Fresh and Hot

Fresh stories.  Freshly written.  Come get them while they’re fresh…

When I was a kid you’d literally wake up in the more urban areas (not thank heavens, the village) to the yells of various food vendors.  The sun would barely be looking out of a still-darkish sky, when bread vendors, pastry vendors, vegetable vendors and everyone else would be roaming around screaming their heads off.  It was all “fresh and hot this” “cold and tasty that.”

The screaming in the village started at around noon.  We were small enough that everyone knew who had what kind of vegetables just maturing that time, and so there was no point hawking.  People would go – quietly – to their neighbor who had a bumper crop of carrots and enter upon a mutually agreeable arrangement, sometimes in exchange for a few eggs “because I hear those hens of yours are laying like crazy.”  (I did mention at some point that until I went to middle school, in the next village over, I thought money was a wholly superfluous affectation and couldn’t understand why some people were so attached to it, right?  Of course most of the stuff bought and sold in the village WAS for money– the big stuff: rents paid, an account run on the general store for food, clothes – but all I ever saw as I followed my grandmother around – she was the most entertaining person of my acquaintance – was this sort of “accommodation dealing”  that involved a chicken for an arrangement to provide milk for a month, or a bag of onions for a basket of pears.)  The stores provided what little the village didn’t grow or make for itself, and everyone knew where those were too.  Bread was a gentlemanly thing, quietly arranged, paid a week in advance and delivered before people woke up.

I still miss that and more than once have wondered if there would be a market for that sort of service.  (There probably would be in NYC or somewhere similar, and probably not in this type of economy.)  People made their… bread subscription, then hung a bag at their back door (I imagine here there would need to be locking delivery boxes, particularly in the big cities.)  These bags, needless to say immediately became a matter of competition among village matrons, so they were fantastically embroidered, adorned with lace, spotless and starched.  Into that bag went whatever your daily order was: six rolls, two pastries and four sweet rolls, say.  (Ours was usually only ten plain rolls.  Mom didn’t believe in fancy, though she might buy me a sweet roll when she went grocery shopping on Saturday.)  So when you woke and groped your way downstairs, you would collect the bread from the door while coffee was brewing.  It was usually still warm and crusty-crackling.  Yes, I missed it when I moved here.  (Though it’s no longer done that way in Portugal, because they too would need lock boxes and even so, trust me, someone would steal the box.)

Anyway, so the only people who yelled like banshees were the fishwives, who usually got to the village around noon, having stopped at the other villages on the way from the seaside (by bus.  Picture that.)  Oh, there was also the oil and olive seller, but he came only once a week.  Also prone to shrieking their (irregular) visits down main street were: the pot and pan mender, the rag dealer (mostly buyer) and the elastics and lace woman (for some reason, and proving I had to be a writer, or they’d lock me up in the madhouse, because the poor lady had one leg shorter than the other and walked funny, at age three or so, I decided her legs were made of elastic and she ate children.  I was utterly convinced she used her elastic legs to reach upward into second floor windows and steal sleeping children from their beds for a snack.  I still can’t think of that poor creature without shuddering.  Of course, my loving family catching on to my fear, used the poor elastic seller as a boogey man to keep me under control.)

Anyway, the point of this – if you’re not quite catching on – is that in commerce reduced to its elementary form, people had to hawk their own wares – UNLESS they did something established, in an established place, in which case people knew where to find them.  You wouldn’t catch the pharmacist roaming the streets screaming.  You wouldn’t catch even the local dairy farmer going around yelling “Exceptionally fine cheeses.”

Now, if these people – not the apothecary – had booths in one of the local fairs around the village – and many of them had – there they would yell.  The way the fairs are, many of them have permanent infrastructure, anything ranging from stalls to tiny buildings, usually made of stone, and with iron gates (the buildings.)  This infrastructure belongs to the fair, and the vendors lease a spot.  Buildings are more expensive than a stone table, and a stone table covered with a awning of course more expensive than a mere stone table.

The fair takes place once a week, and usually is arranged in “sections.”  If you’re a clothes seller you’re put with the clothes sellers, not the fish mongers.  If you’re a meat seller, you’re also in a section.  (BTW and because I’m long-winded, some of the infrastructure was built by Roman Emperors.  Some by medieval kings, and the more modern dates from the nineteenth century.)

Anyway, the sedate village sellers who wouldn’t dream of screaming their wares, do scream like nobody’s business when they’re in the fair.  “Juicy Oranges, the sweetest” might get someone to come to you instead of the guy next door who waxes his oranges so they shine.

I hear there was a time that writers were more like the staid sellers and farmers in the village.  They wrote their books; they handed them in.  It was the job of the publisher to tell people how great your books were and to put them in the place where people expected to find books.  I also hear – and this is probably rumor – that at one time all publishers were more like Baen: they had a slant into the market, a view they pushed, something that made them unique.  The reader related to the publisher and appreciated the publisher’s seal of approval which, in turn, made it possible to buy anything from the publisher, sight unseen.  After you read a few by an author you might look for an author, TOO but up till then it was “I trust this publisher, so I’ll buy this month’s books.”

I say I hear these things, because I’ve never experienced them, and what is reported of the field is often unreliable self-mythologizing.

But I do know that it wasn’t normal, until at least the nineties for writers to have to sell themselves to the extent they do now.  I think part of what ate the individuality of the publishers was the fact that the people they hired all went to the same schools and all lived within ten square miles of each other.  A “collective point of view” was established that it wasn’t considered decent to buck, and all of them agreed on what was “good” – which left only Baen out of the circle j– of love, and only because Jim Baen was a stubborn cuss… er, had a very strong personality.  Otherwise, it would have gone the way of the others.

Then next hit the small number of distributors, the concentrating of the bookstores into chains, and next thing you know, every author was those vendors in the stalls at the local fair.

Even if you’re a Baen author and what you’re selling is, in point of fact, Japanese pears, how are you going to even be seen, in the middle of all the orange vendors.  And for that matter, how are people going to know they might like Japanese pears if no one else sells them and they’ve never tried them.  (And to an extent, this explains – but doesn’t justify – big publishers’ obsession with books just like the last book.  You might be producing twilight clones, but at least people know what that is, how to ask for it, and might decide they want one.  If what you’re selling is unique, you first have to convince people to take a bite.)

So, if you’re a writer, say, like me, who could be called unique (mostly because the other things you COULD call me are probably obscene and not safe for a family blog) what in heck can you do but cross the metaphorical streets of the literary village yelling “Fresh hot fiction, come and get it while it’s fresh.”

That is actually possibly worse (though better too – more on that later) in the global market place indie publishing has opened for us.  So many offerings.  And why would people buy it, if they don’t know it exists?

Trust me, if people don’t know your books are there, they won’t buy them, no matter how good they are.  For the years I worked for traditional publishing, grinding out sometimes six books a year which – none of them – made it to bookstore shelves, or at least no bookstores near me, and which – OFTEN – got accidentally left out of the publisher’s own catalogue, I learned this dictum well.

So you have to self promote.  And there are ways to do it.  What are those ways?  This is one of the most frequently asked questions by newbies.

First, as with writing, what I’ve found is this: use the medium that works for you.  I am long-winded and odd, so this blog seems to work for me, as do blog tours when a book is ready for release.  Facebook too, to an extent.  I never got Twitter which seems to require your living more online than I’m willing to do.  But this is personality.  If you feel Twitter is your thing do it.  If your easiest publicity is via pintrest, use it.  If you’re personable, have a winning smile and enjoy the company of others and – this is important – if you live in the Eastern part of the country where there’s a con every weekend in driving distance, then the con circuit might be for you.  If your book is about quilting, you might consider getting a booth at craft fairs.

But all of that is to our purposes nothing.  More important is to remember two things: to whom are you selling?  And what are you selling?

In the old days when you had to sell to publishers or never get in at all, it paid to affect the sort of personality they were taught to admire: intellectual with a touch of the bohemian and something mysterious about you.  It also helped to be visually appealing (though you could get around that by being SPECTACULARLY unappealing there triggering the “must prove I’m not prejudiced” reaction) and by blowing your own horn.  I know at least one “major” author who climbed very quickly via telling every publisher at every con how wonderful he was.  He was telling everyone he was the next best thing in writing before he sold a single pro story.  Because publishers were fundamentally insecure and unable to tell what was good (there are reasons for that, but it’s long and not here) they believed him.  Success.

I watched this tactic in a sort of awe, because well…  It worked.  And yet, it was so weird and so against all my early training in behavior, that I would need to not be myself to use it.

But it worked, because what the publishers were buying was not the writing but the writer as a marketable product, which is what they believed in.  Books were, after all, fungible, so they wanted a writer they could trot out and tell people was wonderful.  How much easier to do that when the author himself believes he’s the second coming of Charles Dickens?

Nowadays… well…  It might very well still work.  There are people still getting in the old route.  I suspect though those are mostly you know, old college roommates and second cousins and other people personally KNOWN to the publisher.

For the rest of us they seem to be looking at how you sell indie.  (And if you’re smart, you’re looking at how you sell indie, too, and comparing it to what the traditionals offer.)  Or, if you’ve gotten in at a low or midlist level, the publisher is looking at your numbers.

How do you increase those?  Well… you hawk the book.  The method you use is your own.  It might even be youtubes of your cat dancing with the book, for all I care.

Remember, though, it’s the book you’re selling – not yourself.  Telling the world how wonderful you are seems to provoke in most people a sort of recoil and a doubt.  I know a local writer whom con organizers call ‘the rudest man on Earth” – he’s not.  He’s trying to self promote and is completely clueless.  So instead of telling people about his book, about his subject and how wonderful it is, he behaves as if he were selling to an old style publisher, and acts like he’s an a’tist and tells everyone how wonderful HE is – which when people are looking at micro-press books and pays in copies publications fails to have much impact.  (It also, as he gets desperate, acquires a tinny, off-key tone that makes the whole thing worse.)

The readers don’t think books are fungible, and readers care about THE BOOK, not you.  (Of course, when you have a blog, it’s hard not to talk about yourself, but do try not to make it just a series of boasts, okay?  Write about the interesting stuff around you.  There must be SOMETHING. [ Hey, if I blog long enough I’ll find something interesting about me, too])

This I can do.  As a writer, my life is usually circumscribed to the desk, though I have wildly exciting grocery trips and kid-related stuff.  HOWEVER as a writer, I think up interesting worlds and read interesting stuff to setup those worlds, and spend a lot of time analyzing society and the world.  So, you see, I have stuff to talk about that relates (at least sideways and backwards) to my books.  And I’ve found talking about THOSE with lots of enthusiasm works.  It certainly works far better than walking down the village street shouting “Buy me, I’m hot.”  (Well, we didn’t have THOSE in the village.  Too small for that.  Besides, the two ladies willing to… never mind.)

As for those who are totally indie and in the global market place: if your marketplace is big enough, even hawking won’t do.  You can do a minimal and get people buying one or two books and then word of mouth might take off.  You can even get books to blog reviews, and that sometimes helps.

But ultimately, in a big enough market place, what seems to work is to have the big shop.  People who are strangers are more likely to see the big establishment or the stall with the colorful cover.  How do you do that?  Well… mostly by having a lot of merchandise out.  That way, if someone stumbles on you and buys one, they’ll come back and buy all the others: hundreds of books, perhaps, if you have that many out.  (And keep in mind a short story is a “book” in this market.)

All the ones I know making a living in this manner put out a lot of books on a regular schedule.  I only have a few so far.  But I’m writing more.

And meanwhile, because I’m also on the traditional market place, I’ll continue the yelling, “Good, Fresh Fiction, hot and … er… fresh.  Buy it here.  We don’t wax our characters.”

95 responses to “Fresh and Hot

  1. Here’s hoping that nearly ten years of on-air radio work will hold me in good stead when I go out there to market myself. Gotta finish this damned book first (grumble, grumble).

    • Aye. I hear you. this month has been brutal for getting anything done. I SHOULD remember August is back to school and generally insane. I thought it was different now they’re in college. AH!

      • My wife, who has been very supportive of me doing this whole author thingy, has recently said, “your writing is starting to drive me nuts a little.” In this, she was referring to times when the house, even with all three rugrats up and about, was relatively quiet and I would pop down at the desk to bang out a note, an idea, check beta feedback, etc. I’m trying to limit my truly productive times to post-rugrat bedtime, usually 8pm. I’m a night owl anyway, so I’m usually up until 12am. I’m shooting for two hours a night of good, solid work, including both my own writing and the obligatory critiquing of other’s work in exchange for their reading of mine.

  2. Wayne Blackburn

    So, you’re saying Robert Asprin used your home village as a model for the Bazaar at Deva in the Myth books? :-)

    I know, I know. This was the model in many semi-rural European areas, but it just struck me funny how much it sounded like the description he used. Especially how everyone screamed their wares.

    • I’ve got a world-building project in which 1/3 of the population is telepathic and the rest are at least sensitive to it. A can see a rural village market like that one with the vendors vocally hawking their wares but also projecting images mentally. For the “blessed” (the 1/3) it would be somewhere between a normal market and the marquee shark trying to eat Marty in Back To The Future 2.

  3. I had fantastic sales (of e-book editions) in May, June and July this year, but sales slumped in August – sigh. The ol’ holiday curse …or maybe it is the prepping for going back to school curse. I’m looking for them to pick up at the end of the year, with Christmas and all. I’m sheduled for a great Christmas market in New Braunfels late in November, where we cleaned up last year.

    They say that for word of mouth buzz on a book, it takes about five years for that book to begin selling big. My first book – and still the best-seller, even though I don’t market it all that much – still has another year before hitting the five-year point.

    Back to work…

  4. Your village must have been larger than I have always thought. Two ladies willing to nevermind! :D

  5. I thought waxing your characters is a feature for selling at Baen, like spicy at the tamale booth.

  6. Sarah, your description sounds like the weekly fair in Sarlat (go Salamanders!) or Germersheim. Fish people over here, sweet pastries by the tower, breads by the fish, sausage on the other side, baskets, clothes, and tourist stuff around the corner. (No tourist stuff in Germersheim).

    August trivia: meat prices used to plummet in late July, August and into early September in the US. People ate less meat (it went bad too quickly) and much more produce (it was in season) in late summer. Cattlemen complained every year but it did not change until after 1905 or so.

    And I will return to trying to format my stories for Mobi and ePub conversion. And trying to battle Photoshop to get the cover done. Photoshop is ahead by 2 at the moment.

    • you can use sigil for epub – WYSIWYG, pretty simple. And calibre can convert that into mobi. Or, if you use open office/libre office/something that can save to .odt, you ought to be able to convert that with calibre as well. (You probably already know at least some of that, but just in case..)

      • Thanks and no, I’ve not tried using sigil or caliber yet. I’ve been working straight through Word, since that is the program I have to use for my non-fiction writing. I’m still at the document consolidation/ quirk finding/ repagination stage, thanks to a early afternoon other project that ate the entire afternoon.

        • TXRed – I use Open Office to write my stories in, and Calibre and Sigil for conversion to what B&N/Amazon can handle. I also have MobiPocket Creator, but I haven’t mastered it yet. I still have a ton of software from my testing days, so I have two different versions of MS Office, Word Perfect, and QuattroPro as a spreadsheet. It gets confusing now and then…

        • *eyebrow* word? I must confess, I stopped using word quite a while back in part because I couldn’t find anything in the ribbon, and in part due to a terrifying incident with a nearly-complete term paper and a sudden crash, so I do say this without first-hand experience, but I hear bad things about word and html.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Oh, my, yes. Word-generated html is at least 20 times as big as it needs to be.

          • Word and LaTex are industry standard in my field – Word for humanities and geography and LaTex for math and hard sciences (with some exceptions). *shrug* They who pay the gold make the rules.

            • hm, I guess. I wouldn’t use word for something as heavily html-based as an ebook, but my experience is mainly as a hobbyist, not a professional. I’m the first to admit I don’t actually have any paying experience in the realm of ebook publishing (yet!) so I suppose I shall defer to my elders :)

              • Smashwords requires Word (specifically .doc) as its sole permissible form of input, may Cthulhu rot all its internal everythings. It doesn’t even like the .doc files generated by OpenOffice and other allegedly compatible programs. Whatever blue devil possessed Mark Coker to set up his system that way, it missed its calling. It should have possessed a politician instead; then it could have done so much more damage.

                • *just* doc? Not even docx? Wow.

                  • Yep – just .doc – I went through this posting all my books on smashwords, and their system is exacting.

                    • Yep, although saving as .doc from newer versions works fine. You do have to start from a CLEAN template. If not starting from a blank file that has never been anything but a .doc, you are pretty much destined to do what Smashwords calls “The Nuclear Option.”

                    • I keep a template with the nuclear option for all my smashwords books. ;-) It works for me.

                    • Darn it, hit post too fast.

                      As I should have added, your best bet is to do what I do: get ONE file working properly, and then use that as a template for starting all later works. I swap out the cover, change the title, delete all but the first paragraph, then start overtyping.

                      My first Smashwords book, I uploaded eight times before both Meatgrinder and I were happy. Since, I’ve used that file as a template, and it goes through every time, first pass.

          • I would never, EVER use Word to generate .html or any other form of markup language file (technically, Word documents are themselves markup files, but you see what I mean.) The commenters below are right: it sucks.

            However, I have found that since I use Word for my day job and am therefore quite proficient in it, it works best if I write in that and then feed the .docx files into Smashwords, B&N, and Amazon’s uploaders. Since .docx (or .doc, they both seem to work about the same) are major file formats the big epublishers make sure their converters work halfway decently with them. If you have issues feeding a .docx into their upload software, it’s almost always on you, I’ve discovered. That and because so many people do use them, if you do have a problem you can usually find a solution on the Google.

            • All well and good, but how can it handle italics? he thought.

              • “I am the king of italics overuse,” he said shamefacedly. “And it deals with my affliction quite gracefully. However, I find that for optimal spacing in the default text format, if an italic word precedes a non-italic word, ’tis best that the following space be part of the italic text. This is a rule of thumb, as of course if the reader sets the display font to their own preference, as opposed to your default, you lose a lot of control anyway. This required a slight retraining of my hands, which tended to press Space,, hit Control-I, type the italic text, hit Control-I again, hit Space, and then continue typing. Now I reverse steps four and five above. For all I know, this is how I should have been doing it all along.”

                • “Your explanation,” he replied, “is as long winded as it is violent. ‘Rule of thumb’ is hate speech.”
                  But, he thought, that trick about spaces and italics might just come in handy. Nothing to be gained by letting him know that though.

                  • Free-range Oyster

                    Mother’s own good gravy I love you people!

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    In this case, however, Rule of Thumb is appropriate, since, instead of being a gauge for choosing the stick with which to chasten the misbehaving wife, it is the tool being used to strike the “stick” (spacebar) with which to insert the necessary character.

                  • “Sweet sainted spirit of Clio,” she mused, “what have I started?”

                  • After the other had finished speaking, he pointed out, with a certain amused glee most unbecoming his age and station, “Good sir, keep in mind my previous statement was a response to an unspoken thought. You are of course entitled to your opinion on my indecent lack of brevity and casual reference to abusive practices of days gone by, and I might not even gainsay you. But the same regrettable forthrightness compels me to remind you that of your comments neither the spoken, nor the thought, are outside the ambit of my perception.”

        • As someone who works in Word — though a years-old version by now — by choice, I highly recommend saving in RTF, then dumping into Calibre. You can use a text-editor to tweak after that. Word’s idea of HTML must be beaten with sticks and hung out to scare the crows, not actually, y’know, used.

  7. Okay – two to five years? And most of the books I published have only been up one year… *sigh

    I am working on the more is better plan with some promotion on my blog and twitter. I seem to pick up fans on twitter sometimes. Slowly but surely.

    • Buck up. It only takes four centuries to reach Shakespear’s level.

    • And HE didn’t even have the benefit of Twitter…that we know of…

      • Umm… I don’t think I’ll get to his level. Fingers crossed. But he started out with a player company before he settled into a theater. So maybe that was the twitter of the time. ;-)

      • But he DID have traveling minstrels, and less competition from other “entertainment” venues, even the written word. That “word of mouth” thing worked quite well for him. It not only supported him, it allowed him to build several LARGE (for the time) theaters, where his plays were presented.

    • callanprimer

      Cyn, do you think your book fans are finding your twitter, or is twittering leading fans to your books?

      • Hi Callanprimer –
        My twittering has led to my books. I don’t do as much as I used to because I am too busy writing. But I made some friends up there because I do a lot of different types of writing. Plus it is a more like, I’ll read yours and you’ll read mine.–

        I actually acquired my beta reader that way. He found me through poetry and then asked if I had some books that were not too expensive (retiree with very little income). So I made a deal with him. So I send him first copy and he lets me know if my grammar or story line is annoying.

        It is still slow. I tried FB, but I don’t think it works too well. I now have an author page on FB, Goodreads, Amazon, and Smashwords plus a webpage. I try to tweet them once in awhile. I still am in the struggling stage though.

        Cyn

  8. Two to five years? I can wait. Wait productively, that is, continuing my epic, slow-motion creation of books. As for promotion, my one brush with it scarred me horribly, so that can wait a few more years. My plan at this point is to build a mailing list, slowly but surely, with each book released.

  9. I’ve seen a lot of writers who seem to think that if they just put a great book out there, people will beat down their door to buy it. Sorry, but the real world doesn’t work like that – how can people buy it if they don’t know it’s there?

    It’s okay to be humble about your work, but being a wallflower will lead you to starvation.

    • Agreed. Much better to be lichen than a wallflower, and all that being lichen implies.

      • Certainly it is better if readers take a lichen to you. Much better. For those seeking to break into trad pub (maybe you have in-laws you need to impress?) keep in mind what Sarah has related of her experiences and consider the advantages of being fern, although that typically requires either significant advance planning or a willingness to apply white-out to your biography.

        It might be an amusing tale to write of somebody snookering the publishing industry by pretending to be an exotic foreigner, marketing a biography fabricated from whole cloth, becoming friends with Oprah, attending prestigious schools (I dunno – Columbia? Harvard Law?) and eventually going into politics, all the time being from some place as prosaic as, oh, Hawaii. Nyahh – too incredible, even as satire nobody would go for it.

        • Pffft – all you have to do is claim to have eaten McDonalds three times a day for thirty days and apparently that’ll get ya on Oprah.

        • You Are A VERY VERY VERY Bad Man. :)

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Would he think that he was smarter and worked harder than everybody else to be successful in that fabrication? I’m sure such a person wouldn’t be able to build that. Somebody else would have to make that happen.

          • okay, then. You ARE a very, very, very bad man, too. Report to the pertinent authority in your household. (Sheeesh)

            • Wayne Blackburn

              I have to bow to RES, in this instance. Had he not served up, I wouldn’t have had anything to swat back. :-)

              I’m lichen it.

              • yes, but guys, my monitor can only take so many iced tea baths. Have mercy!

                • My apologies — I knew I was proffering irresistible temptation with that hanging curve ball of a comment, so any blame for subsequent responses must accrue back toward me as instigator. I trust you ne’er acquired the Southron taste for heavily sugared Iced Tea, a brew which is most truly deadly to monitors. Just remember: The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.
                  [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS75NtlH3gI ]

                  • Oh, be fair to the South, now – that’s really only a Georgia thing. (ok, ok, it’s… spread, but they started it!)

                    • Now I grew up in Louisiana. You can’t get much more “South” than that and stay dry (heck, it’s even hard in Louisiana). I never cared much for sweetened iced tea. I drank mine the same way I drink my coffee now — straight up, and strong enough to stand a spoon in (until it dissolves). That whole “southern sweet tea” is a Georgia invention, just like Georgia peaches (everybody knows Colorado peaches are better). Of course, nothing can top Texas watermelons, but that’s another story.

                    • I’ve been under the impression that the finest, most bodacious Texas watermelons were generally topped with a Prussian Blue halter and white vest … http://www.dallascowboyscheerleaders.com/

              • I’m not lichen the puns I seem to have given birth to. :-D

                • If they’re not growing on you, then are you still a rolling stone?

                  • Moss grows thickest on dead wood.

                    I am NOT responsible for any punny responses RES comes up with to this comment!

                    • bearcat
                      You are responsible for any sexually-abusive zombies who might want me to write their story. And it ain’t happening. They can go bother Kate Paulk. It’s where I send all the truly sick stuff. She puts it in the Con books and makes it funny.

                    • If the wood is dead the zombies aren’t going to be doing much with it. At least, not without external assistance. And no, you do not want to know what my mind is doing with that notion.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      But with zombies, the wood might be petrified, so just because there’s no life in it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be used for something.

    • no. I said you can promote the work — indeed, you have to, to an extent, even if it’s just the putting it for free on Amazon. BUT this is different from talking incessantly about how great you are, which is what the local writer does, and which drives the fans nuts.

      • Still, I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve written books think that marketing themselves is somehow “low brow.” Too many feel that a great story is worthy of being bought simply by virtue of being out there.

        Yes, it’s a balancing act. You can’t be in people’s faces all the time. You also can’t sit idly by and expect people to discover your brilliance just by the fact of your work’s existence.

        • I occasionally leave responses to the comments that people leave on my books on review pages and blogs. This seems to horrify some people. Apparently it’s gauche for a writer to take any notice of critique or commentary. I must have lost that page from my rather tattered and secondhand copy of The Rules For Being a Real Writer. Not the only page so lost, either. Alas.

          • Mark — I can’t read reviews. It can block me for months. But that’s a personal disability.

            • One of the best parts of being me is that it’s nigh-impossible to hurt my feelings or otherwise make me feel bad about myself: whatever it is you think, it’s vanishingly unlikely that you think any worse of me than I do. :)

          • It is entirely appropriate to thank positive reviewers and even recommend other works the person might enjoy.

            Disputing negative reviews risks making the author seem petty and quarrelsome, and therefore is best left to minions. The basic rule of political fighting seems transferable: punch up, not down.

  10. Free-range Oyster

    You wouldn’t catch even the local dairy farmer going around yelling “Exceptionally fine cheeses.”

    Man, you folks up north missed out:
    “Quiejo, queijo, queijo! Queijo fresco! Queijo branco! Queijo de Minas, chegou hoje! Quiejo, queijo, queijo!” Once a week when I lived out in the boondocks, twice a week when I lived in the city. This post has me missing the feira something awful now. A good farmers’ market here in the States will rival the quality and selection of a feira (though of course the tropical fruits are all but absent), but no one here seems to know how to haggle. When did negotiation stop being considered a valuable skill and part of our cultural heritage*?

    * Phrasing used with malice aforethought :)

    • I can’t haggle. I’m physically incapable. My husband, the anglo-saxon seasoned with a bit of the Americas though finds it shameful to EVER pay half the price asked in a situation (garage sale, say) where haggling is permitted.
      My mom otoh is my husband’s haggling idol… my mom doesn’t exactly haggle. Not unless haggling is a form of guerrilla warfare. An exemplary instance was when at the fair I found a fabric that was light enough to carry back to make curtains for the whole house. Mom heard me stammer this would do (I think the price was 5 euros a piece) and took over, glaring at the fabric like it had done her wrong and yelling at me that it was too flimsy and badly made and way overpriced. When the lady came over to see what it was about, my mom said “Look, I’ll do you a favor and take this cr*p off your hands at 1 euro a yard (actually a meter, but close enough).” As the woman opened her mouth to protest mom said “We’ll take the whole bolt,” shoved money at her, and put the bolt in my hands, before pushing me — and Dan — at speed away from the stall. Dan tells this story better than I can, but that’s pretty much what happened. … and that’s how she shops, pretty much. She also doesn’t “get” fixed price. She once bought me a fur coat in one of the most expensive stores in Porto, the kind of store you feel you have to pay just to enter, and got it at half price by informing the people that it was very badly made, and the furs were not quality, and how she was KINDLY taking it off their hands.
      How does she get away with it? Who knows? We think it’s charisma. Older son has a touch of it. In another time and place mom would be a world leader. As for Robert, we hope he uses his power for good.

      • I always said my Mom would be a WORLD Leader because she has charisma. Thankfully –after living with her for over twenty years, I am immune. I always thought that if she had more brain power, we would be in for a world of hurt.

    • I blame Frank Winfield Woolworth:

      The F.W. Woolworth Co. had the first five-and-dime stores, which sold discounted general merchandise at fixed prices, usually five or ten cents, undercutting the prices of other local merchants. Woolworth, as the stores popularly became known, was one of the first American retailers to put merchandise out for the shopping public to handle and select without the assistance of a sales clerk. Earlier retailers had kept all merchandise behind a counter and customers presented the clerk with a list of items they wished to buy.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._W._Woolworth_Company

      Nowadays, of course, were some scalawag attempt to introduce such a clearly exploitative and hazard laden concept the President would denounce them for eliminating jobs, the Counter Assistant Union would protest their leaving customers to fend for themselves unaided, unadvised and uninformed, and the kindly experts at OSHA, the FDA & EPA would warn against the potential safety, health and environmental hazards of leaving goods out where anybody, no matter how disease-ridden, could handle them. The mayors of major metropolitan cities would declare such mercantilists inconsistent with civic values and refuse to grant them permits to open shops in their towns. Praise the lord (i.e., government) we live in more enlightened times and are protected from evil exploitative capitalists and their cockamamie concepts.

  11. I remember when all DAW books had yellow spines, and pretty much similar fonts for the titles. I… would suspect that DAW, at least, did indeed have a “rep” for “if you like one DAW book, you should look at others!”

    *takes notes for her lower-tech world, which probably needs more screaming marketers*

  12. (And on the true side of all this… I learned early the value of someone else doing the marketing. In particular, a friendly acquaintance and fellow author, mentioning on her own blog, that “this book I read that I just adored is NOW AVAILABLE!” And, whaddya know, that got a small surge of sales.

    So when someone else, an even more distant net acquaintance (though still friendly), mentioned my book along with another one, in the course of a “Reviewing Site Soliciting Reviews From Readers” review… And said acquaintance suggested I should ask if the site reviewers would review my book…

    A “C” rating on that review (lovely review, really!) got me enough views to get on the Also-Boughts of more popular books, which has been doing… very nicely for me, these past couple months. The covers for all my books and stories, which were on the Red side of the ledger, are now paid for — and also the cover for the next book in that world.

    I’ve done some advertising, I admit — pretty advertisements on Project Wonderful. The free ones. They get a handful of hits on the free stories and an even fewer handful of sales.

    Reviews, I do suspect, are (at least one place) where it’s at. (Which is why someone paying for fake, glowing reviews makes me froth at the mouth…) Though reviews by the right people (the ones with the big, established stall where lots of people go in for Hot, Fresh Reviews!) are the most important.)

  13. Just waiting for when you start hawking foot long Noah’s Boys on rye and hot sticky Darkship Renegades(with butter?).

  14. There are, from my research and limited experience, two things that indie sellers have to do if they expect to sell any books.

    1) Market.

    Have a blog. Have a Twitter. Post on forums where people who talk about the kind of things that happen in your books (fiction) or the kind of things your books are about (nonfiction) gather – and NOT just “come read my book” posts. You don’t have to be a regular, but it helps, and at the very least occasionally contribute something to a discussion that’s NOT related to your books. Give away review copies to get those all-important review points and star ratings to get the attention of recommendation-algorithms. (Which evil gods you MUST appease, make no mistake.) You used to be able to game the recommendation algorithms by making a book free for a short period of time, but it seems like most of those loopholes have been closed. But giving away a free book (I have one title which is free and will remain so, it’s fun and punchy and short and people might read it and say, “Hey, that was cool, I think I’ll get one of the longer ones.) will not only get people to try your writing, it’ll give you a work which is more or less guaranteed to move some copies and get you pushed up in the calculations.

    2) Continually Publish

    Delilah Fawkes, on her magnum opus thread about e-publishing on the Something Awful forums, claims that for every ten books you publish, you will see an additional increase in general sales. While of course she was speaking generally, it really does seem that the more you publish, the more attention you get. There are all sorts of reasons for this and most of them are pretty obvious, but several authors seem to be saying there’s a kind of synergistic effect that goes beyond just the mathematical impact of each individual title.

    I have seen, anecdotally, that publishing a new book causes a small surge of sales in *all* my books. I believe that most of this comes from people seeing the new book on the new publishing/new recommendations page, getting it, liking it, and trying another one. (And/or, clicking it, not quite being sold, but seeing something that appeals to them on the “Also By This Author” list.) A spot on the “new books” list is not as good as a spot on the “(Retailer) recommends” page, but it ain’t nothin’, either.

    • That is actually the theory that I am operating on: a reader gets one of my books – the latest, or the most popular, or whatever – reads it, and likes it, and goes looking for my other book. Every title you have out there is a force-multiplier, and an advertisement for every other title!

      • same here. I see that pattern with foreign buys. I’ll sell for the first time in a new country — whee — and then I sell each of the stories. Is that proof it’s all the same person? No. But the evidence points to it.

        • Incidentally, it was sort of an odd feeling the first time I saw a tick in “Amazon.de,” etc. People in other countries, who possibly don’t even speak English as their primary language, are giving me money to read my stories. Kinda like the first sale of any kind, where I was boggled that anybody would do that, but more so.

        • Speaking as a bibliovore, when I discover a good work by a new author I typically buy all available works by that author. I have been burned sufficient times to be wary (reading the same book with n different titles will do that) but more commonly I am rewarded. I have little reason to think myself unusual except, perhaps, in the haste with which I empty my purse in order to ensure my Unread Books pile will grow.