Monday, January 15, 2018

Preaching to the Choir

I'm not convinced a lot of people sell books on social media. I certainly know that I've found it harder to find meaningful recommendations since the collapse of the author blogging circles. Illustrations from social media have made me wonder about the effectiveness of book marketing.

What I am convinced of is that Twitter is a political echo-chamber. Some recent exchanges there got me thinking.

It's the same old story. If you criticize 45 on anything (like, say, golfing instead of reassuring people in Hawaii that they weren't about to die) then you're left-wing nutjob who would never give the man credit for anything.

If you defend him you're a right-wing puppet who wouldn't criticize him if he came to your house, robbed you and grabbed your daughter's pussy before securing your vote for the next election.

Now, what does that have to do with promoting books? We're stuck in our own echo chamber. A lot of the promotion I see involves promoting books to other authors.

My husband and I have talked about this a lot. We've talked about the short story market within crime fiction and how we've watched, one by one, as good publications have pulled the plug.

Meanwhile, other short story markets are thriving. The speculative fiction camp seems to have high-paying publications that not only outnumber the crime fiction market but exceed them several times over.

I've been trying to put my finger on just what it is that makes their market so successful while crime fiction's short fiction market flounders.

The only thing that has been suggested that makes sense? Fan engagement. Their fans have Star Trek conventions and comic conventions and they're into cosplay and on it goes. Their fans are immersed. I know someone who works for one of the current stars of The Walking Dead and works at all of their conventions.

And from what I've heard, those conventions are an intense experience.

I don't know what the lay of the land is in romance but I do know that it seems like the level of fan engagement in speculative fiction has enabled publishers and writers to engage their audience effectively.

Meanwhile, over here in crime fiction land, I'm wondering what publishers are doing to push through that barrier. I saw a complaint recently about publicists and it echoed some of my own observations.The material is coming later and later and then I don't have time to prepare to do proper interviews with authors. And then you get the authors who can't be contacted. You try to go through a publicist and the process is delayed or heaven forbid that you might want to have an exchange so you can ask proper follow-up questions and the publicist or author just doesn't have the time for that.

Best author interview I've read in recent months? Brian Lindenmuth's interview with Jason Ridler. You got a sense of the person behind the book and it was a fun read.

Meanwhile I've been struggling to get authors willing to even be interviewed for our second print issue. I got a low percentage of returns from the authors I approached for the first issue and I actually had far more time to line up interviews for the second issue. I posted on Facebook and Twitter.

I've had one author contact me based on my posts and a second author responded to a direct request.

I'm left to conclude that one of the following must be true
a) authors don't want to engage via interviews
b) Spinetingler isn't worth the time
c) reviews are preferred

I'm only reviewing for Underground Book Reviews these days. While I appreciate honest, heart-felt reviews on Amazon as much as any author, I don't think getting them from other authors counts for much. And with some people if you don't give a glowing endorsement in support of every author's efforts then you're shunned. For me, if I can't be honest I can't be reviewing in the crime fiction genre.

What I am trying to do is get back to the days of my in-depth interviews. Nothing has ever made me want to pick up a book more than a great author interview, which includes authors on panels at events.

Am I alone?

Perhaps. All I know is, if I can't build a bridge between authors and readers via Spinetingler then it's time for me to reconsider my efforts. Perhaps all we'll be left with is the Big 5 and a few independents with their standard line of publicity for the top selling authors they publish while those who are new or unknown languish in obscurity. I'm seeing the same books pushed to the same audience through the same channels.

What happens when the recipients find that dull as dishwater?

If you read a great book, you want to read another great book. If you see a great movie you want to watch another great movie.

If you feel like all you're seeing is the same old, same old then what do you do next?

75% of what I read in 2017 was outside the crime fiction genre. I wonder what the stats will be like this year.


Kevin R. Tipple said...

I think the echo chamber exists across all of social media and not just twitter. I slip up every now and then on FB when I see some insane ignorance from the right or the left and make the mistake of pointing out actual facts, but for the most part I try hard to say away from all that crap as I think it turns folks off. Especially if one wants to sell books.

I find a lot of publicists contact me and clearly have no idea what I read or have any idea what I might be going through. Contacting me the day of and the weekend after my wife died was not smart on their part. That is just one example of off base publicist work. I could go on, but who needs a rant from me.

Beyond all that, I don't get why authors make it so hard to feature them. I have a standing offer for folks to appear on my blog with very few takers. Those that do appear regularly are two ladies who review books. Very grateful for their efforts. It just would be nice to have an author now and then to mix things up a bit.

In fact, that used to happen when I ran the Sunday Sample feature. Worked for a few months and authors came by and shared samples from their books. And then the authors quit participating. They just stopped.

I don't know what the answer is. I do know that it makes me question, more than ever, if I am not just spinning my wheels and wasting my time with what I do.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm sad to hear you echo my own thoughts. There is something to consider here - how author marketing is falling down. How much does that contribute to book sales? Right now all I have are questions and no answers.

Kristopher said...

I do less interviews on BOLO Books as well. Typically, if I approach an author, they will agree to it. But in terms of those coming to me, it's mostly self-published authors.

I launched the Composite Sketch feature because I felt there needed to be a place to learn more about our favorite crime fiction people - authors, fans, publicists, etc - while staying free of direct promotion. So I plan those sketches to maintain a variety as well as to stay away from folks in the midst of their book promotion. It has proven to be the most popular feature on BOLO Books - rivaling even the reviews (which thankfully still remain very popular.)

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I do notice that both the science fiction/fantasy as well as romance authors seem to support all things in their genres better than things are done in crime fiction, mystery, etc.

I wish I had more engagement with authors on the blog. heck, I wish it was true at SMFS as well and yet trying to get list members to write for their blog is like pulling teeth astride a large cat in a hurricane.

Kaye George said...

Sure, it's hard to sell books online--or anywhere. But the hope is to break out and get national recognition. I think it was ever thus.