Monday, May 15, 2006

Because surely what you're lacking is more advertisements and that's why you're reading...right?

We interrupt this blog to bring you the latest ads for hemorrhoid treatment and erectile dysfunction cures. Because you don’t see enough ads already, and what could be more entertaining? I mean, what other reason do you visit a blog, join a forum or a listserve?

There has been a raging debate for the past few days about this, and it has its heart in the book world. Specifically, the crime fiction world. DorothyL, one of the listserves that many many people interested in mystery fiction subscribe to, became the forum for lobbying for award nominations, now that the Anthony ballots are in the mail.

The Anthony is, evidently, a fan choice award presented at Bouchercon and all who attend B’Con last year or who are registered this year apparently get a ballot and get to cast their vote.

So, it started with the news that the ballots were starting to arrive in mailboxes. What started? Authors offering free books to people who might be interested in voting for them for the Anthony.

As well as posts reminding people about books that are eligible for the Anthony.

Now, this has been a crash course in this award for me, because I don’t go to fancy award ceremonies (other than the Theakston’s) and I just figure that 90% of the awards, Canadians aren’t eligible for anyway. To be honest, I’m not even sure what the stipulations are for being nominated for the Anthony. Heard last night why it is my ballot hasn’t arrived yet, so any explanation is still a country away, I guess.

But it’s too late for me to start reading a bunch of books now so that I can consider nominating them by the end of June. Not with edits on their way to me for my book, and the Summer and Canadian issues of Spinetingler to finish.

And I’m not going to nominate anything I haven’t read.

Although I must say, at this point, I’m not going to nominate anything.

Oh, I know some people would be irate to read that. But honestly, the slew of emails relating first to people endorsing their own books, then followed by people expressing their disgust, and then followed by people speaking on behalf of the listserve as self-appointed arbiters of what is and isn’t acceptable welcoming people to endorse their books had me pulling out my hair.

The reality of it is, it’s hard for a new author. Particularly if you have a small publisher with a limited marketing budget. I mean, if even a well-known sporting event has a network resorting to cheap tactics - OLN hires Stanley Cup to promote…Stanley Cup - to get attention, how much harder is it for people nobody’s heard of?

I used to think that you just wrote the book and got a publisher. Then it went to the store. Well, okay, edits and all that, but you know what I mean. I didn’t realize 5 years, even 3 years ago, how much an author had to do to promote themselves.

Didn’t realize that so much of this business boils down to politics. Some bookstores will only carry books from certain distributors. Some will only carry certifiable bestsellers. Some will only carry books from specific publishers. With some, if they haven’t heard of you, they aren’t interested.

And libraries…apparently consumer demand from placed requests for a book will help get the book on shelves in some places, but in others if you don’t have that Kirkus review or Publisher’s Weekly review, you’re pretty much SOL. And reviews…reviews in the NY Times or People or on Oprah’s Book Club, the ones that do have a lot of clout, boil down to popularity contests a lot of the time as well. Or wheels being greased. By that, I mean people talking up books. And how do you get people talking up books so the big boys take interest? Mass distributions of ARC’s so that there’s buzz. Get people talking about the book before the release… Then authors gain profile from being on panels at conferences, but that involves sometimes knowing the right people, being favoured enough to be invited, even living in the right country. I actually don’t think there’s a single regular mystery convention on my side of the country. Could be wrong, but not one that I’ve ever heard of.

I mean, I did write to Wordfest, which is a local author event in Calgary, to ask about getting involved. That was two months ago. Haven’t heard anything.

Eish. And what I’ve given is a simplified version. Now, some of you aren’t in a place to think about promotion yet, because you’re still writing.

Right? Maybe not. Because the promotion starts the minute you start polishing that baby to send it off to prospective agents and publishers. You’re selling your work.

And as an author, that’s just the first sales job you’re going to do.

Now, I’m not a ME ME ME person who wants to push all my stuff in everyone’s face at every single opportunity. I’m a bit freer on the blog, because nobody puts a gun to anyone’s head and makes them come here. It’s a choice.

But distribute my personal advertisements through a listserve to 3360 people’s email inboxes?

Man, that’s brazen.

As far as I’m concerned, the internet is a great way to promote yourself, and even do it without being too pushy. I have a website. I have a blog. To me, this is just part and parcel of what you need to do to survive. If I hear about a book or an author of interest, I don’t drive an hour into the city to see if one of the stores has their stuff by chance – I google their name. And if I can’t find them, there’s a good chance I’ll forget them.

Self promotion also comes with putting stuff up at places like Flashing in the Gutters (like the new Hump the Stump, by Stephen Allan - brilliant) and getting stories published in ezines. Doing interviews and having a bit of a presence. It’s a starting point.

There are a lot of other things that go with the territory too, but I’m really hoping that continuously shoving my stuff down people’s throats isn’t in the picture. I’m a total enthusiast for the authors and books I like, and I’ll always talk them up because I am passionate about my interests.

And although this blog is about me and whatever inane thoughts are rumbling through my brain on any given day, I swear I’m not secretly encoding subliminal messages to encourage you to buy my book and read my short stories and get the Sandra Ruttan t-shirt.


Sorry for the rant, but to be honest, I’m just so disgusted by the shameless self promotion I see sometimes. What’s even worse is, I actually stated on DL that I haven’t got a clue what is and isn’t eligible, and being on a different book release schedule than the US, I don’t know how to find out.

And nobody’s given me an answer.

Hence my, “I’m not nominating anyone” philosophy at the moment. If it’s that much fucking work to cast a ballot and people will only tell you, “vote for me” but not “this is what you can vote for” then to hell with it.

Awards are nice if you win them, but I’ll be somewhere else when they hand these out anyway.

So tell me – what marketing ploys turn you off?

And I'm off to check out Pari's post at Murderati about blogging.

Smile Time

Old, but good

Two married buddies are out drinking one night when one turns to the other and says, "You know, I don't know what else to do. Whenever I go home after we've been out drinking, I turn the headlights off before I get to the driveway, shut off the engine and coast into the garage. I take my shoes off before I go into the house; I sneak up the stairs, get undressed in the bathroom, stick my foot in the toilet and pee down my leg to prevent splashing sounds. I ease into bed and my wife STILL wakes up and yells at me for staying out so late!!"

His buddy looks at him and says, "Well, you're obviously taking the wrong approach. I screech into the driveway, slam the door, storm up the steps, throw my shoes in the closet, jump into bed, slap her on the ass and shout, "WHO'S HORNY" and she acts like she is asleep every time."

Ah, Kids

A mother was working in the kitchen listening to her 5 year old son playing with his new electric train in the living room.

She heard the train stop and her son saying, "All you sons of bitches who want off, get the hell off now. cause this is the last stop! And all you sons of bitches who are getting on, get your asses in the train.cause we're going down the tracks."

A horrified mother went in and told her son, "We don't use that kind of language in this house. Now I want you to go to your room and you are to stay there for TWO HOURS."

"When you come out, you may play with your train but I want you to use nice language."

Two hours later, the son came out of the bedroom and resumed playing with his train. Soon the train stopped and the mother heard her son say.
"All passengers, please remember your things, thank you and hope your trip was a pleasant one. We hope you will ride with us again soon."
She heard her little darling continue. "For those of you boarding, remember, there is no smoking in the train. We hope you will have a pleasant and relaxing journey with us today."

As the mother began to smile, the child added, "For those of you who are pissed off about the TWO HOUR delay, please see the bitch in the kitchen.”


JamesO said...

Sandra Ruttan T-Shirts? Where can I get me one of those?

Steve Allan said...

Hey, my name's up there. Does this mean I'm somebody? Made it Ma, top of the world! Actually my mother is a little worried after reading that story.

When do the t-shirts come out?

JT Ellison said...

Yeah, sign me up for a t-shirt.
Promotion is a tricky business, especially on the list serves. I remember one author who sent out a massive SPAM to DL and another couple of lists, asking for support for a debut novel, which was in fact just the debut of said author's pseudonym. That riled the lists to no end. It's so hard to know what line is appropriate to cross, because face it, if you're going to do BSP on a list, you're crossing a line. But if they don't know your name, you'll never get new readers.Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Best not to worry, and never to ask for nominations for an award. Then you're safe!

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, top secret at the moment. I'll get back to you with details later!

Steve, you've arrived!

Yeah JT, it is a tricky balance, damned if do damned if don't. What's a writer to do?

M. G. Tarquini said...

Yep, Steve. Once Sandra gives you a mention, you know you exist.'re not making any nominations. Have I got that right?

Vincent said...

Interesting post to read today after I came across this article at lunchtime, which tries to explain the runaway success of The DaVinci Code:

The key passage for me being:

"They sent out 10,000 advance copies of the book to booksellers, critics, media and advertising people -- a gigantic number for such an undertaking."

So The DaVinci Code may have tapped into some sort of cultural zeitgeist, but it also had a lot of marketing muscle behind it.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Mindy, I suppose if I can figure out what's elligible, then I'll nominate. But if I can't, screw it. Figuring out what is and isn't an option isn't my day job.

You know Vincent, some people consider selling 10,000 copies to be a huge sales success. In Canada a bestseller sells 800. So that just goes to show how much marketing muscle factors in - if they hadn't sent out all those ARC's would there be the sales and the movie? Hard to say, really really hard to say. But my theory is, people keep hearing or seeing the same name over and over again in review headlines and such, they buy the book because everybody's talking about it and they don't want to seem out of the loop.

Andrea at Lochthyme said...

Hmmm...what marketing ploys turn me off? Not much really. I just delete from my lists if i don't want to read. As for the whole Anthony Awards thing on dorothyL I really don't have a problem with authors offering to send free copies to people going in hopes they will read it and maybe consider nominating will get the books into the hands of people who might otherwise not have read them. I know i've looked for some author's who were on the list and was unable to find them in my local bookstore. You gotta get your name out there somehow especially since most authors don't have Dan Brown's publicity machine behind them. From what Sandra and other authors have talked about it sounds really hard to get published and then you have to do your own publicity unless you are Dan Brown or James Patterson. Sorta like American Idol. Would any of those singers have made it on their own? Maybe, maybe not...but with the force of the "machine" behind them they are instant stars. And sorry Sandra but I haven't a clue as to who is eligible to be nominated for an Anthony Award. But I would think Canadians and other non US authors would be eligible since they held it in Toronto in 2004 and in the UK in other years. But that's just my 2 cents and what do I know anyway. :0

Trace said...

Absolutely right. That's why I don't have a newsletter. I have a an awesome website, thanks to you *SMOOCH* and I have a blog. But I'm not going to start emailing newsletters to people, especially ones who haven't asked.

I do need to get back into the short story thing, and maybe write something for Flashing in the Gutters. Man, I love that friggin' site!

Amra Pajalic said...

Just reading about this perplexes me. I'm not a shy flower by any means but I'm like you where I got hugely turned off when someone is shoving themselves onto me. But still it should be a pretty simple equation that promoting isn't just about shoving your name out there but getting people to connect to you. And you can't get people to connect to you if you're just doing a one one way street of me, me, me. So the fact that no one answered your question is telling.

Sandra Ruttan said...

It is interesting, Amra. I suppose we all know that different things will work for different people as well, so you have to be comfortable with what you're doing and take it from there.

Andrea's obviously far more forgiving, so I'm going to stealth BSP her (kidding!)

Trace, yeah, you need to get on that!!! You'd write kick-ass Flash!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Oh, made me spit soda on my monitor...LOL...that's great...I could never get away with that one....ROFLOL!

For The Trees said...

I think a couple of t-shirts would be good. Now where do I send the check?