Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Holy Sense of Entitlement, Batman!

Why do artists in general, and writers in particular, think the world will bow down and kiss their asses simply because they wrote a book?

Writers want to write. We do it because we love it.

How many people have careers that they truly love? How many people have the opportunity to turn their words into money, their passion in a career?

I love being able to write for a living. But I'm not so shortsighted that I believe writing alone will be enough to guarantee success. I don't consider that writing a "good book" is where my responsibilty ends. That's where it begins.

I don't understand anyone who indulges in creative pursuits and then doesn't expect to have to do anything else in order to support their endeavors. That sense of entitlement is outdated and dangerous.

If you want to become a lawyer, there's a lot you have to do that you won't like. There is also a lot that will be expected of you. The same goes for any profession.

If writing is your profession, how can you honestly expect the rules to change? That simply writing a good book will guarantee all of your ducks will line up?

Once you try to sell something, you become a salesperson. There is NO OTHER WAY TO LOOK AT IT.

You don't want to sell your book? Keep it in a drawer. Print up copies for your family and friends. Bequeth it to your children. I applaud you for your integrity and lack of compromise.

But if you WANT TO GET PAID, that requires you to sell your book. And you don't simply sell it to your agent. You sell it to your publisher, your publisher's sales reps, your publisher's marketing department, your distributors, your regional buyers, and finally, your customers.

If you want to be a writer, LEARN HOW TO SELL.

You don't have to, of course. You can leave that up to other people. You can take a hands-off approach to your career, and hope it all works out. Many have done so.

Many have also failed. Many more have failed than have succeeded.

But some do succeed. I think about these people a lot.

I think about Jack Canfield, handselling the first Chicken Soup book at mall chain stores, popping balloons to get people's attention.

I think about Janet Evanovich, every year loading up her bus and travelling cross country to meet 1000s of fans.

I think about David Morrell, who manages to tour and attend every major writing conference every year and still be co-president of ITW.

I think about Barry Eisler, who considers his publisher a business partner instead of an employer, and gets treated the same way in return.

I think about David Ellis, who has a great publisher (Putnam) but still sent out over 200 ARCs with handwritten letters in order to get more reviews for his last book---a tactic that paid off.

I think about Mitch Albom, and his relentless radio campaign which started an empire.

I think about Tim Dorsey, who just did his 400th event.

I think about James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Nora Roberts, and Tom Clancy, who release several books a year because they know the more you have out there, the more that will sell.

I think about Julia Spencer-Fleming, who hasn't let winning every major award in the mystery field stop her from relentlessly self-promoting. Julia's books are huge critical successes. But she refuses rest on those laurels.

I think about MJ Rose, who has applied her advertising experience to the book world with tremendous results.

And there are dozens more. None of them ever said, "All I need to do is write a good book, and the rest will be taken care of." What they said was, "Write a great book, then do everything within your power to make sure that people read it."

Of course, there are also stories about those who became huge successes without considering the sales aspect of the business. Those who simply write a book and then wind up on the bestseller list without doing anything else.

It happens. They got lucky.

I also hope to get lucky. But I think that getting lucky is damn hard work.

34 comments:

Chris R. said...

I'm currently writing my first novel but I might not finish if there isn't going to be any ass kissing. Are there free drinks every once in a while? That might suffice.

Jason said...

A wise man once said, "The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get."

And no, I wasn't the wise man, but I did kill him and steal his quotes.

Mike Strahan said...

Even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut. I hope to be that blind squirrel some day...

Based on my day job (Marketing), I can say that persistence and consistency typically lead to success.

But it's a fine line. Don't be so persistent that people think you're crazy, and don't be so consistent that people think you're an automaton.

robin brande said...

It's like my husband told his kids when they first started driving: An accident may be the other guy's fault, but it's still YOUR injury. So you'd better learn to drive defensively.

Same here. You can complain all day long that it's your publisher's job to sell your book, but it's still YOUR BOOK and YOUR CAREER. It's in your best interest to do what you can to get your work into as many readers' hands as possible.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Bottom line is, even with a great agent and a great publisher, nobody cares about your book the way you do. Nobody has the same passion for it.

It's true we all have different personalities, but there are ways we can work to overcome our foibles and be effective promoting our work. I don't buy into what anonymous said in the last thread, about how some people don't have the "personality" for it. I know some doctors have as much personality as a sopping wet towel, but it doesn't mean they aren't great doctors. And the REALLY good ones, over time, learn how to be more personable.

I just saw someone comment on DorothyL about how they won't blog because they don't write for free. To me, that's a classic example of someone who doesn't really get the benefit of self promotion online. It's their choice, that's fine, but it read off a bit condescending to authors that do blog.

And I love authors that blog. A lot of the books I've bought in the past 6 months are by authors whose blogs I read.

Christine said...

Why can't I be that lucky :) LOL. Sigh, I'm just tired, because I have two jobs, a family, a home... and a writing career.

Someone pass the coffee... and some No-doz :)

I can sleep when I'm dead, right?

JA Konrath said...

Are there free drinks every once in a while?

There are free drinks ALL THE TIME. Beware of this. Not only because you can get sloppy, but because you start to expect people will buy you drinks. I try to buy a round if someone buys me a round.

Don't be so persistent that people think you're crazy, and don't be so consistent that people think you're an automaton.

Good points. When selling, it's about what you have to offer, not what you're asking for. It's about value, not cost. And if there are no takers, quickly move along.

An accident may be the other guy's fault, but it's still YOUR injury. So you'd better learn to drive defensively.

I'm in love with this line, and will forever quote it. Thank your dad for me, and thanks for posting it.

Jaime Smith said...

"I just saw someone comment on DorothyL about how they won't blog because they don't write for free."


Wow. Talk about a love of the craft. I can understand deciding not to blog, that's a personal choice, but what a sucky way to look at it.

Jude Hardin said...

Another fine post, Joe.

Good comments here too.

Much luck on your 500 bookstore tour. Will you be stopping anywhere near Jacksonville, FL?

To Chris,

If there's one thing I've learned in my 45 years, it's this:

Beer is good.

Free beer is even better.

It's as good a reason as any to finish a novel.

Barry said...

Joe, thanks for the kind words. Gotta forward your post to my publisher...

Keep up the great work amigo.

--Barry

Allison Brennan said...

Good points, Joe. I'll admit, I'm not the dynamo you are and I had a little of Tess Gerritsen's proverbial "fairy dust" surrounding the release of my trilogy, but I also said yes to everything I could. Yes I can write another book--fast. Yes I can rewrite. Yes I can do an interview with RT. Yes I'll be happy to shave off two weeks on each of my deadlines because you want to move publication up two months . . .

I read Barry Eisler's marketing blogs (originally post on MJ's site, but are now on his "for writers" page) before my books came out and really took them to heart.

I can't do everything I want . . . I have five kids and they need me. But I do everything I CAN do without cutting into my writing time.

Of course, I now get up at 4:30 am to get everything done I need to in the day . . .

Jude Hardin said...

Is it just me, or does anyone else out there suspect that Barry Eisler and Don Henley are the same person?

Yet another mystery to solve.

Here's another one for you, Joe:

How is it that Batman is able to stuff enough rope into that utility belt of his for him and Robin to climb all the way to the top of the Empire State building?

Answer that and I owe you a case of beer.

Hope you like Natty Light.

MJ said...

Joe that was a great post - would have been even if I wasn't in it - by the way thank you - I'm flattered to be in such fine company.

And as for:

An accident may be the other guy's fault, but it's still YOUR injury. So you'd better learn to drive defensively.

That is the quote of the day.Thank your dad for me too!

Heather Waters said...

As a newbie whose first book isn't scheduled for release until 2007 (Berkley), I worry about this stuff alot, so thanks for posting about it. I'm an introvert (as I suspect most authors are.) I don't mind doing the hard work, whatever I have to. But I don't do well with speaking to strangers. That's going to make book signings interesting and terrifying. Any tips for the frighteningly shy???

Tribe said...

Mitch Albom is, and always will be, a scab.

JA Konrath said...

I've heard some interesting Mitch Albom stories, as both of my publishers also publish him.

That doesn't negate the fact that he's worked damn hard to promote himself.

Wesley Smith said...

Julie,

Batman doesn't have rope. He has fishing line.

I prefer Lion Red, myself.

steve brewer said...

I'm the guy who said on DorothyL that he doesn't write for free. It was a joke, people. Apparently, some bloggers are very sensitive and can't take any kidding. I posted that I won't write a blog because I already write a newspaper column that appears nationwide and would people please go read that instead.

I write for free all the time. I'm in charge of The Third Degree, the MWA's newsletter, and I devote many hours of free work to MWA. In fact, that kind of volunteer effort is one of the reasons I don't blog. Another reason is computer solitaire.

See? Another joke. Maybe I need to spell each one out so people don't get so bent about my "sucky" attitude.

Jude Hardin said...

Wesley,

There have been way too many sex changes around here lately.

If I remember correctly, in the 60s TV series (the only real Batman, in my opinion), the caped crusader did use rope, something similar in weight to clothesline. He somehow packed about a thousand feet of it into one of those little compartments on his utility belt.

Sorry, no Red Lion for you. :)

Next question to ponder: If Batman and Spiderman got into a fight, who would win?

Jason said...

I was at a conference once where E.L. Doctorow said, "Any author worth a salt knows that being a writer is a full-time job. If you can't approach it with the same work ethic you do for a 9-5 job, you don't have what it takes."

And personally, I think Aquaman could whup Spiderman and Batman.

JA Konrath said...

To Steve Brewer:

Thanks for posting on my blog! I loved Bank Job, Bullets, and especially Boost (If anyone reading this likes comic crime novels, check Steve out. He's awesome.)

I just got your invoice, Steve, and per our arrangement I'm sending you a check for $83 for your post. If you decide to post again, we can use the boilerplate contract.

Anonymous said...

Now, see, Konrath is a guy who knows how to take (and make) a joke.

Thanks, Joe, for the kind words about my books. This post is on the house.

Sandra Ruttan said...

The post from DorothyL:

Hi gang:

I've been watching these recent blog announcements, and reading lots of
author blogs and enjoying them. But I won't be doing one.

My book publisher asked me to do a blog. My newspaper syndicate asked me
to do a blog. A few readers asked why I don't blog, since I'm so darned funny
and all. No, I say, no I won't. I don't need more deadline pressure. And I
don't write for free (except, of course, for endless posts to DorothyL).

So, here I am, like those guys in the old Greek diner skits on "Saturday
Night Live," saying: No Coke. Pepsi.

No blog. Column.

If you want regular doses of my random thoughts, check out my weekly
humor column at http://www.abqtrib.com/albq/ne_columnists/
Please bookmark it and check in each week. New column appears every Thursday.

.It's not a blog, but it'll have to do.

Best,

Steve Brewer, author of BANK JOB and the forthcoming thriller WHIPSAW.

www.stevebrewerbooks.com

Readers can decide for themselves if you made your joke clear, or if the promotion of the column being buried under 4 paragraphs of why you don't blog perhaps contributed to a different impression.

I'm not the only person to comment on it on DL, and I'm certainly not the only person to have gotten a different impression. The emails keep flooding my inbox.

I made my remark here before you emailed me to clarify, and I don't delete posts, so it stands.

Jokes are a lot easier to take when people know the person posting, perhaps. I've had to explain my way out of a few of them.


Sorry to hog the comments. Back to you, Satan.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you're someone who's having trouble making the jump from writing in journals, short stuff, blogging and taking creative writing classes to finishing a novel and submitting it, then making it a rule not to write without an eye towards paid publication ain't the dumbest idea out there.

One of the problems with blogging, classes, etc. is that it can make you feel like a writer without getting you any closer to being a published novelist.

Jeri said...

You sell it to your publisher, your publisher's sales reps, your publisher's marketing department, your distributors, your regional buyers, and finally, your customers.

OK, I've got the first and the last down, but what about the others? How do we sell our books to the sales reps, the marketing dept, the distributors, and the regional buyers? Is this covered somewhere on your site, Joe? Thought I'd read every damn page.

Anonymous said...

The moral of this story is...don't mess with Sandra Ruttan

JA Konrath said...

How do we sell our books to the sales reps, the marketing dept, the distributors, and the regional buyers?

This isn't easy, especially since your publisher may want to keep you from meeting these people because they don't want you to bug them.

But there are ways. Think outside the box. Think about how and where you'd meet them. Think about places they go, people they see. Think about where their jobs take them. Think about who their contacts are.

There's no single surefire way to find these folks, but there are many ways that work.

Is that cryptic enough? :)

JA Konrath said...

There's an Internet clip circulating that shows President Bush picking his nose.

Q: What kind of moron picks his nose?

A: We all do.

The real question should be: What kind of moron videotapes someone picking his nose and then posts it on the Internet? If we turned a 24 hour camera on this moron, what would we see?

It comes down to this: One guy is the President, and the other guy can only point fingers.

Glass houses applies. So does walking in another man's shoes, and just wait until you have children of your own.

Steve's a good writer, a nice guy, a tireless self-promoter, and not the least bit condescending.

He's also proven himself successful in a very hard profession.

But it's very easy to criticize what we don't understand.

We can bemoan the President even when we don't vote.

We can quarterback from the armchair even though we've never played pro ball.

We can go to anti-abortion rallies, even though we've never adopted a single unwanted child.

The moral of this story is...walk the walk before you talk the talk.

Steve Brewer said...

Look, I really don't want to prolong this,but I feel I'm being misunderstood. I've got nothing against bloggers or blogs. I said as much in my original post and every post since.
My sole point was that I already write a newspaper column every week, and would that do instead of a blog?
Hundreds of thousands of people read my column every week coast to coast, and I haven't missed a week in more than eight years. If that's not "walking the walk" as a writer, then I don't know what is. I appreciate the nice things Joe's said about me and my work, but I'm sorry I ever said anything about blogging.
As for the "writing for free" joke, I never said it was a GOOD joke. But I was just kidding around. I never dreamed so many people would get so upset over some passing BSP on DorothyL.

PS: Those Anonymous remarks were not mine (except for the one obvious, jokey one where the computer didn't accept my name).

--Steve

Joe Blog said...

Sorry, Steve, you blew it.

I'm never reading anything by you again.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I would just like to state, for the record, that I didn't name Steve because my remark wasn't meant personally. I wasn't trying to attack him - as Joe knows, if I go at someone, I do it head on, right to them.

In fact, I've heard similar comments from many people, how stupid it is for authors to blog, etc..

Someone even wrote me off my website and wanted me to justify having a website because wasn't that just another ridiculous marketing tool that every writer used and shouldn't I be different?

Um, okay, but they wouldn't have known who I was if I didn't have a website. To me, it's like setting up a store in the city and then not listing in the business directory or yellow pages. Damn, you'd better be on the busiest road around to get drive-by business!

Everyone has their opinion, and the one thing I do take exception to (because this 'discussion' has been going on in more than one venue) is the idea that I asserted somewhere that there's only one right way to market, and it's my way.

That's bullshit. I never said that. But I will say it's wrong to label anyone - non-blogger, blogger, anti-blogger, blog-lurker - as wrong just because of where they fit into the picture. Some have time for blogs, others don't.

We're all here because Joe devotes time to his blog, to helping aspiring and new writers. Love him, hate him, tremble in fear before him, he's one of the best motivators out there. I don't know if Joe feels he sees an increase in sales because of the blog or not, but I know this - he has profile. He may not have a dozen books to his name yet, but he knows a lot about marketing and even if I think you should use SASEs I have to grudgingly admit there are a lot of times Konrath is right.

Anonymous said...

Sandra Ruttan sez: "I have to grudgingly admit there are a lot of times Konrath is right."

I just looked out the window -- it's confirmed, hell HAS indeed frozen over.

Jude Hardin said...

I'm confused. I didn't think that Joe's "walk the walk" comment was directed toward Steve Brewer.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Don't worry anonymous. Fire and brimstone and flash flooding forecasted for tomorrow.