Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!

Sunday, September 09, 2012
  The marketing road to nowhere
Mario here:

Another Colorado Gold conference is in the rear view mirror. Gold conference number 30 to be exact. It was another welcome opportunity to reunite with writer friends and get all wonky about writing commercial fiction. The Saturday keynote speaker, NYT romance author Jodi Thomas, had us laughing as she spun her tale of going from rejected wannabe to making the "List." Sunday's farewell speaker, Debra Dixon, shared her stories of getting published, dealing with a rotten review, and making the transition from author to publisher.

And next:

Newly published novelist Rudy Ch. Garcia hosts his book launch signing at El Centro Su Teatro's Civic Theater, Sunday, Sept 16, 5pm. Go show him some love.

There's no doubt that the growing phenomenon of eBooks is changing the structure of the publishing industry. One concern among both writers and readers is the trend to rush a manuscript into epublication before the book is ready. The big question is: How can you tell? If you've been through the ordeal of submitting query letters and getting rejections, then it's tempting to avoid that heartache by publishing the work yourself. After all, there are plenty of writers who've done rather well self-publishing on Amazon and Nook. Hugh Howey, Elle Lothlorien, and Lynda Hilburn are three good examples.

With that thought, I was drawn to the blog by Penny C. Sansvieri addressing 7 Signs That You're Not Ready to Publish, thinking she'd shed much needed light on the topic. Sadly, no.

What most bothered me was this:

2. You haven't researched your market or genre: This is another biggie and oddly enough, very often overlooked. Do you know what's selling in your industry? Who else is writing about your topic? Have you bought or read their books? It's important to know what's trending in your market, what's selling and what isn't. It's always good to read other people's work because you really want to know how others are addressing the topic that you're going to be writing about. Not only that, but these could be great people to network with.

If you're a novelist, chasing trends will lead you nowhere. Writing a novel can take months or even years. Unless your book is gonna get fast-tracked by the publisher, expect at least a year between submitting the manuscript to your editor and seeing the book on the shelf. Remember the zombie mash-ups a few years back? The pipeline for the first of those books was greased before the initial word doc was created. But the market dried up in a hurry and I know of one author who got burned in the process. Right now we're in the middle of Fifty Shades mania and it'll be interesting to see how hot that market remains.

Years ago, we were told that Anne Rice had written everything the public wanted about vampires. The market for undead bloodsuckers was, well, dead. Then Twilight and True Blood kicked that idea in the ass.

I've attended a few How-To-Market-Your-Book-Using-Social-Media workshops and what was missing from every seminar was the most crucial aspect about writing a book. Which is: Write a Good Book. Nowhere in Sanvieri's blog does she mention the importance of writing a good book, or more simply, writing something worth reading. You could say that's an obvious assumption, but we writers know that there's a reason that writing is called opening a vein. Putting words together to make a coherent and compelling story is hard work. If it was as easy as pulling the marketing levers and getting your fiction onto the bestseller list, then every novel would be a winner.

Why do marketers harp so much on marketing your book? First of all, marketing is what they know best and that's the prism through which they see the world. Two, it's easy to set up a marketing plan and quantify your efforts. Do A. Then B. C. etc., and pretend you're doing something useful for your writing career. But no one has yet to quantify what makes a book "a good book" before it is written. Amanda Hocking is touted as a writer who marketed her way to success. But all her work wouldn't have mattered if her books hadn't resonated with her readers. You may go down the Write-A-Bestseller-Checklist and still end up with a turkey.

Remember what W. Somerset Maugham said about writing:

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."

Don't let the marketing experts make you spin your wheels when your most important function as a writer is to write a good book. And forget that stupid 80/20 advice that you should spend 80 percent of your time marketing and 20 percent actually writing.

Does this mean you ignore marketing? Of course not. There's no point in publishing a book if no one hears about it.

But the best way to promote your current book is to write the next one.

So write and write well.

Don't forget, if you're in L.A. next weekend, catch me at ComiKaze Expo.

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Loved seeing you at the Gold. You are one hell of a smart guy. Great advice, which I'm going to take right now and get off facebook and go write my dang book.

And there it is! Feel exactly the same and hate exactly the same type of info being put out there. Many feel it's all "cookie cutter," and I always take issue with it. Write a good book that resonates, excellent advice, Mario--thanks for posting that!
We were talking about the right questions to ask yourself when you finish Your first book. Most writers wonder how to get published when they should be wondering how to make the book better.
Good thoughts, Mario. Good to see you at conference, especially when you stood up at the Sunday luncheon and announced Warren Hammond's birthday. You're a good critique group partner. ;)
Julie: Always a pleasure to see you. Now that you're out of the day job it's time to work your ass off.
Frank: Cookie cutter is right.
Betsy: How to make your book better. That's the key.
Chris: I'm expecting Warren to shiv me.
I was sorry to miss Mario's announcement on Sunday! I was sorry to miss the two great panels I had scheduled for Saturday. I was even sorrier to miss the opportunity to meet newbies to the RMFW family. It's a great organization and I hope a lot of you first timers joined. See you next year when I hope to avoid being hit by the kamikaze bug that sent me crashing and burning on Saturday!

Oh, and great post, Mario. We've discussed this often and it's a thorny problem for sure but one thing is certain, above all, write a good book!!

Your advice is spot on! I think it is possible to write well when you are following a trend. I've also found that if you do have an idea about a current trend - by the time you are finished with your story the trend has moved somewhere else.
Write a compelling story. A compelling story will resonate with readers, even if the author's skill is mediocre.

I've read some books that were masterpieces of writing and composition, but their stories were as thrilling as watching paint dry.

There is nothing finer than a great story written by a great author, but an excellent story by a mediocre author will always trump a dull story written by a highly skilled author.
Jeanne: We missed you. Too bad about the bug.
Sushi: Why chase another person's ideas?
Daven: True, it's all about story.
Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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