Kelly McCullough writes fantasy, science fiction, and books for kids of varying ages. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series — Penguin/ACE, and the forthcoming School for Sidekicks — Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star — part of an NSF-funded science curriculum — and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited — funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Kelly on Twitter, Facebook, G+, ello
In a post on the Wyrdsmiths blog, my colleague Lyda Morehouse posed the following question about self-promotion:
But it does seem to work for some people on some level, and I always end up wondering by what magic is that done?
I think it’s pretty straightforward actually, and it all comes down to that word seem. Here’s how I think it works (all numbers made up).
If fifty percent of all authors do self-promotion, and a random six percent of all authors cross over into best-sellerdom than three percent of authors who do lots of self-promotion are going to cross over into best-sellerdom purely by chance. Then, at least some of those authors are going to figure that it was self-promotion which made the difference whether it had anything to do with it or not. See also: confirmation bias.
Likewise, if you’re watching from the outside, you might think the only thing that differentiates them from the herd is self-promotion, and then leap to the same conclusion. For that matter, I will even concede that some particularly clever bit of self-promotion that hasn’t already been done a bunch of times might catch the mood and go viral, but I think that’s as much a form of luck as having the book do the same thing.
Great books with tons of self-promotion die. Barely adequate books that get very little push become best sellers. Most of the difference there is luck in hitting the right literary kink for the moment.
We want the industry to make sense, so we tell ourselves stories–we’re authors, telling stories is what we do. That book did so well because the author came up with the really awesome book trailer. That one did poorly because the cover sucked. This one over here is a best-seller simply because it’s that good.
But the truth is, nobody knows what’s going to make a book take off. If there was a real answer, there’s be a publisher somewhere that didn’t sell anything but best sellers.
Sometimes lazer eyez need kickstart
Not paranoid, the aliens really are out to get me.
Told ya I could see over my belly, now help me outta here!
Marge, pass me the remote, wouldja.
No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.
I playz dead gud, even got the bloating thing nailed
I command you to bring me a…zzzzzzzz
My proud lion pose, you take pixure, yes?
All shall love me and despair!
Somewhere over the rainbow…
It’s not the camera, I really am blurry!
Wide-load cat, is wide.