Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Guest Blog from DREAMWIELDER author, Garrett Calcaterra

Follow Garrett Calcaterra on Twitter @GCalcaterra.

It’s been a little over four months since my debut novel, DREAMWIELDER, was released by Diversion books, and looking back, I really wish I knew then what I know now about marketing a new book. No, scratch that. I wish I knew four or five years ago what I know now, because that’s when I should have really laid the groundwork for promoting DREAMWIELDER.

Like many authors, I tend to close off from the outside world when I’m working on a project. I’d had two books published prior to DREAMWIELDER, a horror collection of two novellas and a mosaic fantasy novel co-written with two other writers, but both were published by small, fledgling publishers with little in the way of promotional guidance or assistance. I marketed the books to the usual friends and family, made a lot of noise on Facebook and Twitter, put up a website and a blog, and that was about the extent of it. I cloistered myself away again and moved on to work on writing DREAMWIELDER. Signing with Liz at Kimberley Cameron & Associates and then subsequently signing a publication deal with Diversion was the first step of my wake-up call. 

Liz, along with Mary Cummings, my editor at Diversion, got me rolling on the marketing of the book a good three months prior to its release. First off, I started blogging more regularly with articles and interesting tidbits geared towards my target audience at The Machine Stops, my personal blog. Next, I sent out dozens of advanced reading copies of the book to magazines and book review blogs. Just like submitting a manuscript to editors or agents, this was a numbers game and netted only a handful of reviews.

The more effective route was offering myself up for interviews and writing guest blog posts. I landed interviews at the popular BookFox, Dab of Darkness, Defective Geeks, and Be Obscure Clearly. I wrote articles on the craft of writing at Inkpunks and Waistcoat & Watch. And the biggies were my guest articles at the renowned fantasy magazine Black Gate and Hugo Award winning SF zine SFSignal

It turns out bloggers and magazines need daily content and are grateful to have you do a guest post (assuming, of course, you can write a decent article with a clear angle, not self-gratulatory, self-promotional PR trash). It also turns out, writing for all these different magazines and getting to interact with their readers was a lot of fun. More importantly, writing these articles got me in contact with my readers and peers in the speculative fiction community, something I had gotten away from. It took a humbling experience in the classroom for me to finally realize that. 

I had two particular students at the time (Will and Ian at the Orange County School of the Arts) who were researching how to get into the video game and comic book writing industries. What they both presented to my Writing for Alternative Mediums class was a simple, obvious finding: the best way to get your foot in the door and make a name for yourself is to immerse yourself in the community. Interact with other creators, go to conventions and conferences, take courses and workshops, present your creations to your audience…. I’ve said the very same thing to my students dozens of times over the years, but hearing it from my students—actually seeing them immerse themselves in their communities—made me realize I was no longer practicing what I was preaching. Somewhere along the line I’d left behind the enthusiastic SF and fantasy fan version of myself, the guy who relished chatting with other fans and writers, and instead turned into the taciturn craftsman locked up in my office.

It was a definite head-slap moment. I could have been having fun writing guest posts, hitting up conventions and interacting within my community for years, and if I had, people would have recognized my name when my novel came out. Instead, I was just another unheard-of, debut author. Lesson learned! No more cloistering myself up. As I continue work on my current work in progress, a near-future cli-fi novel called REMEMBER THE FUTURE, I’ll continue to interact within the spec-fic community, because, as I learned, if you really want to reach out to fans, you have to be an active contributor in your field and you have to be a fan yourself.

For more up to date news, follow Kimberley Cameron and Associates on Twitter @K_C_Associates.

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