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Walter Jon Williams Is a Truly Excellent Writer, but...

I think Walter Jon Williams is a truly excellent writer. But I'm not famous enough to do him any good.

Here he is, blogging from the High Desert of New Mexico, surrounded by his men, his machines, and his mental power...

Angel Station: Dude. Where's My Tail?: Writers of mid-list fiction--which is pretty much everything but the best-sellers--are more or less obliged in these sub-lunary times to shoulder the burdens of publicity and promotion ourselves. We are expected to have web pages, we are expected to have blogs. It's not that I don't enjoy communicating with my readers, or that I don't have fun... but I have to wonder how much profit actually accrues from this use of my time.

Full-time advertising professionals assure us that an advertising campaign along the lines of, "This is a new Walter Jon Williams work, wholly original and unlike any previous Walter Jon Williams work" is doomed to failure. According to these highly-qualified professionals, people only respond to things that look like other things that they already like. That's why, whenever I write a book like Days of Atonement, which was the world's first (and, so far as I know, only) Gothic Western science fiction police procedural, a book which I fondly assumed might appeal to readers outside the normal SF audience, the publisher made sure to put Death Rays on the cover, to assure genre readers that this was a thing that looked like other things that they already liked, and to make sure that all potential new readers were discouraged from so much as glancing at the book.

It is a truism of advertising that you keep the consumers you've got--even if they're getting older and reading less and, you know, dying--rather than take the risk of alienating them in pursuit of new consumers. So the rule would seem to be: whatever's actually in there, it's gotta look like the other stuff. But I don't get to pick cover art and design anyway--at best I get to veto it when I don't like it--so any further thoughts in that direction are fruitless.

Nevertheless the next book, Implied Spaces, is appearing from Night Shade, which is a small(ish) if very successful press, and which despite its success presumably can't afford to spend five or ten times the advance to make a brilliant success in the market. Which means we've got to sneak the success and glory in on a low budget.

And it has to be something I can do from New Mexico, which is the most isolated place in the U.S.

I have observed with interest the development of Long Tail theory, in which it is demonstrates that the development of electronic distribution networks can theoretically provide very large audience for hitherto obscure books. I'm not sure that this would work for me: I suspect that my books already sell more copies than just about all of those Long Tail books.

Still, growing a Long Tail certainly wouldn't hurt sales. But how is that to be done? What I clearly need is a huge online audience, like those of Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow. The problem is that Neil was beloved by a vast audience well before he ever had a blog, and Cory had a huge online audience before he ever wrote an SF novel. So it seems to me that I've got to get famous first.

What has to happen, it seems to me, is that I need a certifiably famous person to say that I should be more famous and popular than I am. Elmore Leonard was a fairly obscure writer until George Will wrote an entire column about how good Elmore Leonard was. Then Leonard became famous, and book and movie deals descended like unto manna from heaven. And to mix fairy tales if not metaphors, Oprah regularly turns ugly ducklings into gold-laying geese. Does anyone have her phone number?

Does anybody out there know a truly famous person who could be persuaded to tell everyone that I should be famous, too? And if not, does anyone have any useful ideas?