How many miles to Babylon?

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You may get there by candle-light.

Traditional Rhyme

Again and again, in Liberty con, the same question was asked “Yes, but how do indie authors get known/promote?”

Curiously, the answer was given to me by Martin L. Shoemaker — accidentally — in the “How to break into comics panel.”

First, if you know there, the composition of the panel was somewhat funny. I guess its being on Sunday they could not draft Kevin J. Anderson, but I don’t think he could have enlightened the issue. Not in in this case. Mostly because, even though he’s done a lot more comic-writing than I have, he did not get in as a fresh newby, wishing to do comics.

The panel consisted of John Ringo, who had a comic done of his book, my son, Marshall, who helped me write the first two issues of Barbarella, when I didn’t know my *ss from my elbow in the ground, myself, Martin, who was moderating, and John Holmes who has did an army newletter comic strip and is trying to do comics of his work.

I was the only one who did any kind of traditional comic work, and my answer for how to get into it is “have the company email and offer you work.” Hardly helpful.

Anyway, what Martin said, as part of the introductions was “I don’t think there’s a single way to get into comics, people are making it into the business, but there isn’t a clear way in.”

I’d say the same is true for publicizing your writing and getting it into other people’s hands. To becoming known. There isn’t a clear path. People manage it. But there is no clear way there. There are ways. But even the “most sure and guaranteed ways” have been known to fail and need some kind of touch or luck or something to make it there. Or something else.

Which I guess is where we come to the point.

There are many things you can do to improve your reach as a writer. Probably the most important one is to write a lot, or publish frequently. I’ve been failing in this — mea culpa mea maxima culpa, in the middle of moving, and unpacking and figuring out life in a completely different area — but I can change that.

However, beyond that, there are other things. That will make you more visible, mathematically, per Amazon algorithms, but then what?

I don’t know. I have ideas for me, but not for you.

You see, I have been in this field a long time. Dear Lord, a tediously long long long time.

And it wasn’t that different in traditional publishing. Only bright eyed indie newbies think it was. Yeah, sure, some people — in the last 10 years or so, those who were successful indie or self-pubbed first, or those with “interesting” histories — could get a lot of support from the publisher, but for the rest of us, often whatever the heck the publisher was doing — and none of them communicate in any way shape or form — was counterproductive to our own attempts at promotion, and our own attempts at promotion are whatever made things work.

The thing is the efforts at self promo that really counted and made things big were weird or quirky, or uniquely individual.

And then everyone else does the same thing, and it all goes, one person after another.

Things I’ve seen include: giving postcards, giving pens, giving other favors. Having movie trailer style trailers made for your book. Making posters of your book with pithy quotations, etc. etc.

All of these succeed for a lot of the time, but not every time. Nothing succeeds every time of course. And then something quirky, different, intrinsically personal to someone comes up. And succeeds big. And everyone copies it.

Look, there are important things for longevity in the business, and they haven’t changed, either trad or indie.

The most important is your writing. Period. There is nothing else as important.

The quality, speed, and improving of your writing is always the most important thing. Because if you’re a writer that’s what you’re doing. You’re writing.

After that, yes, you might need to do some promo. Rest assured you’d need to do it even in traditional publishing.

But you don’t know how to do promo, and how could you do it and–

Well, you can set your hair on fire and run around in circles. Heaven knows I’ve done it often enough. This might be why my hair is getting thin.

And then think of the things you’d like to do that will help you get known and big.

If you’re a super-social person, perhaps arrange a group of people to publicize each other. if you’re really organized, mathematical, whatever, do try to ride that Amazon Algorithm.

And if you’re very beautiful, well, sure, you tube spots where you talk about whatever you think is wonderful, and inspired your books, and you’ll probably attract a following. Heck, do readings on camera.

If you’re funny and have good camera presence, you tube might also help.

And if you have a face made for radio, then go ahead and have a podcast.

Don’t want to do either of the above? Well, I’ve had mixed success with a blog, at a time when all the blogs were crashing and burning, and it was impossible to get an audience.

Mixed? well, yes. You see, my blog is very popular. But a lot of people who love my blog wouldn’t read me. OTOH the percentage who did are enough to form a solid kernel of support.

And writing a blog every day is the easiest thing for me to do. Because I always have something non-fiction that my mind is chewing at. And when I don’t feel well enough to write even a short-short, just explaining whatever is worrying me, still works.

The blog posts are the equivalent of when I used to call my friend while walking around the house, cleaning and picking up before I sat down to write: a way to clear my mind.

(Now I just need to establish the routine and get healthy enough — again — to finish novels (oh, I’ve started them. But finishing them requires me to feel a little stronger….It’s getting there.))

However, this thing that is normal to me, and often allows me to clear my mind of obsessive worry and other problems, so that I can concentrate on fiction, has been the largest publicity I’ve ever achieved.

To quote from (rinses mouth, spits) Rules for Radicals: the best you can do to promote yourself is whatever you enjoy and do easily. And then keep doing it.

If what you’re doing prevents you from writing it’s counterproductive, and you shouldn’t do it. And if it’s something you absolutely hate doing, other people will sense it and it won’t work.

Find something you enjoy doing, and do it as hard as you can. Is that guaranteed? No. But it might be a way there.

Like with the way to long-fallen, mythical Babylon, there might be a way there, but all yanyone can give you are vague, poetical direction, which you have to interpret in your very own persona way if it’s to work at all.

King and Queen of Cantelon,
How many miles to Babylon?
Eight and eight, and other eight.
Will I get there by candle-light?
If your horse be good and your spurs be bright.
How mony men have ye?
Mae nor ye daur come and see.

Traditional Rhyme

18 comments

  1. Sidebar: *candle-light in these rhymes, seems to me, to be candle-lighting time or *dark. Thus, I see “nimble and light”, and “horse be good and spurs be bright” work to make it “you can make the trip by dark if you’re quick about it, laddie”.

  2. Well, at least at the moment, I don’t think the “put out something every month, even if it’s a short story” strategy is going to work for me. I’m taking longer to write a short story than I do to write the first draft of a novel.

    I’ve been told I read well, so maybe I could do something with that, but getting people to subscribe to my podcast or YouTube channel seems like it would be just as hard as getting them to read the book in the first place.

    I’ve got this theory that I’m going to write a collection of Christmas-themed short stories and sell hard copies at the local craft fairs, but, well, see above for my talents at short story writing.

    At the rate I’m going, I might literally try running around with my hair on fire, except that they don’t let me play with matches anymore.

      1. :eyeballs:

        That is…. plausible?

        Thank you.

        Only phrase I remember is “lang mah yer rum teak” which is long may your roof leak– meaning, long life to you.

      2. I read it as “More than you dare [to] come and see.”

        Most of my Scots studies consists of folk songs on loop, John Buchan novels (for cadence), and a site called The Scots-English Dictionary for word-by-word translating. While playing folk songs on loop.

  3. i need that panel- or more accurately, ‘how to sell your own comics without breaking in’ panel

  4. I’m not sure what’s going to help with marketing, right now I’m just working on the ‘fill your bookstore’ part. I’ll worry about more sophisticated marketing when I have more than one or two books out.

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