Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Self promotion

I have done very little self-promotion in recent years -- partly because I haven't had a new novel out since 1993, but also because I discovered that I don't like pushing my work. Watching other writers, I haven't got the sense that most of their efforts to self-promote have worked. Maybe if you have a real gift for selling... Maybe if your book is easy to promote...

I do signing at cons, if I am asked. I figure this is a courtesy to the convention committee and the people attending, though my mother raised me to never write in books.
I do reading at cons and bookstores when I am asked, though I don't much enjoy readings. Again, I figure it's a courtesy to people who are interested in hearing me read. Over time I have learned that it's a good idea to read a complete short story that isn't very long. If the story is funny, that helps. At this point I have three or four sure-fire reading stories.

Back in the early 1980s, I decided that people were never going to get to know me through my fiction. I had published too little. So I set about making myself known through panels at science fiction conventions. I am a good talker and have plenty of ideas. Over time, I got over my shyness. My friend Patrick sat in the audience and told me after what I had done wrong. "Get your hand away from your mouth. Don't fidget so much. Make eye contact with the audience." I figured if I could impress people by talking at cons, maybe they would look for my stories.

The problem with this plan is that I've never gone to many cons outside the Upper Midwest. The people who came to know me from panels were mostly in the Twin Cities or attendees at Wiscon. Why didn't I go to more cons? Lack of money, laziness, shyness.

Since the early 1980s, I have published four novels and 20 + short stories and gotten a fair amount of recognition. Did my not very serious efforts at self promotion help? I'm not sure. But it doesn't hurt to get to know people in the science fiction field. I was drawn to people doing work I liked, who had opinions I respected.

I belong to one e-mail discussion list, which has made me better known in a small community, but a community that is important to me: writers, scholars and fans who are interested in feminist science fiction.

The other thing I do is work with the rest of the Wyrdsmiths to publish an annual chapbook and hold an annual publication party at Wiscon. This is a project I really believe in. How much does it to help promote our novels and other writing I can't say, but it's nice to have a handsome book that memorializes our writing group.

I figure postcards, refrigerator magnets, business cards and so on can't hurt and may help a little. They are fun to make, and they are a way of validating oneself as a writer.

I'm not arging with Tate. Her efforts at self-promotion may well work for her. It helps that her books are well written and fun.

The one thing that may work is to write well and keep writing. I've been paying attention to the science fiction writing community for 25 + years now. What I notice is -- the people who get known and stay known are the ones who keep on keeping on.

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