One of my friends on Facebook is an writer from Australia, and this week he decided to ask about life changing moments.
Out of all the horrible, interesting things that have happened the first thing that sprang to mind was
David Wolfe’s wife blocking me on Facebook.
Now at the time, I was on a knife edge. I was grieving for my father, uncle, 2 cats and my best friend. I had just spent 2 years researching a huge book which morphed several times as I hadn’t written anything with any purpose before, and I wanted to speak to David about the direction and how it could be used to help him.
I live in a different continent but it just so happens that we were born 12 days apart and we are oddly similar facially in photographs, despite me being a small sturdy Scottish person and him being a slight, German-American-Iranian. This was not sufficient however, it was the whacky yet compelling presentation of usually fairly mundane health information that I was interested in.
Anyway, after years of being told how shite I was by my friends, who really just wanted me to be shite because they (probably) still feel that they are shite, I had found over a very careful year dropping in on David’s page every fortnight that we got on very well, apart from sporadic flaming tantrums on both sides, so when I was blocked by a person on his page, I just assumed it was him and was duly devastated.
When I say devastated, I mean completely destroyed. I had just spent 6 weeks working on an incredibly well thought out yet bizarre film about him and Durianrider and I was still waiting to have a conversation about the book I was intently working on instead of wasting my time playing Farmville.
This was 2011 or 12, I forget which. I had got through a horrific family experience and lost about 160lb at the time thanks to him, so I felt I owed him, regardless. It was not until probably two years after this happened that I accepted that I was terribly in love, with a random stranger who just happened to be extremely famous.
Anyway after a few false starts on projects that did not work out, I finally descended into despondency but had sponged up enough of what David had to say to say fuck it, nobody wants to listen to me anyway, I might as well be louder about it. Hence Ina Disguise was born, sometime during the writing of Best Scandal Ever.
The only reason I wrote anything at all was because I could not speak to him, and I thought it had been him that had blocked me as I knew nothing about his wife.
So now, five years after Best Scandal Ever, this has become a pivotal moment in that having been so incredibly damaged by trying to compensate for whatever anybody said was wrong with me, no longer giving a fuck allowed me to finally speak.
Admittedly, I have just done what I felt like doing, when I felt like doing it, because 24 hour care for my mother has always come first and everything else took a second place to that. Now I have the problem of day to day survival, and that has to come first. However, I have put time in every day, whether that is:
15 minutes to write this blog,
half an hour to spam the books to a few million people,
a couple of hours on putting a story together ,
a month of intense sewing to create a handbag
three months of intense work to create a carpet,
18 months to create the resin pieces, due to money
conceptualising new ways of putting out work, although that has been scuppered by my lack of support from other people.
Within a year of putting out any artwork I was in GQ. Tatler and World of Interiors, and I now, after five years and five months have about 80,000 readers.
I do not make money out of this, but I did it on the basis that I could not otherwise ever get the message across to David, and the notion of a subversive marketing strategy that didn’t actually cost anything.
There is far more that I could be doing. I have been quite lazy. I should try some of the other stuff that I have in the armory – for those interested January 2016 entries have a lot of useful links you can try.
There are an awful lot of authors out there who do not understand how the marketing in publishing works, because it is not at all obvious. I have heard some horrific stories about people spending nine years writing a book and then squandering their life savings on trying to make it sell.
This is not how it works any more. As an author, you should regard it far more as being a pop singer. Nobody is going to pay a pop singer they haven’t heard before, and by far the biggest challenge is getting them to notice your name in the first place.
So, although I have not made any money, I probably have more readers than David now. This in itself is not important, this is not the point. The point is that it doesn’t matter who you are or why you do what you do. The important thing is that you do it. I have a friend in Slovenia, an international level political journalist, that is still resisting writing her first book, on the basis that she is concerned about how it is regarded.
“Use a pseudonym and get on with it.” is my response.
The general thinking on online marketing is that you have to get people to see your name nine times before they even read the byline, so focus on that. Wolfe is crazy like a fox, not to put too fine a point on it. I was open enough to figure this before I started the experiment, but not everybody gets the point of Wolfe. He is a complex creature.
By the looks of things, it is time I did some edits and took this more seriously now. To start with, it was a case of spitting the words onto a page next to a name and then throwing it out there. Now I definitely have some attention, it is probably time to up the quality and time somewhat before I even think about money.
For those authors who read me and think how dreadful I am for putting work out free, here is the comparison:
You can spend 3 or 4k per book on marketing on the basis of getting a small proportion of it back, put out only long titles and wait for 30 years or so for someone to notice, or you can accept that nobody knows or cares who you are or what you have to say.
I think my way is better, and it is certainly cheaper and more rewarding.