Thursday, June 26, 2014
Book promotion. It can involve embarrassing displays of self-involvement (for the next sixty minutes I will be doing all the talking, thank you very much), nasty tricks (remember the writer who recently shipped her dead husband's ashes around with the galleys?), indulgent wardrobing (you will remember me, you must remember me, won't you remember me?), and bold pronouncements about one's own talent (eeewww). We are asked to do many things. We do what we can. We close our eyes, we (maybe) grin and (barely) bear it, and then, mercifully, the promotion season has passed. We can be ourselves again.
We can buy and celebrate the books of others.
I'm not a touring writer. I'm not a famous one. This here blog, which is dedicated primarily to writerly musings and the works of others during the bulk of the year and to the news it seems right to share following the release of the small books I write (forgive me, I beg you, forgive me my books), is my home base, my foundation, my brand, my world, my virtual me. There is also, for the record, a flesh and blood me—a somewhat innocuous middle-aged woman who has little to say in real life and surprises people who meet her for the first time.
Just ask dear Debbie who could not, on Tuesday night, at Books of Wonder, get over how short I actually am.
(You might have thought I was tall? You might have thought I was glamorous? Ha! Wrong on both counts. Plus, I don't have a memorable wardrobe.)
I think about this promotion thing sometimes. Indeed, not long ago, musing out loud, I told my agent that I had begun to feel pressure not to speak of myself anymore on my blog. That, if only I had much more time to read than I do, I'd spend all the blog language on others.
"But it's your own blog," she said, "and you have responsibilities to your books."
"I know," I said. "But. Still. People are talking."
I'm talking about all of this right now because I just read Caleb Crain's piece on Stephen Crane in this week's The New Yorker, "The Red and the Scarlet." It's a fine piece of biography and it doesn't need much of a preface; it stands, wildly, on its own.
But here's the part I'd like to excerpt for you. It's the late 1800s. We're looking at self publishing and self-promotion. Seriously. Has anything changed?
Unable to find a publisher, Crane scraped together the money for "Maggie" to be printed. He chose yellow covers and the pseudonym Johnston Smith, and his friends threw him a raucous party....
To advertise the book, Crane hired four men to read it as conspicuously as possible on the elevated train, which, unfortunately, had little effect on sales. "It fell flat," he later admitted."
Self promotion. It's a terrifying term.
I'm going to be taking a small respite from the blog for the next few days, for I have several books I've bought and am planning to read. I need a little reading time and space. And then I'm going to report back here, as my short and unglamorous self. I hope you'll return when I do.