There are times in my life when I’ve wanted to stick my neck out and others when I haven’t. Most of the time when I want to say something about topics that might get me into trouble, I stay silent. I figure no one wants to hear some of my ramblings because they are, well, ramblings. Other times, I can’t be quiet.
I won’t name names and I won’t allow negative comments so just don’t try, okay?
So here’s a little story.
When I started writing, you subbed to a publisher and hoped they’d help you do the promotion, but you busted your buns to promote, too. Some of us are good at it. Some of us aren’t. I’m somewhere in the middle.
Where there for a while, the thing to do was to put tags on your books on that super ginormous website that sells books and more. (I said wasn’t naming names.) So everyone ran that way. We put tags on our books. Not a bad idea really. I mean, if your book has a vampire, then that’s a good thing to tag. Or if it’s got a menage…tag it. Someone might like your books, but if they aren’t in the mood for a menage, it’s better to warn them. Right? Right.
But then the trend turned to adding the names of other authors in your tags. Your book is like such-and-so? Tag them. That way when readers search for that author’s books, they’ll get yours, too. Okay if the authors tagging each other are OKAY with that practice, but if you’re randomly tagging some very big author because you want your name found when someone is looking for THAT author…IMHO, not cool. So everyone ran that way. They’d tag super big name authors with their books in the hopes it would boost their sales. I never did this because I thought, my book has nothing to do with that person’s book, so why link them? And if, by chance, that author SAW my books and liked them, I’d rather THEY tell people they liked the book rather than me forcing it and upsetting the author.
Then that big and ginormous site that sells books and more decided that wasn’t good, tagging authors. It was kiboshed. Not bad, really. Makes us honest. Then as a collective, we authors went searching for the next big thing to help us promote. That social media site that involves faces was used. Like parties where we’d get together and like each other. Not bad, really, because I probably would’ve liked those pages anyway. But see, the big and ginormous site that sells books and more figured out we were connected that way. We liked each other. Well, duh. Authors, for the most part, do like each other. For the most part we like to help each other out. But the big and ginormous site that sells books and more decided we couldn’t like each other and review for each other because, well, we wouldn’t be partial.
So the like and share parties went by the wayside, just like the tagging situation. Then there was the party. Throw a party on the social media site that involves faces and get everyone to participate. Big prizes involved. Great. I rather liked the parties. I learned about new books, shared hot guy pictures and had fun. Then someone got the idea to tag everyone in the social media orbit, which meant a whole lot of people who didn’t want to be invited to the party were. This made lots of people mad. The big and ginormous site that sells books and more got involved, too. Again, they saw we were friends and having fun together. So the parties went by the wayside.
There have been blog hops and blog tours, social media hops and mass friendings, mass followings, jumping on a certain promotional site because a few people hit really big with their advertising, but that advertising is super select and crazy expensive, so only those with a tad more income or those who were willing to gamble could do it–if they were approved. But then those, like with a lot of other stuff, went by the wayside. The key is, look popular so you will get others to pay attention and buy your books. Be the dog that jumps the highest so everyone sees him or her first.
Then there were the big box sets that helped to manipulate the rankings and get people on lists. The box set might hit the list, but the authors involved would automatically claim they’d hit the list. Technically, THEY hadn’t. The box set had. Have they hit the lists since? In most cases, no. But having those letters saying you’d hit a list were seen to help with sales. When there wasn’t manipulation, it did. People said, this hit a list, it must be good. But like all good things, the lists and rankings were manipulated, screwed with and generally diluted so much by the box sets and so many authors putting the wording that THEY had hit the lists, that they mean nothing. There are readers who won’t read a book that has the the special letters on it because they can’t trust the author actually made the list on their own. But this was the thing to do. Get on the list any way you can and make it look like you’re super popular, so you can sell more books. Any way you can do it, sell those books. Write garbage that’s not edited and pushed out so fast other people would pass out, just so you can make a buck. Yeah, that happens.
This brings me to now. Some authors have tried unorthodox tactics to get those books sold. It’s not new. I can’t imagine why those sticky wall-walker thingys were used to get me to buy a book, but an author tried it. I can’t remember the author or the book, so I’m guessing it didn’t work. I’ve been given condoms to promote a book, bookmarks, free downloads, gift cards, pie servers, back scratchers, rulers, tons of pens (which I LOVE), notebooks, and so much more…just to get me to buy a book. I’ve seen contests for huge gift cards, purses, clutches, tablets, watches, you name it…just to get me to buy a book.
But the thing that seems to work…for many…is controversy. Yep. An author might opt to put the word out that their book is banned. OMG, my book has been banned by the big and ginormous site that sells books and more. I won’t say WHY, but it’s been banned. An author might try the social media route: OMG I’ve been jailed by that social media site that deals with faces and, poor me, I can’t promote. Help me! Because the author and reader society is fabulous, we come to their aid. I’ve done it. I bet you have, too. Then there’s the name route. OMG that author’s name is close to mine. I don’t like it. I’m going to bully you to change it.
Riddle me this…if I’m writing under my real name (which I do) and it’s close to someone else’s name (Which it’s not – I mean, no one in their right mind or planning stages decides they want a Z name for their pen name and if they do, then they’re not thinking clearly), then other than getting a pen name (which I’ve done), how can they function as an author? They can’t control what they were named by their parents. If your name is Ahnn Ryce and you want to write under that, then that’s your prerogative. There are authors with the same name in pronunciation, but not spelling, all over the writing community. It happens. There are only so many ways to spell Stephen or King and if you happen to be that person named Steven King and you want to write a book, then you should be able to. I don’t know how many Nori Robards there are out there, but it happens.
Now we’re at a slippery slope. So there can only be one Lewis Carroll? There can only be one Mary Shelley? I think not. It’s tough.
But the controversy can be what drives a career. Think about a certain book that involved a slew of one color and a red room. First, the controversy about the topic, BDSM, isn’t new, but it wasn’t super mainstream. Then the topic switched to whether or not the BDSM was truly consensual. It got people talking and DIDN’T prevent them from buying the book. In many cases, MORE people bought the books. It skyrocketed that author’s career. Now how many books have words from those titles in their titles? I’m guessing quite a few.
Authors look at trends and try to go with them, copy them, or at least get ahead of them. Which brings me to the controversy over a certain word. If everyone who had a book with GRAY, GREY or MR. in it was prevented from publishing with those titles, we’d have a lot fewer books. If everyone who ever had a book with the word VAMPIRE in it was prevented from publishing it with said title because that word were used by someone else, then we’d have a whole lot fewer vampire books. I seem to recall that certain book that involved a slew of one color and a red room was a fan fiction of a vampire book involving sparkles. But you never heard the author of the vampire book with sparkles make a big deal about the fan fic. Nope. And if she did, then it didn’t last long.
Think about how many books have song titles as their titles. I’m guilty of that. I’ve got lots of books that are song titles. Those can’t be copyrighted. I’m guessing there are many books called, “The Dance” and many songs by that title, too. So they all come up when you search for “The Dance”. Great. That person might find three other songs/books/etc that they like just as much and they might buy them ALL. Readers aren’t stupid. Yes, we get confused sometimes, but we’re smart and pay attention. If I’m looking for that book that involved a slew of one color and a red room and while I’m searching find another book with the same theme, I’m likely to pick up BOTH books. Maybe I don’t find the original book, but I might. I tend to buy more than one book and keep looking until I find the one I want.
That’s the thing. No matter what the time or the idea, someone will try something to get you to buy the book. Someone will try like hell to get you to pay attention. That’s the thing. We’re all promoting and sometimes it feels like we’re screaming into the collective void to get readers to notice. That’s why we gravitate toward trinkets and gimmicks and sometimes controversy.
I realize this is a long post and you’re probably tired by now reading it. You might have had your brain boggled or you’re angry. It happens. I don’t agree with the course of things concerning the latest controversy, but I have to believe this will pass. Just like the others, this will blow over and the next big controversy will arise. It always does. That’s one thing about the publishing industry–until books are dead, it will keep cycling. What’s popular today will be out tomorrow and will come back around in a while.
My suggestion? Just do your thing and promote how you feel comfortable promoting. If you can look yourself in the mirror and feel comfortable with what you’ve done, then that’s good for you. I want to look at myself and have a clear conscience. But that’s just me.