Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 14 Jan 03 12:35
What was that band of sf authors that used to play every year at Armadillocon... I'm drawing a blank on that one.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 14 Jan 03 12:56
Oh right, Jon. Brad Denton, Warren Spector, I think, Steve Gould...I don't recall what they were called. I'm sure someone around here will remember. I wonder if any of them still get together to play...
CONSTANCE ASH writes... (tnf) Tue 14 Jan 03 16:17
Ellen, people go to readings for all kinds of reasons. They go to have the chance of seeing and hearing a writer they've admired on the page. They go to get a jump maybe on an author's new book before its published. But I think a reading series that is successful, in the sense that there is an audience there time-after-time, is another kind of thing. You may have a core audience that itself changes and melds and so as people's secheduled change or they move. But what a continuing series does, one like the KGB series with which you are connected, is provide a sense of community to the audience and the readers together. This is something that writers in particular are often very hungry for. Just my thoughts, anyway. Constance Ash
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Tue 14 Jan 03 16:29
Speaking as someone with experience as a writer, publicist, and bookstore employee, my advice to writers is as follows: 1. If your book isn't face out on bookstore shelves, don't take it upon yourself to make adjustments. The clerks will notice and readjust accordingly. Definitely don't call over the manager to complain; after you leave, all copies but one will be removed from the shelf and one copy it will remain, spine out, till the book is returned. 2. If you drop by stores to sign, don't do it at lunch, rush hour, or weekend afternoons. You'll have to stand around waiting much longer for someone to come over with the copies. 3. If you want to set up a signing at your local store, do it through your publicist. Independent or chain, no matter. 4. Sometimes you might be traveling somewhere on your own and not understand why your publicist won't set up an event. Sometimes this is because the publicist is incompetent, true. More often it's because there's a very good reason, or reasons -- the store has only one copy on hand and doesn't want to order more; the last time you were at the store and had an event, five people showed up; the day you're around is booked; the store's policy is not to have signings for mass market titles. 5. Having go cards printed and scattered at various places by yourself is mildly effective. Mildly, the key adjective. 6. Tell your writer friends about your book. Sometimes they'll have a chance to read it; sometimes they read everything; sometimes they'll tell other people to read it even if they don't read it themselves. 7. If you have a blog, flog. 8. If you have a list of people to whom you'd like review copies sent, definitely forward it on to your publicist. HOWEVER if you send lists numbering in the 100s, expect demurrals. 9. DON'T contact reviewers yourself. There's no surer way to keep your book from being reviewed, especially if you don't know the reviewer. 10. Don't expect your publicist to give you a full listing of everyone to whom you sent the book. See number 9. Those are some things to keep in mind, off the top. As for catching the eye of a non-genre reviewer, this is the greatest mystery and challenge of publicity. Why were my first, fifth, and seventh books reviewed in the NY Times but not the others? Why did the Voice review the first, and nary another after? Why did the Financial Times review my most sci-fi-ey, Elvissey? I had great luck publicizing John Crowley's latest, last year, but not Jeff Ford's -- no explanation. These things are far greater mysteries than whether or not Bigfoot would drive an SUV.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 14 Jan 03 18:36
Constance, You're right about reading series. The ONLY downside I can see to them is that it's very difficult to get a bookstore to sell books at a reading that's not in a bookstore--eg. We could not get any bookstore to provide/sell books at the Jonathan Carroll KGB reading although his publicist (and I, who have a few connections) tried. But in whatever town/city you are try to organize a reading series. Pat Cadigan runs one at a BOrder in London. Terry Bisson, who has moved to the bay area is trying to start a new reading series out there (he started the KGB series with Mark Jacobson, and then Alice Turner, and finally me).
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 14 Jan 03 18:37
Thanks Jack for the advice and the caveats.
nape fest (zorca) Tue 14 Jan 03 23:06
thanks, jack. great advice. so i keep hearing that it makes sense for many authors to hire their own publicists. is there a best way to go about doing that?
Maure Luke (maureluke) Wed 15 Jan 03 06:48
Hi again. Ellen, this may be really naive, but I'm interested to know how you find new writers. The stories in the anthologies always seem mostly to be ones that people wrote specifically for the anthology, stories by established writers, or stories that have been published elsewhere first. Have you ever collected a new story from a new author altogether in one of your anthologies?
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Wed 15 Jan 03 08:11
Hi Maure, Actually, Terri and I have published several new writers over the years in our collaborative anthologies--and I've used some in my solo anthologies as well. They're all word of mouth, so we often get submissions from former Clarion students who tell each other about the antho. Here are writers' whose early (or first work) we've published. There are more, I just checked some of my anthos: Leah Cutter Leonard Rysdyk Wendy Wheeler Carolyn Dunn Bryn Kanar Emma Hardesty Kelly Eskridge Bruce Glassco Melissa Lee Shaw Christopher Rowe Daniel Abraham Susanna Clarke Anne Bishop Sten Westgard Mike O'Driscoll J. Calvin Pierce Of course, the YBFH is ALWAYS a reprint anthology. We find new writers by reading. If we like what we read we contact the author. I read early stories by Pat Cadigan, Howard Waldrop, and others in anthologies in the early 80s and because I liked their work. I contacted Kelly Link after reading one story of hers and kept after her for several years before she submitted "The SPecialist's Hat" to me. As Jack mentions early in our conversation. I would/still do meet writers whose work I've heard of but perhaps not read and say, "so send me a story." And I do read slush that my reader (Kelly Link) passes on to me. Ellen
Maure Luke (maureluke) Wed 15 Jan 03 08:47
Oh, very cool. Thank you for answering with specifics, it's very interesting to me.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Wed 15 Jan 03 09:03
Authors hiring their own publicists: sometimes a good idea, sometimes not. First, they're expensive -- a good publicity campaign run by a freelancer or agency is going to run you a couple thousand, at least (note: a *good* campaign). There are indeed plenty of good agencies and freelancers out there, and publishers are always happy to have the help. There are, however, only so many things that can be done with genre fiction titles by midlist (or new) authors above and beyond what the publisher's publicity department can do. (Or, for that matter, non-genre fiction titles; nonfiction titles are another thing entirely, however, and often a hired publicist is more readily able to get additional attention). Followup calls etc. can be made to reviewers to whom the galleys/books are sent, but if a reviewer is impervious to the pleas on one he/she will often be impervious to the pleas of the other. Bookstores can be called, and events set up, but if there's no money in the publisher's budget for co-op then the event sometimes can not even be advertised unless the author pays, and this is in 99 percent of cases just not cost-effective. With big titles of course there are a lot of things goiong on, and the more hands the merrier; but big titles are big titles because they're getting publicity in the first place. These are just a few basic pros and cons off the top of my head, and it really varies from book to book as to whether or not extra publicity will be of help in boosting profile/sales. Most importantly, whatever the freelance agency/publicist does must be coordinated with the publisher's publicity department so as to prevent duplication of effort, etc., but the agency/publicist will know this, or should.
from BERT BROWN (tnf) Wed 15 Jan 03 11:02
Bert Brown writes: On readings/signing and such, would either of you recommend a more personal touch, such as reading from manuscript rather than a copy of the book, or reading from works-in-progress and other stuff as well as the work at hand? JDo writers tend to go into a reading thinking the audience ought to buy their book? JWould it be better for writers to establish a personal connection to their audience rather than rely on the "greatness of their masterpiece," or is that path fraught with peril? JWriters aren't rockstars, obviously, but maybe the difference is only one of attitude? Bert Brown
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Wed 15 Jan 03 12:18
Reading/signing: I read from whatever's most recent I have at hand, usually -- if there's a new book out, I read from that; if I'm working on something, I always like to try it out, even if copies can't be bought for (six months)(1 year)(2 years). With some of the readings I did with Elliott Sharp, I did read selections from past works -- "greatest hits" as it were. Depends on the timing of the reading; certainly I wouldn't choose to read anything I was working on if I was pushing a new book just out. And as for reading from book/manuscript -- usually it's physically easier to read from a manuscript; that way I can also (as I age) increase the size of the typeface accordingly, as need be, without resorting to constantly peering over trifocals....
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Wed 15 Jan 03 12:21
More: I've always tried to maintain a personal connection to my audience; but then at times it's seemed to me that I know most members of same in the first place, anyway. Writers certainly aren't rock stars. A few can get away with it, audience-wise. Backstage, it's when they start wanting the red M & Ms removed from the bowl that it gets tricky.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Wed 15 Jan 03 14:47
It usually makes sense to read the most recent thing you've got out and published (or about to be published) although at KGB we encourage our readers to read stories rather than novel excerpts. At a bookstore reading you can be sure that the store (and your publisher) will expect you to read from the novel they are promoting. At KGB and other smaller venues (particularly where books are not being sold) there's a lot more leeway.
CONSTANCE ASH writes... (tnf) Wed 15 Jan 03 15:16
From Constance Ash: Ellen and Jack -- Reading more recent or unpublished work -- that's another important way an audience for writers differs from the music industry audience. The musician's fans want to hear all the old stuff all the time (by and large). Writers' audiences want to hear something new. No doubt there are exceptions. However, speaking of NYC, I'm depressed by the latest Ground Zero plans, as discussed in the press and at Pace this week. I wasn't able to attend myself due to other commitments. Personally, having lived all my NYC life shadowed by the Towers, now that the first stages of all this are over, I've settled into a seemingly permanent state of low-level jitters that can go high-level in a nano -- I'd rather nothing at all be built. I've gotten used to having open sky and space and brighter days and longer days. It has improved the quality of life down here a lot. Is that heresy? Constance
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Wed 15 Jan 03 21:03
Constance, I don't think it's heresy. It's an interesting pov that no one (as far as I know) has addressed. Too bad you couldn't give your input.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Thu 16 Jan 03 07:29
When they finally opened the area up enough last March so that you could actually walk down Church Street, directly along the site, the only heartening thing I felt was how startlingly sun-filled it now was in that part of downtown. It'll be a good ten years before anything is built down there, I think. In the paper this morning I was reading about delays in getting the new building started where 7 World Trade stood -- evidently some of site owner Larry Silverstein's bankers are not pleased by the loss of office space that will be caused by his leaving space to cut Greenwich Street back through, but more to the point, he still hsas no tenants signed to rent space in the rebuilt structure. Ellen, I believe today is the end of our two weeks' discussion. Am I believing correctly? If so, how do you want to leave our audience? Laughing? Thinking? Breathing a sigh of relief?
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 16 Jan 03 15:06
Jack, isn't it tomorrow that we end? I'd like to leave the audience laughing with relief that we're done--unless there are last minute questions.... I'm off to see the play _Adult Entertainment_ by Elaine May and with Jeannie Berlin in it--after spending much of the day hanging out with Eileen Gunn, who is in town visiting for a few days. The KGB reading last night with Greg Frost and Kate Bernheimer went wonderfully well. We had a large crowd. We all went to dinner at the Kiev afterwards--about 25 of us! And the service, for the first time was awful even though the food, as usual was great. Two new waitresses who couldn't speak English and who couldn't/wouldn't figure out our bill. Otherwise it was a wonderful eve. Greg read from his new horror novel FITCHER'S BRIDE, a bluebeard story from Tor BOoks and Kate read some of her brief fairy tales. Both held us all spellbound. Photos eventually on my site, once my webmaster gets to it.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Thu 16 Jan 03 17:03
Today's the last full day! And I'd like to thank both of you, Ellen and Jack, for a great conversation. It's not that you have to stop tomorrow, by the way, it's just that we unlock the shackles.
Gail Ann Williams (gail) Thu 16 Jan 03 17:14
Thanks for the insights!
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 16 Jan 03 20:46
Thanks for having us Martha. I think Jack's relieved :-) we never talk THIS often! Where does it go from this url once we're done (so I can change the link from my website, which is, btw: www.datlow.com
Martha Soukup (soukup) Thu 16 Jan 03 20:58
Stays right here. Same bat url, same bat station.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Fri 17 Jan 03 09:05
It's been real. Well, sort of. Thanks, Ellen! Thanks, Martha! Thanks, everybody!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 17 Jan 03 10:33
Thanks, Jack! And thanks, Ellen! Great discussion. Feel free to keep talking.
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