Monday, April 14, 2014

Selling A Novel In Todays Market

I was coming out of a Literary Festival the other day and I saw something that made me think we have passed into a new world. There was a car and on this car were the trade reviews and quotes from a novel with a picture of the cover on the side of the card. These were painted onto the car and not just temporary. I began to read the reviews from Library Journal, Rick Kogan, Booklist, Kirkus written on the back and the hood and the sides of the car.

My assumption was this was some self published author who figured why not put his book on his car. But no. This was a press that did this. And so we have passed into the age of anything goes. Some might see this as evidence of clever marketing or some might see it as desperation against the titanic wave of cultural marketing that is now our society. So lets take it as a marketing ploy.

Do people sit in their car and read reviews from Library Journal on the trunk of the car in front of them? No. Would they buy a book they saw on the side of a car? Would they remember a Publishers Weekly quote streaming by on the hood of a car? Who knows. Probably not. But the point is that this publisher has reached the point of trying to advertise their book on the same footing as a real estate agent selling houses.

So again...desperation? Market savvy? Idiocy? Who knows. I did read the reviews and I did stare at the cover. Too bad I can't remember the name of the book. I'll just have to catch that novel as it passes by at sixty miles an hour next time.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Sweaty Author

You get there and the authors are already at their tables. One guy is taking pictures upon pictures and tweeting them all over the place. He has his table right in the middle. You are there with a bookstore and are standing by to sign books for whoever may buy. The self published contingent is there. They are organized and efficient with their books and their notebooks. They sit behind their tables and stare out at the people beginning to stream in.

You did not start this way. You came form the old world of publishing. Big advances and Big Media. Signings were exclusive affairs at bookstores for people who came to hear only you. Now you are a baker at a carnival in a sea of barkers. Everyone is selling something and a lot of the products are substandard but it doesn't really matter. Whoever barks the loudest gets the sale.

And so for the next five hours you bark at everyone passing by. Authors eye each other warily. Who has self published? Who has been reviewed? Who is selling? The arty crowd is there and they just want to make contacts. You are there to sell. People steer clear because you wear a sport coat and don't evince the tired Bohemia of so many literary festivals. Your book is heavy with reviews. Another violation. It goes like this and when the people stop the authors stare at each other.

And then it slowly dies. The guy who self published Goth Horror closes shop. The experimental guy with the crazy cover who sold a good amount of books leaves. Your bookstore takes off and leaves you with a few more books. You sell another one but that is really it. Time for a drink at a bar and the lingering vague dissatisfaction of the Literary Festival.

The era of the Sweaty Author is like that.

The Pitcher

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reading at The Green Mill

So I read at the Green Mill. Very cool place but I should have known better. Not that the crowd was not nice. They were. They listened politely as I read from The Pitcher. But the Green Mill is the home of Mark Kelly Smiths Poetry Slam and not really the venue for novelists reading stories of a Mexican American kid with a golden arm and a broken down World Series pitcher.

Even my credentials sounded suspect. Why would anyone have so many awards and so much media attention if they did not sell out? Next to the rappers and the first timers someone with a  hardcover novel just doesn't have the necessary proletarian markers to compete. And there were the favorites and they ruled. Who was that guy anyway with the book?

But I appreciated reading there. I really did. I appreciated the guy (Mark) who I had met a  long time ago in Wicker Park and told me about the poetry slam. Maybe it is the discomfort of the novelist for anyone who doesn't spend years hammering prose into a long coherent form that eventually lands between two covers and must be accessible to school kids and critics alike.

Maybe it is simply the difference between the poet and the novelist.
The Pitcher

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why The Internet Wont Save You

If you have tried to get a job then you already know. Your resume goes out into cyberspace and nothing comes back. Worse you have to fill out three forms just to send your resume to a company and that wont even get you through their firewall. The truth is no one even looks at your resume. The same way no one looks at all those pictures on your hard drive or all those songs in your phone. The internet or digital tech has simply reached its level of  incompetency and is now cancelling itself out.

Lets say you want to publish a book. Boom. Done. You upload your file create a cover with Amazons dummy creator and there you go. Published. You are an author. Or you want to be a rocker. You upload your music and start selling on ITunes. You want to have your own movie. Shoot it and upload to Youtube. Of course the problem is that there a million other people doing exactly the same thing and when you go to tweet blog or facebook about your book song or movie then those people will too.

The internet then cancels itself out. Like the emails you never look at you simply cant get to what is offered nor do you want to. Think of a million hotdog stands along the road. You want one hotdog but which one do you pull into. You pick someone you heard of maybe a long time ago and ignore all those start ups. Or you just randomly pick. But what if someone flagged you down?

Lets say a real  person came out behind all those digital billboards and said come on in and try my hot dog. You would pull your car off the road and eat there. Why because you are human and so are they. You are not silicone and you are not bits and bytes. The truth is we have come full circle. The internet Yulp is now one of noise cancellation.

Better go hit the pavement.


Monday, March 24, 2014

The Winter that Won't Let Go

Like the houses that wont sell and the economy that wont take off and the politics that wont get out of Park we now have the winter that wont let go. At least in Chicago. We have gone through hell. Thirty below. Forty below. Days on end of snow. Frozen wasteland. And by now we usually get some relief. It is almost April. But not to be. We woke up this morning to eighteen degrees. Frost on the windows with no end in sight.

And you really cant help but connect the dots. Our age is one of stagnation. People frozen in their homes in their jobs in their marriages.It is almost like America as a whole has hit middle age. A strange thought for a country that prides itself on being young. America now is one big waiting game it would seem. Waiting for retirement. Waiting for a job. Waiting to sell. And then there is the weather.

The slogging through it psychology of winter is a perfect metaphor for our time. We slog through to better times. Like the spring it must be there after this long dark winter. We can feel it in the sun now. We can feel it in the light that is now Daylight Savings Time. Funny how that extra hour means nothing when you cant go outside.

So we wait for winter to lose her grip. She is a real bitch this time. They are calling for snow tomorrow.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Man Volume

I was in a friends basement the other day when his wife said for him to turn down the music.  "I really cant stand Man Volume." That was the phrase she used. And it really got me to thinking how men are beat from the start. The hunters who are now the providers who become the domestic engineers. And the warrior  shall be restricted to mancaves or bars. There shall be no Man Volume in the house.

And when you have children and move to the suburbs Man Volume is further submerged under making a buck and being a role model. Daddy can not be cranking Black Sabbath while telling his kid to not smoke pot. And so the stereo becomes the last crackling fire on the plains of the War Party. Lest the warrior get too smoky his squaw will come over and douse the flames. "I really hate Man Fires!" And so the warrior grudgingly snuffs his fire.

And this is nothing new. Men become steadily domesticated much like dogs as they get older. They start out frisky and wild and by the end docility moves in and they are left with the Volume  Control as their only totem to their own unbridled youth and to who they were. And even then as U2 or Coldplay or some Zep starts to creep to the halfway mark this too is extinguished with the ruling hand of home and hearth(Turn that Man Volume Down!) ...lest that atavistic  warrior rears his head again.

But when the wife is out of the house and the kids are at school....
The Pitcher

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Pitcher and Divergent...David and Goliath

Maybe you have heard of the girl from Barrington IL who penned Divergent. Twenty something who wrote a Hunger Games Esq dystopian novel that has sold millions of copies. And now the movie is out. And maybe you have heard of The Pitcher story of a Mexican American kid with nothing but his dream. What you haven't heard is that there is voting going on a for a District Wide Summer Read and Divergent is 29 percent while The Pitcher is 25. Truly it is David and Goliath,

And whenever you go up against a megaseller then you know the odds are against you. There are only a few Divergents that blow the roof off and when a book hits that  level then the quality of the book is secondary. The noise of the book is what matters then. I am not trashing Divergent I am merely pointing out that as a writer you always have these Lottery Books that are literally worth millions to the author.

And The Pitcher is David and Divergent is Goliath. And I would like to say that people should vote for The Pitcher because the book really does matter but I don't know if that translates in the age of mega-sellers. Lets face it most books are never heard of again and the few Divergents suck up most the oxygen. Then again...there is that underdog thing...much like Ricky who has literally nothing but his dream to sustain him.

So in the end The Pitcher has to be David. It is only fitting.
The Pitcher...sometimes a dream is all you have


Books by William Hazelgrove