Guest Blog by Author John Taloni

Science Fiction is Everywhere

A Guest Blog by Author John Taloni

As a long-time fan of Science Fiction, it’s been interesting to see the genre grow and grow, to the point where it is now just about everywhere.

In the days before Star Wars came out (yes, and dinosaurs still roamed the Earth) only a few people could make a living writing science fiction. SF fans routinely referred to the “Big Three” of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, or included the more Fantasy oriented Bradbury in a “Big Four.” Their works included technology as a major component of the story. Asimov postulated intelligent robots following three laws. Clarke was famous for the monoliths of “2001.” Heinlein developed an entire “future history” that included warnings of the dangers of nuclear meltdowns. Bradbury’s famous “Martian Chronicles” considered the effect of a new environment on the human race.

There were science fiction conventions, but they were small things. Regional conventions were lucky to have a few thousand attendees, and it took the annual Worldcon to break ten thousand. “2001” was the only movie to take science fiction seriously.

And then Star Wars came out, and both popularized Science Fiction and destroyed the old market. Suddenly old series’ got new sequels from the “Big Three,” with outsize payments to match the new attention paid to Science Fiction. SF conventions swelled in size.

But this came at a price. The comfortable science-based stories of the past were superseded by fiction of a less rigorous bent. Was Star Wars actually science fiction, or a fairy tale with robotic elves? Whereas “2001” postulated a realistic voyage to Jupiter (Saturn in the book) Star Wars just waved its hands at the issue and said “we’ll jump through hyperspace.” Ships moved through no propellant other than a bright light at the back.

And in the post-Star Wars world, science fiction exploded. The market grew by leaps and bounds. And along the way, fantastic inventions became possible, then easy. Anyone who dreamed of having a Star Trek Communicator could have one by the 1990s in the form of a flip phone. We outgrew that faster than we could think and are now carrying around portable tablets with far more computing power than was used in the Apollo missions. We approach the truly fantastic: The Japanese now have an implantable cell phone. Niven and Pournelle postulated a machine-style of telepathy with people swapping messages by computer in the book “Oath of Fealty.” With that implant and Google Glass people can swap messages in real time.

Arthur Clarke once quipped “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” How would a person living in the 1950s perceive today’s communications technology? Likely as magical.

We are not quite yet at the stage where Kirk can give a series of orders to a computer and wait for an analysis, but we are getting close. Search engines put an entire world’s worth of information at our fingertips. Crowdsourcing provides information better than old authorities could do, and Wikipedia’s accuracy is as good as the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Science Fiction has grown so much that many people now refer to SF as “Speculative Fiction.” It is as good a moniker as any. There are fantastic elements in almost any genre of writing. Romance books now include Paranormal Romance. Urban Fantasy has become its own genre. The Big Bang Theory eats up the TV ratings. Summer blockbusters include several science fiction movies every year. Along the way, people have become accustomed to considering the fantastic as not implausible, but simply something we haven’t gotten around to doing just yet.

Conventions have grown accordingly. San Diego Comic Con has long outgrown comics and is now dedicated to the entire speculative fiction genre. It gets over 100,000 attendees a year. Other conventions routinely break the 10,000 attendee mark. Consumer products abound. Doctor Who gets released on film for one day and makes $10 million in box office.

And yet, a small voice in me says, “What about the hard science fiction stories of the past? What about the realistic trips to the Moon, to Mars; Niven’s Ramships that scoop ambient hydrogen for fuel, or Heinlein’s generation ships that would take a hundred years to get to their destination?” Well, a look at the marketplace shows that they’re still there. Alistair Reynolds does books about traveling from star to star at sublight speeds and does a pretty good job on the physics involved. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a trilogy on settling Mars and making it habitable for humanity, and each step used existing technology or stuff we could make with just a little innovation. The hard science fiction market is still there, but the speculative part has grown and grown.

Technology itself has increased the market for SF. Online magazines proliferate where before only a handful of print magazines could exist. E-books allow authors to reach niche audiences, and without the need to print and distribute physical books, those authors can make a living with a higher cut of the buyer’s dollar. Some have given up publishing houses altogether.

As a society, we have learned to consider the fantastic as possible. With unbound imaginations, we are remaking the world. It began with a small number of authors saying “what if.” Now fiction feeds technology and technology suggests fiction in an endless circle. The future is boundless. We need only imagine it.

John Taloni is the author of two books that merge realistic science fiction with the fantasy element of intelligent cats. The first, Crisis on Stardust Station, tells the story of the cats coming to the aid of the stranded humans following a solar flare. Along the way they must rebuild Earth’s solar power satellite network, or face abandonment by a ruined Earth. The second, Shadow on the Moon, tells of a far greater danger waiting on the Moon. Earth’s sun will go supernova if they fail – but there are shadowy allies awaiting them as well.

Crisis on Stardust Station:

Shadow on the Moon:

John Taloni can be found at:

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What price, eBooks?

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

How much should eBooks cost? Is Amazon correct when it postulates that every eBook should be priced at $9.99 or less? Or are publishers correct in assuming that book sales hinge on many variables (such as book publicity, genre, subject matter, etc.), and numbers are impossible to predict based on price alone?

Can it be that, if all eBooks sold for $9.99, then — all things (including book publicity and book marketing) being equal — the only books with a competitive advantage would be those that cost less than $9.99? And would that mean the price of eBooks would fall until, finally, it cost more to sell an eBook than it would to just give it away (in the same way as you burn up more calories chewing celery sticks than you take in)?

Carolyn Kellogg, an LA Times staff writer covering books and publishing (@paperhaus at Twitter), muses about eBook pricing, and the veracity of Amazon’s contention that “For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99.” Click here to read it.

This book publicist’s hunch is that the jury will be out on the best eBook pricing for years to come and, in the meantime, publishers and Amazon will be duking it out over who has the right to decide what eBooks should cost. The Amazon/Hatchette feud isn’t going away anytime soon. Other pricing wars are just waiting in the wings.

There has never been a better time to be an independent publisher. And there has never been a more confusing time to be an independent publisher. Or, as a famous author once said, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

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Wattpad is here.

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

This book publicist uses technology for every book publicity campaign (whether it’s a book marketing campaign that includes social networking outreach or whether it’s a book marketing campaign that revolves around traditional book publicity opportunities). So I’m surprised to say that I am hearing about Wattpad for the first time.

Wattpad, according to a goodereader article, boasts more than 30 million users, and it allows authors to write, post, and share content. That would seem to be a great way to bring a book’s content to readers which is one of the main goals of book marketing.

However, as the article points out, some sort of system must be put into place to protect authors’ copyright. From what the article says, it seems Wattpad has found its vehicle for protecting authors’ copyright: Open Stories, a Creative Commons option. So now authors can share their content with readers (and, one hopes, can gain new readers) with Wattpad. This will provide a book publicity opportunity that authors need. And, at the same time, the content will be protected through a Create Commons license.

Does technology get any better than when technology meets book publicity?

This book publicist is properly impressed.

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Book Publicity: That’s News!

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

The best book publicity opportunities are in the news. Any time you, as an author or book publisher, can tie your topic into a front-burner news story, you have an opportunity to promote your book. Your expertise is just what the media needs, and if your book publicist (or if you, acting as your own book publicist), let the media know you’re available for interviews, you may just score some.

Your book can be new. It can be a backlist book. It can even be months away from publication. As long as you can tie your book, and your book’s topic, into a news story, you have a good chance of garnering book publicity opportunities.

For example, Lenore Skenazy wrote a book called Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) that was published by Jossey-Bass in April 2010. Skenazy wrote about the fact that she allowed her nine-year-old son to take the subway by himself in New York City, and he — and she — lived to talk about it (and, he, to learn from the experience and revel in the memory).

Skenazy’s daring-do happened to coincide with a story that’s in the news now about a South Caroline mom who was arrested for leaving her nine-year-old daughter alone in a public park while she worked her shift at a fast food restaurant. No less than a CNN reporter covered the story (which you can read here). As the story breaks to a national audience, Lenore Skenazy has a book publicity opportunity (and her book publicist, who sees the news story, has the opportunity). She can lend her perspective to the media that are covering the news story, and she can get her four-year-old book mentioned as part of the coverage of that news story.

Book publicists would do well to keep an eye on news stories to see which book publicity opportunities they can garner — just by making the connection between the books they’re promoting and the news stories of the day. And authors: don’t wait for your book publicists to see the connection between book publicity and what’s in the news. When you see the opportunity, go for it (or tell your book publicist to reach out to the media on your behalf).

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Social Networking for Book Publicity

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

How is your social network shaping up? Have you begun to put all of your social networking accounts in order so they can help you build your author platform? Book promotion is more than just reaching out to the media. Book publicity also means connecting with readers through blogging, via the social networks that were built specifically for book lovers (such as GoodReads and Shelfari), and the basic social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et al.) that also serve as highly effective SEO tools for authors. Is your book publicist ready to step in and take your social networking efforts to the next level? Or is your book publicist still doing all of the same things she was doing 20 years ago to the exclusion of tapping into the potential of social networking for book publicity?

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Why do you need a book publicist?

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Why do you need a book publicist? You can write your own press release, and you can garner media interviews yourself by tracking down the appropriate producers, editors, bloggers, and freelancers. You can join GoodReads, Shelfari, LinkedIn, Twitter, and all of the other social networking sites that are where readers gather, and you can post messages, and you can build your own author platform online, and you can build your brand as an author offline, too.

You can implement all of the book publicity strategies you’ve heard about, and you’ve researched, and you’ve intuited, all on your own. So, if you can do your own book promotion, then why do you need a book publicist?

The reason you need a book publicist is because, if you conduct your own book publicity campaign, and you do all of your own book marketing, then you’ll have no time to write books.

So which would you rather be: a book publicist or a writer? Which are you?

When you want to delegate your book publicity campaign to a book publicist with experience of more than two decades, I’ll be here for you.

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A book publicist’s lament

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

A Book Publicist’s Lament

So many authors are in a rush to publish their books. The production process has become so quick and easy that a book can go from the word processor to Amazon in a matter of weeks. That means the first time an author thinks about calling in a book publicist might be days before the book is available for sale online.

While that provides quick — if not instant — gratification for authors who want to see their words reach book buyers as soon as possible, the mad dash from the computer to the bookshelf does require the sacrifice of long lead-time book publicity opportunities.

By the time a book has been published (that is, by the time the book is available for purchase online), you’ve lost the opportunity to snare most traditional book reviews. Old school book reviewers (who still matter), require at least three months’ lead time. And they ask that you send them galleys instead of finished copies of the book.

So calling in a book publicist just before the book’s publication date means that you’re trading the possibility of traditional book reviews for the possibility of early book sales. But here’s the paradox. How many book sales can you reasonably expect if you don’t let your potential readers know that your book is going to be published?

That’s why, despite the fact that traditional book reviewers should probably have changed their submission requirements long ago, when the technological changes in book publishing shortened the book production schedule so much, it’s still impossible for book publicists (and for authors who are conducting book publicity campaigns) to bypass the rules and garner traditional book reviews without having at least three months’ lead time.

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Book Publicity by Reading Rainbow!

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Kids’ books are about to receive an old-but-new book publicity opportunity by Reading Rainbow host, LeVar Burton.

The wonderful LeVar Burton has long been a champion of children’s books, and children’s literacy (he was hosting episodes of “Reading Rainbow” even during his Star Trek: The Next Generation days!), but now he’s an innovator, too. Burton is bringing “Reading Rainbow” to kids, classrooms, and homes via a new app. Those who can pay a monthly subscription fee will have all-you-can-eat access to kids’ books that are part of the program. Disadvantaged kids will have access to the kids’ books, too. Along with being a great book publicity opportunity for the children’s books in the program, it’s also a wonderful chance to turn a new generation of kids onto the joys of reading … now and, I hope, for the rest of their lives.

Obviously, this book publicist isn’t the only book lover who’s crazy about LeVar Burton’s new project. A recent Kickstarter campaign, launched by Burton, “burst the seams, broke the dam and went through the roof” according to a CNN article. Burton met his goal within 11 hours of the campaign’s launch!

As a book publicist who frequently promotes children’s books, I am eagerly looking forward to the Web version of Reading Rainbow’s tablet app. And, as a children’s book fan and addict (yes — my Kindle is filled with books penned by current and classic children’s books and young adult novels, too), I can’t wait to support the “Reading Rainbow” project and catch up on some of the great children’s books I may have missed. Thank you, LeVar Burton, for the good work you’re doing. I know that all of “your” kids will thank you, too!

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Book Publicity Cheating!!!

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

I’m absolutely appalled by what Penguin Young Readers is trying to get away with!!! *tongue firmly planted in cheek*

First, and seriously, congratulations to fans of Roald Dahl’s wonderful book, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year. As every book lover knows, Dahl’s classic children’s book inspired the also-classic Gene Wilder movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” (The book also inspired a second and more recent “Willy Wonka” movie, not starring Gene Wilder, that I’d prefer not to discuss as well as some candy that, similarly, will not be part of this discussion.

Anyway, the anniversary of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory‘s publication is a wonderful opportunity to score some book publicity opportunities for the book which, hopefully, will lead to an increase in interest in the book…and a surge in book sales. Book promotion is easy when you’re Roald Dahl, everyone loves your work, and most of your readers credit you with changing the way they look at the world.

That said, this book publicist has a major complaint about the sweepstakes Penguin Young Readers is running so book sales will spike even more. No, this book publicist has no problem with the sweepstakes, per se. The sweepstakes are a very cool concept — particularly since, as you know, a good part of the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory story involves a group of sweepstakes winners. No, I have no complaints about the sweepstakes. What I must complain about are the sweepstakes prizes. According to MediaBistro (whose fault this whole book publicity travesty is not), “Five young readers will win a trip to New York City and a VIP experience at Dylan’s Candy Bar. In addition, winners will get a year’s supply of chocolate, a library of Dahl books and tickets to see Matilda the Musical.”

A year’s supply of chocolate? Really? That’s what I call book publicity cheating!!!!

As everyone who loves Roald Dahl’s wonderful book, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory knows, the character who won the sweepstakes in the story won — not a year’s supply of chocolate, but a lifetime supply of chocolate!

Give me a break, Penguin Young Readers. If you want this book publicist to feel great about the book promotion campaign you’re launching for Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, then get it right! Give your sweepstakes winners what they deserve! Give them the chocolate, Penguin. Please! Give them all the chocolate they deserve to go along with their terrific literary taste!

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One kid’s book publishing dream

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

In the midst of all the controversy and drama between Amazon and Hatchette, let’s not forget that CreateSpace (which is the self-publishing arm of Amazon) does something that the traditional New York publishing industry could never do. It lets kids make their book publishing dreams come true.

As a book publicist, I’m always scanning the news and trade media for examples of book promotion successes, and I came across one this morning. A ten-year-old Chicago-based boy, Jake Mayer, was featured on the CBS (Chicago) web site because he is writing his second novel which is a sequel to an Amazon category bestseller that he wrote! His first novel, A Tale of Friends, Enemies and Minecraft, has sold more than 14,000 copies on Amazon in only one year. That would be a wonderful feat for an adult, but the fact that a pre-teenager (and, to be fair about it, his family and teachers) made it happen both astonishes and thrills me.

According to the CBS article, A Tale of Friends, Enemies and Minecraft began its life as a school assignment. Jake’s father imagined that, once the book was published, it would sell fewer than a dozen copies.

Mr. Mayer was wrong in his projection of book sales, but that seems to be the only thing he was wrong about. He is raising a young man who is an inspiration to all kids, and to everyone who wants to write and publish a book.

Amazon, despite its quirks and shortcomings, has made it possible for Jake Mayer to become a successful novelist at age ten.

This book publicist appreciates the fact that book promotion opportunities have come Jake’s way. He’s earned them!

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