Authorguy's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘marketing

For many years now I’ve been out there, selling books to people, through a little bookselling operation called Author Guy.

I started selling shortly after my first novel was published and i found out the hard way that no bookstores were interested in carrying it. It was a small press title. I wasn’t already famous. It was POD. Bookstores, like a lot of businesses, are trying to make money, which means they have to sell things. My book, in spite of being the best thing since sliced bread, was unlikely to sell with so many strikes against it. Large presses have a number of faults, but one of their benefits is their number of different parts, and connections to other companies’ moving parts. This is where the fabled ‘buzz’ comes from, as people in the industry start talking up this book or that.

There was a nice little publishing movie called ‘If You Believe’, about a woman who slips on ice at Thanksgiving and starts seeing a version of herself when she was younger, berating her for having gotten so dull and boring as she grew up. The woman worked for a publisher, and as she was helping her latest author edit his magnificent novel ‘Phooey’ she starts to get in touch with her former self. It’s a nice little movie, not great but I like it. Anyway, at the end of the movie, she’s presenting her book to the meeting and no one on her list has read it and she has to defend it as an acquisition, when suddenly someone she didn’t like speaks up from down the table, going on about how everyone in the copy room was raving and he bootlegged a copy for himself. He gets the others on the board interested, and before the meeting’s over, the chairman is saying “I can’t wait to read your new guy.” That’s buzz, or the beginnings of it.

A small press has no or few connections. No buzz. My book came out to a whimper, not even a whimper. Even worse, it was POD, which meant, to the bookstores, that it couldn’t be returned. Unfortunately, as my publisher discovered, they could indeed be returned. There’s nothing about POD that says it can’t be returned, that’s really a bookstore excuse for not buying POD. What POD really means to a bookstore is that individual copies of the book are expensive, which means they don’t make as much of a profit as they want. Large presses can print up large quantities, at low cost to them and maximal profit to the store. A paperback costs about a buck and a half to print, the publisher sells it for five and the bookstore sells it for fifteen.

So, to make a long story less long, I ended up creating my own bookstore. I started selling my books at craft and gift fairs, but I eventually turned it into a genuine business, a portable bookstore called Author Guy. (I originally wanted Books and Beasties, but the lady in the office where I was registering didn’t like ‘Beasties’ as a word, so I chose Author Guy instead, after a character in a story I’d just written, named Author Guy. Other characters were Fearless Hero and Evil Enchantress. The only one with a regular name was the Damsel in Distress, named Loretta, but I digress.) Author Guy exists to sell books, mostly my own but I carry all the books my publisher makes so a lot of others as well. Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts don’t need me, but these other guys are as unknown as I am, so I gave them a chance too. It helps that my publisher has the same taste in books that I do, strongly character-driven stories, so I could read all these books in genres I don’t usually read and enjoy them. More important, I could talk about them to customers, since none of the titles or authors were known to them. One of our slogans is “If you’ve heard of it, it’s not here.”

And now Author Guy is on the web, too. is live online, with all the books and deals we’re known for, but now available to people who don’t happen to be standing right in front of me. I even have my own little icon, a piece of art that I commissioned years ago and never used before.

MarcVunKannon_colorJust don’t expect me to wear this costume at Comic Con. Tights are so not my thing.


I don’t know about you, but the aspect of this whole published author thing that I find most daunting is keeping track of all the little pieces that go into it.

I just spent a good part of my day updating my website, putting all sorts of material up there about my upcoming release, St. Martin’s Moon. (Which, I will probably find to my shock and horror, was probably half wasted effort, as–surprise!–I have a short story also in production called ‘Ex Libris’, which will probably come out first and I’ll have to redo the whole thing.) As part of my overhaul I added the new cover to the book, as well as created two new pages with the first chapter and some FAQ, not that anyone’s asked me too many questions about it as of yet.  Then I added a couple of review comments, and some of this and some of that, only to find that I’d messed up something else and OMG. And my back hurts. Please swing on by and tell what you think, what you’d like to see, all that good stuff. I’m even pretty sure the email links work.

At least this time I have plenty of time to go about asking for reviews of the book before it comes out. Which means I have to find reviewers and ask them, and then keep track of the fact that I asked them and keep track of who I sent the ARCs to, and who I got reviews from. (2 so far, thank you for asking.) BTW, I would like to thank both Paul Jessup and Curtis Jobling for having published werewolf novels recently, and mentioning their own reviewers, so I know who to ask myself.

Fortunately we have some folks at Echelon who are constantly finding and mentioning any little treasure trove they come across, so I don’t have to do it all myself. Occasionally I also troll the web, googling my own name to see if anyone’s mentioned me that I don’t about. I found a number of very nice comments about Unbinding the Stone that way.

At some point I have to get around to taking the cover art and getting posters made from it (and bookmarks and postcards), nice large prints that will be visible to everyone as they walk past my booth at all the events I’ll be doing this year. Once I get them set up, that is. I’m set up for a few, have find my calendar and figure out which ones they are, and when, so I don’t double-book myself. O Crap, I just realized I did that already. My library is doing an author event and it’s opposite Icon, the biggest SF/F event in the northeast. And here I am with a new paranormal! Can’t exactly miss that. Now I have to call the library and see if they can reschedule, otherwise I’ll have to miss it.


I once asked my boss about all the time off days I took here and there about the year, mostly Fridays and Mondays so I could travel to the SF/F cons andbook festivals around the country. To be honest I think these are much better vacations for me that a trip to the beach, it forces me to focus on something non-work related and I make money doing it! But I felt kind of bad for taking so many little days, rather than one big vacation interval, but he said it was fine, at least I knew well in advance when I would be out so he could plan ahead!

What is this thing you call ‘planning ahead’? We do not know of it on my planet.

In a few months (2 months to be precise, Feb. 1 of next year), my new novel, St. Martin’s Moon, will finally make its first appearance to a grateful world.  It occurs to me that perhaps I should start thinking about considering the possibility of figuring out how to let people know about this momentous event.

Or I could just skip all that and do it now, but I’ll take a little sideways step first.

I have been a little distracted lately.  I’ve discovered a number of programs in various libraries and have been catching up on shows that I like.  I recently discovered Burn Notice this way, as well as finding seasons of Castle. I even discovered that a TV movie I’d seen, Witchblade, had been made into a series and put on DVD.  The problem is that these are library items, so they have to be watched within the loan period. I’ve spent the last several weeks plowing through all these episodes and enjoying them all hugely, but I haven’t been updating my website the way I should.

But it occurred to us that this might itself be something to put on the website.  Stories are stories, after all, and it might interest someone who is a fan of, say, Burn Notice, to see what kind of fantasy or paranormal novel would be written by someone who also likes a spy drama like that one.  They do have a lot in common. All of my books feature a central figure who operates mostly without oversight, trying to do the things he thinks are right.  They are all character-centered stories.  I think my hero Joseph Marquand would get along just fine with MichaelWesten.  Just about the only thing Marquand doesn’t do is voice-over to the audience some arcana of the operator’s trade.

So I’m thinking what I can do is some series of blog posts on the subject of my favorite stories, going into some detail as to exactly why they are my favorite stories. ‘Stories’ will be taken in the widest possible sense, including books, movies, TV shows, comics, etc. I love looking for connections like these and I hope other people will too. I’d love to learn of new stories I haven’t yet seen, as well.

Care to join me?

The book that started it all!

When my first book first arrived in the world, ready for all the eager book-buyers to pounce upon it, I discovered something horrifying.  Did you know that bookstores don’t stock all books, just because they exist?  I actually had to go out there and try to get them to pick it up and put it on their shelves, with a notable lack of success, I might add.

Bear in mind that I didn’t set out to be an author.  Well, I did set out to write the book, because the book told me to, but I didn’t think about being published. I wrote the book for my enjoyment.  Only afterward did I even think about publication, so I started asking around, in my usual ham-handed fashion.  With a notable lack of success, I might add.  I had no idea of how to write a query letter (and still don’t) and could very well be unpublished to this day were it not for the direct intercession of the gods themselves, who brought me and Echelon Press together.  But that’s another story.

So I walked into this whole enterprise blind and ignorant.  I resolved my dilemma in the  most direct fashion:  Since the bookstores wouldn’t put my books on their shelves, I created my own bookstore and put my books on my own shelves.  Thus was Author Guy the bookseller created.  It suited me, to a great extent.  As a bookseller, I have a role to play which allows me to interact with total strangers and urge them to buy my books.  In my daily life, I have to engage those same strangers in conversation and hope that somehow I can slip a mention of my books in edgewise, without making it sound like that’s the only reason I started talking to them in the first place.  It’s not hard to do if you’re paying attention, and when that isn’t the only reason you started talking to them in the first place.

Click here to get yours NOW!

But there was a fatal flaw to my plan, to wit, that I had no incentive to send my customers to a different bookstore to buy the damn books!  I had a sunk cost to recoup.

Marketing was the solution, but marketing was also the problem.  A lot of people don’t get this, especially when they find out I’m a philosophy major and a software engineer, but I don’t deal well with abstractions.  Truth and logic and right and wrong are all real enough, but schedules and reports and budgets and money and populations are beyond my scope.  I can sell a book in my hand to a man standing in front of me, but I can’t produce a marketing plan.  Scheduled mailings and results tracked across regions and time…uh-uh.  The whole subject gives me a headache.  Literally. 

In addition to my novels, I’ve got a few short stories in e-book form, and I’m about to have several more.  So now I have to figure out how to get all of you lovely, strongly imagined and therefore not abstract readers of this post to go to my book site and check out my books.  And not just my books, but all of Echelon’s books, as well as the Quake books for YA readers.

To quote the pithy wisdom of Lord Mark Vorkosigan, when presented with a problem completely beyond his abilities:  “Help.”

Reality TV...without the reality!What's an Author to do?

Unbinding the Stone

A Warrior Made

A Warrior Made

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St. Martin’s Moon

St. Martin's Moon

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Chasing His Own Tale

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Struck By Inspiration

Struck By Inspiration

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Steampunk Santa

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Bite Deep

Christmas among the vampires!

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Cyber-pirates. Sort of.

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Off the Map

Reality TV...without the Reality!

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