Guest Post by Diana Bastine
My sister and I are a couple of “Con” women.
It’s not what you think. About ten years or so ago, my sister, Debra Killeen, author of the award-winning Myrridian Cycle of fantasy novels, went through the usual process of agent and publisher submissions. She also got the “usual” results – no takers. So she decided to self-publish. I was her original editor; that degree in English finally proved its usefulness! I also made a suggestion: that she start going to Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions, taking her books straight to her target audience.
Debra still didn’t sell a lot of books, especially before appearing as an “author guest.” (More on that later.) But she started meeting people: readers, other writers – and publishers. One of these publishers told her to submit the first few chapters of the first novel, and then the entire manuscript. She liked An Unlikely Duke enough to publish it and its sequel, the only two Debra had self-published. This same publisher has since published all five volumes in the series.
I got the opportunity to meet Debra’s publisher – at the first convention I attended with her. She had already agreed to read the first few chapters of my manuscript for The Source, and asked for the rest of it. She has published it and its sequel, and the third volume is now under contract.
Helm Publishing is a small outfit though, so we still can’t compete with the big guys. This is why we still regularly attend conventions. The key is to attend as an “author guest.” It doesn’t matter how good your book is: If the fans and readers don’t get to see you, hear you and interact with you during various panels, you won’t sell as many copies of your work. People remember if you were funny, or provocative, or just talked about a character or story to which they could relate. And they will often recognize you from one convention to the next. If they like your first book, they will buy the next one when it’s available. And if they don’t have the money right then, make sure you have plenty of business cards or postcards – people will pick them up, and they will order online, whether from you, your publisher or … one of those other “big guys.” It also helps if you or your publisher does e-books. SFF fans are usually on the cutting edge of new technologies, and they read – A LOT. So they have e-readers and aren’t afraid to use them.
One thing we’ve started doing recently is branching out beyond the convention circuit. Both of our series contain pagan elements and/or characters to one degree or another, so we rented booth space at our local “Pagan Pride” event. Debra sold two complete sets of her five-volume series. I didn’t sell any hard copies, but a lot of people picked up my business card, and several were interested in e-books. Plus, we met an old friend who’s going to publicize our appearances – she used to be in charge of “local author” signing events at our neighborhood “big box” bookstore, until they did away with the practice. But this lady is still a big genre fan. We also met a young man who works for a local business that wants to help promote local authors and artists.
We even plan to get in touch with our local community center, to see if they’d like to have us appear, to talk about books, and writing, and whatever else comes up. Maybe they’ll even host a book-signing. In any event, we’ll get our names and book titles out there. These are just new outlets to help us market ourselves and our work.
We also both have cats in our books, so next up: a table at a local cat show. You never know where you might find your readers: We did a cat show a couple of years ago, and Debra sold one of her books before we sold any of the hand-knit cat blankets we had available. And a lot of cat lovers also tend to be bibliophiles. What we’ve learned is that sometimes it pays to go in search of your audience. That’s why my sister and I have become just a couple of “Con” women.
Diana Bastine is the author of two fantasy novels for middle school readers, The Source, and its sequel, Shapeshifter, both published by Helm Publishing. The third novel in the series, Seal Woman, is scheduled for release in 2013. In addition to writing, Diana is a free-lance editor, Reiki Master and ordained minister with the Universal Life Church. For more information about Diana, please visit www.fairycatmother.net.