Interviewer Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.
Thanks to the Functional Nerds for the invitation to guest post on their blog as part of my book’s blog tour.
“The Worker Prince” released October 4th from Diminished Media Group, a smell press out of Michigan, has been lucky enough to get national press attention and significant notice and thus steady sales. Some are surprised by this. My publisher had to explain to an author excited about signing with them, that the majority of publicity came from the author’s efforts. I had an author friend with a big publishing house ask how my small press could afford such PR. So, since Patrick asked me to blog on the topic “Working With A Small Press” for authors, it seems appropriate to talk about my experiences.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to working with a small press. You won’t get as big of an advance for one. In some cases, production time is slower, others faster. A trade off may be the passion they have at the small press for your book. They also may have more time to focus on it, at least initially. The biggest disadvantage, unless you’re greedy about the advance, is marketing budget and resources. They won’t have much. In the end, whatever size press you wind up with, being published is an honor and can be a great experience. But it does require everyone involved to treat it like a professional career, even if it is not a primary source of income. Every step you take is an investment in your future, marketing is no different.
Given the changing face of publishing, I think anyone wanting to be a published author should be willing to accept that marketing will be a big part of their responsibility, even when signing with a big house. Unless the big house decides you are the next John Grisham, Orson Scott Card or George R R Martin, you will have to spend time marketing your book. And when I say “spend time,” I mean significant time on a regular basis. So how do you do it?
First, building relationships starts now, not a few months before your book’s release. I started networking and building relationships in 2008 when I was still writing my novel. It released here in Fall 2011, around three years later. Much of the national notice my book got came from people who like me, whom I have helped, just helping me without even being asked. For example, publicist Matt Staggs, whose client I have interviewed, included me on Random House blog Suvudu’s national list of releases the week my book came out. I was listed alongside Jim Butcher, etc. And it was a big boost. If nothing else, people took my book seriously as a major release, and certainly people heard of it who might not have.
So start building relationships now and your greatest tool for that will be Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc. When you’re a new author especially, you are marketing yourself as well as your work, so find as many ways to contribute useful content as you can. This includes retweeting or posting content from others you find valuable as well as your own. It includes encouraging and supporting others. It also builds relationships of people who want to help you, too.
Second, since studies show people need to hear your book mentioned at least three times to buy it, your number one job is to just get your book out there and being talked about. You can do this in a number of ways, but reviews and interviews are not the sole options. Guest posts, dialogues, excerpts, and, if you’re lucky, serialization are all things to be considered. Be as creative in marketing at you were in writing. If nothing else, spending time in advance creating unique marketing content will allow you to provide interesting options for anyone willing to support you—from blogger friends to others. The more options they have, the more they will want to help.
Third, learn to talk about yourself without violating your boundaries. While it’s about your story, not you, readers do want to connect with authors. So they want to get a glimpse at the you behind the stories. This does not mean you have to open up every detail of your life. What it means is they want a glimpse who you are, at your sense of humor, how you think, what makes you unique. So ask your friends what is intriguing about you and try and find ways to let it out in small pieces in your marketing. For some this is easier than for others. Most of us are a bit egotistical thinking we write anything of value but at the same time hate talking about ourselves. But little glimpses is all you need.
Fourthly, get a good author photo taken. You may have to spend a little at a professional photographer. Yes, a big press may pay for it. Don’t count on your small press to. But once you have an author photo, it can be used over and over again. Whether you go for the casual look or a more formal one is up to you. Visit author sites and see what others are doing with their author photos, decide what you like and go for it, but you need a photo.
Fifthly, you also need a bio. It does not have to fill an entire typed page. In fact, a paragraph is better. The back of your book bio may be two or three paragraphs, but the one most sites will want for marketing is a paragraph so just include the bare details. My short bio is below this article. Include links your to website and blog. Imbed them if possible. List your major works, a couple in progress, a few personal details, and you’re good to go.
Sixthly, your goal is to get people talking about your book so you don’t have to. So all of the above things are aimed at generating the relationships and interest and content necessary to help others promote your book for you. Yes of course it’s better for someone else to toot your horn than you yourself. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it easy.
The road to publication is a journey, and it can be a long one. But taking the time to learn what you can do to pave the way and make it easier for yourself and anyone who partners with you is worth any effort required. It does not have to consume you. After all, your greatest marketing tool is your writing itself, so always put time for that first. But these are examples of other things authors can and should do to build their careers, particularly when working with a smell press. I hope you’ll find them helpful. Best of luck with your writing careers.
The Worker Prince is the story of a prince who discovers he was born a slave. When he raises objections about the abusive treatment of slaves, he finds himself in conflict with both friends and families. After a tragic accident, involving the death of a fellow soldier, Davi Rhii winds up on the run. He then joins the worker’s fight for freedom and finds a new identity and new love. Capturing the feel of the original Star Wars, packed with action, intrigue and interweaving storylines, The Worker Prince is a space opera with a Golden Aged Feel. 326 pp · ISBN 978?0?9840209?0?4 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $14.95 tpb $3.99 Ebook · Publication: October 4, 2011