Lawyers, Fun, and Money

by wjw on August 29, 2008

So when I was in Denver I found myself reading to lawyers.

Yes. Lawyers.

Aaron Hughes, a lawyer who happens also to be a fan, invited me to his firm during lunchtime for pizza and a reading. I had nothing better to do at that hour,

I walked into the board room of this upscale law firm high in its glass tower, and the place was full of lawyers and their various assistants. There was an incredible view from the long glass wall. I had a slice of pizza and a soft drink, and then I sat down at the long, long table and read “Daddy’s World.”

No one yawned. I was really paying attention and none of them did. They laughed at the funny parts. They seemed disturbed by the disturbing parts. The people who were parents laughed in rueful recognition of the behavior of the juvenile protagonists. They all applauded at the end. They told me they liked the story a lot.

Now, none of these folks (with the exception of Aaron) would ever be seen in the science fiction section of the bookstore. Yet here they are enjoying science fiction.

Which confirms me in my long-held suspicion that 90% of my rightful audience lives outside the science fiction world. But how do I reach them? How do I get them to walk into that strange, forbidding section of the bo0kstore and pick up my books with the space ships and the sworsman on the covers? Because, y’know, they’d like those, too.

I really want to do more outreach, but I can’t just walk into law firms at random.

Where is this vast audience? How do I reach them?

Ideas are hereby solicited.

John Goodrich August 29, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Start sending free copies of your book to law firms?

A P Mullaly August 29, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Hmmm… I’m not really sure. But just wanted to let you know, I’m a lawyer and I mainly read Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Always have-always will. I think the main problem is just getting more people to read for pleasure all together.

Rebecca S. August 29, 2008 at 4:19 pm

I wish I had some brilliant idea to offer about reaching new readers, but I all I came up with was podcasts, and the problem is the same: how do you position them to reach listeners outside SFF?

What about stories in non-genre mags?

In the kudos department, I read “Daddy’s World” just yesterday in the ezine and loved it.

PureDoxyk August 29, 2008 at 7:01 pm

I think the idea of reading at law firms — and other places of business / commerce / etc — is actually a pretty great one. Why not, when you have the time, pop in and do readings in banking centers, nonprofit hubs and corporate whatevers? You’ve already proven that small groups in such places might appreciate a reading, and there is that old adage…”Go where your customer is!”. Plus, a reading (unlike a free book) is hard to ignore, easy to accept and enjoy, and most people appreciate the break / change of pace from their everyday lives (which is, of course, something at which sci-fi especially excels).

(Er, that’s a pretty courageous thing to do, by the way. I’m not sure I would have had the guts to read sci-fi to a conference-room full of lawyers! Kudos!)

dubjay August 29, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Oh, I’m used to doing readings for strangers, so it wasn’t a stretch to do one in a law office.

The nice thing was, I also got pizza. That usually doesn’t happen at readings.

It also helped that “Daddy’s World” is a story that can be enjoyed by people unfamiliar with genre tropes. Choosing which story to read in front of a mainstream audience can be important, and Aaron was right to ask me for this one.

Pete Johannsen August 30, 2008 at 3:42 pm

In law school, for my first paper, I did an examination of your story “Side Effects” in terms of who commited what tort, and the possible remedies each injured party had. I’m still fumbling around for the original paper, but the response was something like “Well reasoned, very creative it’s good to see a new student taking a few risks. Don’t ever do this again”

Pete Johannsen August 30, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Heh, hit publish before I came to my actual point. I think the big issue with reaching people who read a lot professionally is that many of them (and lawyers in particular) associate reading with toil. Just about everything a lawyer must read looks like particle physics translated from the original Mandarin.

If you could somehow slip your writing past that “reading is work” filter, you could really enrich some grey lives. I think its a pretty monumental task, though.

Aaron Hughes August 31, 2008 at 6:01 am

Thank you again for doing that, Walter!

That was the tenth Pizza & Prose reading we've done at the firm (the Denver office of Dorsey & Whitney), and folks keep coming back for more. It has been gratifying to see how many non-genre readers really enjoy SF/F once you get them to give it a try.

halojones-fan September 1, 2008 at 6:51 am

Welcome to Catch-22. You're a SF&F writer, which means you'll never be shelved outside the SF&F section. If they don't go into the SF&F section, then you'll never attract them.

Really, word-of-mouth is about the best you can hope for.

But…y'know, the internet. You're soaking in it. Word-of-mouth has a much longer reach these days.

idiotgrrl September 1, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Disguise it as Literature the way Margaret Atwood did. (Only, of course, she thought “Handmaid’s Tale” WAS Literature and not SF.)

dubjay September 2, 2008 at 4:40 am

Orbit, who will publish my next novel, specialize in covers that avoid genre expectations. If your Orbit book is called SWORD OF THE DRAGON TOWER, be assured that there will be neither a sword, nor a dragon, nor a tower on your cover.

We’ll see how well this works.

halojones-fan September 2, 2008 at 11:21 pm

“If your Orbit book is called SWORD OF THE DRAGON TOWER, be assured that there will be neither a sword, nor a dragon, nor a tower on your cover. “

Sort of the opposite of Baen, who will put sword and dragon and boobs and tower, and boobs, on your cover (which will also have boobs) even if your book doesn’t have any of those things.

Ralf the Dog September 4, 2008 at 7:44 am

1. Those stupid Turing tests that make you type a bunch of deranged letters to prove you are a human before you can post keep getting longer. Sell your short stories to the companies that make these [expletive deleted] tests. I would rather type one of your stories than i11illL1!!].

2. Make extraordinary medical claims about your stories. “If you read 3 of my books a year, you will have a 30 point jump in IQ and you will look 20 years younger (If you are over the age of 40).

3. Get a cause. Found Swordsmen against Marmot Porn. You will give 25 percent of the profits from your next book to protect groundhogs from perverted film directors that want to film things far to twisted to post.

4. Get a pen name. You are now Sidney Remington, an 11 year old girl from a small town in North Dakota. People are shocked that a person with such little life experience can write on such a level. I feel confident that when you grow up, you will be one of the nations greatest authors.

5. Pay a PR company to convince the world that you are extraordinarily trendy. Anyone who does not read your books is a throwback to the 20th century.

6. Go to a big bookstore and throw a temper tantrum. “Why wont you guys read my books? You are all a bunch of Cat Sniffers!!!”

matthew September 10, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Change your name to Walter J Williams and write fiction (just like Iain Banks/Iain M Banks).I bet you can cut it in just about any section of a bookstore. I bet you could write a readable book about the trials and tribulations of a blind Stamp collector.

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