I’ll be a guest panelist at Awesome Con DC this year! The panel will address the burning question: “Are Heroes Getting Smaller?” I’ll also be floating around the con, soaking up the scene with my sci-fi peeps and maybe even bestowing a few free ebooks on some lucky visitors! So come to Awesome Con this April 18-10 and see me on my panel on April 19!
It’s official: I will be working at the upcoming Awesome Con, in Washington DC April 18-21, on two of the discussion panels. I’ve been asked to participate in a discussion on traditional vs self-publishing, and one on the philosophical subject: “Are Heroes Getting Smaller?”
I’ve been noticeably bummed this past week: I keep reflecting on the fact that none of the promotional attempts I’ve made recently has had any success lately (and I mean as in zero success). Every so often that particular hammer taps me on the skull, and I spend a few days sulking and brooding over the ego bruise it leaves.
Eventually, the bruise goes away, and I stop sulking. But I’ve come to realize I specifically keep getting hit by that hammer because I spend way too much time around it.
It’s actually good that I’m realizing this now, because the holiday season is almost upon us, and I have good reason to stay away from that hammer and not ruin my fun this time of year. Hopefully as well, staying away from that hammer will help me find other things to occupy my time and not make it obvious that I’m dancing around with one eye cocked at the spot where that hammer always comes down.
That means cutting back on Facebook. (I needed to do that, anyway… terrible waste of time if you let it.) Less time chronicling my activities online, so I have more time for… activities. Less time thinking about redesigns of my books site (I’ve come to realize it’s not the design that’s keeping people from finding it). Less time trying to recall bits and pieces of dreams to figure out if they’d make good book material. Less time rehearsing my interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.
And less time spent trying to figure out what blog subjects will attract more readers.
Overall, a backing off of the whole writing thing. I don’t want this bruise to be permanent.
An article on Saturday’s Mashable illustrates the relative amount of traffic driven to publishers from various methods of social media, and makes it clear that Facebook sends more customers to publishers than any other social media combined.
Editor Neil Marr went so far as to say to his Facebook followers: “Trying to sell your book? Seems you’re at the right place.”
But once again, I’m presented with the incredible dichotomy between the realities for mainstream publishers and the realities for self-publishers… most notably, myself.
My decision to lay off novel-writing, since I could not work out the promotional end of selling the books, has led to a common (and predictable) reaction from many of my friends and relatives, to wit: Since I enjoy writing, I should keep writing anyway, just for my own satisfaction. The idea that creation is its own reward is ingrained in the thoughts of modern society, as well as the essentially honorable concept of the “starving artist.”
And though I, myself, bought into these ideas for years, I find that I can’t get behind them the way I used to. And it’s not because I get no satisfaction from creating; I do, in fact, enjoy the process of writing and creating a good story. But since giving up novel writing, I’ve found that I’ve had to cage up a tiny demon in the back of my head, one that has become a constant distraction to me. He’s not my creative demon. He’s my analytical demon. And he demands to know what I so thoroughly fucked up.
In Jurassic Park, when it looked like the park was about to go tits-up with rampaging loose dinosaurs, Mr. Hammond asked his game warden: “Mr. Muldoon, would you please prepare the lysine contingency?” That was the plan that would starve the dinos of lysine, a genetically-engineered requirement to be delivered through their food, thereby killing them off, and saving everyone’s necks.
Well, if my novel-writing sideline doesn’t work out, it will be time for a lysine contingency of my own. (Oh, don’t worry… there’s always the second island.) I’ll be weaning myself off of the writing and promotional part of my life, which has proven over ten years to be a substantial failure, and moving on to something new (probably something that doesn’t depend on pleasing other people).
I recently heard from a producer with whom I’m collaborating on a possible television vehicle, who told me he’d heard from an actress who had been a major character in the original production that inspired this new vehicle—and yes, that’s all you’re getting from me, as the project is still in stealth mode.
Anyway, this actress—I’ll call her M—had a chance to read through the material we’re preparing for the new vehicle, including two short stories of mine, and she reported back to my producer friend that she was left “in tears” over the wonderful treatments and ideas gleaned from the original production, of which she still has very fond memories. M specifically mentioned my short stories as being among the most moving material she saw.
My recent efforts to figure out the future of my perennially zombie-fied writing sideline has naturally led to a lot of questions for myself, trying to justify my actions as an author, a promoter and an entrepreneur. Front and center to these questions has been the role of social media to promote and sell my products, and attempts to better understand what works and why.
In my searches to better understand, I came across an old TeleRead article by Joanna Cabot, entitled “What do readers owe authors?” The article investigates the idea that readers are encouraged by authors to help promote them, largely by utilizing the social media tools at their disposal—blogs, review columns, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc—and that doing so helps the authors to continue to produce for them.
So, I sit here in grudging acknowledgement of the fact that I am no self-promoter. I am also in grudging acknowledgement of the fact that social media has done absolutely nothing to help me promote, since I am not blessed with enough money to saturate the interwebs with ads or friends to pass the word on to others about my books, nor am I clever enough to create a viral campaign that will bring in the hordes of lovers of independently-written futurist novels. My efforts to promote Sarcology, and the rest of my catalog, have gone for naught.
So much for the future supplementary retirement income. Oh, well.
I have exactly one trick left… and it’s already in motion. I’ve had promo cards for Sarcology printed up. On Memorial Day weekend, the first 2000 visitors to Balticon will find them in their swag bags… unarguably it will be the largest single group of people, presumably all science fiction fans as well, who will be introduced to my work.
And so, with nothing else to do, I sit and wait for June, when I will find out if this last-ditch effort will bear some fruit. If it does, I will know how to advertise my books at other conventions and similar venues. If it doesn’t… well, hopefully by then I will have figured out what my new hobby is going to be.
I hope someone enjoys reading about how I put a book together; I know, when I read it, it sounds pretty simple. I’ve never been one to make lofty statements about my “muse,” or having to attain some zen-like state in order to wrest carefully-crafted prose onto paper, etc. My writing style is pretty much a clockwork machine that always works the same way… but it does work.
And readers don’t often have to pull out a dictionary to figure out what I’m talking about… but they enjoy the stories I concoct, the characters I create, and the worlds I build. My interview is featured in BookChums’ “toast to sci-fi fiction” newsletter, and my name appears on the same page as that of Valmiki, Shakespeare, Ovid, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, J.G. Ballard, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov… good company when you can get it.