Over the holidays I devoted a considerable amount of thought to what should happen next with Black Dog Press.
So far, my imprint has released eleven books, a couple of limited edition chapbooks…but now what?
I’ve come to the determination that I won’t be publishing anything in 2017—and before the emails and complaints start flying, let me elaborate.
Despite my considerable efforts, Black Dog Press remains a very marginal enterprise. It is a constant struggle to draw attention to my writing when there are so many tomes being published and self-published, churned out like dumb, identical widgets. I want to pursue new methods for advertising my books, trying my best to overcome my aversion to self-promotion (a particularly ugly manifestation of narcissism). I’ve never been an author who haunts forums, always looking for an opportunity to reference my own work, and I’m not much a joiner, if you get my drift. More like your classic lone wolf.
In the past, I’ve sought out other, like-minded indie authors/publishers but, candidly, haven’t found many who take the printed word as seriously as I do. Very few scribes these days produce genuinely original, literary work; their prose is often derivative (fan fiction) or stuck in a genre of little interest to me (zombie, shapeshifter romance, etc.). Sadly, the proliferation of technology, the growing number of publishing platforms, means that the amateurs and wannabes out there can publish all the crap they excrete, with the minimum of editing or critical scrutiny. Pounding their chests and calling themselves writers, having a fit when anyone dares question their professional credentials. As petulant as they are untalented, vicious, rather than visionary.
Sending out review copies doesn’t work—that much has been made clear. Again, too many books, too few good publications (even fewer qualified critics)…and then there are the unnamed rags that want you to buy advertising space before they’ll even consider your book for review. There’s a special red-hot poker in Hell waiting for that scum.
I adamantly refuse to purchase a positive, five-star review from Kirkus or Publishers Weekly. Never, never, never.
What does that leave?
I’ve been looking into hiring a publicist, but that would mean leaving my comfort zone and putting my books, my personality, my face in the hands of a stranger. Granting them permission to do what’s necessary to “raise my profile” (I’m literally squirming as I type those words).
But something has to be done. I’m publishing terrific, intelligent, compelling novels and stories and they’re not getting the attention they deserve. After over 30 years as a professional author, my stature isn’t anywhere near what it should be…and the fault lies with me.
I have to do better at promoting my growing body of work, even if that means trying things I’ve never dared attempt before.
It’s an approach I’ve always shied away from, but there’s no other option.
If I want to continue growing my readership, keep Black Dog Press afloat, I have to cast aside my aversion to, gulp, selling myself to the public.
This isn’t going to be easy…
My wife and niece (hey, Brittany!) insisted it was time for me to do more “social networking” (ack! ack!) and I’ve conceded only to the extent of agreeing that they could start a Facebook page dedicated to my work.
If you’re into that sort of thing, here’s a link to the page in question (you’ll also find it on my blogroll).
I’m not the administrator of record, so I’ll be passing along photos, links, updates and rants to my wife, who is much more in tune with what’s going on in cyberspace. Apparently, when it comes to Facebooking (to quote Shakespeare) “brevity is the soul of wit” and I’m to keep my eruptions as short and to the point as possible.
Ah, well, I’ll do my best to be as concise as I am intemperate.
The main thing is not to be boring.
And, I promise, that will never be the case as long as you’re hanging out with me…
Awhile back I noticed that sales of the e-book versions of So Dark the Night and Of the Night had really flattened. No growth, which meant my best marketing device (word of mouth) wasn’t having much of an impact.
Then I came across a blog entry from a gal who had read the e-book of So Dark the Night and complained that its formatting was funky and created a number of annoying glitches. Not good news.
Not long afterward I learned about the ePub format, which supposedly renders text compatible with most tablets and reading devices. So I contacted my chum Daniel at Scribe Freelance and had him whip up ePub versions of both my “Ilium” novels and dispatched them to Lightning Source, instructing them to replace the old files with this latest batch. Now we’ll wait and see if this helps re-ignite sales.
I admit (eyes cast down) I’m a very poor self-promoter. As a publisher, I complain bitterly but as an author I won’t be moved. I leave it up to readers to discover my work and I’m absolutely convinced that once they do, they become fans for life. And only too happy to spread the word about this whacked out Canuck writer who defies all conventions, tackles every genre and has carved a different path for himself, independent of the mainstream.
I’ve sent out some review copies of The Last Hunt to some western-themed magazines but, honestly, does anyone read book reviews any more? In those few publications that still deign to leave some space for something as retrograde and uncool as books…
It can be disheartening. How do you draw attention to one particular title when the media is flooded with thousands of new releases (books, e-books, CDs, DVDs, games) every day? You begin to feel like a tiny, insignificant figure lost amidst all the others in one of those Where’s Waldo? books.
On the other hand, this tiny press has been responsible for some pretty fine books over the past twenty (+) years and my readership is growing, albeit very, very slowly. My wife reminds me that I’m always been a late bloomer…let’s just hope it’s not too late. At some point, I’d like to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Instead of getting pelted with them.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to make the “Grand Tour”—see all the great capitals of Europe, capping things off with a long-anticipated visit to Thermopylae.
But will it ever happen? Will my workaholic nature and bouts of agoraphobia allow such a scenario? I’m dubious.
If nothing else, it’s a helpful, distracting fantasy.
A possibility, however remote, that some day all this craziness will lead to better, happier times.
A golden age, yet to come.
What else can I say?
Posting my novel So Dark the Night on this site was, as I’ve stated all along, an act of raw desperation. Sixty-five fucking idiot editors and even more literary agents took a pass on this novel, would not give it even two minutes of their priceless time. The only courtesy most of them extended me was a form rejection letter.
So your responses, the posted comments and private communications you’ve sent me, have thrilled and moved me more than I can say. You love the book, love Cassandra and Evgeny and that’s all I need to know.
It’s not about vindication. That’s too self-righteous and prideful. I had every confidence that readers would enjoy So Dark the Night and I was baffled and enraged when no one in the publishing world recognized the enormous appeal of the characters and full throttle narrative I’d devised for them. The cold shoulder I received was unexpected (to say the least) and I was rattled by the non-reaction the manuscript elicited.
That’s why I’m so grateful when I see how many of you have visited this site since we posted So Dark the Night. It’s enormously satisfying to visualize people all over the world, from the Far East to the Wild West, reading about the exploits of my dynamic duo of the night as I write these words.
I welcome your thoughts and please don’t be shy about posting comments (or writing to me c/o firstname.lastname@example.org).
And don’t forget, there’s more to come…
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Apologies, by the way, for the paucity of posts of late.
After you publish a book, the next thing you have to expend your energies on is promoting said book and that is exactly what I’ve been doing. Plugging So Dark the Night hither and yon, letting folks know it’s out there, available for reading.
In the interval since my last post I’ve joined Redroom, an on-line community of writers, some of them famous, most of us not. I’ve written a number of short pieces there, even loaded on a couple of my favorite YouTube clips. Check it out:
As always, thanks for dropping by and catching up.
And, please, folks, for the good of civilization and the betterment of our species, for God’s sake KEEP READING.