In Which I Am Stubborn

Stubborn? Say rather mule-headed. Obstinate, almost to the point of delusion. The worst part is, on some level, I always knew it, so let’s get this out in the open—I hate marketing, and therefore I suck at it. Specifically, promoting my own work. I clung to the myth which goes something like this: work hard, do your best, put your work out there, and people will find it.

This is rubbish. There is so much good (and bad) fiction out there that even a voracious reader can never get to it all. It’s a reader’s paradise but a writer’s? Not so much. Any one writer, good or bad, is one drop in a flood. Maybe the readers will find you, maybe they won’t. Some will, and I’m grateful for all the ones who have, but for the most part that’s been pure luck.

One reason I stopped going to sf/f conventions back when I lived in Mississippi was that I realized, as business goes, and considering how far away most of the better ones were, it was a considerable waste of time and money. As much as I enjoyed meeting online friends, I simply couldn’t justify the expense, because I really suck at networking and self-promotion, and pretty much all the other business-related reasons for attending. I’ve watched friends who have the gift working a dealer’s room and I can only stare in awe, as I usually do when admiring someone who can easily do something I can’t do at all. It is actively painful for me to even attempt it.

I have to finally admit to myself there are things I can’t do. So, surely there are things I can? Maybe. I’ve realized that most of my online book descriptions are not, shall we say, first rate, regardless of the merits of the book. I’m speaking purely of the ones I’m in charge of, which I either handled myself or took over after the rights reverted. So I’m learning how to write ad copy (a different skill altogether) and do the kind of promotion I’m able to do. Old dog, new tricks, that sort of thing. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe not. Baby steps.

After all, the first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one.

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Just Open the Box, Dammit

I am Schrodinger’s Cat. And I’m getting a little sick of it, frankly. Is it too much to ask for the wave function to collapse already? Yeah, I know. At the end of it all I might be dead. I might not. But at least the whole mess will be #$@# settled.

Fine, it’s a metaphor. Or rather, a metaphorical description of an actual situation. (And for anyone who hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about, Google “Schrodinger’s Cat,” and you’ll find more than you ever wanted to know). The point is that I’m trying to be two things at once, and they are mutually exclusive things, so basically I’m at war with myself on a continual basis, and how’s that working out? Not so well. I know I’m not alone in this, in fact I strongly suspect that many of you out there are have the same problem, and this is it in the proverbial nutshell—I want my work to be well known and widely read. I personally do not want to be well known. But achieving one almost always negates the other, unless you’re writing under a pseudonym, and even that’s not a gurantee.

From a practical standpoint, writing is the perfect avocation for someone who doesn’t especially want to be noticed. Continue reading

The Ferris Wheel and the Werewolf, or How to Annoy Pretty Much Everybody

 The pitfalls of self-promotion is–unfortunately–a subject I’ve been forced to think about lately, so when author Jim Hines wrote a parody song that explains the nature of this particular animal, it rather crystallized some notions that I’d been turning over myself. First, to set the mood, I think it would be a good idea to sing along with Jim on this, so go here first and then come on back. I’ll wait.

Right, then. Some of  you may remember an animated TV show from the 90’s called The Critic, starring Jon Lovitz as the voice of “Jay Sherman,” the movie critic of the title. In one episode a book tour goes horribly wrong because Jay’s publisher has an animatronic bookstore display of Jay holding his collection of movie columns and repeating “BUY MY BOOK!” on an endless loop. It not only kept the customers away, but at least one of the store managers was alleged to have committed suicide. Of course it was a exaggeration, a parody of the hard-sell, but not as far removed from reality as we’d like to think. Especially lately.

Now then. I’ll grant you, it’s possible to go too far the other way. In his introduction to Hereafter, and After, Andy Duncan quoted screenwriter Ben Hecht as describing a shameless publicity hound as “a cross between a Ferris Wheel and a werewolf,” to make the point that I wasn’t one. And it was true. I wasn’t. I pray I am still not, but what I was at the time was the other extreme—completely self-effacing (hard to believe, I know, but it’s true). I wrote the stories. I sent them out. They were published or not, but either way that was pretty much the end of it, so far as I was concerned. Then I published my first collection, then the fist novella chapbook, then the first novel, then my second and third collections, and somewhere along that line I finally copped to the obvious truth that hiding your light under a bushel is not a game plan.

Continue reading