Call to Action

In today’s post, I’m going to get honest here, folks.  It might sound like I’m complaining or disappointed or just disgruntled, so before I begin, let me say for the record that I love doing what I do.  I have more success than I have any right to expect, and I know there are literally millions of people who would love to get paid to create fiction.  I’m not angry or annoyed, just out to share some thoughts about my career and where I’m at.  I’ve thought about whether I should share these thoughts long and hard, but ultimately, I’ve decided for the sake of my career, it’s okay (perhaps even necessary) to bring them out into the open.

Saying that, this is going to be a post thinking about why I’m not more popular, and what I should do to change that.  It’s also, more importantly, a call to action from you, my fans, to do your part, should you feel like it.  Of course, simply buying or talking about my books is more than enough, and I have no right to expect any more from you.  If you do that, we’re cool, and you have my undying gratitude.  But if you should decide to keep reading and feel like doing more, you’ll score a few more points and be even more beloved.

There.  Cards on the table.  Now let’s get to it.

The fact is, despite all appearances to the contrary, I am stuck, career-wise.  It’s easy to hear a writer has nine books out (with his tenth on the way) and think he must be doing all right.  And I am.  I’ve had good years and weak years, and like anyone else, there are ups and downs.  But as of late, I’ve hit a plateau I just can’t seem to get over.

I’ll own up to most of the responsibility on that.  I hate the notion that I might be too “creative” because it smacks of both self-indulgent egotism and dismissal of the taste of the general public.  But I do ask a lot of my fans.  Most writers, even if they don’t write series, will stick to a certain sub-genre.  Meanwhile, I’m jumping from traditional fantasy to urban fantasy to space adventure to cosmic horror to metaphysical exploration.

This weekend I was talking to a friend of mine about One of These Doomsdays, my current project, and after I described the book, he said he admired how I dared to bounce around so much on my settings and ideas.  It was a compliment, but I also realized just how counter such ideas can be to building an audience.  If someone loves pulp space adventure, there’s no reason to assume they like existential metaphysical stories about ghost dinosaurs and mole people.  It’s a lot to ask for someone to have enough faith in me that they’d be willing to pick up a book so different, especially if it didn’t hit their genre hot buttons.

Again, I have to stress that I don’t think what I do is more difficult than writing a series.  Series demand a lot from the writer.  But the thing about series that works most in their favor is that the odds are good if you like one wizard detective story, you will like another wizard detective story and if that wizard detective story features characters you’ve already grown to care for, so much the better.  It doesn’t make the story easier or harder.  But it makes it easier to sell, easier for the audience to get excited about.

The path I’m on is a lot bumpier.  Not meant as a slight to any other successful writer out there because we all have our choices to make, and every choice has an upside and a downside.  We try to stay true to ourselves while compromising where we must, and in the end, it’s just one day at a time.  I love that my books are different enough that they can be distinguished by merely describing the protagonist or the setting, but that is also probably their biggest weakness.

Putting that aside, still seems like I should be more popular than I am.  Not household name popular, but perhaps someone most sci fi / fantasy fans have heard of.  That is simply not the case.

To have a career in this business, you have to follow the numbers.  In order to make a living as a writer, I need to sell a lot of books.  Thousands of them.  Meanwhile, I can’t even get a Kickstarter project funded, and my Wattpad account offering free short stories to the public has only a few hundred hits.  While I try to maintain a positive attitude, that’s a bit discouraging.  I know I’m not Stephen King, Jim Butcher, or Tom Clancy, but I am a professional writer offering free fiction and still getting a very tepid response.

This leads me to only a few possible conclusions.  They might be wrong, but I’m going to share them anyway.

CONCLUSION ONE:

In the end, a writer, doing what I do, can’t compete in this market.  People will almost always play it safe when it comes to buying books, and who can blame them for that?  Books are expensive, and who wants to buy a book they’ll end up hating?  I don’t buy much fiction myself for exactly the same reason.  Perhaps the only way to really grow in popularity and maintain an expanding career is to write a series or, at least, stick to a narrowly defined sub-genre.

Yes, I know a lot of my fans out there love what I do and love the exploration of whole new worlds.  Their support means everything to me, but I also have to wonder if there are enough of them out there to make a consistent living by appealing to them.  I believe there is, which leads to me to . . .

CONCLUSION TWO:

My audience just isn’t finding me.  If this is true, it can hardly be surprising.  We are saturated with media in this day and age, and it’s all too easy for a lower tier writer such as myself to get lost in the shuffle.  My publisher does their part and more.  I’d be lost without the marketing people behind the scenes, and there’s no doubt in my mind that large parts of my success are due to their efforts.  Often, I think they deserve even more credit because, no matter how great my books are, no one is going to read them if they aren’t noticed.

This is the question that every artist has had to face since the first caveman painted the first buffalo on a cave wall.  How do you spread the word?  How do you get people excited?  (My first recommendation is don’t hid your art in caves, but it seemed to work out okay for those guys.)

Basically, there’s not much I can do about that.  I do what I can, and I could probably do more.  But I’m still only one guy.  I can’t compete with the established publicity machines out there.

So this is where you come in.

I know it’s unfair to put this burden on you, but artists live and die by the enthusiasm of their fans.  I know I have excited fans out there, but I need more.  I need you to spread the word in a way you might not have ever done before.  I need you to help me.  It’s not something I have any right to ask, and if you should find it presumptuous, I certainly won’t blame you.  If you feel like just buying my books and enjoying them, you have done more than enough.  No complaints from me.

But if you like me enough to want more of what I do, you could maybe help me out by spreading the word.  If you have a blog, post something about your favorite A. Lee Martinez book.  If you have a Twitter account, give me a shout out now and then.  (I’m @Aleemartinez, just FYI.)  Maybe between posting Facebook updates about your own life (which is undoubtedly more important than my little career) you could throw up your favorite A. Lee Martinez quote.  If you could go to Amazon.com and post a review or two, I certainly wouldn’t mind.

In real life, you could share books.  Pass them to friends.  If a stranger is in the fantasy section of the bookstore, and you happen to be walking past, perhaps take  a moment to point out the Martinez section of the shelf.  Though that is a lot to ask, so no pressure.

There are a thousand avenues to spread the word, and if you take a little time out of your day to do so, I would be forever indebted to you.  You are now deputized as part of the A. Lee Martinez Action Force.  (Official logo forthcoming.)  The extent of your duties is entirely your own decision, but every little bit helps.  I’ll keep doing my part in the meantime.

Here’s some helpful info to get you started:

@Aleemartinez (Twitter)

A. Lee Martinez (Facebook)

http://www.wattpad.com/user/ALeeMartinez (Wattpad)

Hipstercthulhu@hotmail.com (Official A. Lee Martinez e-mail)

Go forth, folks.  Spread the good word.  And, as always, thank you for all your support, past, present, and future.  It means a hell of a lot to me to have come this far.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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16 Comments

  1. Posted May 7, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I admit – I was hooked on The Automatic Detective (pound-for-pound my favorite SF, ever) and less interested in the purely Fantasy works. But I took a chance and bought Divine Misfortune and liked that well enough. Still, it’s your SF-related novels that I seem to enjoy the most. Emperor Mollusk was a rollicking good read and I told everybody about it.

    You keep writing and I’ll keep telling people in my circles about it. I wouldn’t worry too much about writing Fantasy vs. SF – I figure you’re building strong fan bases in both major genres and that will pay off down the road. (I wouldn’t worry too much about Wattpad – that seems to be pretty hit-and-miss.)

    Thanks for writing, and thanks for blogging, and thanks for not giving up. You have an utterly effortless, unique voice that goes down smooth. I like your stuff very much.

  2. Posted May 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I picked up Divine Misfortune while browsing in the sci-fi/fantasy aisle in the bookstore looking for something “different.” I was surprised at how many books you had out, but I hadn’t heard of you (not that I’m amazingly well-read or anything). I finished the book the other day and loved it. Can’t wait to read some more of your work. i will totally pimp you out to my friends.

    Reading this post is kind of frightening, however. I’m currently querying agents (for my sci-fi humor book, hence why I was drawn to your books) and that process is daunting enough. I’m horrible at marketing myself, and was hoping that I would land a good agent so I could just sit back and let them do all the work. It appears that that’s not exactly how it works. I should have known better.

  3. Mark
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m in. I was actually starting to do this anyway, based on some of your prior blog posts. I may or may not have been surreptitiously facing your books out in bookstores. Also, I think Watt Pad has recently changed the way they count views, which would explain why your first story on there got way more hits.

  4. Charlie
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Have you considered faking your own death? Is it at least on the table?

    Will tweet, will FB.. Encouraging retweets is easier than encouraging original tweets, what if you tweeted a quote of the day and see if your Twitter account gets any pickup? Emperor Mollusk and the brain in the jar are highly quotable.

  5. Elizabeth
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Have you ever considered doing trilogies? I cannot tell you how excited I was to read Gil’s All Fright Diner and thought it was going to be a super awesome series and then found out you do not do series. I have to be honest, I was disappointed.

    But you had other books that were equally interesting (unlike say Christopher Rice who writes the same novel using different names) and entertaining so I decided to buy everything you put out even if I do not find the novel to be my cup of tea. I even tell everyone that I know about you, give out your books to friends and buy all of the versions. I have even used the Emperor Mollusk coffee cup on the bench.

    Plus you are awesome to us fans. That counts for a lot in my view.

    So writing a little more of each universe would be lovely and I will keep trying to raise awareness.

    I do wish we could have had you out here for Phoenix’s Comic Con. That would have been nifty spify.

  6. Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I recommended Emperor Mollusk on my Twitter since it is my favorite. Not that my Twitter voice is very loud, but still wanted to show you some respect.

    I admire that each book you write is standalone. Sometimes, it’s nice to not have to invest in a series or try to figure out in what order you’re supposed to read a set of books. Plus, different flavors for different moods.

  7. Posted May 7, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey Lee,

    Sorry to hear this troubling news. If it makes you feel better, I have made half a dozen or so people new fans of yours, and the folks at Non-Pro would be glad to help promote if we can. Still, I’ll keep at it.

    Jesse

  8. Kyle
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Monster was the first book I discovered from you. Read it and loved. I continued with The Automatic Detective and then Divine Misfortune. The most recent one was Gil’s All Fright Diner. I loved every character, every world, every funny line you introduced.

    I would love for you to expand some of your previous novels into sequels, especiallyThe Automatic Detective.

    But I do love your ability to create original stories. I will do all I can to spread the word!

  9. mike c.
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Divine Misfortune was the first one I happened to come across, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Since then I’ve recommended your work to many friends, and have given some books as gifts. One of your great talents is your ability to move between genres. I love that I never know what to expect with each successive book. That said, there is something to be said about a series. As someone said elsewhere, it is like visiting old friends. So perhaps revisiting a setting on occasion while also writing in New universes would be viable if you are going for wider commercial success. I don’t know if this is a viable course of action in the industry, so it could be a stupid notion.

    Whatever you decide to do, I’ll keep reading and spreading the word, just keep giving us fans words to read and spread.

    Thanks for all you do!

  10. Kirk
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    First off, I love your books.

    I think you face the same dilemma that another of my faves-Joe Lansdale-faced. He just writes so many different things in so many genres. It seems the small presses really helped him out a lot. Have you ever approached Subterranean about limited editions? And I should also mention that Lansdale began writing series fiction and his career took off.

    I’ll keep spreading the word.

  11. Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    You can blame Johne Cook, above, for leading me here and to The Automatic Detective. It’s a classic. No doubt in my mind.

    I don’t know if you coordinated this, but today (8-May-2013) Emperor Mollusk… is one of the Kindle Daily Deals. Hopefully that will drum up some more fans for you.

    Currently, my The Automatic Detective is on loan to a friend. :)

  12. Posted May 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I am of course in. I have done some of my part and will continue to do more.

    One thing I can very much suggest is a lack of connectivity. I just friended you on facebook, and I have liked your page, yet there is no cross-promoting. If a blog goes up here, I don’t see that on facebook. Also, a widget or other button or something on here to make sharing these articles easier would make sharing you to my friends, family, comrades, compatriots, and enemies. Connectivity being easy is the best way to expand your audience, because there are people like myself and the other commenters so far who will go all out trying to help. Then there are people who will not do anything that is too difficult. That is just the nature of some people. But if you made sharing easier, then sharing would happen more often.

    There are other ways to go about promoting yourself. Schmoozing and catching with the nerdist folks or the Geek and Sundry people could very much help get your name out there. I’d personally love to see you on an episode of Wil Wheton’s board game youtube show. Just getting yourself more connected to your audience through finding what they are watching would certainly help.

    Consider me (unless someone else has taken the position) the official Alchemist of the A.L.M.A.F.

  13. Posted May 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Lee…YOU ARE A BRILLIANT WRITER, and the reason I know that is because you write a lot of different genre’s and that takes huge talent! And this idea of asking people to make a noise about your work is just one more smart idea…you may not be famous today, but trust me, I am convinced you will be!!!

  14. Posted May 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    My suggestion is to finish up your profile on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/63669.A_Lee_Martinez) and post comments, ratings, etc,. on a regular basis. I follow you as a fan there so I get links to your blog. You’re not “officially” a Goodreads author yet, so get to it! Your fans there love you – look how highly your books are rated!

  15. wjfogarty
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    In terms of style, I am not making this comparison, but you remind me of another writer, Robert Sheckley, who I loved and followed because he was a premiere humorist. Granted, “Humor Novels” is not a fiction genre or section in my book store and most of the practitioners are scattered all over the place. Because we have been told that books must be sold in existing department/sections, it is difficult to find/support an author that does not easily fit. I don’t know if it is even possible for you or your publisher to redefine your genre to Comedy or Humor (nor do I suspect that would be willing to, as the common wisdom seems to be that humorous fantasy and science fiction does not sell [except for the ones that do]).

    Aside from us fans pushing your books to people, it would be cool if you could work with Paizo to get a Pathfinder module based on Company of Ogres or Nameless Witch out. Get on Scalzi’s Big Idea page. Good luck and keep writing!

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 2:03 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the comment, and thanks for the compliments. I’ve never read Sheckley, but if you like him and you like me, then I always take that as a positive.

      As you may or may not know, I tend to have a rather unstable relationship with the whole “humorist” category. I really don’t consider my books to be comedic, but rather to be fantasies with comedy elements. I know it’s mostly semantics, but I just don’t think of my stories in that way. Plus, humor is so damned subjective. I’m just glad people like the books, for whatever reason.

      The Pathfinder idea is certainly cool. Who knows what the future holds?

      Thanks again.

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