Author Self-Promotion: 4 First Steps

In today’s literary market, it pays to self-promote, and there are plenty of options available to authors for that purpose. So, if you’re just getting started with this whole publishing thing, how should you begin promoting yourself? I’m not a marketing expert, but I can point you at some basic and fairly easy-to-do things that have worked for me and can help expand your presence on the ol’ interwebs. Like the title of the post says, these are very basic first steps, not any kind of recipe for instant promotional success (if you have one of those, please post it in the comments :-)).

One more thing. Before you get started self-promoting, I suggest you obtain the following two items:

  • A good author bio. There are a lot of good reasons to have an author bio ready to go, but you’ll need one for nearly all of the online marketing platforms I’m going to suggest below. Writing a bio is a very individual thing, and you’ll need to decide what’s important enough to include. If you’d like to see how I write MY bios, check out this post.
  • Author photo. You might consider this one optional. Some folks don’t like having their picture taken, and there are some very real privacy and security risks that go along with letting the world know what you look like. Personally, I like the author photo, and I generally plaster my smiling mug all over the damn place. Like the bio, what makes a good author photo is up to the individual author. If you’d like to see what I think makes a good author photo, check out this post.

Okay, if you’ve got your bio and your author photo, here are four of the easier ways to get started down the self-promotional rabbit hole:

  1. Social media. I know, this sounds like a total no-brainer, but I know more than a few authors who don’t have any social media presence. Hey, I get it; Facebook and Twitter are full of inane bullshit, but, unfortunately, the vast majority of potential readers have Facebook and Twitter accounts (or start growing the ones you do have), and if there’s an easier way to reach a fuck-ton of people quickly these days, I don’t know what it is. So, at a minimum, I suggest you get a Facebook and Twitter account. If you’re the kind of author who tends to have a lot of illustrations in his or her books, then image-based platforms like Instagram and Tumblr could be good options too. The trick with social media is to stay active, posting often and with meaningful content. That said, the best way to do that is the subject of many, many articles, websites, and books, and is well beyond the scope of my humble little blog. All you need do, though, is type something like “grow my Facebook audience” into Google, and you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of resources on the subject.
  2. Set up a Goodreads author page. Goodreads is one of the premier book review sites, with something like 25 million members, so I definitely think having a presence out there is good idea. Obviously, you need to have published or self-published a book or have had a short story appear in a collection that was published (people need to have something they can actually read and review). Setting up an author page is super easy to do (and free), and once it’s done you get access to cool marketing tools like Goodreads Giveaways. You can also link your blog and other social media to the page. Basically, if someone has read one of your books and likes it, they can go to your Goodreads author page and see what else you’ve written, learn about you and your blog, and so and so on. Here’s my Goodreads page if you’re interested.
  3. Set up an Amazon author page. Maybe you’ve heard of Amazon; they sell a lot of books. If you’ve published or self-published books or short stories in collections that are sold through Amazon, I think an Amazon author page is a must. This is another freebie and setting up the page is really easy (go here for that). Like Goodreads, you can link your blog and other social media to your author page. Amazon also offers a lot of promotional tools for authors, but they’re usually of the pay-to-play variety, and you’ll have to decide if they’re worth it. You set up an Amazon author page for the same reason you set up a Goodreads author page: it’s a place for readers to go to learn more about your work, and with Amazon, buying that next book is just a click away for interested readers. Here’s my Amazon author page if you’d like to take a look.
  4. Start a blog. This is the most involved of my suggestions because running a blog requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s great to have a platform for your ideas and a place to promote your work. I wouldn’t say this is an absolute must, but it has been THE most successful promotional tool in my little repertoire. My suggestion is to pick some kind of hook or theme beyond, hey, here’s another author’s blog. Make sure that theme is something you actually want to talk about (and you can talk about a lot) and that ties into your work in some way. Starting a blog doesn’t have to cost you anything either, and WordPress and Blogger have perfectly serviceable free packages. That said, spending a few bucks to get a domain name and access to a few other useful features isn’t a terrible idea. Also, remember to point folks back at your blog in your author bio (and everywhere else it’s appropriate).

This really is just the very beginning/scratching the surface of promoting yourself as an author. You’ll need to invest time and effort into keeping these various platforms updated and current (for example, you often have to tell Amazon to add your latest book to your author page). As I mentioned earlier, there are TONS of books and websites devoted to helping authors promote their work though all of the platforms I mentioned above (and a bunch more). As usual, a little research goes a long way.

Got any tips to help new authors start promoting their work? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Rejectomancer Resources: The Emotion Thesaurus

You’d think, being a human being, I would be passing familiar with human being body language. Yeah, not so much. When I’m writing and trying to convey emotion through character body language, I end up in this endless nod, head shake, smile, frown loop. Often times, I break this loop by flipping through the pages of one of my favorite reference books: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression. 

Emotion Thesaurus (F)  Emotion Thesaurus (B)

Written by angels of literary mercy Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, the Emotion Thesaurus is described thusly:

One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character’s emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.

Of course, it’s generally best to go with your instincts when writing emotional responses for your characters, but a reference like the Emotional Thesaurus is handy when you get stuck. I tend to use it when I’m proofing a first draft, and I notice my characters’ responses are getting repetitive. I spend a lot of time in the anger, fear, and disgust chapters (which says a lot about the stories I write), but, trust me, the book is also useful for authors whose characters dwell in happier environments.

Anyway, highly recommended for the sometimes emotionally challenged author.

Rejectomancer Resources: The Writer’s Guide to Weapons

If you write, then you research. You just can’t do one without the other. You simply can’t know all the little details that add that touch of realism and verisimilitude to your fiction. But there are some aspects of the real world that often get stretched or outright broken on a regular basis in popular fiction. One of the big ones is weapons: guns, knives, swords, and so on. It’s pretty easy to understand why. Most writers (and most people) these days just don’t have much practical experience with weapons, and the majority of their exposure to them comes from movies and TV, which are almost always wrong.

So, what is a beleaguered writer to do when he or she needs to arm her protagonist and make it sound halfway believable the character (and the writer) knows which part of the gun is the dangerous end? Well, you could spend hours on Google, looking through the hundreds and thousands of websites on the subject, never certain you’re getting correct information, or you could buy this book: The Writer’s Guide to Weapons.

WGtW F  WGtw B

I stumbled upon this little gem at Barnes & Noble a few days ago, and it was an instant purchases. Now, I know a fair amount about historical weapons, primarily knives, swords, and other melee-type implements from years of writing fantasy fiction (and the research that goes with it), plus two decades of SCA and other full-contact medieval recreation sports, but there are still big gaps in my knowledge, especially when it comes to firearms. This book fills in some of those gaps nicely.

So, what’s in the book? Well, it’s broken up into three parts: firearms, knives, and general info and debunking myths about weapons. One of my favorite parts of the book is the fictionalized examples of right and wrong use for each weapon. It really helps to visualize how the weapon works. There’s also a very handy guide on matching the right weapon to your character based on information like the character’s physical attributes and role in the story. Admittedly, this book has a heavy focus on firearms, though it does include some good info on modern knives. It does not cover swords, axes, maces, and other medieval weapons, so it might be of limited use to the fantasy author, but for the horror, thriller, and mystery writer, it’s definitely worth a look.

Here are some examples of questions–which invariably pop up when writing about weapons–the book handily answers.

  1. What is the difference between a clip and a magazine?
  2. Why would you “saw-off” a shotgun, and how does that alter its effectiveness?
  3. Do silencers really “silence” a gun?
  4. How easy is to kill someone with a firearm under different circumstances (range, body armor, type of weapon, etc.). Hint: it’s a lot harder than you think.
  5. Can a machete chop through a car roof? (I mean, who doesn’t need to know this?)

This book is not a comprehensive encyclopedia of firearms and knives, and if you’re writing the kind of book that details each and every weapon in exhaustive detail, this likely isn’t the book for you. But if you’re a writer who has only a vague grasp of pistol, rifles, and other things that go boom, The Writer’s Guide to Weapons is a fantastic reference that can help you add just enough detail to make your gunslingers, knife-wielding thugs, and mafia hit men a little more believable.

Do you know of another good resource on this subject? If so, please share it in the comments.

A List of Links: Starry Wisdom & Worthy Vessels

Here’s another collection of potentially useful/interesting stuff from around the interwebs.

1) My friend and former colleague at Privateer Press, Simon Berman, has an awesome Kickstarter campaign going for a deluxe tome of stories and essays about H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. It’s called The Book of Starry Wisdom: Apocrypha of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, and it’s pretty fucking rad, if I do so say so myself. I interviewed Simon about the project earlier this week, you can find that here, along with more info about The Book of Starry Wisdom.

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2) Veteran fantasy author Richard Lee Byers, whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with on a number of occasions, was recently interviewed by Dirge Magazine about writing media tie-in fiction, something Richard know a lot about. It’s an interesting read. And if you’re looking for more sage advice from Mr. Byers, I heartily recommend his Ranks of the Rejected interview, which you can find right here on this blog.

3) Christine Dalcher posted a great opinion piece on her blog called A Reader’s Rubric. She breaks down the elements of good fiction into five broad categories and provides story examples for each. Good stuff.

4) My writer pal Rose Blackthorn recently released her first piece of media tie-in fiction for Privateer Press. It’s a novelette called “Worthy Vessel” set in the WARMACHINE universe. This is Rose’s first foray into shared-world fiction, and she fucking knocked it out of the park. “Worthy Vessel” is a downright creepy and disturbing piece that will appeal to both fans of WARMACHINE and folks who just like a good horror story.

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5) Recently, I’ve been on the hunt for good reprint markets, and some of the best  I’ve found for reprints are the three Escape Artist podcasts Escape Pod (sci-fi), PodCastle (fantasy) and Pseudopod (horror). They produce high quality audio versions of short stories, pay pro rates, and, even better, here’s what they have to say on the subject of reprints from the Pseudopod guidelines:

We do not discriminate between previously published and unpublished works. We’re an audio market, and we buy nonexclusive rights, so it doesn’t hurt us if a story has previously appeared in another market. If the text of the work is currently available online for free, that’s great! Let us know in your cover letter so we can link to it in the web post if we publish your story.

They’re definitely worth a try if you’re looking to submit reprints.

A List of Links: Quick Kills & Real-Time Rejection

Here’s this week’s list of potentially useful links for writers and rejectomancers.

1) I’m always looking for ways to bring more realism to combat scenes in the fantasy fiction I write, and one of my favorite resources is an article from Classical Fencing entitled “The Dubious Quick Kill” by Maestro Frank Lurz. Much of the article is drawn from historical accounts of duels from the 17th and 18th centuries and explores misconceptions about the lethality of sword wounds. A good read even if it’s not the kind of stuff you usually write.

2) Here’s another submission tracking website for genre authors called The (Submission) Grinder. It’s similar to Duotrope in that it includes a searchable database of publishers, but unlike Duotrope, it’s free (though they do accept donations). Personally, I prefer Duotrope, but if you’re looking for a free resource, then The (Submission) Grinder is a good option.

3) Another great reference for the fantasy fiction writer looking to bone up on historical melee weapons is the scholagladitoria YouTube channel. The channel is described as: “Videos by Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatoria, covering Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA)/Historical fencing, military history, antique arms and armour and general combat-related things.” Lots of good information here about weapons and fighting styles from various historical eras and cultures.

4) Lewis Editorial has posted the first in a series of prep articles for the upcoming NaNoWriMo. Good advice here and worth checking out if you’re going to take the plunge next month.

5) I found this interesting site a while back, and though I’m still not sure what to make of it, I thought I’d share. It’s called JukePop, and here’s the basic concept from their “about” page.

JukePop is a community for authors to release their story one chapter at a time, receive feedback from the community, fine tune as the story continues and publish when the story is completed. Readers receive portions of a novel in installments, building excitement and anticipation between chapters . . .

So, from what I can tell, authors post chapters of a novel, one at a time, and readers can “up vote” the story. Get enough up votes, and you qualify for cash rewards. Looks like there are other interesting aspects to the platform as well, including crowd funding and pay-to-read formats. It’s an interesting concept that might bear further research if the serialization format appeals to you.

6) Hey, it’s the look-at-more-shit-on-my-blog portion of this post. This time I’d like to draw your attention to Real-Time Rejection and the thrilling saga of “Story X.” The basic idea here is I’ve got a new story I’m trying to get published, and I’m charting the story’s progress in real time, posting the rejections letters as they come in. I’m up to four so far, and if I get to ten, I’ll post the story on the blog so you can all indulge in a little schadenfreude at my expense.

Got a useful link for writers? Share it in the comments.

A List of Links: Dark Markets & Tax Tips

Time for another weekly roundup of links and resources for writers and rejectomancers.

1) I’m always on the hunt for places to submit my work, and Dark Markets is a great website for finding new publishers. It is specifically aimed at horror authors, and all the markets featured publish horror or dark fantasy. Dark Markets lists publishers in five categories: anthologies, book publishers, contests, magazines, and online zines. Definitely worth a look if you write horror.

2) I love me some flash fiction, and I used to participate regularly in a one-hour flash fiction challenge over at the Shock Totem forums. Shock Totem publishes dark spec-fic, and the bi-weekly contest generally includes some horrific element, but you can write your story in any genre. The contest is pretty simple: someone posts a prompt, usually a photo or illustration, and then you have one hour to write a story of 1,000 words or less, edit it, and post it. Once the hour is up, the participating authors read all the stories and vote on a winner. The winner gets to post the prompt for the next contest. It’s a lot of fun and a great writing exercise, not to mention a fantastic story idea generator.

3) I found another useful article on cover letters posted on the Inkpunks website. It’s a great no-bullshit, direct-and-dirty article on the subject. I really dig the author’s voice, and the advice is right on the money.

4) One of my favorite writers, Dan Simmons, has a great series of essays on his site titled Writing Well. The first installment begins with the question “Can someone really be taught how to write well?” It’s a great essay, and there’s a lot of frank, objective analysis on the craft of writing and what it takes to be a professional.

5) Here’s a short article from Your Digital Publishing Cheat Sheet with tax tips for freelance writers. This is an area I’ve been researching a lot lately since I made the transition to full-time freelance. This article is pretty good place to start.

6) And another shameless plug. This time I’m going to point you all at my series of dubious advice on submission guidelines and such. They’re all under the heading Submission Protocol, but since we’re just getting all silly with links, here’s a bunch:

Got a useful link for writers? Share it in the comments.

A List of Links: Resources & Rejections

Here are more potentially useful links for the rejectomancer gathered haphazardly from across the blogosphere and beyond.

1) I recently discovered a great resource for spec-fic writers. It’s called Ralan’s SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza, and it’s a little like Duotrope in that its a listing of markets for writers. It’s specifically focused on spec-fic writers, though, which makes finding a market a little easier. I found a couple of new markets here (well, new to me) in both the pro and semi-pro payment tiers.

2) Lewis Editorial, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite editorial blogs, posted a very useful glossary of common publishing terms and definitions. Handy if you’re starting out in self-publishing or traditional publishing.

3) Here’s a great how-to article on cover letters from the submission guidelines of the excellent speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons. I mentioned this article in my own post on the subject, but it’s so damn succinct and useful, it deserves another shout out.

4) This post by Vicky Lorencen on her blog Frog on a Dime is one of the funniest takes on handling a rejection letter I’ve come across in a while. The post is not really aimed at the rejected writer, it’s for folks dealing with the rejected writer, and it even comes with a form you can fill out and give to friends and family.

5) Now for a shameless plug. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve likely seen the interviews I do with various working authors under the title Ranks of the Rejected. These interviews feature some great insights on rejection from authors who know a thing or two about it. If you haven’t read them yet, here’s your chance, and I’m gonna go ahead and leave you bunch of links right here:

Got a useful link for writers? Put it in the comments.