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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Learning to Make My Book Visible

The whole process of promoting a book is somewhat of an extremely stressful and failure prone experience. I can say failure prone with a smile because that means I am learning. The real problem with learning now-a-days is that no one wants to fail. Failure is looked upon as a personal and definitive statement dooming you for the rest of your life. When you mix that with gifted perfectionism---not wanting to do something unless you are sure you will succeed and be the best at it---well it is just a toxic brew to be sure. 

People are reluctant to try new things. Even worse for a new author publishing for the first time is if some people don't like your writing. It just stabs you in the heart. You don't have that confidence or arrogant swagger of defiance of an experienced author. It's even worse if your first endeavor in the field is a piece of writing so different, so bizarre, that it provokes very strong reactions. You are unprepared for the strong emotions thrown your way. Once when I was ranting over some review, my wife tried to calm me by telling me, "Who cares? It doesn't matter what one person feels. It matters what thousands think."

This brings up an idea which is, I think, very important and missed by some authors starting out---you not going to just sell 50 books or 100 books. You are going to sell thousands. Know it in your heart. Embody it your soul. If you think you are going to sell 50 books, you will do silly things like go door to door in your neighborhood, accost strangers, etc. Those things are not going to sell thousands, even if every person you encounter likes your book and practically glows carrying it around in their arms. Now think about it. Are people 1000 miles away going to care or even know what your community thinks? It's not likely. Think big. What will get your book into the sight of a large number of people?

Okay, now that your mind has absorbed this compost (I have at least), what is the next thing you have to get past? No one cares about your bloody book. You can buy books easier than toilet paper. You are a pain in the ass. You are annoying. Read my lips. Nobody cares about your book! Embrace the apathy. It's like a quote from one of those old Vietnam movies, "I love the smell of burning napalm in the morning." Mix that with the thought of selling your book and let your imagination run wild. 

The antidote allowing you to break through the wall of apathy is like drinking vomit juice for a writer. We all think and hope that our writing is meaningful and valuable. We hope that the years of work are worth it. And you need to think that when you are writing. Otherwise, why would you put yourself through that much trouble? But selling your book requires the napalm mindset. Almost every successful sales person will tell you, "As long as the item is packaged correctly, I can sell total garbage to anyone and make them thank me for selling it to them." Already collecting that vomit juice, aren't you? But thinking like this helps because then you start to think about what it will truly take to reach those people 1000 miles away. And if you have written a very unusual book like I have, then you have to think how you will reach your special set of readers. They are buried so deep in the haystack

This is where I am at. The napalm burns my splatted body off the apathy wall every morning. Today, here I go, tossing the fear of failure to the side and taking the big dive, trying to dive over the wall. There is a national magazine that will reach at least a proxy of those gifted middle school kids who seem to really like my book --- the school librarian --- and reach a number of adults who don't seem to be afraid of reading a relatively hard book --- Kirkus Reviews.  And so my illustrator, Matt Curtis and I put our heads together. This ad is what we came up with for that magazine. To enlarge the ad for viewing, click on it.

Ad Running in the 12/1/12 and 12/15/12 issues of Kirkus Review

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