can be counted on to do at least something to get the word out; how much effort they’ll expend usually depends on the publisher’s budget. At the end of the day, publishing’s an investment. An editor’s taken on your work because they feel it’s good enough to make them (and you) a bit of money. The amount of cash they’ll spend on promoting the book depends on how much they have on hand AND how much return they think they’ll get on their investment. Unless you sign a deal with a major publisher, be prepared to shoulder most of the burden. Life ain’t fair, and roses have thorns.
As a writer, the very least you need is a website. Preferably something easily recognizable, like your name. Free websites are a dime a dozen but are usually cluttered with ads and they don’t look as professional. Space on a webserver and your own personal domain name don’t cost that much, though; I pay $35/year to my webhost, http://tinyhosts.com. If you’re not into web design, there are lots of templates available on the internet. Me being a computer geek, I’ve toyed with my website almost constantly since it’s inception in 2006. I’ve finally settled on what I feel is the best option; a blog with columns on either side of the page with information on my books, favorite links, RSS feeds from interesting blogs and other neat stuff. Bottom line is you need a central collection point for news and updates on your work and links to publications featuring your stories. Making it fun and interesting will keep readers attention.
Having a blog is one of my favorite promotions. Aside from the website (though I do encourage integrating your blog with your website) it’s a place where you can sound off on all sorts of topics; I’ve reviewed comic books and novels, preached my politics, posted awesome recipes from my kitchen, given social commentary and vented about rough days all in addition to updates on my projects and books featuring my work. With proper use of tags and categories, readers searching for all sorts of topics can stumble across your blog, enjoy your unique perspective and take a closer look at your fiction. As a sidebar, I can now recommend, from experience, guest-blogging on someone else’s blog as an excellent promotion. Of course this is fun, too, but hopefully someone’ll read these things and click over to my site; just like I hope someone on my site clicks over to here and then Edie’ll get a new fan, too.
Another great promotion strategy is to set up book signings. Sometimes a publisher will set up signings, sometimes they won’t, but either way you can set up signings on your own. When I set up my first signing at a local Barnes & Noble, I spoke with the manager, we set a date, they ordered copies of my book and I appeared at the appointed time and signed them. It went rather well, I met a lot of new fans and hopefully they’ll all introduce at least one person to the awesome new writer they met at the bookstore.
MySpace is a great resource for creators, even if it does look like Teenybopperworld at first glance. There are a LOT of writers, musicians, artists, comedians, filmmakers, etc. on MySpace all yours for the meeting. I’ve gotten market leads, contacted fellow writers and editors and even discovered the publisher of my collection, Despairs & Delights, on MySpace. I can honestly say my career would be different without it. Heck, if you’re really web-challenged, you can make a great MySpace profile, complete with blog and information on your work, with relatively little effort.
A friend of mine, the absolutely wonderful Fran Friel, loves to run contests as a promotion. Comment on her blog at the right time and your name goes into a hat for a chance at winning all sorts of wonderful stuff, from a signed copy of one of her books to (I believe, don’t quote me) an original manuscript. I haven’t tried this yet, but I will soon. It’s definitely an attention-grabber. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
Finally, there are message boards. I’m only familiar with the horror ones, so I won’t get into specifics, but you can do a Google Search for “(insert genre” message boards” and find a million of ’em. You’ll find potential fans, other writers, reviewers, publishers and potential business partners talking about a range of topics from daily life to upcoming projects. On some you can even exchange critiques with other writers. The only one I’ll recommend to any creator regardless of genre is http://www.zoetrope.com. It’s sponsored by Francis Ford Coppola. I’m a member of several offices on the site and my career wouldn’t even exist without some of the people I’ve met there.
So that’s about it. If you’re a writer, I hope I’ve been able to impart some knowledge to you and if you’re a reader, I hope I’ve given you an enjoyable look behind the scenes (without ruining anything for you, of course). Thanks for reading!
Lincoln Crisler hails from upstate New York. It’s cold there. That’s why he learned to read at an early age. So he could enjoy books. Inside. Where it’s warm. And not cold. Check out his website to see if all that book-learnin’ paid off and send fan- (or hate-) mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.