Doing PR

Because ALL THOSE EXPLOSIONS comes out very soon, I’ve spent the past few days working on publicity: writing guest-blog posts, doing email interviews, and arranging a number of events. Since that’s where my mind is right now, let me share a bit about the PR experience.

First of all, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve been persuaded by this article by Havi Brooks that the phrase “shameless self-promotion” is pernicious. If you’re promoting something that you think others might enjoy, how does “shame” enter into it? Telling people about it is doing them a favor. I totally agree with that. However, as a self-effacing Canadian introvert, I have a lot of reticence to overcome. So I’m working on it. Self-promotion is a useful and learnable skill; with practice, I’ll get better at it.

Second, things have changed since my older books came out. Back then, book tours were a primary means of promotion. The beginnings of the web existed when my first book was published, but the full potential hadn’t been tapped. A few web sites posted book reviews, but even the best of them only did it sporadically. As for book ratings from regular readers, the term “social media” hadn’t even been invented.

Now, of course, there are many forums that can help your book get noticed. I’m happy to say that ALL THOSE EXPLOSIONS will be covered on several sites that have a large number of readers. I’ve written guest-blog posts for a few of those, and have done a couple of email interviews too.

What will this mean for sales of the book? I have no idea, because something else has changed since my first book came out: the entire publishing industry. Sales of hardcopy books have declined over the years, and the ebook market isn’t big enough to compensate. Bestsellers still happen, and some books hit the jackpot; but many don’t.

Furthermore, being in the middle of the pack isn’t as lucrative as it once was. Thirty years ago, a mid-list writer could make a reasonable living. Now, it’s harder. If you aren’t near the top, you need a supplementary source of income. (Lots of writers teach part-time, get grants, or have a significant-other who helps pay the bills. Since none of those applies to me, I’m trying to make extra money by editing other people’s writing. Think of me if you want feedback!)

In the meantime, I’ve spent a week away from writing fiction and instead have been writing PR pieces. I’ve also been arranging events: book signings and the like. My publisher (Tor) has assigned me a PR person (hi Lauren!) who’s been very helpful in setting up guest-blogging opportunities. However, I’m on my own for local book launches; publishers simply don’t have the resources or contacts to set such things up.

I’ve arranged for a launch at the University of Waterloo (where ALL THOSE EXPLOSIONS is set) and another in Toronto at Bakka-Phoenix Books, the best sf specialty store within driving distance of my home. I’ll also be signing books at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio, Nov 2-5. Finally, I’ll be doing an event in January at the Kitchener Public Library. For details on any of these, see my list of appearances.

I wish I could do more, but there are cost-benefit considerations. If I drive someplace far from home, will the event increase sales enough to cover the gas money? At the moment, I’ve decided to err on the side of thrift. If ALL THOSE EXPLOSIONS does well, maybe I’ll have enough seed money for more promotion on the sequel.

We’ll see. As I’ve said, I’m learning. Check back here in a month or two, and I’ll pass on any lessons I’ve picked up.