Science Fiction writer S.L. Viehl is apparently annoyed at my incessant pimpage of Old Man’s War:

The book has been the topic 28 times in January, and 7 since the beginning of February. I can’t count the book-related links, my calculator doesn’t have that many places. The cover art for this book has been slapped onto the blog template as well, so it’s in your face everytime you go there. Just in case you didn’t read the last entry about how much [insert important reviewer entity name] loved it.

Really dedicated propaganda effort, too. Used car salesman quality. How the hell do you think of that much to say about your own novel? But the desperation is sad. Tempts one to post a comment on the blog, like Dude, we get that you published a novel and everybody loves it. You’ll sell. Relax.

Heh heh heh heh heh.

Well, you know, she’s right. I won’t deny I’m writing about the book a lot (look! I’m doing it again! Somebody stop me!). You got me. I do think Ms. Viehl misinterprets my purpose for doing so. This is my first published novel, after all, and the first time I’ve had a book this widely reviewed. Simply put, the process is interesting to me, and I write about what’s of interest to me here on the Whatever. It’s why I’m not writing much about Book of the Dumb 2, for which I was paid a lot more than, was released at about the same time as, and — truth to tell — is almost certainly outselling OMW. I like Book of the Dumb 2 a lot, actually; I think it’s overall a better book than the first book in the series. But I’ve already been through the process of releasing that kind of book, and the mechanics of that process are not as interesting to me at the moment.

In any event, I sort of doubt that there’s all that much propaganda value in writing about OMW here. I figure most of the people who read the site who were going to pick up the book at all probably did so in the first couple of weeks, and those who didn’t aren’t likely to be moved one way or another to pick up the book. Pretty much everyone who reads this site is has been innoculated to Old Man’s War’s charms, and has been for a while.

Now, if I truly wanted to propogandize the book in the blogosphere, what I would do is frequent a lot of other blogs and find subtle ways to mention my book in the comment threads, whether it were germane to the topic or not. And yeah, I don’t do much of that. Because then I would be a dick. I restrict my monomaniacal musings to this site, because where else would be better? This site is about me me me me me. Hell, I hardly even mention Old Man’s War at By the Way, and when I do, I apologize for it, because that site’s not about me (not all the time, anyway). I’m missing a prime propoganda opportunity there, since unlike here, I’m almost always on my best behavior, and most AOL Journalers seem to like me. Yet somehow I manage to resist the pimping opportunity.

You know, when I’m not writing books, I’m making most of my income writing advertising and marketing materials, and I do very well with that. Trust me, you would know if I was trying to propagandize the book. Instead, I keep most of my thoughts on the book confined to this one site, and avoid being a pathetic first-time novelist grasping for attention on other people’s sites. I think that’s entirely reasonable.

(As for redoing the site in the book colors: Oh, I don’t know. I think it looks pretty.)

I do recognize that not everyone who reads this site is going to share my enthusiasm for noting the continuing adventures of Old Man’s War out in the world, but to refer to the site disclaimer, this site is operated by me for the purposes of my own amusement. With the possible exception of myself, everyone who visits the site is going to find something of mine they’re not going to like. And I’m just fine with that. If the site bugs you, the simple solution is to go away and come back when you feel like it, if you feel like it. Either the subject will have changed and be more to your liking, or I will have continued to drone on in my self-absorbed way about a topic that you couldn’t possibly care less about. That’s how it works around here.

However, I would like to thank Ms. Viehl for giving me yet another excuse to talk about the book.

45 Comments on “Propaganda”

  1. Don’t stop what your doing. Readers like me are fascinated with the behind the scenes story of how the novels sales are doing. I agree that your mostly “speaking to the choir” here so let the self promoting sail on.

    By the way, I finished OMW for the second time last night. Picked up a few things I missed the first time and all in all, I feel the novel is a bit more solid then my first impression. Only gripes that still lingers are the 1″ tall humanoids and the whole infinate parallel universe quantum transfer travel thing. The first is simply rediculous and the later is too abstract for my simple mind to embrace. I continue to be much more comfortable with the “Warp one Scotty” method of ‘getting there fast’

    Carry on

  2. I need to add to my above comments… OMW has caused me a delema of sorts. When it came in the mail from Amazon, the package was bent. Now, the cover has broken loose from the binding. Its truely a good book that makes a reader contemplate ordering a new copy just to have a pristine copy. *huge sigh*. :-)

  3. Please don’t feel that you need to stop writing about OMW on your blog. Nobody’s being forced to read your blog, so they can click elsewhere if they get tired of the “pimpage.” Heck, if I were in your shoes, I’d be gloating, reveling, linking, celebrating — you get the idea — to a much greater degree than you have been.

  4. I agree with the others…it didn’t even strike me as promoting the book or “pimping” – just interesting info about the publication process.

  5. Although I do find the behind the scenes publishing stuff interesting, it’s your excitement (read between the lines) that I enjoy seeing in your entries. The info about how your book is selling, the reviews you get (good & bad), and where to find copies keep me reading the entries. In some sick way, I’m proud for you.

    Is this the first story you’ve had published that was entirely yours and not commentary on the dumb things people do, or si-fi movies, etc? If so (and I’m guessing the answer is yes) it’s only natural that you’d want to talk about your “baby”.

  6. So, are you “not” suppossed to be excited about OMW? I think you are handling the whole thing relatively tamely. I don’t know about you, but when I write to my blog, it’s generally to write about whatever is on my mind. If I had my 1st novel published, I am not sure I would be able to think about much, if anything else.

    And to echo another comment, I find the whole process very interesting, otherwise I wouldn’t read it. I would just click on, see that it was another post about OMW and search for the fix to my blog jones elsewhere.

  7. Oh, pft. Ms. Viehl should ask herself why she spent the brain cells keeping track. I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally, I have better things to do than count how many times someone talks about something on their blog.

    So, you pimp. Who cares?

    Moving right along…

  8. Here’s a question for you. It’s been such a long process (as it always is), conceiving, writing, getting the book published. Did you go through periods where you weren’t as excited/proud about the book? I suspect you did. If so, what was it that resuscitated your interest? Signing a contract? The publication process? Seeing the physical book? Watching the indications of its success begin to flow in?

    Writing books is weird, because as one book is completed, you need to shift attention to the next one. But you can’t forget about the old books, because you need to maintain interest in/publicity for them as well. Just wondering how you’re handling all that.

    I’ve written a few books, but never ones that need to be marketed as aggressively as trade fiction does, and even my experience was a roller coaster. As I move into more commercial markets, I’m wondering what the experience will be like.

  9. Really, John — I just can’t believe how much you talk about your own first novel on your own personal site. It’s like you think this site is supposed to be about *you* or something.

    Anyhow I’ve enjoyed the OMW entries, both for the insights into the whole process of getting a novel published and because I’ve been a fan of your blog for years and I’m really happy to see the book doing well.

    But if I didn’t find them interesting, I’d just move along and come back when you discuss something else. It’s really not that difficult.

  10. Good lord, I never will understand how some people think, or why they’re always looking for something to gripe about. This is John Scalzi’s personal web site. Why the hell shouldn’t he talk about his own book here? When and if I ever manage to get a novel published, you can bloody well bet I’ll be talking about it on my blog…

  11. John – I notice you’ve got a typekey sign-in link, but when I go to the typekey site and successfully sign in, it tells me that your site is not signed up to use it.

    This reminds me of the time in OMW when… um… that guy… tried to do something but couldn’t… I think.

  12. Dear Ms. Viehl,

    Please go to the nearest corner store and pick up some chocolate to soothe yourself. Failing that, jeebus, woman, click the freakin’ NEXT link!


    Sheesh. I love your scribblage about your books, John! It’s fascinating to me to read an author’s thoughts on writing and publishing, which is part of why I read the blogs of PZB and Neil Gaiman, too.

  13. Dave Munger asks:

    “Did you go through periods where you weren’t as excited/proud about the book?”

    Well, there were two years between when the book sold and when it was printed, and for a lot of that time I didn’t think about the book one way or another, actually. But as for the rest of it, well, remember that I had put the book up here on the site, which meant I was resigned (althoguh not in a bad way) to it never being a real book at all, just a long story on the Web. So everything from there on out’s been a bonus. It’s been easy to keep a general level of enthusiasm going for the book.

    For me the issue of enthusiasm comes up during writing — sometimes it’s just a slog, you know?

    Mark: I keep trying to set up the Typekey thing — I haven’t the slightest idea why it doesn’t work. I think it hates me.

  14. You know, I recently got a similar email from someone saying that I have been a one-topic writer for too long, etc. It’s ridiculous; the world hands you certain things at certain times, positive and negative, that occupy your thoughts and your life. For a writer to turn away from the things that are important to him just in the interest of, I don’t know, maybe being an interesting “character” in the story he’s writing, well, it’s silly. I can’t believe another writer would need to be told that.

  15. It’s nice of Viehl to promote your book one more time on another blog and give you the excuse to write another entry about OMW. Sweet, really.

  16. Karl says: “It’s nice of Viehl to promote your book one more time on another blog…”

    Heh. Well, she didn’t — she doesn’t name the author nor does she link back. However, I don’t mind sending people her way.

    Rob, re: the “One Topic” thing: Yeah, and at the very least, your one topic is far more central to your life than mine. I hope you will ignore those folks and write what you want.

  17. Well, this threw me in a loop. I just came from her site, where I was snickering about this poor deluded author, endlessly bloviating about his book, infesting his site with pictures of the cover. Poor insecure sap.

    Then I come here, and the penny dropped like an Acme-brand anvil. It never occured to me to realize she was talking about you.

    Can’t say I’m conflicted about it. I’ve hung around here for a couple of years, and while I don’t know you personally, I know your online persona, and if you were the person PW described, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t put up with that nonsense on dorothyl. I didn’t when I was newspaper reviewing. You can self-promote all you want, but if your book doesn’t cut it, nothing’s going to help.

    Your postings sounded less like propaganda and more like someone sharing your writing life with us (just like PW does), and right now, with only one novel out, that takes up a big part of your life.

    If she compared your current crop of posts with those from when Book of the Dumb and the Planets guide came out, she would see that.

    What I find most ironic is that in the “Outrageous” post below, she wrote: “I journal online to talk about what it is to be a writer, and not to con you or ram one of my novels down your throat. You want the promo, you know where it is. There are enough pros out there who make only kissy noises about publishing so they can sell books and win awards. I had this outrageous analogy — sweet one, too — about this type of pro, but I won’t use it. Let’s just say, they have to swallow enough without getting it from me.”

    Sounds exactly like what you’re doing. It’s just that your publishing experiences have been far more positive whan her’s.

  18. “It’s just that your publishing experiences have been far more positive whan her’s.”

    Possibly, although I don’t know enough about her career to speculate on her motivations. We all make observations based on our own perspectives, and that’s her perspective on what I do. I think it’s a bit inaccurate, but it’s not enough to get worked up about. She can have her own interpretation.

  19. Admittedly, I know very little about the SciFi world. Yet, I am left to wonder if there is some “premiere envy” in the air.

    Congrats on the great start!

  20. Maybe I’m being crass here, but if John Scalzi sold aluminum siding rather than novels, no one would complain about the fact that he promotes his own work on his own site.

    Writing may be an art, but publishing and book promotion are businesses. When Tor promotes OMW, my guess is that they don’t lose sleep over questions of “pimping” the book.

    As I understand the current state of the publishing business (correct me if I’m wrong here, John), an author’s demonstrated ability to effectively promote him/herself is one of the factors that publishing houses consider when deciding whether or not to offer a new author a contract.

  21. So… my plan to personally e-mail every single person on the planet instructing them to buy my first novel if I get published is going to be considered a Bad Thing? It’s a good thing I visit here often; I learn important career stuff.

  22. Edward Trimnell says:

    “As I understand the current state of the publishing business (correct me if I’m wrong here, John), an author’s demonstrated ability to effectively promote him/herself is one of the factors that publishing houses consider when deciding whether or not to offer a new author a contract.”

    Possibly, although it varies from author to author, I’m sure. I sold OMW on the merits of the novel itself, but I think Tor is happy that I am a relatively well-socialized author who is happy to promote my work. It does make my publicist’s job easier, and hopefully will ultimately sell more books. I think if a book is on the bubble, being a promotion-friendly author would help.

    Jill: Yeah, Ms. Viehl does seem to have a number of bees in her bonnet. Speaking as both a novelist and a reviewer, I think it’s not necessary to have to have written a novel in order to review one (or to have made a movie to review one, or whatever). My general response to people who suggest one should have to is: I’ve never laid an egg, but I know when one’s gone bad. Which is to say the act of consumption is different than the act of creation and one need not consider the latter to evaluate the former.

  23. Scalzinator:
    “Which is to say the act of consumption is different than the act of creation and one need not consider the latter to evaluate the former.”

    Which, really, is an interesting point.

    For the general consumer, what they want is a review of the consumption experience to help them decide whether they want to expend their precious essence on the act. While there might be an esoteric thrill for a narrow population that can appreciate how difficult a certain aspect might be to create, for the most part this is trivial to a consumer. The main reason is that a master may accomplish the difficult with ease, and the novice will struggle with mediocre; so it’s not necessarily a meaningful measure.

    With that in mind, the Whatever sucks some serious ass at flogging the book for consumption. What makes this blog so great (for me) is that it regularly offers delectable insights for that narrow population who crave to know more about being a writer. I don’t think it should take much insight for even a casual reader to realize this.

    And, having digested Ms. Viehl’s rant, I’m guessing she probably understands this. It seemed to me to be more like someone vaguely scratching an itch that they think is around there somewhere, rather than someone surgically slicing into an issue they want to lance. She looks to have a self-satisfied snide that accepts some collateral damage, and I can appreciate that.

  24. You’re a published author! This is your first novel! You are living your dreams. If I were in your shoes, I’d be doing the same.

    This is where you get to enjoy the fruits of your hard work.

    People who aren’t living their dreams tend to be bitter and pee in other people’s cheerios.

    I am living vicariously through your accomplishments. Enjoy it!!!

  25. Personally, I love to drop by and find another OMW success story or street sighting. If you’ll remember my previous comment a few weeks ago comparing catching the Scalzi wave with being an early adopter of Apple in terms of underground-ish cliquish excitement, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that tuning into Whatever for an OMW post is like sticking my nose into the Wall Street Journal and finding that my stock is up another point or two. Every success post you write is just another validation of my personaltaste in writers and my ability to pick a winner. And we all need validation. :-)

  26. Absolutely, I love reading about Old Man’s War and sharing your sense of excitement. The info on the business side of publishing is really valuble and I love the open and straight forward way you talk about your work and the worlds you’re involved in. And there are funny bits. Really what more could you ask for? Go John!

  27. I’m grateful to have a mouse and the ability to click it. If I don’t feel like reading something I can move right along. It’s a big part of why I like the internet.

    I have to say that I have been reading the OMW info and thinking what a brilliant artist you are. I’m a writer and a performer and I am working on building a tour of a show that I’ve written. Marketing, finding venues, interesting people in what I’ve created is a skill that I’m developing and I don’t find it easy. It’s a skill that you clearly have. I admire it and I’m learning from it. Lucky for me I stumbled across you long before OMW came out and stuck around because I was enjoying myself. Perhaps Ms. Viehl could either learn something or get a hobby to keep her time better occupied. She does seem a perfect candidate for the current “Stitch and Bitch” knitting craze.

    Rob, I didn’t happen to catch that comment on your site. A hearty fuck you to that person, please tell them so from me.

  28. Sorry to interrupt the incessant kissing up comments here, but I *am* getting tired of seeing constant OMW articles, especially the “My book in now in this bookstore” and the “signing bonus” series.

    I liked Old Man’s War. I read it online for free and bought one from Amazon last week. (That makes us even, right?) I even enjoy most of the articles pulling back the curtain on the publishing industry, but you are starting to sound like the guy at the office who got a new Porsche. I’m excited for him and all, but I’m a little tired of hearing about it.

    It’s your site. I don’t expect to be enamored of everything I read here, but if you didn’t want feedback, you wouldn’t have comments, right?

  29. (sigh)

    Aw, Dennis. Now I have to *kill* you.

    I do intend to write about other things, to be sure.

  30. Sweet! I’m shopping for a Porsche AND I intend to be a monotonous drone of self-congratulation if I get published.

    I’m the biggest bore in the world!

  31. I want to talk about the 26 Novels in 5 Genres written by five different pseudonyms.

    No, not really.

    I’m kind of burned/bummed out on the political thing, so I don’t really need a good rant either.

    Hmmmm. I want something that will make me feel happy and optimistic. Yeah, that’s what I want.

  32. I don’t blame people for getting sick about certain subjects, but I ALSO don’t blame someone who has had their first fiction novel published talking about it a lot on their own personal blog. That IS the beauty of always being one or two clicks away from other topics that you might be more interested in…

    Shoot, I know when I have my first novel published I will be blogging about my thoughts and feelings and future sightings, etc. for awhile, at least until the “newness” wears off. And if that bores people, I don’t blame them for clicking elsewhere. To each his or her own…

    Since I haven’t yet bought or read OMW (though I plan to at some point), this isn’t me kissing up. It’s me stating simple fact–or at least, my opinion. And I LOVE the colors/layout of this website, but that’s because blue and teal are my absolute favorite colors ever.

  33. Besides, John, once OMW is made into a Tom Cruise vehicle and you’re second book hits the best-seller list, we’ll accuse you of selling out and that you were better when you were giving your stuff away.

    Nothing personal.

  34. “once OMW is made into a Tom Cruise vehicle”

    Just as long as it’s not directed by Paul W.S. Anderson or Uwe Boll, I’ll be fine.

  35. Accusing someone of excessive self-promotion in the course of running a blog is like accusing someone of making suggestive comments in the course of sex.

  36. I haven’t read OMW, I’m probably not going to read OMW – I don’t read much science fiction, and it doesn’t sound exactly like the kind I most like to read.

    But I enjoy reading what our host has to say on this blog, and by God I do empathize with his excitement and pride over his novel, and I wish him well with it.

    Go ahead and keep posting about how the book’s doing, John. And if some readers think you’re bloviating a little, you deserve it.

  37. Hey now, don’t be maligning the Stitch & Bitch, yo.

    (The long version: I just ordered S&BNation, mainly to spite all the humorless sods who gave it negative reviews at for its title alone, and I really, really hope it turns out to be a lot more fun than is implied by prescribing it to someone who complains about a first-time novelist’s self-promotion on his blog.)

  38. S&BNation is at my local Costco.

    John, I am stuck travelling to a tiny Colorado town twice this month, and I drove up to the next bigger town to obtain OMW. They didn’t have it because Tor won’t have it reprinted and available for another week. I had originally promised myself that I would try and buy a copy from the next travel location I went to, but due to Tor’s printing schedule, I’m gonna break down and buy it at the local store if they have it in.

    (I did pick up Hemingway and Twain instead, so it wasn’t a total loss.)

  39. My first post!

    John, I think you have the right to say whatever you want to say on a website you create and pay for. As so many others have pointed out, if someone doesn’t want to read what you have to say, move on to something else.

    I recently read Agent to the Stars and thought it was really enjoyable. If I had to pick a nit it would be the way every situation seemed to be there solely to resolve a later plot twist. This is really just a minor peeve on my part, but life rarely happens that way.

    On a different note, would you please consider adding the links from the top of the page at the bottom as well? That would make it easier to go on to the next page after reading allllll the comments.

    Thanks for the great blog!

  40. Has that woman never read Neil Gaiman’s blog? Nobody accuses him of pimping himself too much, even though he talks almost exclusively about writing. I guess that’s because he’s a professional writer.

    Oh, wait. YOU’RE a professional writer, too! Well, day-um, doesn’t that just take the argument out of it?

    Perhaps Ms. Viehl should go to a website written by a doctor and complain that he writes too much about medicine. Personal website, woman. Good gods.

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