Posts Tagged ‘selling books


supporting your writers!

So this post is way late and not at all what I meant to write about, but it keeps coming up, so I thought I’d put it here!

So my first book, The Spirit Thief, comes out in October. So far away! But considering I’ve been a published author for nigh on 2 years now, that’s relatively quite close! Now that this whole publishing gig is worming its way towards reality, people keep asking me how they can support my blinking, blind, newborn career.

Now, I have lovely friends and family and am honored and flattered beyond all telling that they would want to stick their necks and hard earned dollars out for me. But I don’t want them to waste their time or their money, so when they ask me “Rachel, what can I do to support your novel?”, this is how I answer, condensed in useful list form!

How to Support Your Favorite Novelist Without Spending More Than 15 Minutes or the Price of the Book You Were Hopefully Going to Buy Anyway

  1. Wait until 2 weeks before the book’s launch before doing anything – This is the most vital time for support. Any sooner and people might forget, any later and you miss those vital initial numbers that mean so much to publishers. You can of course talk it up earlier, but save anything big, and the actual purchase, until this crucial time.
  2. Preorder the book – Since you were (hopefully!) going to buy the book anyway, this is the best way to do it. Preorders boost an otherwise unknown book up the Amazon or B&N or whatever seller you prefer’s list. Strong preorder numbers lead to more and bigger book orders from retailers, which make your author look really good!
  3. Leave an honest, informative review – Of course, we all love good reviews, but honesty is the most important. A page full of glowing reviews that ultimately say nothing won’t draw readers, but even a 3 star review highlighting the book’s pros and cons can lead sometimes lead to sales. After all, one person’s gripe can be another person’s love. Hopefully, your author has written a book that earns your giddy fandom, but even if you didn’t like it as much as you’d hoped, write about it.
  4. Mention the book on your social media – Twitter shoutouts, facebook links, blog posts, they all help to raise a book’s profile. Even if the only people who follow you are your family and that guy from high school who kind of creeped you out but you don’t want to unfriend because you don’t want to be rude. You don’t have to spam or be particularly verbose, you even copy/paste the review you wrote for the book’s sales page, just say something and get the title out there. Every little bit helps.

As Cory Doctorow says, an SF writer’s biggest problem is obscurity. Anything you do, even if it’s just one post, can be a big help thanks to the ripple effect of the internet, and your author will love you forever.

(Also, when I was typing the above I misspelled Cory Doctorow’s name and Google’s (I use Chrome) spellcheck corrected me. Folks, that is fame right there, when your name is in Google’s spellcheck. )

Anyway, that’s my list. You tell me, did I leave anything out? Mess anything up? Let me know!


At long last! Covers!

So, with all the pretty covers on the side bar, I’d been feeling a little left out. However!!! Today, Orbit has officially debuted the covers for my first three books, all coming out this fall. I gotta say, they look pretty spiffy. You can see them all over at Orbit Books, but I reposted the first one here. I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, but I can’t say no to Eli.

Be sure to check Orbit books for the other 2!!

For those who wonder how covers get made, here was how it went for me. My editor, Devi, asked me for character inspirations, you know, movie stars they look like, anything an artist could use for reference. Originally, the covers were going to be illustrated. However, that didn’t work out, so Lauren, the EXCELLENT art director at Orbit, and Devi, my awesome editor, got together and, after much deliberation and a few phone calls to run things by me, came up with these close face photo covers.  We agreed early on we wanted character feature covers, because the series is very character driven. I have to say that Orbit was wonderful at keeping me in the loop. I know a lot of authors have very minimal say in their covers, but my opinion was asked on multiple occasions, and the girl on the third cover was even changed when I objected that she didn’t look quite right. It helped that Devi agreed with me, but I felt like the team at Orbit really went out of their way to get the details right, and as an author that’s the best I could want.

Over all, I’m very happy with all 3 covers, but this one really takes the cake. So far as I’m concerned, Lauren went into my imagination and got Eli to sit still long enough to snap a picture. Couldn’t have been done better. I love it!!


MacMillan vs. Amazon

So I was going to write about the editorial muck I’m neck deep in, then Nora brought this to my attention and everything else got derailed.

So here’s what happened. Publishing giant Macmillan, parent company of SciFi/Fantasy giant Tor, decided it wanted its ebooks to cost around $15. Amazon, primary retailer for ebooks, didn’t like this at all, and, to show their strong displeasure, have pulled all Macmillan books, print and electronic, from (Though Macmillan imprints like Tor  seem to be fine).

This is certainly only temporary, but it is a pretty powerful statement from Amazon about who really controls the price of ebooks. However, while they battle it out, the real victims (as it always is in wars) are the civilians, in this case, the authors.  These are people whose books have just vanished from Amazon through no fault of their own, and that sucks. Now, of course there are other retailers, but come on. This is, the online book behemoth. This isn’t small change, especially for scifi/fantasy with our tech savvy audience.

This is also a first shot in the coming greater conflict between retailers and publishers as ebooks move from a fringe format to a real money maker. Who really controls the price? What will that price be? It’s a very interesting conflict to watch for signs of what the future holds for ebooks. Meanwhile, however, it really sucks to be a Macmillan author.

What do you think? Would you buy an ebook for $15? Who’s in the wrong here, Amazon or Macmillan?

ETA: Macmillan’s explanation via Publisher’s Lunch (thanks to Nora for the link, she finds everything!)

UPDATE! Amazon has relented! They will be selling Macmillan books again. Their explanation is a bit backhanded, but that’s to be expected from someone who’s been pushed to do something they don’t want.


Why we should all say thank you to Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling

This post was partially inspired by Nora’s excelent post on the Urban Fantasy boom (one scroll down, no turns) and partially by my normal answer to the “what do you think of Twilight?!” question.

Seeing as how nearly all of my conversations somehow come back to books, I get asked what I think of Twilight on a fairly regular basis. This question comes either from people trying to see if they’ve found another fan to gush with or from those testing the waters to see if Twilight bashing is socially acceptable. My answer, however, is always the same: I’ve never read Twilight, but I love it, and I hope its popularity continues to grow unchecked.

This answer tends to cause headscratching among both camps, so I often append the following: Any book that gets petulant teenagers to willingly enter a bookstore is a book I love. At least for the moment, Twilight has taken reading from what it was when I was in highschool, something nerdy kids did at lunch because they couldn’t sit with the in crowd, and turned it into the cool thing. Not only is reading acceptable, it’s socially required, and it’s not just teenagers. I see soroity girls reading Twilight at the bus stop, moms reading it in the checkout line at the grocery store, I see Wuthering Heights getting on the NYT Bestseller list because Edward Cullen likes it! This is awesome! If people who don’t normally read are reading one thing obsessively, they might just decide that books aren’t so lame after all and try something else. Maybe my book, maybe yours.

The teenagers reading Twilight now are no strangers to massive book hysteria. These are the Harry Potter girls all grown up.  They know all about reading frenzies and the book you HAVE to have, and their dollars (or rather, their parent’s dollars) have provided the rich soil in which today’s fantasy is blossoming. Unlike the horror boom of the 80s Nora talked about and its subsequent genre collapse, fantasy seems to be using its boom dollars to deversify. Compare the fantasy selection of today to the fantasy selection of 10 years ago and difference is startling. There’s more opportunity than ever in the genre, more books, wider range, more pushing on the boundaries that have traditionally walled fantasy in. This isn’t because authors have suddenly decided to write new stuff, these books have always been out there. The difference is that publishers, flushed with fantasy’s success, are taking more risks, risks they are free to take thanks in large part to the recent spat of fantasy and urban fantasy megahits like Earagon, Twilight, and Harry Potter.

When reading is in vogue, everyone connected to reading benefits. So long as publishing supports diversity of stories, new voices, and wide range of reading choices, booms like Urban Fantasy, Harry Potter, and the Twilight craze only make us stronger. America is currently enamored with fantasy, and so long as we (publishers and authors) don’t shoot ourselves in the foot chasing fads, it should be a long and rewarding love story.  After all, who could get tired of new worlds?


Who’s Afraid of Urban Fantasy?

I’m about to step in it big time with this one. I’m primarily a writer of secondary-world epic fantasies, and here I am opening my mouth about urban fantasy. That’s just asking for a smackdown. But here goes.

Read this article at io9, in which Orbit Books’ Tim Holman (disclosure: my trilogy is coming out from Orbit, not that this has anything to do with anything in this case) notes the phenomenal growth of urban fantasy. To the point that it’s rapidly consuming the whole SF field.

Now, I read some urban fantasy. In fact I read both kinds of urban fantasy: the pre-Anita Blake kind (e.g., China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, the Paper Cities anthology) as well as the post-Blake (e.g., Jim Butcher, Marjorie Liu, and yes Laurell K. Hamilton). I even write a little in short story form, though my stuff veers closer to the pre type than the post. I’m aware of the differences between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, or at least to the degree that the issue has been decided (which is to say, not). So I’m not completely ignorant on the subject. Being here at the Magic District helps, actually, because my UF-inclined fellow Districtians’ books are all on the excellent end of the Urban Fantasy continuum, and I’m being exposed to more through their posts.

Despite all this, I had the same reaction as a number of io9 commenters to the news that UF was growing like the Blob: dismay. Because like them, I’ve seen a lot of stuff from the crap end of the UF continuum, and this phenomenal rate of growth probably means that more crap is forthcoming. It’s not nearly as bad as some people are making it out to be; a lot of the rage I see directed at urban fantasy has to do with the preponderance of girl cooties in it. The spec fic field has never been very welcoming towards that. But we still hit the Sturgeon’s Law problem: with so much urban fantasy out there, how am I ever going to be able to sift out the gold nuggets from the flood?

And what does this mean for me as a writer?

Don’t worry; I’m not dumb enough to change my writing in order to try and fit this trend. Think about it: by the time I finish Book 3, write another book, hopefully sell that, and then do the 2-year wait for publication, the trend might be over. But as a writer of primarily epic fantasies, does this trend mean I might have trouble selling my books in the future? After all, the last time there was a trend like this — I’ll cite the surge in psychosexual killer-based horror that happened in the Eighties — the rest of “traditional” speculative fiction suffered mightily. Many publishers, as I understand it from folks who were active at the time, were trying to capitalize on the slasher/splatter/supernatural killer film boom (think, “Nightmare on Elm Street”), so a whole slew of novels in the same vein came out around this time. They sold well, too… for awhile. Then the public got really, really tired of their similarity, and the books stopped selling. There was too much of the stuff out there, and too much of it was crap; the market got glutted, and subsequently contracted. Aside from Stephen King and a few notable others, there was a solid spate of years in which horror was functionally dead. (These days it’s rising from the dead, pun intended, largely on the strength of… wait for it… zombie fiction and vampires. And, of course, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.)

During that market contraction, writers in horror and related genres had trouble getting published. (Don’t take my word for it; here’s an interesting 1991 convo between some spec fic writers discussing the matter.) Even some science fiction and fantasy writers suffered — because publisher dollars were being heaped onto the horror pile. And later, when the pile caught fire (to mutilate a metaphor), publisher dollars became scarce as they fought to survive massive financial losses. It’s taken years — decades, literally — for genre and industry to recover.

Now, I’m no expert about the business end of publishing. Frankly I’m a babe in the woods as these things go. But it seems to me that if a trend caused this kind of implosion in one genre market, it could happen here in fantasyland too.

So what am I gonna do about it?

Well, like I said, I’m not going to suddenly start trying to write urban fantasy novels; that way lies danger, Will Robinson, danger! (Though I note with irony that there are substantial urban fantasy elements in Book 2 of the Inheritance Trilogy. Didn’t plan ’em, they just happened. Can’t talk about that without spoiling Book 1, though, so…) I’m also planning to diversify. My next project on the table is a YA novel, possibly a duology or trilogy. If I can establish myself in another genre — and YA SF really is different from adult SF in many ways — that might insulate me somewhat, should another market contraction hit. Also, since many of my fantasy novels contain core romantic elements, I’m hoping to get the attention of the romance industry. Now there’s a financial juggernaut; to paraphrase Carl Sagan, there’s billions and billions of dollars churning out of that engine. Only smart to try and build an audience there.

IMO, this is how writers have to think, nowadays. Yeah, we’re artists, and craft comes first. Still, I dunno about other artists, and I’m indulging in some wishful thinking here, but I want to reap the financial rewards of my art before I kick off, not after, thanks. At the very least, I’d like to continue paying rent and buying food. That means I need to understand how this business works.

So here we are. What do you guys think of the surge in urban fantasy? Is it a good thing? A bad thing? A good thing for now, bad for later? Bueller?


Publishing situations I didn’t think of

In the years I spent trying to get published, (querying, reading, re-writing, etc.) I read a lot of publishing blogs. This was partially because I wanted to be an informed author, but mostly because I hate looking stupid, and the best way not to look stupid is to be informed! Anyway, I thought I’d pretty much covered my bases in my research. I mean, I’d gotten an agent, gotten an editor, and turned in two books, without running into a problem I hadn’t at least read about… Until yesterday.

So yesterday I get a call from my lovely, wonderful editor telling me that we have a problem. The book I’d just turned in, the second in my series, is about half again as long as my first book. I replied that I knew this would be a problem, and that I was going to work on shortening the second book. Oh no, she replied, that’s not what she meant. You see the problem isn’t  the length of book 2, it’s longer, but still perfectly in line with standard fantasy word counts. The problem is that the first book and the second book won’t look right sitting next to each other on the shelf if one is half again as big as the other.

Huh, I said, I’d never even thought about that. Learned something new! So, I asked, a little perplexed, what did she want me to do?

Turns out, she wants me to add about 40 pages to book one. This was around where my brain exploded.

Here was an editor asking me to make a book longer. And not just a little longer, but 40 pages longer. That’s about 10,000 words. Of course she had a good point about the relative lengths, and that book one was a trifle on the skinny side (Editors often have good points, this is one of the great blessings and infuriations of working with them), but… 40 pages! On a book that’s been done for months! Forget for a moment that I don’t even know where to begin adding pages, until this book I, as a writer, have never been asked to make anything longer. Keep it short, stupid, was the watch phrase! Even with my editor’s urging, it feels to deeply wrong to make something longer on purpose.

I’m going to try my best to do it, of course, but this just goes to show that I should never relax and think I know the publishing game, or the writing one, for that matter. It has a bad habit of proving me wrong.


Confessions of a social media failure

One of the coolest, and most unexpected, side benefits of getting an agent and a book deal has been the opportunities to meet other authors.  Amazing things happen, like getting invited to join in a group blog (HAI GUYS), or writing fan mail and having it actually be answered, personally! And then getting invited to hang out with said writer at conventions!


But one of the number one things I hear from all the amazing new authors I meet is “Oh! Are you on Twitter?” or “Oh! Let’s follow each other on facebook!” and then I have to sort of hem and haw around the fact that I am not, in fact, twitterpatted, and while I do have a facebook, I only got it for work, and I never use it. It’s not because I’m old fashioned or some kind of social media luddite, far from it, it’s just that I don’t really like social media.

Part of it is that I’m really just not that interesting. Honestly! I get up, I go to work, I write, I play videogames, I have a stable relationship with my husband, not exactly high drama. I have to work myself into a froth to be interesting once a week for you guys, the idea of doing it daily makes me green around the gills, especially the thought of doing it on Twitter.

Now I love the idea of Twitter. It’s like the ultimate short form, except for the part where I’m really bad at short form anything.  I tried to write a tweet once, on a dare from a coworker, and I failed. Oh how I failed. I seem to be incapable of being clever in anything less than a paragraph (though whether I can be clever within a paragraph is yet to be discovered.)

So, Twitter is out more through my personal failing than any real objections, but facebook? You don’t have to be clever on facebook, right? So why do I take enormous pains to avoid even visiting the site, let alone logging in?

I think part of it is my upbringing. I come from a very old, southern family where talking too much about yourself was the height of rudeness. So when I see all the facebook apps and profiles full of personal information, I don’t see them as items of interest for my friends, I see them as a vaguely embarrassing overabundance of personal information. For example, in my day job, my company makes social networking sites on occasion (hence why I have a facebook for work), and while we were putting together the user photos section I noticed there was a tab for “photos of me,” even in your friend’s albums. When I saw this, I became offended cat. “What?” I screeched. “There’s a whole section just for pictures of me? That’s so narcissistic!”

My boss’s answer? “Facebook does it.”

The whole focus on the user as the center of their social universe, while the point of a social networking site, offends me deeply and, frankly, kind of stupidly. To steal a phrase of my mother’s, “they didn’t make it to offend you.” Social media may be narcissistic, but it’s also not going anywhere. Lots people love it, including people I love, and I just need to (to steal yet another phrase of my mother’s) get over myself and get on. After all, when my book comes out I would be an idiot not to take advantage of the ready made social platforms to try and shore up any slips into obscurity. In the end, not using my resources because I don’t like them is just another form of narcissism. A dangerous one that could do real harm to my carreer if I persist in my social media failure.

At the end of the day, I want to be a successful author more than I want to stay away from social media. What’s the point of working so hard on these books if no one buys them? I can’t guarantee that having a facebook/Twitter presence will sell my books, but it certainly can’t hurt. And with so many entertainment options out there jostling my poor little paperback, I’ll take everything I can get.