August 14th, 2013

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Okay, we haven't had a good rant in a while, have we? Here goes... This blog.

"Bookmarketbuzzblog" - count the SEO keywords in there geared to bring in writerly types. Count 'em. They're all there. A writer might mosey on over here and expect to get some savvy book marketing info. Indeed, their intro says, verbatim, this:

"A unique blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. Along the way, discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising from a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing.

But they must have been having a "provocative opinion" day today. Because although I see no sign that this is meant to be any sort of Onion-like site and being tongue-in-cheeky, the visiting writer is greeted by a post with this title:

Why Do Authors Demand More Than They Deserve?

You can, if you so wish, read the whole thing in situ here - but this is a rant so I'll quote the annoying bits here and maybe that will be more than enough for you.

Many authors come to me, asking, no, telling me they should be media superstars and feel perturbed at not yet having made it big.

Seriously? I mean, SERIOUSLY? I interact with lots and lots of writers - and not ONE of them has ever come in anywhere "Telling" anyone at all that they should be media superstars. In fact, most of them are astonished by media attention (if they aren't Neil Gaiman who IS a media superstar - but there's one of him. That's why you know his name.)

There may be bratty folk in the family as with every family but by and large writers are NOT this kind of media hog. And therefore I find that "many writer" tarbrush highly objectionable. But rarely, the blog post author says, do authors want to examine "specific factors that play a role in their ability to get publicity."

Okay. Here are some of the questions he apparently doesn't see writers asking.

· How good is your book, especially compared with the competition?
· Just how unique is your message or viewpoint?
· How do you stack up to other experts on your topic, including non-authors?
· Is the timing right or did you miss your window?
· Are you willing to do heavy lifting and pay handsomely for a professional publicist?
· Are you more ego-centric and less concerned about helping others, solving problems, or supporting legitimate cases?

My responses to these are -

- how the flying f*** is the author supposed to be the judge of how good a particular book he or she has written is, compared with "the competition"? And what happens when the freaking competition is "Fifty Shades of Gray" which exploded for a number of different reasons pretty much NONE of which had to do with its quality vis-a-vis the "competition"? Once you've written the book, and it's published, it's out there. It's as good as it is. It's probably better than some of the competition, worse than others. What has this got to do with anything?
- how... unique... is your message? Has anyone told this idiot that there are three plots in the Universe (or seven... or twenty one... depending on whom you talk to...) - my point is that if you boil down any given book of fiction you get the same messages. THe point of fiction is how you CONVEY that message, not what it freaking IS or how "unique" it is.
- How do you stack up to other experts...? You mean this WHOLE thing is about non-fiction? Did you specify this anywhere?...
- Did I miss my WINDOW? Dude - do you really think that people write books aiming for SPECIFIC WINDOWS? How do you think this works?
- Am I willing to do heavy lifting? Define that, please. Am I willing to "pay handsomely for a professional publicist"... - not so much. Mainly because oftentimes they don't do nearly what they say they will do, and those that DO come up with the goods... er... how much money do you think writers have? If I had enough to "pay handsomely for a professional publicist"... I probably wouldn't need one.

This is what follows:
Many authors fall short of generating a quantity of publicity or quality media coverage. They do too little, too late. They try to go it alone or mistakenly rely on their publisher. Often they need to hire a publicist, but must choose wisely.

So is it a sin to go it alone, or to rely on your publisher? Damned if you do and damned if you don't..? If you DON'T hire a publicist, you are doomed? Really, dude? REALLY?

Authors are not grounded or realistic.

I'm sure some are not. Do you think every author is so afflicted? Many of us are extremely realistic indeed. To the point of *not having money to pay for a publicist*. That's being realistic.

They are often wildly ravenous for media exposure.

"Often"? So what happened to the "Most authors" of the initial premise?

They want the attention, the validation, and the book sales.

Of COURSE we do! It's our living! Book sales matter! What's your POINT?!?

But they must crawl before they walk and walk before they jog, and jog before they sprint. Some authors want to sleep all that and win the decathlon without training.

Nice - lots of pretty metaphors. But you've said absolutely nothing that is remotely helpful, nothing that fits under your lede.

I actually AGREE when the articles continues:

Part of the problem is the media itself. Too often we see outrageous instances of a stupid video getting a million views and going viral out of nowhere. Or we read about an odd story that gets picked up by every newspaper and magazine. Or someone writes a book and hits the best-seller list and every author looks at this and claims: “I’m just as good – if not better – than them.” It’s like someone sees a guy win the lottery by playing his cousin’s birth dates and plunks down 50 dollars in tickets in hopes of replicating the feat.

The lure of the media is just too tempting to ignore. It seems obtainable and it can be so rewarding when one gets their 15 minutes of fame. But the process of getting media exposure is like trying to win a carnival game: It looks easier than it is – and many factors conspire against you.

There is only so much media to go around but the number of published books and authors seeking publicity seems to be growing. The competition for the attention of the media and reading public is fierce.

ALL true. But then they go off the rails again:

Authors often feel they aren’t as famous, influential, or successful as they should be. They blame their publisher. They blame their publicist. They blame a dumb public. They blame the media. And each of them may play a role, for sure, but it really begins with the author.

Sure, there are instances where a publisher doesn't pull their weight... and you can't MAKE the public read your stuff... but it really DOES begin with the author, and you'll find that in a lot of instances all of the above boils down to a crisis of SELF-confidence. Yes, it begins with the author. And even the most gifted of writers, after a book that tanks, will start with this: how did *I* fail...?

The blog post which purports to be helpful to those authors tries to figure out just WHY they fail:

Is the author:

- Egomaniacal and not realistic?
- Not actively pushing the book because he believes the “great” content should sell itself?
- Not doing a variety of things to promote and market the book?
- Lazy when it comes to the use of social media?
- Pushing a book that is flawed or mediocre at best?
- Promoting eggs when people want bacon?

What of authors who are self-effacing to the point of being invisible (as far away from being "egomaniacal" as it is possible to get? They are by far the more common variant of the species. GOogle "impostor syndrome" sometime. What of authors who are promoting as hard as they can - and get called names for it, told to go away and stop BOTHERING people already, who are slapped away as shills and self-aggrandisers? Don't you NEED to be egotistical to a point to be able to do these constant sales pitches? What of authors who ARE doing everything in the book to promote and market the book but just aren't getting traction? What of writers who are on social media so much that they are barely WRITING any more? What about writers who are NOT pushing a mediocre book, just one that isn't blessed by instant pundit attention? And just exacty does "promoting eggs when people want bacon" mean? I think you should put down that metaphor pitcher and walk away from the glass, very slowly. It's making you punch-drunk.

Authors deserve to have the widest possible exposure for their books but they compete with one another and when millions of books are flooding the marketplace, few will get to stick out.

Indeed. Very few will. And the ones that do will have nothing to do with eggs and bacon. Sometimes word of mouth hits and a book soars. Sometimes it even hits FOR THE WRONG BOOK - "fifty shades" come to mind, and some fairly scathing reviews of same, but it STILL sold megabajillions. NOT because it was particularly good. NOT because the author did any particular thing. Because it was tittilating in a way that made people want to pruriently take a look, so they did. And then they talked about it. ANd more people went to take a look. And it snowballed. THAT's how it ends up working. A critical mass of readers. And the track of THIS book is not something that a publicist could have remotely mapped out or engineered, no, not even a handsomely paid professional one. THis kind of thing you can't buy. It's a coup de foudre and it either strikes or it does not. Nothing the author can do about it after having thrown the book out there into the shark pool.

Many books don’t need to become best-sellers or sell 50,000 copies to be a success. But if you’re looking for the media to turn you into a star, don’t expect fame and glory until you examine all the factors that can impact and influence your marketability. ... but what ARE those factors?

Look, being a writer is hard enough without having to wade through things like this - telling you that you'd be a greater media success if only you were... more egotisticical? ...Less egotistical? ...Paid a publicist to be egotistical for you?

In other words, you don't know either.

You just like the way those metaphors look on that page. Just so. Look how nicely they are arranged there,

I'm sure the media will fall on this post and lionise the HELL out of it .

SOrry. Back to my scheduled activities now. Just needed to get that out of the way.