Cruel and Unusual

For many writers – myself included – self-promotion is a necessary evil. In the fiction world, publishers won’t spend a nickel to help sell the book you wrote — unless you happen to be Stephen King or Charlaine Harris – so it falls to the author to promote his or her work. It’s kind of a catch-22; Publishers won’t help sell someone without a track record, and you can’t get a track record without selling your work. Hence, the popularity of self-publishing.

But for many writers, self-promotion is painful and ugly: for many, it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. So many writers I know are socially shy and uncomfortable in the spotlight, and it stands to reason that being forced to be outgoing and upbeat all the time when working to sell yourself and your book would be exhausting. I myself am unafraid of public speaking: working for years giving the announcements before showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the theater where I worked, I got a lot of practice at it. Still, I’m not an outgoing personality by nature; being a guest at a convention or doing panel discussions and readings is unusually tiring, and I need to take a little extra downtime afterwards. To some, this may have marked me as aloof and unapproachable. I have few colleagues who are also close friends. I’m uncertain if the two are related.

Lately, I’ve been working more with community content for gaming licenses. I still get to write, and the return, while not hefty, is steady, and lasts for years. The royalties offered on most community content sites are around 50%; the downside is that sales are rarely stellar enough to quit the day job. I’ve only been writing community content since 2017, and I haven’t made a ton of money at it, but it’s nice to see a few dollars roll in every week. If I had more content out there, that amount would increase dramatically: having multiple items for sale on community content sites seems to instill confidence in consumers, and improves the chances that a casual browser will a) buy something of yours, and b) buy more than one thing at a time. As the amount of content I have available increases, I’m starting to see that reflected in my sales totals.

Regular readers are probably sick to death of me flogging my work on this blog, but I’m going to do it again because that’s sort of the point of this post, isn’t it?

Haunted includes my story “A Quiet House in the Country”, along with stories by Chuck Wendig, Richard Dansky, and Alex Bledsoe, among many other talented writers. You can order print or digital copies from Drive Thru Fiction at this link:

Madison By Night was my first effort at producing Community Content, and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. For Vampire: the Masquerade (20 Anniversary Edition) it’s also sold more copies than all the other community content books I’ve sold combined! You can purchase an electronic copy at this link:

Consumed was a D&D 5th Edition adventure I had to create on the fly at a gaming convention last year, and it worked out so well that I cleaned it up and published it. It’s a one-shot adventure set in the Scarred Lands; basically, it involves a single encounter and some detective work, and a nasty villain behind it all. I ran this several times at conventions to playtest the concept and the flow of the adventure, and as such I wrote it to scale to any size group within the ranges I set for it. You can buy a digital copy of Consumed at this link:

My most recent publication — only two or three weeks old — is Desert of Lost Relics, another D&D 5th Edition adventure for the Scarred Lands setting. DoLR is part four in a connected series of adventures, and involves the characters in a plot to create a new titan. The world is still recovering from the war between the titans and the gods, and the titans aren’t particularly sympathetic to anything weaker than themselves, so this is something to be discouraged. The characters have to jump ahead of the individual seeking to become a titan, and deny them some of the artifacts and relics they need. An electronic copy of this adventure, plus the others in the series, can be found at this link:

Will I do more community content work? Most certainly. The one problem I see currently is that the money is all in the D&D community content site, which so far I haven’t contributed to directly. That’s one of the next things on my list, and I’m hoping that by having some content on the D&D site, people who enjoy my work might be lead to the other D&D material Ive written and check those out too. Direct cross-promotion between competing sites is frowned upon if not prohibited outright, so I’ll have to be sneaky and clever for that to work without getting me into trouble. Another problem — for some people — with community content is that only digital versions are available. For some reason, printed copies of community content books are not allowed.

Promoting gaming material such as this is a bit more challenging even than promoting fiction. For one thing, the content is all digital; there’s precious few venues interested in helping when there’s no way for them to profit from it. The smaller community content sites often have no marketing budget at all, which once again leaves the authors scrambling to promote their work and make sales. D&D consumers seem interested only in approved material: not surprising given the amount of dreck that came out the last time the D&D Open Gaming License was this accessible.

It’s important to point out that these items I’ve listed benefit me directly by providing royalties. Purchasing any of the books I’ve worked on helps me; publishers definitely look at sales numbers from previous work when deciding who to hire to work on new books. Even if you aren’t interested in anything I’ve had published, it’s helpful to spread the word to friends who might have an interest. As my writing career becomes (slowly!) more viable, having friends who will spread the word about my work is more valuable than any amount of promotion I can personally do.

One thought on “Cruel and Unusual

  1. I don’t mind self-promoting, but it feels like there are so many other people doing it far more adamantly that I am, that me adding to their chorus is purposeless. I’m always happy to speak at cons, panels, presentations, etc…but, so are more authors, I find. We all just want a chance to find an audience (which is so hard nowadays).

    I think that’s why seeing major authors get promotion they honestly don’t need anymore is so frustrating. It’s like watching Disney remake things that don’t need to get remade while there are so many NEW stories to tell. Stephen King is FINE. He doesn’t need a six-figure marketing promotion. Or even a five-figure promotion. Meanwhile, I know authors whose publishers gave them marketing budgets of less than $100. What the hell are you supposed to do with $100 in terms of marketing a book? Run a Facebook ad for a week?

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