Self Promotion

During my association with writers, I have noticed reluctance—if not a downright stubbornness —among them to admit that they are writing in a genre.  Most of them seem to be holding out for the Big L. (literature)

Academia would have us believe that genre is a disagreeable, four-letter word, but any bookstore owner will tell you that genre sells.

In reality, being cast in a genre is the best thing that could happen to a writer.  It is the shortest route to your audience and the easiest way for the READER to find YOU.

My mind has been busy putting all the piece together, and I have realized two things:

1. the issue of self-promotion is too long for one post, so I’m going to break in down into a series.

2.  While I’m coalescing these thoughts, your input would be valuable to me!!!

***

Many writers have trouble pinpointing what genre they write.  I say to them:  take your hands off your manuscript and point your finger at your potential audience.  Are they women?  Are they men?  Are they children, YA or middle aged?  Are they educated, or is your piece more pulp fiction?  Is your work inspirational–chicken soup.  Is it action adventure or fantasy?  Does it go back in time or forward?  Is there a murder mystery?  Is it romance?

Thus we begin to narrow the gap.  You can not think that your work will appeal to everyone.

* As a side note:  I have a very good friend who writes romantic stories, but because he is a man, I don’t think he wants to admit it.  His mind is locked on the glitter of LITERATURE.  Until he does admit to romance, with a side order of erotica, I don’t think he’ll have the kind of success that he’s looking for.  That’s double IMHO. (in my humble opinion)

* I have another friend who is writing—at least, in my mind—an inspirational, science fiction/Armageddon type story.  He reluctantly calls it science fiction, hints at inspirational and down plays Armageddon.  I might add that it took me several weeks to arrive at this idea.  Why so coy? In my mind, he should have blasted me with these descriptors the very first time I clicked on his site.

* I have another friend who won a fantasy award, but was discomfited because he thought the piece sci-fi.  Please, you won, I said.  Take the prize and run.

(I hope I don’t lose any friends on this account.  I am rather blunt, and, damn-it, if you can’t say what you really thing, then why speak (write), at all?)

 

***

Honesty and information is critical to the sale.

Perhaps, you have crossed one genre into another.  Maybe, your writing a romantic, space opera with a an adventure wag.  Maybe, you can’t sum it up with one word.  So what?  The more identifiers you can put on it; the closer you get to the readers who will enjoy it.

Cast aside your dreams of the Big L and the noble peace prize.  Call an apple an apple, and let the critics decide if it’s literature.  It isn’t your call, anyway.

Think of it this way: If an agent walked up to you today, what would you say?  Would you stumble, er, ah, and speak of dreamy things?  Or would you say:  I have the most awesome vampire story that you’ve every read.  Blows everything else out of the water.  It has elements of romance.  It’s directed at adults and it’s loaded with survival skills.  Sounds awesome to me; I’d buy it.

Or, think of it this way: We’re on EBay.  You want to sell me a car, but you won’t or can’t tell me what make, model or year. End of conversation, I say.

How many writing blogs have I clicked on, how many posts have I read, without having a clear idea what the writer was working on?  TONS!  This is self-destructive to your work.  Put on your ad-man hat.  Promote your work immediate.  Don’t expect your readers to dig up the truth.

With these things in mind, I’ve decided that I need a customized header on my blog.

Because:  I WRITE SHORT STORIES OF MIXED GENRE FROM 30 WORDS TO 6,000.  I SPECIALIZE IN, but am not limited to, SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY AND POST APOPCOLYPTIC TALES.  INCASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW.

Also, to be frank, I post sporadically, so if you want to keep up with me, you’ll have to subscribe or play catch-up from time to time.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Disagreements?  Advice?  I am a gracious listener.

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32 thoughts on “Self Promotion

    • Why limit yourself to one sentence? What I’m saying is this: If I click on your blog–which will be the first time, I think–will I know immediately that you write YA fantasy??? Will it slam me in the face?? It should.

    • Just went to visit A.M. Kuska site. This author got an honorable mention in ‘Writers of the Future.’

      Impressive. Wow. 🙂

      But where’s your LIKE BUTTON, girl???

  1. I can identify with the person writing an inspirational, science fiction/Armageddon type story…

    I’ve belabored the issue of genre on my blog and I appreciate what you’ve written here.

    I’ve also taken my own malaise of missing-genre to the forums over at BestsellerBound. You may find this thread interesting.

    I ended up tentatively calling my book Mainstream Speculative Interstitial Fiction…………………..

  2. This is such a difficult subject for me. I know that some of the books I have in the works are SF, and I have no problem with that. I love SF. But the one I’m preparing for publication right now has completely stymied me. It’s about slavery and the struggle for personal freedom, and has a very slow-building m/m relationship that ends in HEA with no sex. I’ve been told to market it as romance. I’ve been told that if it ends without sex, people who expect sex are going to hate it and give it bad reviews. I’m sorely tempted to change it to a zombie vampire mystery, just so people will *get* it. When the heck did sex become an absolute requirement for romance?

    • Oh, Catana, you have so many adjectives to attach to your work. You can really, really zero in on an audience.

      As far as your plot goes and letting your lovers unit…well, is there going to be a sequel? If so, then you could maybe hold off, but if it’s a stand alone, I’m thinking I’d agree about the letting things climax.

      I’m big on ENDINGS. A unsatisfactory ending can ruin the whole thing, but then again there’s Steven King, a lot of his endings just don’t make sense.

      • The adjectives work well as tags, and I’m grateful that self-publishing means greater use of tags for searches. But genre is still *the* important thing. I think the ending of my book will be very satisfying for readers who don’t automatically expect it to end in a big passionate sex scene, because it’s the developing relationship that’s central, not whether they’re going to have sex. In fact, there’s enough trauma in both their lives that the smart reader will know there isn’t going to be sex, at least not right away. And I never thought about it that way until just now, so thanks for helping me get to that insight. I guess the “must have sex in my romance” readers will just have snarl at me.

  3. This is a good point. It’s funny how something isn’t always so clear until it’s point out, isn’t it? Even if it is common sense. I’m probably guilty of being a bit vague when it comes to what I’m writing, too, I suppose. I want to keep it all to myself until what I’m writing has grown up and is ready to be shared.

    I think it can be a bit of a double-edged sword sometimes too though. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read/heard that writers sometimes publicise themselves too early. Not in that they’re spreading the word that they’re a writer, which is obviously a good thing – but that before they have a product to sell (a finished story, poem, etc) they’re just not going to have the hook on the ‘audience’ that they’re looking for. At least, not to start off with. Maybe after some time of building up a blog, or twitter, etc. Likewise, they could post an extract, or several extracts, of their work in order to give the reader a taste of their product, or their work – but there wouldn’t be anywhere (yet!) for the reader to carry on with reading their story, even if they were gripped from the first sentence.

    It’s very interesting though. And I like your car analogy. Though personally I don’t have a problem with subscribing to particular genres. For one thing, they definitely make it a lot easier finding somebody to submit completed work to! And it does make connecting to the reader a lot easier. If I say from the start that I’m writing a fantasy – the guy who only likes translated historical dramas isn’t going to be too surprised when a wizard shows up. I guess genres are a bit like adding tags, or even better – categories, to a blog post!

    I’m glad I read this. Maybe I should let out a little bit more about my novel. Thanks for the tip!

    And thanks for sharing. x

    • If you don’t want to prematurely announce your book, then here’s an idea: Inside every novel are minor characters with undeveloped side stories. Perhaps, you could give us a side-story as a taste test–and call them spin-offs. Or even some backstory on your main characters–their youth.

  4. Pingback: What Are You Writing? Self Promotion and Genres « EM Biddulph

  5. Oh dear, I am definitely one of the coy ones you’ve described! When friends ask, ‘is your book about love,’ I squirm and say, ‘only incidentally,’ or something equally evasive. Thing is, it is about love, but between siblings (of the platonic rather than the illegal kind!). I guess I haven’t wanted to be pigeon-holed, or for my friends (especially the male ones) to think my book is going to be at all fluffy. But I think you make a really good point and I am going to think about how I can address this in the future.

    • Tsk, tsk! You won’t make any sales that way. Try this trick: start talking about your characters as if they were real people. Gossip, gossip. When your friends say, oh, my, who are you talking about, tell them. In this way you will come to know your characters better, and your friends will become interested in their story.

      Will your friends say, ‘Humm’s gone round the bend?’ Maybe, but who cares.

      BTW: Love your name, Humm. I could really play that up. Humm’s Words. How to Humm with literature. Humm’n a Tale…..

      • Hee hee, heard all the humm jokes before, I’m afraid! I guess one compensation for being born with an eye-brow raising surname is that it is more memorable for potential readers, so less effort needed on the old self-promotion thing than for all those poor Smiths and Johnsons eh? ;o)

        Perhaps another self-promotion tip is to rehearse answers to obvious questions about your book so that when people ask about it you can answer with confidence instead of seeming embarrassed or vague.

    • Well, I considered the About Me button, but then I think like J.D. Salinger’s character in ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ I was born, when to school, yad-yada, but you don’t care about that.

  6. Awesome read. I too eventually had to think about this. It was hard for me too, because I had written screenplays for several years, before heading back into written form again. What I found was that what I write in short story, novella, or novel form is far different than what I typically do for the screen. I definitely have an easier time with comedy when writing for film or television, but comedy in narrative is so strange to me. I eventually came to realize I primarily write mystery/crime. Sure there’s often hints of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and even some supernatural nonsense. But the one major constant is usually some mystery or crime. Noir seems to be the major key in anything I write. Though I sometimes dabble in straight-up pulp and that can be a little more humorous than my usual.

    I do like, and it’s got me thinking, how you say we should be blunt and straightforward about our genre. My site seems pretty straightforward, it’s dark and gritty with a gritty cityscape banner. But I’m not sure anywhere it actually says what my genre is. And that makes me think… why not? Was I being coy as well? Lame.

    Can I post a link back to this read? It was good stuff, and I could see how some people could get a use out of it. At least to get the brain-gears turning… or maybe some oiling.

    • Thanks Nathan. This boost comes at a good time, since I received a reject from Escapepod.com today. Oh, well… Forge ahead as they say.

      For those of you who don’t know, Nathan runs an online writing critique group called Emerald Dragon. http://myemeralddragon.webs.com/apps/guestbook/

      Free stories, poems,the occasional wit and writing chatter. Lots of sexy English guys. I hangout there sometimes, mostly in my spy disguise. I’m afraid that I flunked tact, when it comes to offering my advice to others, so I mostly keep my mouth shut these days.

      • Cop out. 😀

        Thanks for the shout out to ED. We’re currently reinventing the wheel behind the scenes at ED actually, so expect something different in the near future.

    • Stunning. I’ve been to your site many times and had no idea. But, at least, you know what you write and you know your audience. That’s terrific. You could use an alias. I did. For a couple of years I had everyone thinking I was a guy. You should have seen some of my emails. whahaha! What fun and a whole different world. I loved getting mail that started with: Hey Dude. (But don’t get the wrong idea; I’m heterosexual.)

      A good writer should be able to take on a different persona: man, woman, child, teeny-bopper, cranky old fart, nut case–that’s the best part of the job.

      • I definitely take that as a compliment! 😀
        Out of curiosity, based on my site, what genre did you think I was writing in?

        I completely agree that a good writer should be able to be perceived as whatever he or she wants to. That’s kind of our job, isn’t it? 😉

  7. Out of all the blogs that I visit–primarily based on tag surfing–I’d say that most do not slap me in the face with what they are about. Yes, it’s clear that they are writers; yes, it’s clear that they have writing woes, but figuring out their genre requires a shovel and, sometimes, a pick ax.

    What I’m saying in this post is this: From the moment that I clicked on your blog, romance should have been overt. Roses, wine bottles, sexy people… In fact, the words romance, novelist, love…etc should be the bait on your tags.

    There should be no doubt in a first time visitor what you are working on without them having to read any of your post. See what I’m saying???? And since you are such a good artist, I’d say you have some drawing to do. The graphics on your blog now, seem to say YA.

    You’re lucky. I have no idea where I’m going to get my screaming graphics.

    • Ah, get it.

      I guess I don’t see myself as _that_ kind of romance writer. Maybe it’s more like chicklit. But thank you for explaining it to me! =)
      Maybe it’s also because I don’t really see my blog as a way to promote my writing – it’s just something I do for fun. And “fun” me might me leaning more towards YA than the so-called serious writing I do.

      Now I’m confused again! 😀

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