Promotional Madness

I almost forgot today was my day to blog at SFNovelists.

See, my next book, Goblin War, comes out in 9 days.  So needless to say, I’m a little insane right now.

The biggest problem is that I haven’t touched Goblin War in months.  I turned in the page proofs back in mid-2007, which means at this point, the book’s success or failure is completely out of my control.

I can hear the gasps now.  I know authors who have put their entire advance back into promotion, and marketing gurus are even now making the sign of the cross to ward off my evil words.  Authors have to promote their work!  Everyone knows that!

Um … no.  Oh, my publisher certainly doesn’t mind me doing some extra legwork.  They’re happy to see me out pushing the books.  But it’s never been a requirement.  The only requirement was that I keep writing good books.

I promote anyway, of course.  I fool myself into thinking I can affect my sales numbers, and maybe I can!  I’m planning a book launch event in Toronto, setting up booksignings, doing a ton of interviews and guest blog spots, mailing out bookmarks, hosting a few contests … to be completely honest, I really do believe these things help.  A little.

Mostly though, the success of Goblin War now depends on other factors.  What do the buyers for the major chains think of the book?  Was the story really as good as I think it was?  More importantly, how good is the cover art?

I track my sales numbers pretty closely, and so far none of my efforts have made a significant spike in those sales.  I know this, but my brain doesn’t handle powerless very well.

So later on today, I’ll be mailing goodies out to Toronto in preparation for that book launch.  I tell myself that even though I’m not seeing a short-term spike, I’m still connecting with readers, earning loyal fans who will help spread the word about my books and increase sales in the long run.  I also do it because driving myself crazy trying to promote the books is still better than admitting it’s out of my hands.

It’s my own brand of writerly madness.  I can’t control how the book does, but maybe I can.  I don’t have to do so much promotion, but I can’t not do it.

It’s okay.  I should be sane again in a month or so.  Or as sane as writers ever get….

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  1. 1. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Okay, I challenge you on the insanity argument. I posit that you are always insane and that now you’ve merely escalated. Heh.

    So Yes. My brain doesn’t do powerless well either. Have you seen this?

    It’s Don Maass’s take on some things and I find it very interesting.


  2. 2. Mike Brotherton

    I’m in your boat, too, Jim, with Spider Star officially released the same day as Goblin War. About all I’ve been able to manage is regular blogging and getting out some postcards to some conventions. Tor is good about sending out ARCs, and I’ve had a number of positive reviews appear already, but I won’t see a lot of other major assistance.

    I’ve distracted myself right now with a lot of things, so it’s all extra high madness levels, too. Finished my first marathon earlier today. Turn 40 next month. Just went up for tenure at my University as well. It’s all working out fine, so far. We can all manage a lot more than we think, and being busy is good for us, although only if handling stress isn’t too…stressful.

    Good luck with the book, and can I have you on my blog the week of March 4?

  3. 3. Jim C. Hines

    Di — I hadn’t seen that link, thank you! That’s interesting … both his thoughts on the usefulness of a blog, and the idea that it’s a more useful tool once you’ve already got 4-5 books and a fanbase. Also, pbbt! :-P

    Mike — dang, way to make me feel like a slacker. Congrats on the marathon, good luck on the tenure, and may we both break lots of records with the books. Personally, I do better with some pressure, so I agree being busy can be a good thing. Sometimes. Shoot me an e-mail on the blog thing? Jim -at-

  4. 4. Karen Wester Newton

    Of course writers are a little bit insane. Most people who hear voices in their head take medication. Writers just write down what the voices say!

    But I think really what you’re saying is writing is a little like making ammunition. Someone else fires the gun, and you just hope they have good aim.

  5. 5. Jim C. Hines

    Hm … I don’t know that I’d go that far. I do think the writer has a fair amount of control. Not total control, but a lot.

    The trouble is, what the writer controls is the story, which is over and done with long before the book is actually published.

    But I do believe a good story can overcome mediocre promotion from the publisher, and likewise the publisher can do everything to push a book, but if the book sucks, they’re still likely to be disappointed.

    I’m definitely with you on the insanity, though. And so are the voices ;)

  6. 6. Kelly McCullough

    Right there with you, Jim. This is the reason that I only do promotion that entertains me. Blog? Sure, it’s fun on its own. Interviews? How cool is it to be one of the voices on the radio! Cons? Did cons before I wrote, would continue to do them if I quit writing. Business cards with my books on them? Business cards with My Books on them! Etc.

  7. 7. Laura Reeve

    Good luck with the book launch event, Jim. And special thanks to Diane for the link. I have my first novel coming out from Ace SF in December, and I’m wondering about what sort of promo insanity I should engage in — that won’t suck away the brain cells I need to make the deadlines on the next books. I’m planning little things that I hope won’t cost me too much creative energy: local signings, bookmarks, business cards, attending local conventions (which, luckily, are Denvention 3 and MileHiCon), etc.

    That said, I’m curious about how you track the “sales numbers.” I’ve heard other authors speak of doing this, but how? My contract says that reports can be requested (begged?) from the publisher and it sounds like they won’t be very timely. Should I ask my editor about how to “follow the numbers,” or is this something they don’t want authors obsessing about? How does one get timely data (other than Amazon ratings) about orders and returns? If anyone can enlighten me on this part of the business, I’d appreciate it.


  8. 8. Jim C. Hines

    Thanks, Laura!

    Probably the best way we have to track real-time numbers is through Bookscan. Bookscan isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it’s better than trying to extrapolate from Amazon. (Bookscan tracks point-of-sale, but doesn’t capture all sales. My guess would be that Bookscan gets roughly 2/3 of my own sales, but that’s a complete guess.)

    Access is prohibitively expensive for individuals, though. Most of the time, authors either find a way to do a group account through an organization, or else they buddy up to someone in the industry who already has access.

Author Information

Jim C. Hines

Jim C. Hines' latest book is THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW, the fourth of his fantasy adventures that retell the old fairy tales with a Charlie's Angels twist. He's also the author of the humorous GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim's short fiction has appeared in more than 40 magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, and Sword & Sorceress XXI. Jim lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. He's currently hard at work on LIBRIOMANCER, the first book in a new fantasy series. Visit site.



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