"The Machine" by Carol Phillips

Finally, part two of the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy is done. We’ve got all 27 interior pics and the cover. All it needs is a last bit of proofing and it’ll be ready for its July release.

Unlike Book III interior art which had a number of thumbnail sketches, Book IV’s art is mostly composed of full page compositions done by Carol Phillips. These scenes have been simmering in my thoughts for so long that finally seeing them come to life is a real treat.

The previous three covers in the League of Elder series have all had a distinct fantasy look to them. For Book IV, I wanted more of a science fiction theme. I love everything about the cover, the colors, the city of Waam all around, the giant-size Princess Marilith vending machine, the flying Bondarunga statue in the background–you name it.

Waam is one of my favorite places in the LoE universe. I always loved the Fritz Leiber books of Lankhmar. A great city full of mystery and adventure, a cobbled maze of mist-filled streets leading to the unknown. I always wanted to write about such a place. The cities in the League are too demure and civilized to allow me to really cut loose and use my imagination, so I took advantage of the much-less prim and proper Xaphans and created Waam, an advanced, rather racy and highly evolved city where literally anything can happen. Fritz Leiber had his Gods of Lankhmar lurking in the city, and I’ve got my Black Hats festering in their temples.

Carol is going to take a few weeks off and recoop a bit. Then she’s going to begin work on Book V, The Temple of the Exploding Head. Oh, such fun …

Bowl Naked

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

In attempting to grow my readership, I take the Carnie approach–I hit the road and mingle with the people. It’s exhausting, sometimes it’s dirty and unpleasant, but it’s also effective and, when successful, is quite fun. I’ve learned a lot in the past year or so and have refined both my setup and my personal technique, and I thought I’d share some of those revelations. Most of this is probably Basic Marketing 8:00am Day 1, but hey, each nugget of information presented here is hard won and battle-tested, and is therefore gold.

YOUR BASIC LAYOUT First thing. You need to present the idea to a customer that you’ve got something to sell–Seems simple, right, but for a beginning author with usually one solitary thing to offer, creating the impression to the buyer that you’ve got something they might want to buy can be difficult. An unknown authors sitting behind a drab table with naught but one thing to offer is, nine times of out ten, going to get passed by. You can attempt to cloud the issue with lots of marketing–you know, standups, banners, balloons–anything colorful and eye-catching that fills up the empty space around your table, but, when you get right down to it–people like seeing a lot of stuff in front of them. Seeing a lack of product is depressing.

In my case, I’ve got a six foot table, so I try to fill up that space as best I can. I push everything out front, creating the illusion that the table is bursting with product. I then organize the table with sellable items on my right and Swag, or free stuff on my left with advertisements (specials, combos, Coming Soons, etc) in the middle.

THE SELLABLES: Here’s my sellable marketing rack. First of all, notice how full it looks. I only have three titles to sell (Books I, II and III), however I create the convincing illusion that I have many many more titles to choose from. I accomplish this with (A) vertical striping that pulls the eye from top to bottom, and (C) I space the books out so that they fully encompass the entire rack–having empty spots is a downer. I also further enhance the illusion by having the same titles only in different covers (Notice B–Book One. Same book, just different look). I also fill out the rack by offering titles from other authors–in this case from my friends Chantal Boudreau’s Fervor and Justine Marie Hedman’s Kailey’s Bugs. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Also, notice (B)–All of the titles are at eye-level. That’s the main thing. The customer doesn’t have to do much work to locate the product for sale, such as look down to the table-top–it’s all right there in front of them. For an unknown author expecting a passerby to look around for your stuff is an investment in time and effort many folks are not willing to make, it’s an unfortunate truth. Make it easy for them by getting everything up and off the table.

SWAG: People just love free stuff and having lots of swag around is always a must. I’ve got a smaller rack just for oversized cards with art, I’ve also got pens, pins, posters, shirts, bookmarks and magnets. For cards, I’ve found people really like the oversized cards, which was a surprise to me. I usually charge one or two bucks per piece of swag, but, if someone buys a book, they can have all the swag they want for free and that sometimes makes a deal.

So that’s my deal on book marketing. Of course no amount of marketing or swag will help without your critical input. You’ve got to stand up, be vocal, look people in the eye and be prepared to have to work hard for every single sale. Do that, and you can’t lose.

Bowl Naked