When readers discovered my science novella, “Gravity Of The Game” (hint: you can get it for free up top this site by signing up for my mailing list), the commentary. I received the most was “I don’t love baseball, but it’s very clear you do, and I loved this book despite not being interested in the sport.” It was a risky proposition putting out a sports-themed novella to a market who’s used to my swashbuckling steampunk and epic space opera, but it worked anyway. There was a key to it: having fun.
When you’re having fun and you have real joy, that’s attractive. People like to see that kind of thing, and it resonates. A lot of what we’re taught as authors is that writing should be a struggle. It should be torture. We are starving artists and it’s terrible to endure the process, the edits, etc. Well, if that’s what you’re posting, you’re like the person always vague booking about “UGH, NOT AGAIN” or posting all of their medical problems on repeat — it’s not very fun to look at. It won’t grow your following.
I very carefully stay relentlessly positive on social media. It takes some conscious thought, and it helps with the mindset of always promoting, always selling, and always closing, which is what it takes in this business.
Yesterday, Tor announced a year-long initiative to highlight #FearlessWomen in publishing. They presented the strategy as if women are some oppressed minority, that there’s a huge problem in the industry, that it can only be corrected by consciously playing identity politics an ignoring male authors. Again. You’ve probably seen this a lot with Escape Podcast’s “Artemis Rising” which they do a couple times a year — where they refuse to publish anyone but women. Or in the Feminist Frequency book bundle, which highlighted women. Or in the countless anthologies where it’s dedicated toward “strong female leads”. The entire industry has been pushing this narrative for decades, even though the publishing industry is mostly comprised of and mostly publishing women. Even back to the 90s, Dave Tuesdale of Tangent Online showed that pro markets were about 50/50 between men and women. So what is this?
Tor was trying to rile up angry women for identity politics to sell a few books. There’s just one problem with the strategy — it’s not having fun. It’s seeking problems where there are none. It’s getting people in a hostile mindset. The responses were about as you’d expect:
Pure anger. Why aren’t you looking at this other angry cause? I’m so oppressed. These people are so oppressed. When you start your marketing off from that kind of a mindset, not actually dialed in on sales or making your readers feel good, but on creating problems, you’ll see that more problems are created. I’ll note that the commentary I’ve seen is disproportionately from pro-authors who aren’t going to be buying/reading books anyway.
It’s a horrible start for a marketing initiative that probably took weeks in their marketing department, hammering out the details of who to promote, and then getting indignant outrage about a non-issue in publishing (even NYT bestseller Rachel Caine, when she came to attack a smaller author like myself calling me “nonsense” yesterday, admitted Tor’s catalogue was 60% female 40% male), and receiving more indignant outrage.
It’s mindset. Tor has forgotten to be about “fun books” and gone all in on identity politics for so long, they don’t know how to promote their authors. There’s one female author on their list I’ve probably done a better job of selling her books than they have, simply because I like it. I never lead with “OMG This is a Female Feminist Author Down with the power check out this book.” It never comes up. I just say, “This is a really fun fantasy book, and a lot like mine.” and my readers check it out. See the difference in mindset?
Blog readers who didn’t have the context of my social media posts might be wondering why I posted my odd #FearlessMen post yesterday. It looked to be the weird rhetoric of Tor’s marketing department — because it is. I took their exact language, and just changed the words to men. Why?
For fun. I love co-opting their initiatives as I did with #SpaceOperaWeek last year, when my fans and friends dominated the conversation about space opera, and Tor again fizzled by trying to talk identity politics in a genre that’s about fun epic romps.
I immediately took to fun with the hashtag. The Tor authors got REALLY mad, and it provided for even more fun. I owe most of it to V.E. Schwab, who was incensed that men would dare question this initiative. It’s what gave me the inspiration for #FearlessMen, and I said so.
She didn’t take kindly to that:
I guess #FearlessWomen just fear that there’s men in publishing who can send a tweet supporting male authors. So brave.
But it went on from there. I listed a number of great authors who are male (and David West / Richard Paolinelli I didn’t forget you!). They’re putting out tons of books this year and this summer with no sign of slowing down. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and we’ll continue to highlight them for the fun of it.
My results? I sold a lot of books the last several hours. All by spending five minutes messing around with a hashtag on twitter. It’s still rolling, and it’s still fun. The mindset is everything. What do you choose: high energy fun? or low energy outrage?
Think about it for your marketing and for your life. You only get to dwell on this world once.
If you like high energy fun, read The Stars Entwined. It’s got a little of everything for everyone. #FearlessMen in Sean and Tol. #FearlessWomen in Tamar and Maela. A thrilling epic space opera / military sci-fi awaits. Check it out here.