So, something actually came together for me around what it really means to reach out to people as a writer or any purveyor of abstracticities. I was in a "How to Market Your Book" panel at Orycon 31 yesterday, and in listening to the panelists talk and banter back and forth how you should proceed to market your book, it hit me that the scenarios they really described as working or "successful" were pretty organic, and more about the marketer forgetting
about marketing and just pursuing something that interested them. Same with blogs. At least one panelist (and I saw people nodding in agreement in the audience) mentioned how most blogs of writers were "boring" if all they did was expound on the day to day of your average writer's life. I am one who wholeheartedly agrees. In fact, I can't even bring myself to write
that stuff - had breakfast, wrote 2000 words, went for a walk, got a good idea for one of the plot points that I wrote down, oh, and here's this great idea I had to make character #3 more interesting...
It's just not that interesting. Not even to me, apparently, and it's ostensibly my life, at least in part. Not to say it's not comforting for other writers to read some of this stuff, including myself...and to realize that pro writers suffer a lot of the same stresses and boredoms and blockages as newbies...but it's not likely to get non-writers all that jazzed.
So it goes back to being someone who is interested in things. Not just themselves (which, let's face it, those writerly blogs are really kind of a self-description), but about something else that intersects with the interests of other people. It's more like the community-building approach of most websites and web-networking strategists, but (hopefully) less overtly manipulative.
I think the problem is, with marketing, as with everything, most people are thinking of themselves. As in, how will I sell MY book, how do I get people interested in MY product so I can make more money for ME, etc., etc. Which isn't horrible or anything, but I think isn't going to interest anyone else very much. You almost have to start thinking of it as, "Look, I have this really cool world I want you to come live in with me," if that's your gig, and you're really into a particular world or book, or, you have to be into something else in the world, and be passionate about it, and passionate about other people who are into it too.
In other words - F*** marketing! Be into things! Want other people to be into things with you! Be an enthusiast, as Ray Bradbury would say...and care about bringing something cool into the world, not just about getting people to pay your bills for you. Restated yet again, have something to give.
I think when you look at a Stephanie Meyer or even a JRR Tolkien, they really sold people a world, not a book. When you look at people like Cory Doctorow, he cares
about stuff, and is trying to make a difference. Neil Gaiman is a personality, not just a collection or work, and he gave the goths something to love in comic books, a whole aesthetic style that mirrored their own and gave it mythical import and very cool graphics. People give people a way to look at themselves or the world. Writers need to see themselves as idealism generators, and culture makers, not just as capitalists. People want to see themselves differently, and that's not something they do with their heads, at least not fully...it's also a bit of a responsibility, and why art is so important.
Somehow, the artistic community seems to have forgotten that over the years. I can't think of a single area of it right now that is about a community of writers/artists (other than in isolated pockets) that are working together to make the world a better, more interesting, more colorful place. It's the same reason Burning Man appealed to people, why the beat poets of the 1960s remain iconic, and the musicians all the way through the Vietnam era. Our artists, despite all the craziness happening in the world right now...are pretty silent. People can complain about the Twilight books as much as they want, but she's offered young people an alternative to the hyper-materialistic culture most are faced with, and it doesn't seem like most of us have.
You could argue there is only a "market" (meaning a cultural and individual interest) in escapism right now, but again, that misunderstands the role and power of art. It's not a one-way street. The fact that accountants have done most of the art trading over the years, in movies and in books, make us start to think like them, but the reality is, art can't be purely reactionary to be successful, it needs to be leading the way, at least in part.
Anyway, I for one would love to see a very cool movement around art that's about making the world a better place...not for the sake of cleverness or money, but due to a real interest in the world and in crafting a new way of seeing it. There are books that go there - Cory Doctorow's Little Brother
is a good example of this, and in my view, so is The Road
by Cormac McCarthy (the book anyway, I haven't seen the movie). There need to be more voices added to this chorus...more visions on igniting that spark of rebellion and hope that make people want to wake up and do something different. Because really, we can talk about social systems and health care and economics all we want, the real problem to me seems to be the apathy that has taken over so much of the world, especially in the United States, the utter unwillingness to have hope that things could be different or better.
Anyway, that's my thought on "marketing".