Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sell Your Soul

It has been brought to my attention that my stock is on the rise. I wish I could cash in but right now, I'm just intrigued. Blogger Brother is watching.

In fact, not just Blogger Brother. Since updating my profile and putting my email address out to the world, I've received two pieces of, essentially, spam advertising. From people who evidently think I'm interested in mysteries. Wonder where they could have got that idea from.

One of them, in particular, got me thinking. Yes, a form letter, from a new author, telling me a zillion reasons why I should buy his book. I don't remember his name, or the name of his forthcoming release. But if I did, it would likely be pinned to my dartboard.

There's no doubt that it is hard to break out as a debut author. And increasingly, the task of marketing and selling the book falls to the author. I have even encountered publishers, in my research, that require you to submit a marketing plan instead of a synopsis. To me, it seems unfortunate. Particularly as an aspiring author, there is so much to learn. You are a writer, a storyteller, a creator and, in my genre, you need to do your research and become a semi-professional on whatever details are pertinent to your story. In my case, that meant researching with the RCMP, going to the ME's office, traveling to British Columbia (twist my arm - I used to live there) and learning more about forensics and cause of death than I could have imagined 15 months ago, when I first conceived of this crazy idea.

And then, to throw in marketing guru? And people think being an author is such an easy job! We haven't even gotten to dealing with wacked-out stalker fans, attending conventions, signing until your arm falls off (if you're lucky) and facing the reviews. Why do we do it?

Well, because we're masochists, clearly. And we love to write. Once I discovered what it was to be a novelist, to finish the first draft of a manuscript (which I cringe thinking about now!) I had the bug. Nothing on tv was as interesting as the people living in my head.

Now, with everything going on, I've been forced to reconsider my initial reaction to the spam email. Was I too harsh? Do I sympathize with this new writer, trying to break in?

No, and yes.

I think we must always remember that we have to live with ourselves, at the end of the day. This is something I picked up from my cousin**. He was being interviewed on radio, talking about songwriting, and one of the things he said is that different people are comfortable with different means of expression and you have to consider that when you're working. Okay, I'm badly paraphrasing, but it's an interesting point. In some ways, I think he's so damned lucky, getting to collaborate with other artists, having others stir the creative juices. But I also see, because I know him, how different people bring out different elements of his personality. Clearly, when he wrote "WHAT WAS I THINKING?" with Dierks Bentley and Brett Beavers there was a different train of thought rolling through from when he co-wrote "RUN TO ME" with Paul Brandt. Not to mention all but one of the songs on his own debut album.

What you're comfortable with extends beyond the writing, but also to the marketing. And that's something I really understood as I watched Deric's career unfold. I've seen girls ask him to sign their chests. I've stumbled across some, ahem, racy fan fiction girls have written about him. And yet there's no prima donna attitude, Deric's more down-to-earth today than ever, and he's been incredibly supportive of my writing. Of course, that might change when he reads it... LOL!

I think that everything you go through in life, good and bad, shapes you. We're always growing through our experiences. I know I'm about to learn the mixed blessing of a professional edit as I work to get my manuscript turned into a book ready to be unleashed on the world.

But one thing I hope is that I can keep my head on my shoulders, and live with a clear conscience.

And as much as I appreciate the value of press and the need to create awareness of my work, I hope that at the end of the day, I can honestly say I'm a writer first and foremost, and that developing my skills, growing in my craft always remains the thing that is most important to me.

Ask me what I think when I get my first royalty payment and see if I've revised my opinion!

** Okay, so we're third cousins. But we were in homeroom together in high school. And the thought of girls drooling over him? That's just gross. Not because he's gross. He isn't. Okay, I'm getting into a deep hole here, but the point is, he's like...family, in a distant Nashville-Calgary-only-see-you-when-touring kinda way.


M. G. Tarquini said...

I just checked my value. It's doubled since last month. I'll have to blog about that tomorrow. I may not make it as a writer, but I'll make it as a blogger.

I hear the pay is about the same.

Regarding the marketing, etc. Glen Hirshberg mentioned to me once that the smartest thing he did when The Snowman's Children came out is to hire a publicist. I'm no where near that stage, so I don't know any more. You might ask him about that. There's a link to his blog from mine, under the published category. He's a very nice man.

JamesO said...

My instinctive response upon hearing of a 'publisher' that requires a marketing plan of its authors rather than a synopsis, is that it's going to be a short-lived company. Surely only good writing can succeed.

Then I remember The DaVinci Code.

Now, to be fair to Dan, I've not managed to read all of it. Well, I couldn't get past the first sentence, to be honest. But what a first sentence!

I lived in Roslin for five years, visited the chapel a few times and walked past it with the dogs almost every day. My own conspiracy/mystery novel set there disappeared without trace (or publisher interest). I guess I just never had the right marketing plan.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Maybe DB sold his soul James! You just aren't corrupt enough!

(I haven't read TDC either. And I don't plan to. Nor do I want to see the movie. The overboard marketing and heavy push just works against it, for me.)

R.J. Baker said...

Poor DB gets a bad wrap. There's other crap on the bestseller lists that is horrendous crap. Try one current one with a bright green cover.

The DaCode was his fourth novel when it hit the big time and I think, three of his others are on the extended best seller lists.

Never forget that people want to help you get to the top when you are in the gutter and then tear you down when you get to the top.

The DaCode is actually not a bad book. It isn't good. But it isn't as bad as people beat it up to be.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks for that rj. I'm really not interested in the subject of TDC. After talking to someone who has read it at length, I suspect reading it would do bad things to my blood pressure.

But you're definitely right about being at the top making you a target. And that's another important thing for us aspiring authors to remember, I guess. Life isn't all peaches and cream once you get a deal...

Anonymous said...

Submitting a marketing plan INSTEAD of a synopsis does seem problematic. Requiring one when you sign a contract, now that seems like a good idea. With fiction sales down and reams of books being printed each year, "free" marketing by the author is probably essential for sales.

R.J. Baker said...

"The Deal" is just the beginning...

M. G. Tarquini said...

ooooo. Love the new 'do, dahlink. It's you. All pink and nice and fuzzy.
*ducks, runs, evades*

Sandra Ruttan said...

It's my tribute to the return of Skeleton Bob. Coming soon on Stuart MacBride's blog. Or I'll show him what pink wool can be used for.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

PINK! And knitted, too!

I SO love your new blog look. Reminds me of my YA fantasy I'm editing - lots of pink stuff...I know, I know, PINK?

Anyway, I second what M.G. said. Get a publicist! Better yet, ask your kinda sorta cousin if he knows anyone who you can hire. Maybe a family member who won't stab you in the back and take all your money and run to the carribbean???

By the way, my Blogshares has increased too and I barely have any links on mine... M.G. tells me to LINK LINK LINK, but I don't know anyone....

Sandra Ruttan said...

Just link to everyone I've linked to. And then when they go to your site they'll feel guilty and link to you too!

Hire a publicist? What do I need that for when I have a know-it-all husband?

I've never wanted to mix business and impose on Deric. He's represented by William Morris Agency.

And his frickin' website is down again. What the hell?

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

William Morris?

That's SOOOO totally my dream agency...you know, they do the whole package - book, film, music, products, sports, the whole nine yards!!!

For me, my MIL already placed dibs to be my publicist. Should I worry about that?

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL Dana! I hope your MIL likes you!

Stuart MacBride said...

Hey, Sandra - like the new look! Very swish. That's three of us then. And that's as far as my marketing plan goes ;}#

And now - a musical interlude...