amelia beamer

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What I learned from giving away my first novel

Posted 28 April 2014 | By | Categories: Books, Publishing, The Loving Dead, The Loving Dead Online Serial | No Comments

In 2010 I serialized my first novel The Loving Dead on my website, before giving e-books away on Amazon was a common strategy. The industry belief at the time had been that anyone who read a book for free would have no reason to buy it, and so you’d kill your market.

But my publisher and I were impressed by people like Cory Doctorow giving away their books, so we decided it was a risk worth taking. The novel did well and Barnes & Noble has since called it one of the top zombie novels of the past decade.

What I learned is how the publishing industry has become personal. I also talk about an incident involving free bacon.

Information wants to be free. It also wants to be personal.

As a debut novelist I was bonecrushingly anxious about my book getting attention. I feared it being made fun of or worse, being ignored. I’ve since accepted that I’ll be writing regardless of what happens with the publishing industry, but I want to have a career.

And for me, reading has always been personal. I read author bios. I read the acknowledgements. I want to know who these people are and how they got there.

These days, publishers expect authors to be personally and socially available. Readers expect it too, and there’s a massive industry based around looking good and making friends online. So I try to hold up my end, and I love making friends, but I’ve learned that curating an online personality has to be fun. Stressing over trying to get attention ultimately doesn’t serve my goals.

Because it’s not just about attention: I want my books to make friends. I know how I feel after reading things I like, and I know how I feel after I’ve read things because they were slick enough to get my attention. I want readers who are enthusiastic about horny zombies, readers who want smart and honest writing, readers who feel a connection to my work. I want readers like the young man who told me that The Loving Dead was the first novel he’d ever read. It was the first book he’d found that he could relate to.

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend

I think people choose what books to read the same way we choose friends. The book has to be interesting, and it has to cross your path in a way that gets your attention. It helps if the book comes recommended by someone you trust. There are so many novels out there, and I can’t remember when I last picked up a book based on a book review. I get them all through personal contacts, or chance encounters.

This may go against conventional wisdom, but I don’t think books or even authors are competing against one another. We’re competing for a potential reader’s attention with everything in his or her life. If these potential readers are anything like me, they want the book to be handed to them by a friend. They want reading to be a shared cultural experience, like Harry Potter or Fifty Shades. Most importantly, they want to read stories that speak to their interests.

So my hope is to put my books in front of as many people as possible, so that the books can make friends. Word of mouth is never about promoting a product: it’s about the personal relationship between the person giving the recommendation and the person receiving it. Making the book free is just a way to get more people involved.

Human nature and free bacon

I cowork at an office in Chicago where we recently had a bacon incident. A food truck had made some sort of mistake and had offered to come do a “bacon apology” by giving free bacon to the office members.

Free bacon? 

But when the gent showed up, the offer became “free with purchase” and I lost interest. It was upsetting not just because I’d been excited about the bacon, but because I saw the potential of what could have happened and how badly the bacon promiser had screwed it up.

I don’t think my office mates and I would have taken advantage of the free bacon. The offer was unique and something we’d been looking forward to. We would have responded by buying our lunches from the food truck. We would have told our friends about it, and the company would have cleaned up in sales and good word of mouth. That’s why I want to give more novels away. It’s not just about a single transaction.

For the past decade, publishing has been evolving from the big box model toward the cult fan base. There will always be big trends because humans are social creatures, but I see the 1,000 True Fans method for making money from creative work becoming mainstream. And why not? We get our breaking news through our social networks now, just as we did thousands of years ago. Information has always been personal, that’s why we trust it.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve never had one. People come for the body of work, not the song.” — Joe Bonamassa

Archive for 'The Loving Dead'

SF Chronicle’s Best SF of the Year List

Posted 18 December 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | 1 Comment

THE LOVING DEAD is #1 on the San Francisco Chronicle‘s list of ten best SF & fantasy novels for 2010! (So what if it’s in alphabetical order by author?!)

“In Beamer’s first novel, the undead uprising finally comes to our own East Bay. When their house party in the Oakland Hills is interrupted by a couple of flesh-chomping zombies, Trader Joe’s co-workers Kate and Michael don’t really have the presence of mind to engage the threat effectively. “The Loving Dead” is funny, profane and more than a little bit squicky, a worthwhile and perceptive addition to a literary fad that won’t seem to lie down and stay dead.”

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Interview with Rick Kleffel

Posted 22 November 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | No Comments

Listen to NPR’s Rick Kleffel ask me about my literary pretensions and how they brought me to write a zombie novel. I say things like “the sexuality of zombies has been in the background long enough.” Link to Agony Column podcast.

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SF in SF redux

Posted 10 October 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | No Comments

Rick Kleffel’s coverage of my reading at SF in SF is up, along with a charming writeup:  ”Amelia Beamer knew exactly how to start off her reading at SF in SF in the August gig. She started with a reading from her book, wherein the character tells a sort of joke that you’ll never forget, indeed, one that will a) make you want to buy the book immediately, even before you get to the sex-zombies-in-the-zeppelin-bathroom scene; b) make you want to listen to the reading itself again immediately, because it’s just so cool.”

The reading starts about five minutes into the recording. SF in SF is a great venue, benefiting the Variety Children’s Charity of Northern California; next up, Claude Lalumière and Karen Joy Fowler, on October 16.

Archive for 'The Loving Dead' zombie week

Posted 17 September 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | No Comments

Check out’s zombie goodness, including:

My guest post “Dead Sexy”, in which I answer the unholy question: Why do people want to fuck the dead?

A “name that zombie” photo caption contest for a goody bag filled with awesome. (My favorite so far: “This party is for Hugo nominees only!”)

A zombie art gallery including commentary about THE LOVING DEAD from cover artist Dave Palumbo: “The living girl in this painting spends most of the book fighting not only with zombies, but also with strong sexual feelings and questions. I wanted to show a moment which kind of walked halfway between: a struggle with a zombie where it could either lean towards a bite or a kiss.”

An excerpt from THE ZOMBIES OF LAKE WOEBEGOTTEN by Harrison Geillor.

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Upcoming appearances

Posted 09 September 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | 1 Comment

I’ll be at the fab SF in SF reading on Saturday September 11, along with Mark L. Van Name, with Terry Bisson moderating. Cash bar! Zoot suit! Zombies on a Zeppelin!

Reception starts at 7:00 PM, talky-talking at 8:00 PM. Find us at The Variety Preview Room,  582 Market St. @ Montgomery, 1st floor of The Hobart Bldg.

I’ll also be at  Litcrawl on Saturday October 9, 7:15 PM, along with Gail Carriger and S.G. Browne, at Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

From the Litquake website:

Borderlands Books Presents Zombies and Zeppelins
Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia St.

S.G. Browne has zombies, Gail Carriger has zeppelins, and Amelia Beamer’s first novel has both. Join us!

Amelia Beamer’s first novel, The Loving Dead, with zombies and a zeppelin, has been praised by the likes of Christopher Moore and Peter Straub.

S.G. Browne is author of the dark zombie comedy Breathers and the upcoming supernatural dark comedy Fated. He lives in San Francisco.

Gail Carriger, New York Times bestselling author, writes steampunk paranormal comedies of manners. She traversed European cities subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag.

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Dark Del event

Posted 06 September 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | No Comments

R to L: Gary K. Wolfe, Carol Penn-Romine, Andy Romine, Christopher East, Amelia Beamer, Steven Klotz, Erin Klotz (photo by Jenn Reese)

I hadn’t done an event at Dark Delicacies before, and I really like the format. Instead of just reading (I like reading, but I know how this story goes) or just speaking, a bunch of us pulled up chairs and chatted about random stuff — zombies, Clarion, Locus — and had a really nice time.

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Realms of Fantasy review

Posted 06 September 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | 1 Comment

Paul Witcover did a charming review of THE LOVING DEAD in the October issue of Realms of Fantasy:

(This is one of those reviews where you know the reviewer got what you were trying to do.)

Beamer’s version of zombiehood is still about eating brains—and just about any other portion of the human anatomy—but she foregrounds what has, until now, mostly been the erotic subtext of the genre.  This disease seems to make people hornier—it’s one of the recognizable symptoms, as the book goes on—yet in truth, the expressive displays of sexuality and lustful hunger triggered by the disease are not too far beyond what is already common in Mike and Kate’s world of casual hookups and voyeuristic teasing, where irony is a shield against experience, not the hard-earned result of it.  Beamer’s zombies hunger for us—and we lust for them.  It’s the perfect symbiotic relationship…

Throughout, Beamer’s writing is sharp, funny, sexy, and appropriately gory.  A whole lot of somethings happen . . . and fast.  The main action takes place over the span of perhaps a full day.  But it’s in an epilogue set ten years later that Beamer brings a less frantic and more reflective tone to her novel, taking the outrageous deadpan comedy of the book into a more somber and human—or is that post-human?—place.

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Posted 31 August 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | No Comments

An obligatory show-off post, in which I mention a few of the stellar reviews THE LOVING DEAD has been getting. Oh, may the zombie love never die!

“THE LOVING DEAD is funny, profane and more than a little bit squicky, a worthwhile and perceptive addition to a pop culture fad that won’t seem to lie down and stay dead.” — Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle

“In postulating zombiedom as a sexually transmitted disease – with a slow burn of compulsive and irrational horniness that’s not easy to distinguish from the regular kind, until it’s too late – Beamer has deliciously tweaked the zombie mythos just when it needed it most: at the height of its ubiquitous popularity. In the process, she has sliced through the great and horrible corpse-banging taboo with penetrating wit and astonishing verve, taking us intimately inside this weirdly emotional experience as no author before her. Horror writers, take note…. And for those literati who sorely doubt that any good can come from dancing with the tropes of genre fiction, prepare to have your transcendence gland fondled by Amelia Beamer’s dangerously knowing hands.” John Skipp, Horror Drive-In

“In Beamer’s world, Eros and Thanatos are a lot more than just Facebook buddies. And that raises some difficult relationship issues.” Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post

“This story is one of the best ‘Patient Zero’ – damn close to it – tales since NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Before you get your panties in a bunch, I’m not saying Ms. Beamer has unseated Romero…. I urge even the staunchest traditionalist (of which I tend to lean towards) to pick up this book.” — T.W. Brown,

“From start to finish, this novel is a true page-turner.” — Fangoria

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Dark Delicacies

Posted 15 August 2010 | By | Categories: The Loving Dead | No Comments

For LA-area people, I’ll be signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank CA on Saturday August 28 at 3PM. Come by and say hi!