Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The M-word


Note:  After much google searching on how to "easily embed a video" I could not embed video. Also my scheduler didn't work, again. Anyway, here is the post video-less, late:

It's a good question, and complicated, and my answer is evolving day by day. For instance, this minute, thanks to marketing, I'm in Toronto (!!). I arrived last week to attend the Arthur Ellis awards ceremonies (sorry to say I didn't get first prize), but it doesn't end here. Tomorrow I am headed for New York (!!)...


... to the Book Expo America for a book signing.

BTW I'll be signing my books at 2:30 on Saturday in case by chance you're passing through!

Would I be on this exciting trip if not for marketing? No! I would be back in Nelson, counting dandelions.

So in that way marketing IS freeing. It gets me out the door, electronically, i.e. FB, or better yet, physically, where I go places and meet people. I am grateful for the friendships created by the marketing machinery.

Learning to market is also a challenge, and I like challenges. Can I get better at it? Of course. Can I ever relax into the promotional groove? Maybe not perfectly, but acceptably. Can I ad lib on a panel and actually sound like I have a brain? Potentially. Will I ever not feel like a boob in a crowd? Probably not, but that's something I'll have to live with.

Thing is, to market or not to market is not really a choice. It is but it isn't. In truth, I didn't realize what I was signing up for when I got that publishing deal, but since I've jumped on the train, a lot of people have invested in me, and I owe it to them to do the best I can, so I will do just that.


... a salesman I am not. It goes against my grain in the worst way, so much so that I've looked to the sky and asked God a few times -- with some bad language attached -- if it's really worth it. But the following thoughts on Harry Nilsson gave me some insight into this very question.

Why Harry Nilsson? Because I was looking for a fun clip to add to this post, and what naturally popped to mind was his song "Buy My Album" ...


... which led to some sobering research into Nilsson's life and career. Salesmanship went against his grain too, and probably for that reason -- along with booze and other demons -- in spite of some phenomenal hits, his career kind of blew some bubbles and sank.

Since teenhood I've loved Nilsson songs, off-beat and mainstream alike. I loved "You're Breaking My Heart" because he used the eff-word and made me laugh. I loved his sound track for Popeye. I loved how his lesser known songs could be so unabashedly personal, and unlike most pop hits, they spoke to me directly.

Now, post-Wikipedia-study, I see the bigger picture. He ignored marketing advice, went his own way, and managed to alienate many of his fans. They didn't appreciate the eff-word. Popeye was panned. His recording label basically dumped him, or he dumped them, one or the other. Maybe commercial success would have come to Nilsson if he'd been more malleable with his PR team.

That doesn't change the fact that to me he's brilliant. When I'm feeling sorry for myself, what song do I reach for? "That is All", of course. But in the end, he's dead, and what matters, the pop-chart status he couldn't maintain, or the enduring music he left behind?

The answer is both matter. If he'd worked harder at being popular, more people would be listening to his enduring music today. Damn you, Harry Nilsson!!


More of a plan than an answer: Strike a balance. Learn how to be swifter with social media. Don't take it too seriously -- in fact have fun with it. Yes, it can be fun, and no, every comma doesn't matter. When the fun thing isn't working, use anger. Remember the publisher who turned you down all those years ago and say aloud, "No, I will not f*cking fail!" Relegate marketing/social media to an hour a day -- never your most creative hour -- and leave the rest for writing. Almost forgot about that part of it, didn't we? Whenever you can, put all worries aside and write like nothing else matters.

I know I haven't been helpful much, but I got to (a) blab about Toronto (!!) and my upcoming trip to New York (!!) (b) vent a little (c) make a plan.

Finally I want to express my admiration to all writers who have taken the marketing bull by the horns and tamed it. Hats off to you!



Kristopher said...

RM, are you signing at the Dundurn booth at BookCon on Saturday? I don't see a schedule for them, so I would have missed this if I hadn't read this post.

catriona said...

I loved this post! If you were riffing, I tip my hat. If it's a carefully calibrated performance that embodies the approach it describes . . . I bow at your feet, feeling intimidated.

Paul D. Marks said...

Good post, RM. And you're right about striking a balance. And about marketing helping you to get to Toronto and the Arthur Ellis Awards.

Interesting "case study" about Nilsson. I spent a long drunken day and evening with him once. It was an experience, I can tell you that!

Anonymous said...

The "evolving day by day" spoke to me, and the reminder to have fun. That's the 'f' word I don't use enough. LOL. The other one, got that covered.

Unknown said...

Sorry to tune in so late. Finally back home, and hope to keep in touch better now.

Kristopher, really sorry I missed your comment - would have tried to meet up for sure!! Was at the signing area, not the booth.

Thank you Catriona!! I appreciate the hat tip! :) Paul, you met him??? I'm going to find you at Bouchercon and get you to tell me all about it. Jolivay, thank you for stopping by, and have fun!

Thanks all for your comments.