Monday, November 25, 2013

Oil & Water

by John Klawitter

Copyright © 2013 John Klawitter
Originally published by 1st Turning Point, 2010

Lots of things don’t mix, of course.  There’s booze and driving, guns and young kids, angels and devils, to name a few.
John Klawitter

Mulling in this vein, I can see that some writers fail to realize how alien and unmixable the disciplines of writing and marketing can be.  Writing, of course, is your very lifeblood, your soul, your heart, your passion.  Marketing your writing is something different.  It can feel like writing is talking directly to God, while marketing is formality, chants, thumbing the beads, spinning the prayer wheels.
The proof is in the differing career arcs of the followers of these disparate disciplines: Writers may die of starvation or despair, but copywriters burn out, become zombies, members of the living dead.  That’s why ad agencies hire kids, burn their candles at both ends and then boot them up the ladder (to supervise the new crop of innocents) or boot them out the door to find another career path.
A closer look reveals that, while authors have the whisper of the entire universe as their subtext, the subtext of every ad and commercial is simply Buy this Product. Hey, even the slickest medicine men get tired after a while.  But you can get around these dire conditions and find a way to survive.  After all, do not the oak tree and the willow both thrive in the same world?
Good heavens, you ask, has the Klaw finally gone off the deep end here? Maybe, but I was a famous copywriter for decades, and yet I avoided becoming a total word zombie.  So maybe a few of the lessons I learned would be helpful to you, the still living, breathing scribblers of magic.  And, in this case, you can have the gain without the pain.
As you know, when writing, you are and must be the absolute dictator and master of your creation.  But, what you may not recognize completely is that, once finished, you must become totally another being, in a sense the opposite of what you were.  You have to replace your bold confidence with skepticism, your glorious sharing openness with cunning appraisal, your fierce tenacity with a willingness to let good ideas pass in favor of better ones.
Oh, what a different world it becomes the first time an agent says "Feels too much like Nora Roberts to me!"
Nora Roberts
You have to fend off that plunging darkness of the heart, find resolve, and learn to use parrying thrusts like There’s always room for another best-selling Nora Roberts. You see, as a novelist, you were a god without peers.  As an author looking to publish, you have to dig in a different direction for resources you may not realize you have.
Once you were writing absolute truth.  Now your talents must turn to persuasion, to selling, to Buy my novel. Interestingly enough, once you are of this frame of mind, you may find some new avenues open up for you.
First off, you come to realize you’re actually selling two things, yourself and your work.  It’s more than just buy my novel, it’s I’m the real thing, take a shot on reading me. This self-marketing thrust may be only a few lines, but they have to be the right ones.  English author Dick Francis, who wrote, until recently, thrillers centered around horse racing, let it be known that he was not just an experienced jockey–but the Queen of England’s jockey. Richard Halliburton, a fabulously successful travel writer of 90 years ago, didn’t just quit school to bum around the world–he left a prestigious ivy league college to follow the Royal Road to Romance.
Now don’t tell me this doesn’t apply to you.  You may not be a famous horse rider or an advantaged kid who throws it all away for romance, but there is something original and special about you or you wouldn’t be writing in the first place.  Your marketing assignment is to find that specialness, what ad biz people call your inherent drama, and then you have to market that difference.
It may not be obvious or come about all in one illumination.  You may have to reach into your world of possibilities, to polish your strong positives and ignore the few negatives.  Could be, you’ll have to turn the negatives into positives.  Consider the wild and
Oscar Wilde
flagrant outfitting employed by Oscar Wilde in the 1890′s.  He’d been doing okay for about ten years, but he really took off as an author when he became known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversation.  I’m not saying the secret is in becoming something you are not, but rather in developing the strength in who and what you are.  Anyone who has heard Tony Hillerman speak without falling asleep has an eyelid up on me.  But Tony sells his work as authentic and original stories from the secretive Navajo Nation.  Tony is not a Navajo; he’s a bilikana, a white-eyes.  How the hell did he ever pull that one off? Worth mulling, isn’t it.  Or, accept the absolute and utter believability in Robert Waller’s great The Bridges of Madison County, where the secret actually is in the sauce, that is, the storyteller’s believability is woven into the story.
You know, selling yourself may end up to be only be a few lines, but it could take you lots longer to craft those words right than it would to write a hot and sexy four hundred page thriller.  Might not happen at all for you.  Some great authors never recognize their own drama, never find the words to convince readers to give them a shot…until somebody figures it out after they are dead and gone.  The tragic life stories of Herman Melville and Ross Lockridge, Jr. come to mind.   Don’t let that happen to you.  Recognize the disciplines of creative writing and marketing writing are as different as oil & water–and then collect as many bottles and barrels of each for yourself as you can.

John Klawitter is a Hollywood writer, producer and director who writes fiction and non-fiction books.  He often adapts his novels to screenplays that he then peddles around town.   (So far, a few fat options, but no brass ring.) His novels are based on his years surviving as a creative person in the ad biz and in show biz.  It is an interesting life.
He has worked as the Creative Director of Disney Studios in Burbank, and as an independent creative resource for Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount and the Disney Channel, as well as for many indy production companies including Hanna Barbera, Franke Films, Pink Planet Productions, Eyeline Films and Zoiyu Productions.  His films and television specials have appeared on NBC, the BBC, and the Disney Channel, and he has written many memorable song lyrics, advertising jingles and television show openings, including “Disney’s Wonderful World”, “Now & Then”, and “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show”.

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