Welcome to the Septic Tank

Oh, you want to promote your indie-published books, do you? Why not just hit yourself in the head a few times with a brick? That would be easier, cheaper, and just as effective. Less painful, too.

SFWA (the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) started up a mentoring program for YA authors — not for the writing part, but for the other stuff. I signed up. This week I had a nice phone conversation with a SFWA mentor, an enthusiast for book marketing and promotion. I learned a few things — the advantages of KDP, the difference between passive and active marketing, stuff like that.

Among other things, we discussed hiring a “virtual assistant” to handle some chores, thus freeing me up to spend more of my time actually writing. Which is all I really want to do. I know some people thrive on marketing, but I’m not one of them.

Having a virtual assistant sounds like a great idea. And in fact my mentor had a good tip for a possible VA, whom I have now contacted. But what exactly I want a VA to do for me is a question that remains, at the moment, unanswered.

The woods are full of people who would love to help an author (and get paid for doing it). They have websites in which they describe their services. I need to know more about those services, so it’s time to do some online research.

In poking around on the Web, I filled out a request form at a site called Author Imprints. The fellow there, David Wogahn, gave me a phone call. This was a freebie, though he does charge for his services. Nice guy. He then emailed me a list of half a dozen service providers (only one of whom he personally recommended) who help authors with promotion and marketing and stuff.

So I spent a couple of hours looking at these folks’ offered services.

Not to keep you in suspense, the takeaway for me was, “Why the fuck do I even want to write novels? This is appalling!” The fast-paced modern world of indie book promotion is, I don’t know, sort of a merry-go-round on LSD, complete with rubber dog vomit. Or maybe it’s not rubber.

Here’s a list of buzzwords culled from one of these sites’ page of services: “Social media venues, marketing plan, target specific media outreach products, the goal of the package, social media outreach services, electronic promotional materials such as takeovers and parties [???], campaigns, cover reveals, excerpt reveals, blog tours, teaser reveals, release day blitz, sales campaigns, tour packages, advertising campaigns, virtual book signings, social media spotlights via multiple formats, fan participation promotions, focus groups, coordination of reviews.”

Now, bear in mind, you, the author, will be paying for all this stuff. In one scenario, you’re independently wealthy and don’t mind spending vast sums on a hopeless vanity project. In another scenario, you’ve been conned into spending a bunch of money that you would have been better advised to spend on something more useful. In yet a third scenario, you’re actually making enough money selling books that you can hire somebody to do all that shit and still break even. But scenario 3 is a total crap shoot. At the point where you start love-bombing the promotional guru with PayPal transfers, you don’t know whether it will work, or whether you’re just wasting your money.

One site offers to set up book reviewers for you. But who are the reviewers? Where are their reviews published? Does anybody actually read their reviews? These questions are not addressed in the presentation on the site. You’re buying a pig in a poke.

Another service offers reasonably priced packages of services, but several of them start with this item: “Featured on unlimited amount of blogs.” Leaving aside the fact that “amount” is ungrammatical — what’s wanted here is “number,” not “amount” — this catch-phrase is utterly meaningless. It’s vapor. This particular service has actual author endorsements on their home page, which is a good sign, but when I click through to the authors’ pages, it becomes clear that all three of the authors are producing nothing that any normal adult would ever consider reading.

The world, it becomes blazingly clear, is stuffed with thousands upon thousands of very bad writers, all of whom are desperately shrieking, “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!!! Buy my books!” And they’re paying people to amplify their ego-driven spew. It’s a septic tank. It’s raw sewage.

A third service had links to some of their YouTube “book trailers.” Sexy video effects and cinematic soundtrack music, but whoever was doing the text-over for the videos couldn’t manage to avoid typos — and evidently the writers didn’t notice them either. So again, we have a massive promotional effort in the service of bamboozling ignorant readers into buying awful books.

Would it be worse if those videos didn’t help sell books? Or would it be worse if they did?

I think if I were to do a book trailer, it would feature a 30-second closeup of a pencil being sharpened in a pencil sharpener, looped for about 20 minutes, maybe with some added digital noise and bad edits. I mean, seriously.

On a more sober note, I now have an earnest desire to start rewriting my fantasy series yet again in order to make the books a lot more goddamn literary. Insert shit that will drive readers away. The entire effort to entice readers to enjoy your books feels, at the moment, like diving head first into a pool of sewer runoff.

If you really need me to make you want to read my books, if you need to be convinced — if that’s who you are as a reader — then please, get away from me. You may send me money if you like, but please: Do not read my books.

This entry was posted in fiction, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s