Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Never Make Eye Contact

by Robison Wells

Let's get one thing out of the way right now: this blog is all about self-promotion. As noted across the top, we're all authors, and we all want you (yes you) to buy our books. It's what we do. We write books and you buy them. And frankly, we've been holding up our part of the bargain, and you – well, let's just say that you've been a little stingy with the green. (I mean, reading books for free at the library? What's up with that?)

I was a little startled to discover that once a manuscript is submitted to the publisher, the writing process has only begun. There are months and months of grueling revisions, email after email of desperate negotiations, and a never-ending supply of last minute decisions (such as, "Should I send my editor a sycophantic gift of flowers and chocolate? Or should I throw a brick through her window?") But I was terribly disheartened to discover that even after the book is published and printed and sitting on store shelves collecting dust, there is still work to be done.


I hate it. Authors spend most of their lives holed up in a dark corner. We hide from the real world. Our best friend is our computer. When we get together with other authors we talk about grammar and Writer's Market and conventions. To put it plainly, we're a bunch of nerds. We're like college boys who spend thirty-six hours straight playing Everquest online – except that we authors not only live in a false reality, it's a reality that we make up! We sit by ourselves in a dark room and play pretend.

My point: we have no business acting like salesmen.

And yet we do – we're forced to – or else all our labors are for nothing. If we don't get out and pound the pavement, and pretend to enjoy book signings, then no one will read our books and love us and put food on our table.

So, we go to book signings, and we sit behind the table and watch as person after person ignores us. (Many authors, including a few on this site, I believe, try the walk-up-and-talk-to-people approach. I don't like this for two reasons: First, because I hate walking into a store and having someone try to sell me something. Second, because people scare the heebie jeebies out of me. Hey you: think of yourself, and imagine walking into a bookstore and spotting me at a table. You avert your eyes, because you're afraid that I'm going to sell you something, and I smile and wave and hope that you don't come over and hit me with a stick. I know you're going to do it. You're not as innocent as you look.)

And we go to speaking events, and address groups of students or readers or aspiring authors, and we talk about our books and ourselves and pretend to be public speakers. We're not, though. (This doesn't mean you should stop inviting us – it just means that writing books isn't the same as being charismatic and charming.)
I remember having to speak at the Utah Librarian's Association conference, and my goodness was I terrified. I was certain that the other authors in attendance we're going to stand up and amaze the crowd with treatises on renaissance poetry and the influence of pre-Columbian pottery on Jack Weyland's cubist period. And then I'd get up and talk about how I really dig American Idol – because really, I don't know anything. I just write books.

But thank heavens for the internet! If I was an author back before the computer age, I wouldn't be writing books today. Not only would I never have the patience to handwrite anything, but I wouldn't be granted the relative anonymity of the information superhighway, and I wouldn't have a medium whereby I could communicate with my readers via text. (Other than letters, I guess, but who writes letters? Who am I? Abigail Adams?)

So, I blog. I blog here, and I blog on my personal website, and I blog on another site. And I write the occasional article for webzines (such as a book review today on Meridian Magazine, or game reviews for The Official Timewaster's Guide). My marketing strategy is that if I write enough, then people are bound to run across me sooner or later.

Maybe I won't win many awards for self-promotion, but that's fine with me. Awards shows are always full of people – one of them might hit me.


At 3/14/2006 10:55 AM, Anonymous Fellfrosch said...

As someone who has actually hit Rob with a stick, I encourage you all to try it. It's just as fun as it sounds!

At 3/14/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

After my post and Jeff's blog from yesterday, we're certainly getting off to a pessimistic start. Next week I'll have to talk about why writing is awesome and fun and rad to the max.

At 3/15/2006 7:45 AM, Blogger Sweebler said...

Just to boost your ego, I read Wake Me When It's Over and I thought it was very funny.


Post a Comment

<< Home