Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Promotional procrastination

I'm somewhat ashamed of myself. I'd been pestering the folks at Nebraska about marketing for my book (in a nice way) so they finally said, "Go ahead and send us what you've got--we'll try and incorporate your suggestions." That was something like late October/early November. I just now got it off to them last night.

My bad.

Voices of Vision is an odd bird, as it's the first "original" published in the Bison Books Frontiers of the Imagination series, and is also the first non-fiction. I'm the first live SF author they've published that can go out and promote on the convention circuit. It crosses over the lines from straight genre to "literary criticism" to comics. There are a bunch of potential audiences for this book, all of them small. The difficulty lies in reaching them effectively, because even then it's going to have niche appeal.

My marketing list includes lots of science fiction and fantasy publications, both online and hard copy. Newspaper and talk radio in my immediate area (read: Austin to San Antonio). Half a dozen SF conventions or more that I have pencilled in on my calendar for 2005. A couple dozen independent reviewers that have proven themselves friendly to SF publications over the years. A handful of venues where I believe a limited investment in advertising will have an exponential impact. I also sent contact information for a dozen independent bookstores and small chain stores that are convenient for me to do signings at. The university bookstores at Texas State and Texas A&M are included--and the former has a special section featuring publications from faculty (which I'm technically not, but I hope to crash the party anyway). All in all, it turned out to be a very long list indeed.

We'll see if they utilize any of my suggestions. We'll see if there's any advertising budget at all. We'll see if they arrange any book signings (I expect they'll only manage to secure events in El Paso, Amarillo and Harlingen on back-to-back days, Murphy's Law being what it is). From discussions with other published writers, I expect I'll end up having to do 90 percent of the grunt work myself--I'm already committed to doing the cons, so that's a big chunk of promotional activity there--simply because publishers don't have the resources dedicated to marketing. And Nebraska is a university press, mind you, so they're starting out will less discretionary money from the get-go.

One area that I didn't devote much space to in my suggestion list are comics retailers. There are several comics-themed interviews in the book (Neil Gaiman, Brad Meltzer, Elliot S! Maggin and the duo of Scott Kurtz and Frank Cho) but as comic shops mostly buy through Diamond rather than Ingram or another traditional book distributor, I'm at a loss how to effectively target this market. Right now, I'm thinking directly targetting the local shops in Austin/San Antonio/New Braunfels/San Marcos. And there's the Lone Star Comics chain up in Dallas. But how do you effectively reach a market that's so scattered and fragmentted, particularly one that's not all that likely to be receptive to a book that falls only marginally within their product envelope? I suspect this is something I should take up more fully with the marketing folks at Nebraska. Hello, 1-800-MY-COMIC-SHOP.

On a completely unrelated note, I must be doing something right. Although I know that in an absolute sense, Amazon.com sales rankings mean absolutely nothing, currently Voices of Visions "boasts" a lofty ranking of 445,510. Nothing to write home about, since there's almost half a million books selling better than mine. But considering the fact that my book is coming from a university press, won't even be published for another four months and is still selling better than half a million or more other titles, well, allow me the luxury of feeling smug. Don't worry--grim reality will set in soon enough.

Now Playing: Eric Ringler & Scarlet Rivera Celtic Carols

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