Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Holy Sense of Entitlement, Batman!

Why do artists in general, and writers in particular, think the world will bow down and kiss their asses simply because they wrote a book?

Writers want to write. We do it because we love it.

How many people have careers that they truly love? How many people have the opportunity to turn their words into money, their passion in a career?

I love being able to write for a living. But I'm not so shortsighted that I believe writing alone will be enough to guarantee success. I don't consider that writing a "good book" is where my responsibilty ends. That's where it begins.

I don't understand anyone who indulges in creative pursuits and then doesn't expect to have to do anything else in order to support their endeavors. That sense of entitlement is outdated and dangerous.

If you want to become a lawyer, there's a lot you have to do that you won't like. There is also a lot that will be expected of you. The same goes for any profession.

If writing is your profession, how can you honestly expect the rules to change? That simply writing a good book will guarantee all of your ducks will line up?

Once you try to sell something, you become a salesperson. There is NO OTHER WAY TO LOOK AT IT.

You don't want to sell your book? Keep it in a drawer. Print up copies for your family and friends. Bequeth it to your children. I applaud you for your integrity and lack of compromise.

But if you WANT TO GET PAID, that requires you to sell your book. And you don't simply sell it to your agent. You sell it to your publisher, your publisher's sales reps, your publisher's marketing department, your distributors, your regional buyers, and finally, your customers.

If you want to be a writer, LEARN HOW TO SELL.

You don't have to, of course. You can leave that up to other people. You can take a hands-off approach to your career, and hope it all works out. Many have done so.

Many have also failed. Many more have failed than have succeeded.

But some do succeed. I think about these people a lot.

I think about Jack Canfield, handselling the first Chicken Soup book at mall chain stores, popping balloons to get people's attention.

I think about Janet Evanovich, every year loading up her bus and travelling cross country to meet 1000s of fans.

I think about David Morrell, who manages to tour and attend every major writing conference every year and still be co-president of ITW.

I think about Barry Eisler, who considers his publisher a business partner instead of an employer, and gets treated the same way in return.

I think about David Ellis, who has a great publisher (Putnam) but still sent out over 200 ARCs with handwritten letters in order to get more reviews for his last book---a tactic that paid off.

I think about Mitch Albom, and his relentless radio campaign which started an empire.

I think about Tim Dorsey, who just did his 400th event.

I think about James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Nora Roberts, and Tom Clancy, who release several books a year because they know the more you have out there, the more that will sell.

I think about Julia Spencer-Fleming, who hasn't let winning every major award in the mystery field stop her from relentlessly self-promoting. Julia's books are huge critical successes. But she refuses rest on those laurels.

I think about MJ Rose, who has applied her advertising experience to the book world with tremendous results.

And there are dozens more. None of them ever said, "All I need to do is write a good book, and the rest will be taken care of." What they said was, "Write a great book, then do everything within your power to make sure that people read it."

Of course, there are also stories about those who became huge successes without considering the sales aspect of the business. Those who simply write a book and then wind up on the bestseller list without doing anything else.

It happens. They got lucky.

I also hope to get lucky. But I think that getting lucky is damn hard work.