April 19, 2003


Self-promotion. Why does that always sound like a dirty word?

With the John Campbell nomination and Bitter Waters appearing all over the world (Sweden! Denmark!) I am spending the last 24 hours desperately trying to assemble the materials needed for self-promotion. It’s nearly a second full time job.

Last year while I was John Campbell finalist, I made up a booklet containing a chapter of Tainted Trail. The plan was to take them with me to Westercon and drum up some West Coast awareness. Westercon told me that in 2001 they had a 2000 membership, so I planned on making 2000, not wanting any leftovers. They were nice looking – if I must say so myself. I took the original chapter, corrected it to what was in the printed copy, and then took the file to Kinko’s for layout and printing. They misquoted me the price and only when I went back to okay the proof did they give me the right price. Heinously expensive. I nearly pulled the project, but after talking with Don, decided to bite the bullet. I had already bought airline tickets and talked the concom of Westercon into inviting me. When I went back to pick them up – nearly a week late – they once again made a mistake and gave them to me at the original price. Or maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe they decided since they ran so late that they stick to the original quote. Either way I didn’t correct them. I ended up having to express ship them to get them to California in time. (2000 booklets ends up being three large boxes!)

At Westercon, I think I only managed to push off like 500 of them. Luckily I had talked to Elaine Brennan (thank you thank you thank you) who was running ConJose registration and she allowed me to add them to the ConJose truck taking things from Westercon to San Jose for storage until ConJose. At ConJose, once again, only about 500 moved, so Ann Cecil’s brother (thank you thank you thank you) shipped them back to Massachusetts for me.

Lesson Number One: Booklets are not cost effective. Actually, they are a pain in the butt.

This left me with 1000 copies. What I should have done was to start parceling them out immediately, but being swamped with deadlines I sat on them until last week. Vera Nazarian taught me a trick – at Westercon actually. Hitting the www.locusmag.com site, I worked down the list of conventions, emailing them with a polite request to mail them a handful of the booklets to be put out on their freebee tables. So far nearly every convention has responded. I print off the email with their address, clip it down, and rubber band it a stack of booklets. I made ten bundles of end of April/May conventions and took them off to be mailed with a thank you note in padded envelopes.

Booklets taken care off, I turned my attention to my web site, which I hadn’t updated since last year. I used the LOCUS online listing again to update my Appearances page. Most of the conventions know I’m coming, but there are one or two I need to contact to let them know. (Note to self – follow this up!)

My first year of doing this I learned that the correct wordage is “Program Participant.” When I worked on Confluence in Pittsburgh, we called everyone Guest. Apparently the rest of the world considers only the people whose hotel room and transportation costs are covered as “Guest.” Many concom were quite offended when I emailed and asked to be a Guest. They were mollified when I explained that I merely wanted to be a “Program Participant.” This means I pay for my way there, and my hotel, and my food. With some cons, this even means paying for the convention itself. Other conventions will give you a free membership for you and a guest. Never assume that’s the case though.

So to become a Program Participant, email the programming head, state your qualifications (I have my first novel coming out, etc) and ask if you can be part of programming. Once at the convention, be nice and patient, these are volunteers in the middle of an extreme juggling act.

Okay, Appearances page taken care of. I added the cover of Bitter Waters to its page. I linked in this Blog. I updated the Blog with news of the John Campbell nomination. (I think about having a NEWS page, but that will come later.)

Reviews was my next project. I had entered many of the Alien Taste reviews but had none of the Tainted Trail reviews. I went to google.com and searched on my name and Tainted Trails. A dozen reviews came back. Some are from people’s personal web page, and while flattering, don’t pull a lot of weight with professionals. Sigh. I set up the best, getting permissions and all that. Lots of work. I also track down reviews that appeared only in print, get permission, type them in, making sure I credit them all.

I’m still working on a LINKS page.

My next promotion project is postcards for Bitter Waters. Don scanned in my cover on a very nice scanner we have, but I could have gotten the files from my publisher. (This was his excuse for buying a high-end scanner.) He sets up a 6 MB tif file for the postcard, and then smaller files for the web site so the pictures load fast and doesn’t kill our usage rate. I type up a WORD file with the info for the back.

365 Boston Post Road #202, Sudbury, MA 01776-3003

Bitter Waters
by Wen Spencer

Meet Ukiah Oregon, a unique young man with accelerated senses who was raised by wolves, domesticated by two women, and trained as a tracker by a private investigator. And that’s the normal part of his life…

Ukiah’s abilities are put to the test when he tracks a missing boy, who may be the most recent victim of a serial kidnapper. Then Ukiah finds himself under scrutiny by Homeland Security; a dead member of the Temple of New Reason cult was carrying stolen photographs of Ukiah. But before Ukiah can investigate the cult’s interest in him, his own son is abducted. Now, with suspicious government agents watching his every move, he must track down the kidnappers – and pray that they’re not enemies from his past, the alien Ontongard….

“An engrossing, thrill-filled adventure, full of fascinating alien -- and human -- weirdness.” -- LOCUS

Bitter Waters, Roc Books, ISBN: 0-451-45922-9

Read an excerpt at http://www.wenspencer.com

Note that this includes a P.O. Box, which is required if you plan to mail lots of them. (Else you annoy the post office.) I set up the P.O. Box so I didn’t have to give out my home address.

I use www.printingforless.com

They have a simple point and click upload process and produce a quality product inexpensively. For less than $300.00, I get 1000 postcards with four color front and an protective coating. For Alien Taste I made 5000 and mailed out 2000 but that was waaaaaaay overboard. These you can mail out, carry with you, take to conventions and leave on freebee tables, etc.

With Don already having set up the artwork, it takes me about 30 minutes to make up the WORD file, proof it, go through the online form, and complete the upload.

Lesson Number Two: Postcards are good.

Lastly, I check on my business cards.

I used www.vistaprint.com for my business cards. They have a number of forms that you merely type in the info. Some are at the print of shipping the cards – less than $10.00 for 250. Others are more.

I have two business cards. One is a slick coated, pricey number that I give editors, other writers, etc with my home phone and address. The other is a cheap stock card that I hand out if I don’t know the person. It has my web site address and book info, but no personal information. Since it is cheap, I can change it often.

What this card says currently:

Wen Spencer
John W. Campbell Award Finalist (left over from last year, but hey, it still works!)
The Ukiah Oregon Series
Roc Books
Alien Taste – ISBN: ########
2002 Compton Crook Award Winner
Tainted Trail – ISBN: #####
Bitter Waters – ISBN: #####
Dog Warrior – coming in 2004

I’ll have to update this at the end of summer. Not sure how I’m going to fit TINKER and A BROTHER’S PRICE on this. I’ll tackle that later…

Posted by wen at April 19, 2003 03:38 PM

I have to say that I did not know how much went into promotion. I am glad that you do go though all of this. If you did not how would I read your books. You are on my Have To Buy Author list. Just waiting for Bitter Waters.

Posted by: ossiander at April 20, 2003 02:41 PM

Yeah, I heard about Sweden. Last fall I told a Sweidsh friend about your books, and gave her your web address so that she could read the excerpts. Told her to drop you a line afterwards.

I *knew* she'd be hooked. She was so mad at me, because she was *so* hooked and there was a delay in getting Tainted Trail. Earlier this week she got her revenge on me by telling me how much she enjoyed reading Bitter Waters!

Oh! The perfidy!

Keep 'em coming!


Posted by: Vicki at April 30, 2003 07:38 PM