So you want to be an urban fantasy author? Be prepared to pay for it.
No. I'm not suggesting you can buy your way into publication, though you can do that, too, but if you're like most people who do, your garage better be big enough to store all your pretty books. What I'm saying is, unless you're a lead title at your publishing house, you're going to be spending some money on getting the word out.
Websites, swag, mailings, travel to signings, conferences, and conventions. The bills just keep piling up. Even my local convention, Norwescon, ended up costing nearly $500. Though it varies greatly from there, including airfare, hotel, food and con fees. Conestoga was $1500. Romantic Times was nearly $3000. That's $5000, right there, the average advance for most first time novelists.
Then there's your promo items. Between postcards, business cards, gift baskets, pens and the ill-fated test tubes, you've racked up another $1000. Then you've got to mail stuff out. If, let's say, you have a publisher that gives you lots of ARCs which I totally love (more ARCs Kensington!!) then you're postage is going to be tremendous. Or if you do lots of reader contests, which so many do. Another $1000.
Then there's the website. I'm lucky in that I've got a really cool friend that's revamping the most heinous website known to man into something kitschy and morbid. But if you don't have such a friend. You could pay upwards of $2000 for a good one.
I almost forgot office supplies. $500 is probably a low estimate, between paper, ink, computer stuff.
Let's round it out at $10,000, because some of us do a lot of driving to do stock signings and readings in nearby states. Hmm.
It's a decent tax deduction. Damn good actually. But is it really necessary? Lots of authors would argue no, but I'm not trying to hear that. Why? Two things. I've got a trade paperback out there in a market (sci-fi/fantasy) that prefers mass market paperbacks at half the cost. And second, because of its size keeps it out of tons of stores that don't have the racks to display it. Happy Hour is not in grocery stores or Walmart or Target. It's not on regular reorder at Borders, though Barnes and Noble has gotten behind it. So, word of mouth is huge.
So what works? Does any of it?
I think conventions are a great way to network and connect with other authors and readers, booksellers, bloggers and reviewers. I don't think the book would be so widely represented in Library Systems around the world if I hadn't made the contacts I did at Romantic Times. And lest you think I was simply pimping Happy Hour to some poor librarian who was trying to get away from me, let me clear it up. All I did was discuss utilizing libraries for research rather than depending on the spurious accuracy of wikipedia during a panel. It was received pretty well.
Does the swag matter? I'm not sold. I love the pens. And those are something we all use so I can't see how it hurts, though I have a Viagra pen and I've never popped a little blue pill not even recreationally.
I'm pretty certain that stock signing works. A signed book is going to sell quicker than it's plain homely sister. That's a given and bookstores know it. So they're happy to see you coming, for the most part.
It's expensive. But I wouldn't change a thing, 'cause it's also been great fun.
In fact, this next year doesn't show any signs of being cheaper. Three more conventions, swag, ARC mailings, even more this time. And my Road Trip of the Living Bookwhore down the west coast. Speaking of Road Trip, I got a ton of cover flats last week and wouldn't mind giving a couple away.
Best road trip stories get cover flats. I'll pick next Wednesday.