One of the premier Horror Conventions in the world is the annual HorrorFind Convention. The year that I met Kevin Lucia, the convention was in Baltimore, Maryland, and I was not only attending my first convention, but was also physically meeting my publisher for the first time after the release of my first novel Grave Whispers.
RYAN B. CLARK: So, moving on…. we find ourselves at HorrorFind, both in the presence of Brian Keene, and actually having conversations. If you remember, I pitched him my werewolf story and he said it was one of the most original story concepts he had ever heard of. Kind of cool…. still need to do that… Anyway, so there we are, you with Hiram Grange and me with Grave Whispers…. from here, our paths divert more so… you embraced the Con…. while I shunned it. So I guess question two… let’s talk about early marketing and publicity, specifically, the use of the Con vs. the Signing.
KEVIN LUCIA: Well, to be very honest, I never thought much back then about “marketing” myself. At that point, Hiram Grange and the Chosen One hadn’t even come out yet (the whole series had been delayed; Joke was on me for buying a vendor’s table with no book to sell!), so the biggest thing I was trying to do was meet people. I was just getting to know folks within the Shroud Publishing circle, so I could sense how important it was to meet people in the industry.
RYAN: I found myself with my face against the wall of my own unrealistic expectations when it came to that first Con. I had not only never been to a Convention before of any kind, but I had not even attended an author event… of any kind. I was completely starry eyed and starstruck. Somewhere in my head, as I hearkened to in the earlier part of our discussion, I was completely inflated with this idea that I was now some sort of neo-celebrity. Thinking back on it now, it is ludicrous the extremity of my own self delusions!
But, honestly, I went to Baltimore thinking people would be lining up to meet me, as laughable as that now is, and really the only responsibility I put on myself was showing up. Imagine my complete shock to find that I was basically one of about a million other starving artists, pedaling their wares to the horror-loving masses! I had never seen myself as a salesman at all, and in the end I left the Con with a very negative impression of the experience. In hindsight, this judgment, like most if not all judgment, was completely unfair and based more on my own unrealistic dreams than any basis in reality.
KEVIN: I’d already attended Mo-Con, NECON, and far more importantly, Borderlands Press Writers’ Bootcamp. I’d realized that meeting other writers – veterans and newbies alike; editors, and publishers – got you out of the fish bowl and into the sea with the big fish. I was eager to do that. I wanted to know more about writing and publishing. I didn’t know if I was going to fail or succeed…but I was gonna jump into that sea, even if meant I might get swallowed by a whale.
RYAN: One of the things I have learned, perhaps even the most important lesson that I have learned, from having now completed the first half of my month long Spirits of Jerome Book Tour is the sheer truth of the importance of what you just said. I have built up my endeavor of Ghost Writer Press this year using primarily Facebook and other social media. It has been a great success, and I have achieved or exceeded every goal that I have set. However, the limitations of a network system based largely in non-real “Friends” and “Likes” and “Shares” has become glaringly obvious.
My first and foremost goal moving forward this winter is to pursue active involvement with several local writer’s groups. My colleague Ken Lamberton, has proven to be amazingly helpful in this regard. The importance of a network of real people, other writers, people who share your passions and …. struggles…. is almost impossible to emphasize enough.
KEVIN: However, I wanted to attend Cons for other reasons. I was a big follower of Brian Keene‘s blog back then, had read several of his blog memoirs, in which he talked about how he had met some of his closest friends at Cons, and how they all formed a second family. Let’s be honest, writing is a lonely gig. And when you’re a weird horror writer, it’s even lonelier. I wanted to get out and meet folks like me, folks who understood what I was going through. Eight years later, I’m so glad I did. I’ve made so many friends, (including you!) met even more colleagues, and I made it out of the fish bowl.
RYAN: A simple Google search for “Arizona Writer’s Groups” populates a huge list of conventions, workshops, and editing groups. This is one of the reasons, exemplified right here, why other professionals who share your craft and your passion are so vital. The more we think we know… the less we learn, and I am continually trying to absorb as much information and advice as possible. Just to list a few of the resources available in less than a minute:
KEVIN: As far as marketing and publicity, at the time I went out on the Con trail, I was selling my very first short stories and was writing book reviews for Shroud Magazine. So I did have the chance to perform readings of my short stories and sell copies of anthologies containing them. Because I was also a very prolific review writer at the time, initially to everyone I was: “Hey, that’s the Shroud Book Review Guy!” A few years later I became, “That’s the Hiram Grange guy!” You speak on panels, and if you don’t screw up too badly, people become interested in you and your writing. And if you’re a normal and sane person and don’t freak people out, you hang with other writers – both newbies and veterans – at the bars or in the hotel parking lot, talking until 3 AM about everyone under the sun. You form relationships. That’s the only kind of publicity and marketing I’m interested in.
RYAN: Knowing a bit about your path, I am familiar with your near expert use of platforms like GoodReads, and Review Blogs such as Cemetery Dance. You have built quite the audience with these endeavors; furthermore, one of the things that is immediately obvious is the quality of those digital relationships. As we will discuss further along in the interview, and as I began to discuss above, social media offers quite a wide range of friendships.
I have found success with Keep the Greasy Side Down, and with Ghost Writer Press, with embracing the perception of Arizona being a niche market. In many ways, the differences in our use of book tours and signings and conventions is about proximity. Many conventions are within driving distance of your home in New York, whereas many of these Cons are a bit of a travel expense for me. However, my ability to utilize local business, local flavor, and small town appeal is something that is quite foreign to you back East.
Stay Tuned Folks…. our Discussion Does Nothing but Get MORE Interesting !!!
Keep the Greasy Side Down My Friends !