Yesterday’s post ended with me making the statement that Promised Land: The Host Rises can be as much a lab experiment in liaise faire capitalism for readers as anything. I stand by that assertion. It was in response to a question about a previous blog revealing my first, less than successful, efforts at marketing the novel.
As I pointed out yesterday, while I do have a rags-to-riches story to tell, my days as a starving artist are long past. I’m in the process of turning the business over to the next generation and returning to my first love- writing.
That doesn’t mean this isn’t a business. Make no bones about it, writing is very much a capitalist venture and if you aren’t making money then you won’t be at it for very long.
There is a mythology surrounding the mechanics of business that society sells to us and that we buy at retail without much thought. I used to see it in movies from the thirties- young guy with ambition has a great idea or invention that is immediately recognized by everyone, including the rich, old geezer. The money guy then funds the business, there is amazing and immediate success, and the young guy with ambition becomes fabulously wealthy and never has to work hard another day of his life. Oh, and he gets the girl who never lost faith in him.
Sound familiar? Isn’t that what we’re sold? Work super hard at a genius idea and it will ultimately be recognized for what it is and you will be richly rewarded. It is the epitome’ of the American Dream and we as a society buy into it so wholeheartedly that we are willing to vote against our own best interests in the hope that one day we will be rich and not paying taxes.
It is also a complete fabrication. Ninety percent of all new business ventures fail within the first three years. Of the ten percent that make it, two out of three will be gone within five years. Businesses created by hardworking people with good or even great ideas that for whatever reason fail. Usually, it’s because they had to use their own money to get the venture off the ground and they ran out of it.
Don’t expect outside help in the form of venture capital unless it’s a relative. The money lenders only show up waving cash after you don’t need them anymore. That’s personal experience speaking.
Here’s the publishing industry’s take on the Great American Myth: starving new writer pens a first time masterpiece and sends it off to a big publishing house. The publisher immediately recognizes the genius of the work, contacts the author and signs him to a six figure publishing deal. The publisher’s publicity department sets up a whirlwind tour of media outlets and book signings throughout the country. The book becomes a million seller and the now-rich author cloisters himself to write the next sure-fire bestseller.
Here’s what really happens: new writer hires literary agent and pays them out of pocket to promote his work in front of publishers. That’s if he or she can find a legitimate agent to pick them up. That is the only way through the very small door. Even then, unless you’re Stephen King, the publisher is going to offer no advance money. What it will do (and this is extremely important) is provide copyediting and polishing, publicity, and distribution into brick and mortar stores. That happens one time in a million. Even then, it’s no guarantee of success.
The great equalizer in this game has been the personal computer and its accompanying technology. It has become much easier to write and edit manuscripts. Likewise, vanity publishing, or self publishing as it is called today, is significantly less expensive than it used to be. I can literally sell and print one book at a time… in that order. Even ten years ago that was unheard of; a self-published author had to commit to offset printing several hundred copies of a work in order to make it cost effective on a per unit basis.
With the advent of computers, I don’t even need to print a book- I can simply sell a file containing a manuscript formatted to what ever reading tablet the purchaser prefers. I can do it for a buck a book if I want on Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world.
By its very nature, this newfound freedom comes with drawbacks, however. Now, anyone can publish a book, and like other internet issues relating to filters and content, most of them are awful. They tend to be poorly written and edited, not to mention downright boring. And there are literally hundreds of thousands of these books out there… an ocean of drivel. Getting found in that ocean is almost impossible without a great deal of extra effort on the author’s part.
This is where I am at in my writing adventure- the marketing of the book. It is where I am dedicating my time and resources for the next year. I am going to do my best to learn what works when it comes to promoting my business. Why shouldn’t I open a window for readers to peer into, to peel back the onion of reality as opposed to eating the mythology of the capitalist dream… and starving in the process? Maybe it will provide insights that will help them in their own adventures in capitalism. Perhaps they will see inside the foundation of an empire? Maybe they’ll watch some poor devil flounder around. Either way, it’ll be fun!