I know you’re in there. Come on out, right now, before it’s too late for you! Sure, many of you are in denial. Or maybe you honestly don’t know your true identity. And of course, the usual crowd is recoiling in shock and horror that their choices and preferences are certainly none of my business. How do I know any of this? Face the facts; the truth is, most of us authors actually do live, at least to some extent, in a closet of our own making, and it isn’t a happy or helpful situation. No, I’m not talking about if or whether you like other girls or boys. (You people! Why does everything always have to be about sex all the time?) Allow me to explain.
Over 150 years ago in the upper class homes of Europe, a form of writing developed for young people of wealth who were blessed with an education, but not so much literary talent. These would-be authors dabbled, but in secret, and so this type of authorship was called Closet Writing or Closet Drama, as if it happened in closed or perhaps forbidden rooms. Often taking the form of poetry or stage plays, such feverish works were hidden away in locked chests or secret compartments and never seen except perhaps by one’s closest friend, one’s beloved mother, or from time to time by that secret significant other. The idea—the hope or dream—was that one day in the distant future, long after the writer had passed from this mortal dimension, the work would be discovered and the author’s true brilliance unveiled for all the world to see.
Seems unbelievably quaint and old-fashioned, doesn’t it? And yet, don’t be too certain that you, yourself, might not be tainted with some of the characteristics of pining nobility, of pale restraint, of poetic yearning for the hidden life of an undiscovered genius. I am here to warn you of the poisonous influence such tendencies will create in your literary life because, unbelievable as it may seem in today’s literary marketplace, it is easier than ever to play the role of the pale flower in hiding. And this, in short, will badly muck up your career.
Think about it: How many times have you cast your latest work to the ocean of readers and, after a few feeble attempts at self-promotion, hastily plunged into your next writing venture? How often have you moved forward without a real plan, believing in your heart-of-hearts that somehow your talent and persistence will overcome all? Well, I am here to warn you that, even with your undeniable blessings, without a solid and persistent marketing plan your situation is no different than it would be if you were living two centuries ago in the little guest house behind your granny’s garden estate (love the hollyhocks and purple foxglove) while you breathlessly pen your closet novellas.
So, if I am even a little bit right, how does one develop a solid and persistent plan? Well, to my mind, the best way is to stand your newly published work up in harsh lighting and glare at it for a while. Just exactly what is this latest damn tome that you’ve tapped out on your keyboard? Figure out what you’ve written and you’ll know where to market it. And then actually crawl out of your dank and gloomy basement and sell, sell, sell!
Remember, most definitions of literature that we studied in school are no longer valid. There never was and probably never will be such a thing as the Great American Novel. It was a fantasy, a dream of mythic proportions, and it kept many a starving artist scribbling through hard times. But that particular great white whale is a dead end in today’s marketplace. Reality has taught us that ours is a genre driven world.
We authors used to complain that the publishers and bookstores were conspiring to keep counter-genre, cross-genre and mixed-genre novels off the shelf. Now we know that isn’t entirely true. Sales are driven by reader attraction, and the writers with the most appealing story ideas sell better than anybody else—assuming that they figure out how to present their work clearly and to the widest possible audience. And at this point in history, because any joker with a laptop can spend a few weeks at the local Starbucks and churn out 250 pages, the crush of clutter we have to fight through is un-be-lievable!
In the golden olden days, that is, before outlets like Amazon, WordPress, CreateSpace and Smashwords, once a work was accepted by a mass media publisher, there was help. Back then, you could count on promotional ploys from interviews to back cover blurbs, manufactured and arranged by Doubleday or Random House. Not any more. Now it’s on you, bucko and buckarina, to not only make sure your stuff is professionally edited, but to get your writerly butt out there in the real world to make the moves the New York publishing people used to offer.
I’m not here to tell you that spending your money on small space ads in vertical magazines or creating a book trailer is better or worse than virtual book touring or hiring a promo service. In my opinion, it’s all good, but remember; some will be better than others for your needs, and that’s your decision to make. The only bad decision will be to not set aside an hour or two of each day to market your current book, even as you keystroke inexorably forward with your next.
So get out there and expose yourself to your eagerly awaiting readership. Claim your rightful place among your peers and be refreshed and enervated with the knowledge that you’ve presented your work not only to those attached to their classic paper page-turning habits but to an entire enlightened generation of electronic readers. Come out, come out, wherever you are. You have nothing to be afraid of.
I love hearing from you! What are your thoughts on modern book promotion? Leave a comment and let me know. And don't forget to check out our new book promo specials for January at www.Castelane.com.
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”.