Friday, 16 April 2010

Learning from losing

Aw crap.

I just heard from one of the judges at the Fresh Blood Contest that my Civil War novel didn't make the cut this round. I lost by five votes!

The contest has been an interesting ride, and while I'm bummed about losing I did learn a lot and am proud not only to have made the top ten finalists, but to have made it to top five before the public votes favored the other books.

When the voting was up to the judges, what mattered was my writing and I did fine. But the later rounds are by public vote, and it is essentially about how well you market yourself. I started a fanpage on Facebook and hit up people for votes on various newsgroups on Facebook and Yahoo. I also promoted it on my Twitter account.

The problem was, I went on assignment to Ethiopia and Somaliland for two months just when I needed to raise my public profile. With all of Ethiopia still on dialup, I was at a major disadvantage, and learned firsthand about one of the troubles facing writers in developing countries. But of course that was only part of the problem. I'm sure there was more I could have done to promote my book in the early stages when I was in Europe. Should I have been a bit pushier? Joined more newsgroups? Started a MySpace page? There are probably several things I'm not even thinking of here. Feel free to share them in the comments section because they may come in handy one day.

I believe A Fine Likeness will get published, and that it deserves to be published. It's a good story based on detailed historical research, and is now being peddled by an author who is a little wiser about the need for self-marketing.

Thanks to everyone who voted, especially those friends who bugged their own friends to vote, and to those who only know me through the Internet but had faith in my writing. I'm extremely grateful and proud to know you. If you're still interested in the contest even though I'm out of it, I suggest you vote for Heart of the City by Lisa A. Koosis. From a writer's point of view I think it's the finest submission (besides mine, ahem) and the one I was most worried about. I'll be voting for it now that I'm not voting for myself.

The image is by Alexander Gardner of a dead Confederate sniper at Gettysburg, courtesy of the Library of Congress. Yeah, it's probably disrespectful to this poor bastard to be using this, but it's topical and reflects how I feel.


irishoma said...

Hi Sean,
Sorry you came so close but didn't win, but you have a great attitude about it all.
And I agree that your book will be published.

Lisa K. said...

Hi Sean,

I found your post through a Google Alert in my mailbox this morning. I was sorry to hear that "A Fine Likeness" was cut from the competition. I fully expected you to be one the final ones standing, and I'll look forward to hearing when you've found a home for your book.

I know what you mean, too, about marketing yourself. This whole "Fresh Blood" contest has been a learning experience for me, too, in that regard. I know whatever happens, I'll take plenty away from this experience.

Mostly, I wanted to say thank you for your shout out for my novel, Heart of the City. I can't tell you how much that means to me.

Best to you,

Lisa K.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.