Culture

How to Make Yourself More Marketable

An idea for yet another odd story waiting in a dark alley to jump Sarah!

An idea for yet another odd story waiting in a dark alley to jump Sarah!

This is Sarah.  Last week I attended a seminar in the springs, the Superstars Writing Seminar.

And while attending it, my thoughts went again to marketability, part of it in the mournful certainty I don’t have it.

To explain: marketability is an old foe.

Back when I was trying to figure out how to market my first trilogy, what is now being called the Magical Shakespeare trilogy, I called a publicist.… Who had absolutely no idea what to do with it.

I mean, normally you market fiction by appealing to people who might be interested in the subject, but when the subject is Shakespeare, I could practically hear this poor publicist thinking “I’d have to go trolling in colleges.”

It got worse. My next books out were the Musketeer mysteries and the shifter series with Baen books.

At this point when I tried to hire publicists they just ran in circles and more often than not would tell me how to market the Shakespeare books, because it was the first thing they latched onto, even though those books were then out of print and their marketing strategy consisted of “maybe you can write scholarly articles for university presses. (No, I couldn’t. I’m good enough to make up stuff about the time period but not to argue how many times old William washed his undies on any given week which is the level of expertise required to impress academics.  Also, publishing with university presses is difficult enough that it’s almost a career on its own.)

By this I don’t mean to say that I am too “smart” for the general public, but that I am too weird. In the Venn diagram of what the most people are interested in, and what makes my heart pound faster, there is a sliver-thin area that overlaps. That’s about it.  So though people might like my stuff, running a publicity campaign that will get them to try it was always very difficult.

If you add to that that since those early days I have branched out in all directions, from contemporary mystery to science fiction (and I have plans! Plans!) the imaginary publicist becomes even more confused.

So do I when I try to figure out a way to market myself.

The ideal writer for a publicist to push is obsessed with one subject. If he or she is lucky it is a relatively popular subject, or at least one that doesn’t make people think they’re about to be lectured (and you know you aren’t, with me, right?)

There is a reason there are so many cooking mysteries, or that you hear friends tell friends, “If you like sewing, you’ll like these romances, which are about—”

So, if you can,  — I can’t,  I write whatever attacks me in a dark alley — here is how to give yourself a publicity-friendly writing profile:

  1. Write one genre or at least a type of book.  You can usually stray between fantasy and science fiction, if they’re compatible subgenres.  So, say, historical fantasy and time travel science fiction.  “You must read so and so, she does this stuff set in Crete, and it’s great.”
  2. If you can at all, do something that links, at some level with something that people who don’t read more than a book a week might be interested in.  “You must read Bob. He does these coin collecting time travel books.”  Or “Have you read Jane’s baking mysteries?  She’s outstanding, and the books come with a recipe!”
  3. Go trendy.  This one is difficult, if you’re traditional.  Indy you can jump on a trend before it’s dead.  Though frankly you can do it with traditional too, if you go with a long-lasting trend: urban fantasy; vampire books; now zombies, etc.
  4. Stick with it long enough to be noticed, and try not to wonder off into the weeds to write regency fantasy or Kit Marlowe Mysteries.

I can never do it, but I wish I could because I think it would be more lucrative than being assaulted and held hostage by random ideas, out of the blue.

(And apropos marketing me, there are two of my books and an anthology with one of my novellas up in the running for this.  If you feel inspired go on over and vote.  For me or for writers whose work you’ve enjoyed.)


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Polymath
By Francis W. Porretto 

Young Todd Iverson is special: a master of the sciences, the technologies, and the arts. But his mother crippled him emotionally by artificially orphaning him. Other losses of love and guidance have made him a borderline sociopath.

Todd knows his power. He intends to use it to build a ladder to the stars. Allies will rally to him. Adversaries will seek to thwart him. And two mighty champions will guide him.

Polymath, the fourth novel of the Realm of Essences series, chronicles the bursting of an Onteora County giant from his chrysalis to begin an American Renaissance.


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Ride The Rising Tide
By Peter Grant 

Trapped in the Dragon Tong’s search for a lost legend, Steve Maxwell finds a way out by enlisting in the Lancastrian Commonwealth Fleet.

If he survives long enough to earn a commission, he’ll be able to hunt down the pirates who killed his mentor. To get there, he’ll have to slog through rain-swollen swamps, dodge incoming fire on a ‘peacekeeping’ mission, and face down a gang of angry smugglers. Even far away from enemies, a mistake can turn a spaceship into a deathtrap.

It’ll take resourcefulness and courage to succeed… but Steve hasn’t come this far in order to fail.


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Snapshot
By Dale Cozort 

Alternate Reality You Fly To.

For eighty million years, the Tourists have taken Snapshots, living replicas of Earth continents. Snapshots diverge from the real world, allowing humans and animals from Earth’s history to fly between Snapshots where dinosaurs roam, Indians rule the New World or Nazis or Soviets control Europe.

A new Snapshot cuts Greg Dunne off from everyone he loves and thrusts him into an old feud between U.S. ranchers from a 1950s Snapshot and Germans from a 1939 one over a strategically vital Madagascar Snapshot. Greg struggles to survive in this unique new reality, remain faithful to a family he may never see again and find his way home.