Sex and the Art of Author Marketing

“There are three possible parts to a date, of which at least two must be offered:  entertainment, food, and affection.  It is customary to begin a series of dates with a great deal of entertainment, a moderate amount of food, and the merest suggestion of affection.  As the amount of affection increases, the entertainment can be reduced proportionately.  When the affection is the entertainment, we no longer call it dating.  Under no circumstances can the food be omitted.”  ~Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour

As I stated in a status update mere moments ago, it’s like taking the magic out of Christmas. Or rather, it’s like talking about the mechanics of sex, while in the middle of the act.

No, I don’t mean dirty talk. That’s entirely different and is actually quite effective. Usually.

What I’m talking about, is the crappy work of promoting your stuff, yourself and then on top of that, all of the conversation about your work that goes on while you’re doing the aforementioned “deed.” For example, your beloved Ariana becomes your “main character.” Your carefully crafted evil, yet complex, master race becomes “central destructive force.” And so on and so forth. Shall I give you the run down of genital comparisons? No, I’d rather that I didn’t either.

Part of becoming successful is marketing. Because, let’s face it, publishers either won’t or can’t, do it all. Large publishers could, but don’t give a damn until the marketing part is almost unnecessary because your stuff is selling itself. The little guys want to, and sometimes try, but can’t due to budget restrictions and the realities of being a modern day book press.

Most authors I know, THRIVE on this stuff. They host giveaways, they write brilliant, witty blogs on how to do this, that or the other thing. They glow when they talk about their stuff.

I wither. I wilt like a ten year old little girl who has just found out that Santa Claus isn’t real. My creative spirit dries up, my mojo runs low, and my muse all but goes on strike. It’s the number one reason I never got an English degree. I just. can’t. do. it. I can’t talk about my work as if it isn’t a sentient thing. After the fact I can, sometimes. I don’t know what this makes me (this is not the best moment to answer me here). Something of a naturalist perhaps? It reminds me a little of folks who love music, can play the piano (or other instruments) by ear, but don’t know the notes. I adore writing. I’m at my best when I have written. I am a miserable excuse for a human being when I haven’t been writing.

But I don’t like talking about the technicalities. Oh, I’ll talk about story all day long. I’ll talk about characters, world building, etc. But, for some reason, the technical terms just totally drain me. Weird right?

I want the date to go along without stopping and analyzing when the entertainment should decrease, and the affection increase…etc. How awkward would that be? Or to be more crass, if my husband and I are having sex, let’s just have sex, huh? And if there is any talking, let’s NOT use medical terms? Please?

Problem is, if you want people to see your stuff, you don’t have a choice. I don’t have a choice. I have to market and trump up stuff to gain media exposure and all that jazz. God, I envy Salinger in this. I have to tweet and FB and Digg and a whole myriad of things that I really don’t care all that much about. I like FB because I’ve made invaluable friends through my contacts there. But, everything else…par for the course I suppose, but it still sucks the muse out of me.

I want what all writers want deep down…just to write. Pure, and ridiculously simple. I want what nature intended for us.

Instead, I have to woo the masses. I have to date them, entertain them, and with any luck, at the end of the night I’ll get laid. But GOD, how I hate this. Can’t we just skip all of that and get on with it? Whatever happened to an author’s business being the written word, and the book seller’s business being marketing? It DID used to be this way, once, long long ago when curling irons were iron fire pokers. And don’t go into the whole bit on everything else that was different back then, I’m not a total douche. You get my drift here.

Am I alone here? Anyone else feel like this? It’s OK if I am alone here, but….still….thought I’d ask.

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20 responses

  1. A good example of this, is when I was asked to change a couple of the names in A Thief of Nightshade, I did so only because I stated that the characters were going by their middle names (they’re siblings) their first names actually never changed.

    Dramatic much? And yes, I made a point to state this in the book, and yes, it does have a purpose after all.

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  3. You are most definitely not alone in that Breanne. I’m the same way, both about not really being able to talk the mechanics of writing, and about being drained by the sheer amount of time and energy it requires to promote yourself when you’d rather be “doing the deed.”

  4. I am a consultant. I live and die by my network. Even inside the consulting company that employs me, my network gets me contracts. The account managers know who I am, what I can do, and what I can do for their clients.

    In any endeavor where we are paid money for intellectual pursuits, the line between BS and self-promotion is wider, not narrower, than ever thanks to the constant noise of new media. People have become experts in tuning it out.

    Yes, in my job I hand out my business card at every meeting. I give people my cell phone number and tell them to call me at anytime. Mail sent to my work account gets answered promptly and professionally. I do extra things for people expecting no compensation. If I see problems outside my scoop I immediately engage the right people to fix these problems. I buy lunch. I meet with former clients for a latte simply because I enjoy their company and no other reason. I keep my LinkedIn profile up to date.

    Beyond that I don’t do a damn thing, because everything else is BS, and between the guy who spouts BS and the guy who actually does work and is pleasant to work with, guess who is going to get called back?

    An author network no different than my network with the exception of the intrinsic benefits a blogging platform gives you. The way we are paid is different, but in the end it is American dollars in our checking account. Beyond that, it’s the same: word of mouth increases our client base.

    So where I am going with this? I wanted to give you a comparison to your real job compared to another real job and state, quite emphatically, that it is a career and like any other career relying on people and intellectual work, it’s all about your network and your network is you. Thus, if you have some anxiety about self-promotion, what is really happening is your internal BS meter is going off and you aren’t listening to it.

    • Thanks Anthony, that really did help clarify some things. Your response is worthy of a post in and of itself on Adventures in Writing. You should totally consider posting it there. Your analogy is really useful.

  5. Couldn’t agree more. I’m actually IN the drain now! My first book comes out in March, so that of course means the mad dash to “buzz”. I co-own an indie record company, and buzzing my artists’ stuff is sometimes trying, but maybe because it isn’t mine I don’t feel so stressed about it. But this? This is like performing my own root canal sans anesthetics with nothing but a pair of rusty pliers and eHow’s guide to complicated oral surgery. In a recent status update (or tweet, don’t remember) I actually said this same thing: I just want to write! But I suppose this is the learning experience. It gets better the next time, right? *Insert reassuring head nods*.
    Thanks for letting me vent. Back to figuring out inserting Tab A into Slot B. 🙂

    • OMG, I can’t stop laughing. Sable, that’s hilarious! What’s even funny is that I used to write for Demand Studios, which is the company that provides the “professional” articles at Ehow (aside from the ones that the general public contributes) and I can promise you a few of my articles were total BS. Hahahaha, awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  6. OY! Should I ever need to speak in public, I’m humped. It’s not that I have a fear of public speaking, but I just have an inability to. That writers are now lowered to little more than coffee house poets is sad. To quote Sean Connery: “Writers write, readers read.”

    But to get back on topic, discussing the craft of writing is pointless. The only thing worth reading in King’s On Writing was the autobiographical material. The rest is junk. It’s not junk because it’s junk, but it’s junk because it’s how KING writes: it’s not how I write or how you write or how Joe Blow from down the street writes. So the best advice to learn to write is read a lot of books and write.

    • I agree with you 100%, John. I’m always leery of any author who writes about how to write, because in my experience the best authors are the ones who don’t know how they write, they just do. It’s what makes the difference between artists and academics – academics are always over-analyzing everything that artists do, trying to apply their logic and thought process to the minds of artists who think entirely differently.

      Good example of that is back in college I took a film appreciation class in which we studied “The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari.” The professor went on for over an hour about how the filmmakers were making this film to make a social statement and on and on about how the weird camera angles and distorted perspectives were to represent society’s turmoil.

      Bullshit. The filmmakers were making a horror movie. End of story. The social parallels that made their way into the movie are a result of the inevitable fact that any story or other work of art that is created is OBVIOUSLY going to be affected by the social conditions of the time that it was created.

      • Oh, I used to hate that back when I took classes. I love watching movies, and to watch some half-baked professor read too much into something used to really chap my ass. Nice to know I’m not alone there either.

  7. I am so pleased you posted this, Breanne. You see, I’ve been in awe of your posts and comments ever since becoming aware of you through Rhemalda and Son of Ereubus. I’ve been stressing about this aspect of becoming an author because I feel exactly the same way. Why should anyone be interested in what I have to say? Who am I to comment on other people’s work, or their opinions, and why should they listen to mine? Then I began reading your posts and felt even lower, because you always sound so informed, so confident, and you always have something different and interesting to say. Even your rants are good!
    Years ago at High School, I dreaded the English Lit lessons. Although I’ve always loved reading, I’ve never been interested in the “deeper” meanings, or the reasons why the author wrote this or that line. I could never analyze a book. I read for pleasure, pure and simple. I read to be transported, to dream about fantasy lands or magic, or to immerse myself in a character’s life; to fantasize about *being* that character. So although I passed my English exams (goodness knows how!) I was never able to pick a book apart.
    Being an author and an editor has changed that. Now, I’ve read so many hopeful writers’ submissions and completed so many critiques that I can’t actually turn that side off. Now when I read a new book I can’t stop myself saying “that sentence doesn’t work, I’d have done it this way”. Or, “I really like the way this author portrays emotions” or even “this writer’s descriptive ability is awesome, maybe I can improve my own.” From that point of view, I could speak about my own work. But to analyze it, or to advise another writer how to write? Impossible! Writing should be a personal and individual experience, what works for one will not work for another. And rules? What rules? Bending and adapting rules is the way to forge new experiences, build new methods of writing. I’m all for ignoring the rules!
    But maybe when others read my work, they’ll think I’m conventional. If I am, it was none of my conscious doing. I wrote what I love to read, and it’s written as it came out. I’m happy to tell other writers what I like about their work and why it speaks to me, but tell them how they should treat their own personal creations? Never.
    So I’m feeling very anxious about this aspect of a published author’s work. Knowing that you feel even a bit the same has cheered me immensely! Maybe eventually, I can sound as confident and informed as you do.
    Thanks, Breanne!

    • Oh yes, Cas, I feel precisely as you do. Truly, utterly, without question, as you do. I’m not informed, I’m just stubborn, lol. If I felt even a tenth as confident as I sound, well, that would be a whole other story. But, as it is, I’m bluffing the universe. Sounds like perhaps it’s working.

      You and I are a lot alike. I’m something of an elemental writer, because I write much like storytellers used to tell stories. The story itself is the most important part of the novel for me. Like you said, sure, there are moments when I’ll get caught up in a sentence here or there. Sometimes I’ll get attached to a whole paragraph and Kara has to remind me why someone once said to “kill your darlings.” I sacrifice 99% of them for the better of the book, and then sink my incisors into the rest, lol.

      But confident? No, not really. The trick is this: If you present yourself as an authority, then you will be seen as such. That’s all. 🙂

      I’m honored to know you Cas, as a friend and fellow author!

  8. I haven’t had the pleasure of promoting a work like this, but I’ll tell you something: all those high school and college fund raisers I did for my cheerleading teams made my self-esteem worse. I almost vomited having to go door-to-door to neighbors who were old and sweet and kind just because I knew–and still know to this day–I’m not a salesperson. And, as the person who ALWAYS came in with the lowest amount sold, sales was a humiliating part of my existence.

    I also watched my mom struggle with this. Honestly, I think she gave up out of sheer frustration. The publisher promised to do some of the marketing, and she did all the things she could. (This was seven or eight years ago now, so a website was all she knew how to do. Blogs were still in their infancy and not something our parents’ generation thought about at all.) Sales never amounted to anything, of course. I think it may be a reason why she hasn’t seriously tried to sell anything in years.

    I don’t envy you, and I know that I would feel exactly as you do right now. I’m glad to have a friend dealing with this issue so that I’ll have someone’s shoulder to cry on.

    Until then, consider yourself (((hugged))) from a far distance. I hope things improve, or at least the Muse decides that striking isn’t the answer.

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