Mark Terry

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Conventional Wisdom

October 23, 2007

I was reading an article about Ben Affleck in TIME Magazine last night. They mentioned that he used to be very outspoken about politics, but recently he's been keeping his opinions pretty much to himself. He said something that I've thought about quite a bit.
Affleck commented that with the Internet it was possible for someone to go spend an entire day reading political blogs that supported their own opinions, that it was very easy to have your own opinions reinforced, therefore convincing you you are right.
I think he's right and I thought of the blogs I read every day, which trend toward author blogs who write about the publishing business. So, here are some themes, shall we say:
1. You have to promote, promote, promote.
2. Publishing is a bad business model.
3. People in the publishing business only care about the bottom line.
4. It's harder to stay published than it is to get published.
5. Publishing is a hard, brutal business.
6. You have to promote, promote, promote. (Yes, I'm intentionally repeating myself).
7. How to market your books.
I'm sure there's others, but you can see the trend here.
So I was wondering if I was essentially reading blogs that reinforce my own opinions, which are not terribly upbeat about fiction publishing and promotion.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to alert me to blogs about writing, publishing or promotion that are different, that don't reinforce the things we're always hearing. Find me a blog that says book promotion is a waste of time, that publishing is a sunny, happy place filled with people enthusiastic about books and authors, that contrary to popular opinion, the American people DO like to read and DO buy books. Find someone who tells you that yes, as a matter of fact, you CAN make a living--and a decent living--writing fiction in America and here's how you do it. Find me some unconventional wisdom, find me someone who's rowing against the current.
Let me know.
Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

Hmmm, that's a tall order! Does it have to contain all of the above? There are some that might show that by example, but they don't say it.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Anything you can come up with. Anything different!

6:54 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

What I often find in reading blogs which support my political opinions are facts supporting those opinions which have been given short shrift by the national media. So while I can't think of any "optimistic" writing blogs (I ready very few writing blogs though) what I wonder is how many of those themes are actually supported by facts?

I've seen anecdotal evidence that it is hard to stay published, for instance. Is there anything more? Are there more first books than second, or third? Can it be verified that the majority of writers who have one book published don't make it to a second or third?

Whether publishing is hard and brutal probably depends on your point of view. I think so but that's more a value judgment. And isn't all business hard and brutal?

If people in publishing only care about the bottom line then aren't they simply the same as in any other business? Am I making value judgments again? Isn't the capitalist system all to do with the bottom line? However I have seen evidence that Poisoned Pen Press does not publish books simply to enhance its bottom line. Of course they need to make some money to fund the business so some might still see that as being bottom line motivated, or hard and brutal.

Then there's the stupidity of the business model. But, again, how do you prove it? The model seems to work for some of those involved or else it wouldn't persist. Or would it?

Then there's the advice to promote, promote, promote! I have never seen anyone offer any evidence that it works. In fact, usually people will say you *have* to do it despite that it can't be proved that it works. But, it must work, if it does, in mysterious ways. And you can't afford not to do it. It's presented like a religious belief actually.

Yeah, that's not an answer to your question....

We're writers...we don't need no steenking answers....!!!!

10:12 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

The notion that "you must promote" is provided as if it's a religious belief is a very intriguing thought. Thanks for that.

10:18 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Okay, you already know I'm small-time and just on the internet (at least with fiction). So, take what I'm going to say with a huge grain of salt, because it might not transfer to NY. (Heck, feel free to ignore it completely.)

Crazily enough, I've never done promotion for my pseudonym until this past year (and, like you, for all the hours I've spent on my website and pseudonym's futile attempts at blogging, I'm guesstimating I've sold an extra book or two). BUT, the more stories out there, the more readers write me AND the more my royalties grow. (And that was without one iota of promotion, not even a website, not one single blog interview, absolutely nothing, period.)

All because I put out more and faster. It's been a six or seven year journey. I know it's not just my personal trend, because my publisher puts out a little spreadsheet, monthly, that lists the sales of each book by all the authors there.

You've got two books out now, and you're coming out with a third one? Is there a fourth, did you say, too? You're almost over the hump.

I hear writers often say that the new release sells the backlist. From my perspective, I've never bought that. Yes, it does, sorta. And there's nothing like the front tables, of course, but I believe the backlist sells the author more than the new release sells the backlist.

And the authors blaring the horn of promotion? You notice how it starts "gathering energy" and "the ball starts rolling" around the third or fourth book? Was it the promotion or the backlist?

That's why I think Ballantine is exploring the new author debuts of one title a month for three months. Instant backlist.

Like I said, what do I know of NY? I just draw on my small-time experience, and I watch and worry and catalog what other authors do. I don't worry about getting NY-published, because I'm already jumping the gun and hyperventilating at the thought of starting a career with only one book, LOL. But I plan and calculate that way. I figure I have one shot; gotta do it right, even if it is just a dream.

Have you been to Erica Orloff's blog? She writes in a wide variety of genres, has sold twenty-ish books, and has a great attitude about the publishing industry. I'm fairly certain she worked as an editor for a number of years, too. She talks mostly about the writing craft, but you might like it. She's a very cool person, someone who could write one hell of a memoir, that's for sure.

Sorry to go on. None of it may apply, but it's what I believe. Just my feeble attempt to cheer you up. :-) It's the thought that counts, right?

8:12 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Thanks! I'll check her out. And yes, I'm inclined to agree, more or less, that having a backlist helps sell books. The caveat to that is this:

If they're stocked in bookstores.

In that case, you're taking up real estate and people notice you. Otherwise... Not so sure.

4:38 AM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...


Boy, this got me might be right. Maybe it IS all gloom and doom out there in the writers blogosphere.

But one of my faves is Smart Bitches Trashy Books. It's about the romance market and these women are crazy-funny. Especially when they review romance covers. (Lots of "man titties" and "mullets")

9:31 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Thanks Kris, I'll check it out!

9:43 AM  
Blogger Christine Fletcher said...

OK, it's not a blog, but in his book "Writing the Breakout Novel," agent Donald Maass skewers the "promote, promote, promote" mindset. It's all about the writing, he says, and then he spends the rest of the book explaining why.

I'm still planning promotion for book #2 when it comes out next spring, though. Probably because, in an industry where we control so little, self-promotion makes us feel we have some small say in our professional destinies.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous sunjunkie said...

You want upbeat? Check out Pat Wood's blog. While she definitely promotes, her blog is filled with tales of enthusiastic readers and writers. This is the first entry of hers I read, and it made me a fan:

This is her being a *little* more positive:

I like to read a blend of the gritty and the uplifting, probablities and possibilities.

12:14 PM  
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