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Promoting Our Writing to other Launderers

Writing

A writer friend/acquaintance whose work I quite like was discussing a short fiction project (the Daily Cabal, which is very, very short science fiction posted every weekday morning) today and said “For some reason I can’t quite fathom, most of SF readers are also SF writers.”

This touched a nerve in me. I don’t have the numbers to prove it, but there’s no reason to believe most readers of science fiction/speculative fiction are writers. A lot of writers do seem to believe it, though, probably because so many of their friends, acquaintances, critiquing buddies, and in some cases fellow con-goers who read science fiction are writers.┬áBut this is like a steel worker who reads science fiction concluding that most science fiction readers are steel workers because his friends that read science fiction are steel workers. For us writers to know what the average science fiction reader is like instead of what our friends who read science fiction are like, we’d have to not be writers.

Another friend pointed out that a great many of the people discussing short science fiction online are science fiction writers. That might be true (again, it would be very hard to get statistics), but the people who discuss reading science fiction aren’t likely to be a random cross-section of the readers of science fiction. Writers are much more likely to discuss writing than non-writers, after all.

In the end, I have no statistics on this, but I think the thing to take away is to have great caution about what any personal sampling of readers tells you unless that sampling is somehow a cross-section reflective of an entire readership. The people who write letters to the editor at the newspaper are not the average newspaper readers; they’re an unusual group within newspaper readers. The people who come to signings tend to be the most die-hard fans, not the person who picked up your book because the cover looked interesting and there was nothing good on TV. If you’re a writer, your friends who read are very unlikely to be typical readers.

I mentioned touching a nerve earlier: maybe it’s more accurate to call it a pet peeve. I don’t like it when writers go out of their way to market their fiction to other writers. To friends, sure. To your writing group, sure. But don’t go and put up a post about your latest short fiction sale being out in bookstores now on a public writing discussion group; don’t give out swag at writer’s conferences. Just because writers are readers and are easy to find doesn’t mean that they’re where you should be putting your effort. How far can we really get, taking in each other’s laundry? Besides, it’s a market that gets far too many advertisements.

Even a blog about writing is a questionable enterprise from a marketing point of view. If you’re writing about writing because it lets you market your new novel to amateur writers, this is just the laundry thing again. Figure out what kind of readers you have and go market to them, says I.

Which may bring you to wonder what I think I’m doing with this writing blog. Well, there’s a good justification for it on the one hand and a real reason for it on the other. And then, of course, there’s the real real reason for it.

The justification is that my first book (
Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures) is a book for writers. It’s of interest to a lot of people who aren’t writers, but it was written with writers especially in mind and is published by Writer’s Digest books. So I’m in the unusual situation of being a writer whose market is actually writers. It’s as though I specialize in cleaning launderer uniforms, which is a legitimate niche trade.

The real reason is that for years and years I’ve been profoundly interested in learning about writing and in spreading the knowledge. That’s why I started Codex, and I hope to be able to be of some use to writers here.

And the real real reason is that I like to mouth off about my writing opinions in a semi-irresponsible way and need a forum in which to do it.

There’s probably another reason behind that somewhere, but that moves out of the realm of writing and into the realm of psychotherapy, and there’s no need to get ridiculous with it.
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