I’ve been covering books as a critic and journalist for nearly half my life—ever since I opened my blog A Dribble of Ink with a review of Terry Brooks’ The Elves of Cintra way back in 2007. I’ve seen every angle of the publicity cycle, I’ve received a million advance review copies, I’ve responded to hundreds of publicity requests and ignored thousands more. I thought I knew what it meant to promote your upcoming book.
But, I knew nothing.
Early word of mouth is essential for preorders and prerelease excitement. One of the reasons I got into writing about video games is because I saw the vast audience potential with the entrenched SFF fandom—they’re crossing over more than ever
. I’ve seen a great response for Fight, Magic, Items
from my fellow science fiction and fantasy nerds, writers, and industry folk. It’s been covered by some pretty snazzy sites like io9 and ComicBook.com that cater to a mainstream geek culture audience. I’m elated to see people I’ve admired for years RTing my promo tweets, telling me they’re excited for the book, etc. What’s been harder—way harder than I expected—is finding my footing with with the games journalism community. It’s been tough (so far) to get traction there—to get attention from the eyes of tastemakers and journalists who could help the book find an audience with gamers and JRPG fans who aren’t previously familiar with my work. But, I’m trying. I’m going for it. I’m sending those awkward emails and DMs to writers I’ve admired for years with the small hope they’ll be interested in covering the book.
When I envision Fight, Magic, Items being a success—exceeding the expectations set by myself and my publisher, hitting lists, going to a second printing, etc.—I see coverage not just in places like mainstream publishing outlets Publishers Weekly or Kirkus, and general geek outlets like io9, but also on major gaming sites like Polygon, Kotaku, Game Developer, and Wired. These are, obviously, the biggest names in the industry, but as a freelancer who has written about retro games, Japanese RPGs, and games culture for some of them, I know their audiences will enjoy the book.
And that’s where my amazing marketing and publicity teams come in. They’re pounding the pavement for opportunities, getting the book in front of eyes—lots and lots of eyes—and reaching out to influencers, journalists, critics, bloggers, TikTokers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, and fans who’ll love the book. That’s their job, and they’re damn good at it. The best.
But, while they’re doing that, I’m also pounding the pavement. Setting up podcast interviews, sending out a ton of related pitches for standalone freelance features that support the book’s premise without being a dodgy advertisement, arranging a book signing, planning out release week content, gathering great cover blurbs from other writer friends.
But. Is it enough?
Or should I be reaching out for more? Do I need a big name blurb for my book to be successful? Does quality of blurb win out over quantity? I made a website for the book.
It’s pretty cool, but is it doing it’s job as a one-stop-shop for the book? I’ve crafted promotional tweets
, fun little previews of the book, and run AMAs. They’re fun, but they don’t get a lot of likes or RTs. Are they worth the effort? Is it enough?
The answers to all of these questions will come—or not. Publishing, as we all learned following the DOJ v. PRH trial in mid-August, is a black box without answers. If publishers handling books with seven figure advances can’t figure this stuff out, how can I possibly expect to. (Spoiler: They totally understand this stuff.)
I’m lucky to have a terrific team on my side—from my super agent Eric Smith to the marketing and publicity team at my publisher, amazing editors, and a huge support network. So, I’ll try to find joy in the elation writing and finishing a book, convincing someone to publish it, holding it in my hands, and finding excited and satisfied readers weeks before it’s even hit shelves. That’s the good of publishing. The rest? The black box that eats data and spits out vague superlatives? That’s not so fun.
Coincidentally, my agent Eric posted this on Twitter literally as I was in the middle of writing this editorial.