Hey, baby, wanna come to my place?
Are you new in town?
What’s your sign?
My mind is in the gutter today, a rare locale for a soccer mom. If I close my eyes and go with the imagery, I land in an animated world with overdrawn characters wearing push-up bras, puce dresses and hot pink stiletto heels. A Toontown for writers. Wordsville? Remember Jessica Rabbit? It’s her sultry voice (Kathleen Turner’s) that I hear.
Only this time she’s saying, "I’m not bad . . . I’m just written that way."
I’m thinking about the differences between innocent flirting and one-night-stand flirting, between love-making and purchased sex.
I’m fixating on the why of book-looking and buying.
What makes readers pick up our work? What’s the click, the magic ah-ha, that inspires them to buy?
Is it a glossy cover?
Word of mouth?
Placement in a store?
Television appearances, newspaper features, radio interviews?
Is it presence, participation and mentions on listservs and blogs?
Is it the first line? The first paragraph?
What promises are made in those initial encounters? What promises are kept?
Have you bought books that looked luscious on the surface and turned out to taste like bargain-brand dog bones?
On an impulse, have you paid for tomes with the outward appeal of pimply nerds, only to find that they’re tigers in bed?
Here’s the honest truth:
I have no idea what makes me pick up a book. I have even less of an idea about what makes me buy it. The longer I’m an author, the longer I do this dance of writing and promotion, the less I’m sure of anything.
Some of my cohorts astound me with their energy and creativity when it comes to marketing. They’re at every single convention. They comment on every blog and listserv. They answer their emails at warp speed and send out newsletters consistently.
I used to be one of them and . . .
I can tell you this:
I don’t think it did me much good; it might even have harmed my credibility as a serious writer.
I do know that hearing or seeing an author’s name everywhere ISN’T ever the factor that makes me buy his or her book. Never. As a matter of fact, it often works to the contrary . . . because I’m contrary. I tend to run away from that person in the bar who seems too desperate for a relationship — or sex.
Do the most successful writers flog their stuff everywhere? You might tell me that they’ve earned the right not to. But I doubt they ever did the Full-Monty marketing in the first place. Certainly the love-me-please edge is absent from their interactions with their publics.
I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to say with this blog. I think I have two themes here, but they feel related in a fundamental way.
All I know is that more and more, I just want to write. I want my words and stories to be the impetuses that tempt and, ultimately, convince readers to buy. I want other people to talk about my works instead of me beating my own chest all the time.
Back in Wordsville, I’m watching two women. One sits at the counter and orders another a pink sloe gin fizz. Her eyes scope out every man in the place. She’s got a buy-me vibe and a body to match. The other woman is at a table in the corner. She’s alone too. In her hand is a smoky scotch on the rocks. In the other rests a fine cuban cigarillo. Her mouth curls in a quiet smile as she observes this crazy world.
You know which one I’d like to be . . .