Monday, June 05, 2006

Books Are Like Snowballs (No, really)

But before I get to that, last night I finished up my edits on THE MARK and will be delivering them to my editor tomorrow. I tightened up a lot of spots that were dragging, eliminated a few unnecessary scenes, and incorporated ideas that will flow into the next book. In all, I'm very pleased with it, and think I've created a solid opening chapter in what I hope is a great series.

Anyways, I've been lying to everyone.

The reason I say this is because, to be honest, I'm not blogging simply for the sake of blogging. I'm not bored at work. I have no need to vent/bitch/complain/rant/cry/whine, or think readers care what I had for breakfast (strawberry oatmeal, FYI).

I have three very specific reasons for maintaining a blog:

1) To build up interest in THE MARK prior to its publication next July
2) I like to write, plain and simple
3) Martin Scorsese will read one of my posts and option it for a movie

Ok, only 2 of those 3 are really legitimate.

I do blog because I enjoy writing. I enjoy writing serious posts, funny posts, posts about books and publishing, posts about pop culture, and some posts that are random (and probably incoherent).

So what does this have to do with a snowball? I'm getting to that.

As any author and publisher will tell you, getting a book noticed is pretty darn difficult. Last year, 172,000 books were published. Some of them were huge successes. Some of them were massive failures. And most didn't even show up on the radar.

As a soon-to-be debut author who aspires to have a long and successful career as a novelist, I want to do everything possible to make sure that THE MARK is on the radar as early as possible. And that a lot of people are tracking it on that radar.

One of my mottos is, "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst." Hopefully my publisher will do a great job promoting my book. Every indication says they really want to grow my career. But publishing is a long race. And every runner will tell you that they run faster and longer if they're warmed up before the race starts, not just dropped at the starting line and told to run.

I look at my potential audience as a snowball. If I start rolling the snowball down the hill now, by the time THE MARK comes out it'll be a lot bigger than if I started rolling it next July.

I don't want my book, my precious novel that I've spent hundreds of hours slaving over, to break from the gate ice cold. I want its muscles stretched, oxygen pumping, legs and arms limber.

When a movie comes out, millions of dollars are spent on promotion and advertising. Television commercials air constantly, often weeks, months or even years prior to release. Ads run in the newspaper every single day. Books are a completely different animal. Smaller risks, smaller rewards, and there are a whole lot more of them to compete against every week.

A book with a major promotional push will get maybe 5-8 ads over its lifetime. Most books won't get a single ad. Promotion and publicity usually only start when the book hits stores. There's very seldom a pent up demand, unless the author has a loyal audience waiting for their next book. Debut novelists don't have a loyal audience. Nobody is eagerly anticipating Jason Pinter's "Next Henry Parker" novel, because the first one hasn't even come out.

What I'm trying to do, and this blog is a means to that end, is get as many people as possible interested in my book before it comes out. If I do a good job, write entertaining and/or thought-provoking posts, maybe enough people will know about the book to make a difference. And if a few dozen, or a few hundred, or (knock wood) a few thousand people buy THE MARK that might not have, the time I spend maintaining this beast is well worth it.

I believe in giving books a running start. I believe in getting that snowball rolling early. But is 13 months (the time until my book comes out) too much lead time? Maybe. But I'll take my chances, and keep the ball rolling.

10 Comments:

Blogger Bernita said...

Very well expressed, honest and straightforward.
You've covered it for me - except I would add, I learn from blogging.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

That's a good point, and blogging has also gotten me into reading and commenting on other blogs, which can be informative, insightful and fun.

Plus I like writing fiction and blogging non-fiction, keeps both parts of my brain working.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Bryon Quertermous said...

I'm looking for ward to the book and I wouldn't know who the hell you are if you didn't have the blog. So that's one reader right there. You'll have to wait awhile to see if I'm one worth cultivating...

3:34 PM  
Blogger S. W. Vaughn said...

*gasp* What do you mean, you're not bored at work? And I think you're lying again -- you started this blog to snag Scorses. 'Fess up. We'll understand.

13 months isn't too much lead time. You'll spend most of that building your network. IMO, you're doing things right. Keep it up!

4:13 PM  
Blogger S. W. Vaughn said...

Er, that's Scorsese. Finger-stutter. Whoops.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I never said I wasn't bored at work, but that I didn't start the blog BECAUSE I was bored at work. Though it certainly gives me opportunities to post comments more frequently.

And S.W., Martin Scorses just called me to option the film rights.

Ok, that's not true at all, sorry.

And another good thing about the blog is I'll hopefully get to meet readers at various conferences, and be able to make awkward small talk the first time when we realize we're not protected by computers.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Brett Battles said...

Jason, I'm in exactly the same position. I also agree with Bernita's view that we learn from blogging. But what I've found the most useful and unexpected is the network of blogging friends I've been gaining. We share ideas, and thoughts, and new information. It's a support group of people in the same position as the two of us. I love that.

And I am definitely looking forward to the next Henry Parker novel, even if it is the first. The reason: because I've enjoyed your blog. So it's working.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Allison Brennan said...

I agree with Brett--there's a sense of community within the blogosphere. Maybe we're all talking to ourselves, I don't know. But I will say that I've had lots of email from real people (read: readers, not writers) who read my blog and comment to me via email because they don't want to comment publicly.

I'm a columnist on one blog, share a group blog with other published suspense authors, and have my own blog (where I post once a week, on Mondays, unless I have news to share.)

8:29 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I totally agree with both Allison and Brett, where I read blogs, comment on them, and feel like there is a sense of community and friendship that didn't exist before. Hopefully it's something that will last a long time, and I certainly have no plans to stop writing posts if my books do well. They open up terrific avenues, not just to bring in readers, but open our minds and bring us closer to people with similar interests.

I have copies of all three of Allison's book at home. I wouldn't have bought them if I hadn't read her blog and insightful postings on other blogs.

So I'm VERY happy that regardless of what happens with my books, I've found an outlet I enjoy that opens good, fun conversation with people I like.

8:56 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Self-promotion and marketing -- it's a good thing. Blogging lends a certain legitimacy to your topic, I've found... Stumbled here via Crime Fiction blog!

3:40 PM  

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