On Promoting Your Works During Awards Season

If you’ve got a bunch of science fiction-writin’ friends, you know this is That Time Of Year: it’s when all the nominations for the Hugo and Nebula awards are coming up.  So every author is putting up the obligatory post reminding you what they wrote this year, just in case you feel like nominating it for the ballot.

I’m not doing it this year.

Partially, it’s because 2013 feels like a loss to me as a writer.  I lost several months due to my triple-bypass, and then mostly spent the year working on novels that are, as of now, unrepresented.  (I’m flogging those to agents, I assure you, but it’s a slow process.) All my good stuff feels locked away.

But mostly it’s because I don’t see the point this year.  I used to flog copiously, gratuitously, and never got nominated for anything.  Then I did some flogging in the right places (putting copies of Sauerkraut Station and “Run,” Bakri Says in the SFWA Boards and in Codex for the first time ever), and got nominated for Sauerkraut Station in 2012 for both the Nebula and BFSA.

That sort of flogging is, I think, is the right level to do it at.  (Which is not to say that this is a magic guarantee, as hundreds of other people did the exact same thing to lesser results, but rather that SFWA and Codex are the places where the highest concentrations of Nebula nominators lurk and as such it’s the proper place to start to be seen.  You still need a lot of quality, and the years I was blogginfloggin most vaingloriously was when I was at my weakest as a writer.)

Yet this year’s been a difficult year.  My best story, Black Swan Oracle, was in a Kickstarted anthology – which, though the anthology was of high quality, comparatively few people read.  My second-best story, The Sturdy Bookshelves of Pawel Olizewski  (which did wind up on Tangent’s “Recommended” list as a two-star story) was behind a paywall. Of all my original stories this year, only Shadow Transit was freely available (and if you like creepy kids fighting Cthulhu, by all means, take a look – I’m quite proud of that one).

I’m pretty sure that a big factor in the reason Sauerkraut Station got nominated was because it was easily passed around – it was, as it still is, available for everyone to read it, and so it could be read with a link.  Which was a significant advantage that put it ahead of better tales that were locked in books that people had to pay to read.  Sauerkraut Station was stickier because if someone loved it, they could post that love on Facebook or Goodreads or Twitter, and there was no barrier for someone to go directly from someone’s “I loved that!” to “Well, why did they love it so much?  Oh!”

Which is not to say that works behind paywalls can’t get nominated – obviously they can, and do!  But I think to a certain extent, reminding people of those paywall works is a thankless exercise – either the stories were good enough to stick in your head, or they weren’t.  You have to be that much more above the curve when you’re behind that paywall to get the nomination.

So I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that it’s worth doing the “Heya, try this!” during awards season when the works out in the open, where you can just point people at ’em and say “Go,” but it’s of less worth for things where you have to personally send people PDFs of your stories over and over again.  I think the web-published works benefit from having people link to them so that they achieve a greater mass of love shot towards them.

Note: I could well be wrong.

Now, what some people get upset about is the idea of promotion, as if authors – particularly girl authors – shouldn’t be so tacky as to remind the world that they’d like to be nominated.  To which I say, fuck that.  An author’s job is to promote their work, and if you get bent out of shape by a blog post and an accompanying Tweet, the author is probably better off without you as a fan.  Nebula and Hugo nominations help them sell more books, and I say yippee to that.

But for me?  Perhaps it’s a year I feel I’ve spent hibernating, banking away words in the hopes of a strong 2015.  But I’m not sending tales out this year.  If I get nominated, I’d be thrilled, but I don’t feel like investing the hope this time around.  Perhaps next year.

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