At Capclave last fall, I was telling David Hartwell anecdotes about the self-publication ordeal I had just about finished enduring, and he suggested that I do a feature article for The New York Review of Science Fiction
about that. So, when I finally got to the end of the tunnel, and emerged blinking into the light, I sat down and wrote one. The worst
stories I didn't want to tell in print, as least not as long as I still needed to have dealings with the press in question. But by that time I had also understood that an awful lot of my misery had been brought about by two factors: my extremely, indeed incredibly, low level of computer skills, and my failure to understand what a wholesaler's 55% discount means to the profit margin when you have paid to manufacture the book yourself. No way to blame anybody else for either of those.
Michael Levy's long, thoughtful review of The Bird Shaman
had appeared in NYRSF
in October. To follow that up with a feature story in which the title of the novel appeared prominently and repeatedly seemed like a publicity opportunity not to be missed. Plus I did
have useful things to say about self-publication, which--had somebody said them to me before I took the plunge--could have saved me a lot of grief.
The finished piece turned out pretty well and was published in the February issue. NYRSF
is a print-only magazine, so I can't provide you with a link to the article, but I think you would enjoy it, if only to count your blessings at not having been forced to go that particular route to publication.
David told me that a number of people commented on the piece at Boskone, and quite a few had picked up The Bird Shaman
from his table at the dealer's room to look it over, but nobody bought one. Hm. Well, I thought, I wasn't at Boskone, I wasn't reading or autographing; let's see how it goes in Orlando at ICFA.
At ICFA it almost seemed that everybody in attendance had seen my self-pub article; person after person brought it up when we bumped into each other. Copies of Bird Shaman
s were in the bookstore; the stack had to be neatened up all the time. People were obviously picking the books up and looking at them, just like at Boskone. This time I was there. I did a well-attended (thank you, fellow readers Terry Bisson and GOH Robert Charles Wilson) reading from the novel. I did an autographing.
David sold two copies of The Bird Shaman
I guess the point of this little morality tale is that I still have no freaking idea, going in, what does and doesn't work where publicity is concerned. Now
I see that the article is about the self-publishing process and the pitfalls thereof, and not about the novel as a novel. A piece like that should be viewed as an end in itself, not a means to moving books. Now I get it. Why didn't I get it before?
On the other hand, maybe a few people snuck home from Orlando and ordered slightly used copies from Amazon for cheap, so they didn't have to carry a fat book home on the plane...