Being a self-publishing author sometimes involves a bit of schizophrenia; the personality of a writer tends to differ from that of a publisher, and often the twain shall meet. As I embark on what I hope is the final revision of my latest novel, I find I’m thinking more like a publisher than an author.
Publisher-me (PM) is all about getting my books in the hands of as many readers as possible by putting together a professional product, then marketing and promoting it. Publishing is about making money. Writing is about, well, writing. Or, at least it should be. You could say we’re like night-and-day. Anyway, my mind’s been on publishing because I want to make money at writing, which can’t happen if people don’t want to read my books. As Author-me (AM) completes one book, PM looks ahead to the next one.
Now, because sales have never been great (or even remotely good), PM has been a bit of a testy A-hole of late. Recently, PM had a meeting with AM, which went something like this:
PM: This new book of yours, On Golden Flesh or With Gold and Flesh…
AM: Of Gilded Flesh.
PM: Yes, yes. I like it. I’ve got a good feeling about it.
PM: But, I’ve been thinking…
PM:…about the next book. What is it, again?
AM: I’ve been working on a trio of intertwined novellas currently titled Once Upon A Road.
PM: That’s right. And, what’s it about?
AM: Well, it’s about three siblings from a small town in Nevada, each with their own personality challenges: anxiety, extreme misanthropy, and depression. It’s not so much a “coming-of-age” tale (there’s already plenty of those) but, rather, one of coming-to-terms. Each novella follows their individual journeys toward the acceptance and embracing of who they are, despite themselves.
PM: Sounds artsy. You know, “literary.”
AM: Why did you make a face and roll your eyes when you said “literary?”
PM: I didn’t.
AM: Yes, you did. You always do.
PM: Okay, you’re right. It’s because artsy doesn’t sell. Artsy is what you write after you’ve sold a ton of books and established yourself. Like an actor who makes a small, independent film after they’ve done a series of trite mega-blockbusters. Readers want to be thrilled, shocked even.
PM: You want to write something that grabs people by the throat. You need to hook them with a few books that shock, or at least surprise. Like with your latest, and the part where the woman grabs the Count who raped her by the throat with her mechanical hand and –
PM: Or where the clockwork boy comes to li –
AM: Stop with the spoilers, man! Someone might be listening.
PM: But you get my meaning, right? Once you get the attention of your audience with Of Gilded Flesh, you need to keep their attention with something equally engaging. Have you got any other ideas?
AM: Well, there’s a psychological-thriller I’ve been considering, that takes place in a remote frontier town.
PM: That’s a possibility. At least it has the word “thriller” in its description.
AM: There’s also one about a family that experiences a horrifically violent attack and how they deal with the aftermath.
PM: Oh – I like that. Write that one!
AM: I don’t know. I really wanted to write –
PM: No. Listen. Your favorite author is Julius Irving, right?
AM: John Irving.
PM: Right. Did you know he didn’t make it as a writer until his 4th novel, The World According to Garp? You know why his first three didn’t catch fire?
AM: Let me guess – they were too artsy.
PM: Exactly! Sure, they were good. But they weren’t shocking. Garp is full of grab-you-by-the-throat elements. As are The Hotel NewHampshire and The Cider House Rules, his fifth and sixth novels. All I’m saying is, hook readers with Of Gilded Flesh. Then reel them in with…um…do you have a title for the one after that?
AM: No. Rite, as in rite-of-passage.
PM: Oh. Hey, that’s good. Anyway, once you’ve got ’em wanting to read you, then you can write the artsy-fartsy crap.
AM: I guess. Okay.
PM: Have I steered you wrong before?
PM: Then what have you got to lose?
AM: (sigh) Nothing.