This column was supposed to be posted on Tuesday. It’s Friday. So much for juggling the Writer’s “R’s”.
Like many others, I had virtually no clue what living ‘a writer’s life’ meant. Like many others, I hoped it involved lots of time to write while my editor and agent took care of the little things like arranging readings and keeping my schedule free to write. Maybe even stop by with a bottle of Irish whiskey, offer some sage advice from their years in the business. That’s what they do in the movies…
Maybe I shouldn’t be skeptical. Maybe, when one reaches the lofty heights of the NY Times best seller list, these things come to pass. I’ll keep you updated. But until I get there, I’ll give you my experience of the Writer’s “R’s”.
Promotion is what you have to do if you don’t want your book to sink into the swamp of publishing, where at least 500 books a month are released, generally to sink or swim depending on the energy and time commitment of the author. I wish there was another way to tell you this, novice writers, but there ain’t. You do the work, or your book goes NOWHERE. It’s a lot like running for office, I imagine. You need to arrange readings at any store that will have you (think outside the box on that one), get out to conventions, make a book trailer (if you can afford it), shake hands, kiss babies, autograph anything (Sharpie works best), and be ready to talk, talk, talk about your work.
Liquor is really good to have on hand.
I’m a bartender, so I have no problem doing any of the above. In fact, I’ve had a liquor company sponsor my first two readings (TY-KU Sake) and a vineyard send stuff for my third, upcoming, reading (at The Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island, on Mon. July 23, if anyone’s available). Of course, it helps that my main character, Donovan Graham, is also a bartender, and in fact uses the wine being sent–Faust Cabernet Sauvignon–in a scene. But this was no gratuitous product placement–the novel is titled Faustus Resurrectus,
and the wine proved to be a perfect way to segue into the Faust and Faustus legends. I don’t know what I can offer as far as marketing tips that other, wiser, more experienced authors on this blog can’t, so I’ll just suggest you use whatever tie-ins you can find in your story as a springboard to making connections and promoting your book.
As for ‘riting, man, don’t ask me how to get it done. Between this blog, work on my MFA, my job, my commute, getting drunk at least twice a week going to the gym, and doing all the promotional stuff that famous writers have flunkies do, I’m lucky if I can plunk my ass in a chair for an hour a day to do new stuff. But the new stuff is as important, if not more so, than the rest. As I’ve discovered–and continue to re-discover–throughout my life, when I don’t write, my world isn’t…right. Don’t forsake the second “R” for the first. The second “R” is what got you here.
Reality is flexible. That’s one of the themes of Faustus Resurrectus, and it’s an expansion of what I was just saying. Since I’m a writer, I need to write; that’s my reality. If I don’t write, my reality becomes something else. It may be comfortable, ‘normal’ (as if such a thing is possible), but deep down it’s something that I not only don’t want, but it’s a reality that isn’t the best for me. I have an ideal of how I see the best reality, so to make it as concrete as possible, I’ve tried to channel my life into the other two “R’s” as thoroughly as possible. I have to find ways to make my reality all about the work. Commuting, I think about plot points. Tending bar I find traits for my characters, even as I talk my book up and make new friends and connections.
It creates a really interesting way to live: my first review on Amazon comes from a guy in Des Moines, Iowa. It’s terrific that he liked it a lot, but just the thought that my stuff, the stuff I sat and wrote, was picked up by a complete stranger across the country…okay, so I’m still a little dazzled by the business. As frustrating and draining and miserable as some aspects can be…to me, it’s got magic. That’s the reality I’m trying to move into permanently.
Until next time.