Carv's Thinky Blog I'm an author with a focus on satirical sci-fi and agnostic commentary.

2Feb/100

Getting Out There

Writers write. That's fairly obvious, wouldn't you say? What no one tells you is, writers promote even more than they write. Writers compete for your hard-earned entertainment dollars by "getting out there," pressing the flesh, reading, signing, speaking, making connections, flirting, picking fights, and just making obnoxious, ubiquitous nuisances of themselves. Such has been my life for the last two months, and it doesn't show signs of slowing. I'd be worried if it did. Without a national distributor, the most important thing I could do was push myself in front of the eyeballs of local readers, one independent bookstore at a time. It's why this site exists, frankly. I have about as much natural interest in flaunting myself as in dot-com form as you have of working the line at a useless widget factory. All this shamelessly constant self-promotion does not come naturally to me, no matter what my detractors assume, and I seldom enjoy it. I never chased the fame monster, even back when I worked in and around the L.A. film business; I just wanted to be the best storyteller I could, whether by acting, directing, filmmaking, or writing. Yet here we are.

What we're learning, and by "we" I mean my publisher and I, is that the way to sell paperback books is to have a great cover. The way to sell hardcover books is to smile, shake someone's hand, and point him or her directly toward your book with a firm but charming smile in person, signing ballpoint drawn and ready. That's especially true if one doesn't have a distributor. Well, Gentle Reader, if I haven't shaken your hand, it's not for lack of trying. And I'd venture to say I've done a fair job of "getting out there," and yes, books have been sold. At the rate we're going, why, my publisher might just break even in another oh, say, five years, and you can see how that doesn't work for anybody. The economics of the bookselling business require an author to become famous, whether he likes it or not.

The good news is, we now have a national distribution deal in place. That's exceptional news, in fact, and I'm sure my publisher would agree it didn't come a minute too soon. What it means for me is that within a month or so, Lightfall will appear gradually in stores outside my area, perhaps even a store I'll never get the chance to visit (though I will do my best!). It means you're about to know "a famous author." It means our sales numbers will go from hundreds to thousands overnight. And it means I'll have a likely publisher for future writing efforts.

Of course, as I've said before, at some point it's all about you. No self-promotion from any author, even a name brand author, works as well as unsolicited recommendations from readers to friends. When Lightfall hits shelves in Poughkeepsie and Miami and Dayton and Santa Fe, that's when it's even more vital than ever that you tell someone how much you enjoyed it. If you have a friend at your local Borders or Barnes & Noble or Hastings, please start dropping hints that they should stock it. If you know someone with a Kindle or other e-book reader, point them to the download site on Smashwords. If you've already read Lightfall, post a warm review on Amazon. If you're in a book group, recommend Lightfall--and by the way, I'm happy to participate in any way I possibly can. Dan Brown is not going to answer your emails or talk to your book group by phone, perhaps even in person. I will.

I've been trying to think of new ways to "get out there," and I came up with a notion so crazy I can't get it out of my head. I think you and I should write a book together, and by you I mean you. Here's how: I set up a Facebook page called "Let's Be a World-Famous Author." Some friends and I wrote the first few paragraphs of a superhero novel called Up, Up, and Awry! in the comments section of that page. Now it's your turn. Read what we've posted, add your own paragraph, and join me on the Discussion forum. All we need are a thousand short paragraphs, believe it or not, and we'll have written an entire novel. Think of it: A novel written by a thousand people. Is it even possible? Will the novel be any good? Can literature be created via wiki? Check out the page and let me know what you think. It's already attracting fans, but few have been bold enough to write. Maybe potential coauthors are intimidated because they understand, this early in the process, that each paragraph will have a major impact on the story--but God, how exciting is that?

My Oklahoma tour is shaping up beautifully, by the way, and I sure can't wait to see some of you there. I have a feeling we'll have much to celebrate, and I know how inventive my friends are with their celebrations. March 20 - 27 will be a week to remember, so if you're in the great state of Oklahoma, then it's time to spread the word about Lightfall now!

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