Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Best Write

Someone (you know who you are) asked me to have a look at this proposal to bombard a SF mag editor with submissions from women on a single day. It sounds unprofessional and I wouldn't do it, but that's me. In all things publishing, do what you think is best for you.

What is best, anyway? Go to all the cons, do a hundred signings, buy these widgets, put an ad in this rag, charm this editor, get that reviewer to write you up, have a book video made, buy this sort of web site, get in with the right sort of group blog, do this kind of mailout, podcast an interview, buy your book in bulk at the right stores, hand out ARCs like cigars, generate as much buzz as you can and at the end of the publishing day you may be a huge bestseller, or you may utterly fail, or you may fall somewhere in between those extremes. Probably the third.

There are no guarantees. There are no proven shortcuts. There is no secret handshake.

I think everyone who is comfortable with the idea of self-promotion should try some of it to find out what they're good at and what they like doing. There is a lot you can do for free (blogs, signings) or at very low cost (web site, book giveaways.) As long as you don't get into financial trouble and it doesn't interfere with the work, give something a whirl. That something might work nicely for you.

But if you find that you don't like any of it, or it doesn't work for you, or you can't afford it, and you decide to stay home and simply write, that's okay. You're not a failure, and you're not cheating yourself of success. Publishers will not hate you because you're not out killing yourself to sell. I speak from experience.

So the next time someone is yelling at you that you need to do this or you have to do that, remember that all writers do not sell, promote, publicize or package. We are not all guest speakers, book signers or workshop teachers. We are not all buzz generators or hype-junkies.

The only thing all writers do is write. That's the entire job description. Everything else is optional.


  1. Anonymous12:09 AM

    Thanks. I needed to hear that. :)


  2. Though you didn't ask for it, I'm giving you an 'Amen!'. I get so tired sometimes of hearing how miserable a failure I'm going to be all because I wasn't born with the genes of an innate showman, or because I have all the hustle of a three-toed sloth.

    I just want to kill my WIP before it kills me. Is that too much to ask?

  3. Anonymous2:04 AM

    Nice to hear that. If I ever do make it, I doubt my wife (who doubles as my office manager) is going to give me time off to promote my work ;)

  4. Some people have a bull horn in one hand and a bull whip in the other yelling "Move, move!" at us all the time.

    Bless you for this.

  5. Thank you. That's just what I needed to hear. I'm not published yet, so I don't have to worry about it right now, but I do sometimes get afraid that if/when I do get published, I'll have to make myself miserable doing endless self-promotion.

  6. Thank you. It's so great to hear I'm not an anti-social, promotionally challenged reject.

  7. Anonymous11:05 AM

    One author just blogged how he would shoot himself if he's not a big best seller by his tenth book. I'm sure he was joking, but I thought of Iris Chang and wondered if something like that caused her tragedy.

    I'm glad yours was the next blog I read. Thanks, PBW.


  8. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Lynda wrote: One author just blogged how he would shoot himself if he's not a big best seller by his tenth book. I'm sure he was joking, but I thought of Iris Chang and wondered if something like that caused her tragedy.

    I can't speak for the other author, but writer humor can be a bit dark and twisted sometimes.

    Ms. Chang was already a highly respected and successful author when she died, and from the articles I read she had been suffering from severe depression unrelated to her personal success.

    If it makes anyone feel better, I'm working on book thirty-seven at the moment, and have not yet hit the Times, and I doubt I ever will. There are more important things to do in a writing career than worry about making the lists.

  9. Thanks for the reminder that writers write. :-)

    My personal feeling on the submissions to F&SF is "If you have a story you think is good enough, why wait to send it?"

  10. I am so loving you today.


  11. Okay, first a note on the 'bombard' idea. Do these people have any idea how submissions work? They are only making certain more of them will be rejected, because no matter what, there are only a limited number of spaces in the magazine. Sending your stories to 'bomb' the publication is wasting your chance to get the story published there.

    Want to address the disparity in genders? Write articles, write letters to the editors, start your own magazine... talk to the women who have been published in the magazines and get their opinions and how to address the problem. Maybe study the market to see what it is the person is buying, because -- sorry -- editors of big magazines don't choose by gender. They have a business to run, and they choose the stories that they think will best entertain their market. If more women would like to be published there, don't waste the chance by submitting with a hundred other women in hopes of getting one slot. Write your best stories and submit them in a regular fashion. Believe in your skill as a writer, not in your gender, as a way to break into the market. Readers don't care about gender as long as they're entertained.

    On the other subject -- I write every day. I love it. I wish I could do more of it.

    I cannot seem to get the knack of marketing. I've tried, but it is not a 'gene' I was born with, and I just get lost in the whole chaotic mess. I'm trying harder with the 2YN book (and hoping Muse will pick up some sales along with it), but it just doesn't seem to work well for me.

    It doesn't help that my work is either in small press or electronic publication -- although the ebook stuff is really picking up. (I keep getting the 'instant gratification' line from readers.)

    But, no matter what, I will keep writing. Something is going to work!

  12. First, with regards to the submissions to F&SF, it was actually the editor's idea for the purpose of increasing submissions from women (now stand at 25% of all submissions). That's it.

    Second, thanks for your words. I suck at self promoting and when in company of new people I start mumbling and can't talk coherently about my novel. That's even when I know the person I'm talking to is an author I can ask for a blurb or something like that...

  13. Anonymous5:43 PM

    Melly wrote: First, with regards to the submissions to F&SF, it was actually the editor's idea for the purpose of increasing submissions from women (now stand at 25% of all submissions). That's it.

    I went back and reread the post, and I didn't see that information but maybe it's somewhere else. I still don't get the one-day thing as being an effective way to increase submissions from serious female SF writers, but perhaps I'm a little dense.

    Anyway, again, my opinion, your mileage may vary, etc.

  14. One author just blogged how he would shoot himself if he's not a big best seller by his tenth book. I'm sure he was joking, but I thought of Iris Chang and wondered if something like that caused her tragedy.

    My personal opinion... if you're writing just to hit the lists, you're writing for the wrong reason. Of course, the guy could have been being weird. I've been told I have an odd sense of humor and I know a lot of my writer friends do as well.

    As to promo, a lot of people don't realize just how double edged the promo part of writing can be. Yes, you can promote the hell out of your book, possibly sell more books, but if you get so caught up in the PROMO part of writing, you may forget the most important part. Writing the next book... and the next... and the next...

  15. I think the intent behind the slushbombing campaign isn't so much a "bwa-ha-ha, we'll show those misogynist bastards!" as a "whee, everybody in the pool!". I know a lot of women of Charles Coleman Findlay's acquaintance had given up (or were considering giving up) on submissions to F&SF, as they were getting the impression that F&SF didn't buy "girly" stories, and this was partly an attempt to get them submitting there again, and partly a way to encourage people to write and submit something new, full stop (in much the same way the 30-Hour Famine or a charity run work -- you can give to charity at any time, but more people are likely to do it if you make an event of it).

    I know a lot of people in his circle of writers also contribute to the annual April 1 slushbombing of Strange Horizons, and I know that the year their slushbomb was "send in a monkey story", at least one of the monkey stories not only sold to Strange Horizons, but was then selected by Patrick Nielsen-Hayden for the Year's Best YA anthology, so slushbombing success certainly isn't without precedent.

    And John Joseph Adams has commented on the topic with something along the lines of "okay, cool, we were looking for a way to get more women submitting", so I don't think there's any harm in it (

    And amen on the just sitting down and writing. A lot of our favourite books at the store this past year are from writers who quietly came out of nowhere and blew us out of the water. :)

  16. I didn't see anything except that F&SF would like more women to submit, but I didn't see anything that said they'd like them to submit all on the same day. (grin)

    Since magazines buy manuscripts for only a couple issues at a time, no matter what a large number of the stories will be rejected.

    I would think, if anyone (male or female) really wanted a chance to be published there, they would make certain they were not part of the slushbomb.

    But then I'm not really much of a 'join in the crowd' type of person, so what do I know? (grin)



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