Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Book Will Not Make You Succeed - You Make The Book Succeed

Way back on June 22, 2006, I published a piece here at Cobwebs Of The Mind, called, "Viral Technology - An Introduction". This piece was aimed at bloggers and trying to help them understand what in the end causes one site to be successful while another fails. MySpace and more recently, FaceBook, are excellent examples of "viral" technology at work. Especially Facebook, which seems to grow in astronomical terms.

Up until the other day I viewed Facebook as a curiouso. I thought of it as another MySpace only a lot more technologically minded, in that it's structure was open and allowed people to contact others with a unique method of causing everyone to enter the system and spreading the word. Even the Home Page of the user screams "viral system".

I personally used Facebook simply because a good friend asked me to join, and then I could be kept abreast of some parties and events they organize and go to. Most of the time I ignored it. Another click and a massive waste of time. Then one day, my nieces, somehow found me on Facebook and sent me messages. Of course they told me not to hit on any of their friends and to change my picture! But they also told me it is boring because I only have one friend listed!

So my nieces became my friends and then my nephew. I was up to four friends! Now, the original person who instigated my joining Facebook to begin with, started bugging me to "get more friends" as well. Relentless, she was. Drove me bonkers.

So one day I log in, and in a moment of madness, I allow Facebook to read all my Gmail contacts, saying to myself, "o.k. out of all these people in my gmail account maybe one or two will show up". Boy was in for a shock. My friends list went from four to Zoom.

So what does this all have to do with Writing?

Ahh two important points here. Here was my big shocker. In my private email account which I used for Facebook, there were quite a few agents, editors etc. Most of these agents I had queried at one time or another. And suddenly, they were showing up as friends in Facebook! Now that may not be astounding for you, but to me it was an eye-opener. And I will try and explain.

You see, I have always looked at the mysterious world of getting published, as being somewhat arcane and behind the times. Just witness the amount of agents who still refuse to accept any query or submission via email and you may get my drift. It also is a very slow moving world. Of course agents, editors and publishers think they move fast enough thank you very much, but truth be told they are no where near to speed as other industries.

Another factor is something I have noticed as well. In my mind I call them the "traditionalists". These are the people who resist any change, any nuance of innovation in the publishing industry. Any type of change smacks of a new way to take advantage of writers. And whereas, readers of Cobwebs Of The Mind know I am a great fan of sites such as Writer Beware, who does an awesome job, I still find much of the way we work and how we work to be in the middle ages.

So yes, I was kind of shocked at this sudden ability to view profiles and gasp!, even pictures of the agents who were second to God to me for much of my writing life (though no more).

And this whole experience got me to thinking about the nature of the game. Publishers and agents will tell you this, without any embarrassment, nor should there be, that if you want to break in to a non-fiction field, you must have what is known as "name recognition". This is just another term for "viral systems". In this case your own name is a "viral" system. Your own expertise. They rely on word of mouth in almost the exact same way that Facebook does.

So if you are an unknown novelist or non-fiction writer, what you must do in your search for a successful career in writing, is create your own "FaceBook". You must "market" yourself. You must be smart and allow people to know who you are and spread your own FaceBook around. This is not a secret by the way. It is simple common sense.

The day your ms. is accepted for publication is the day you need to start being a FaceBook. Not when the book is published, and not even on the pre-publication date. But months before. You need to "spread the word", "create the hype", and put notices up on your "wall" in your own Facebook. How do you do this? That is an excellent question, and I will share one failure which I had in this area.

I run quite a few blogs as hobbies. I am not one of those believers that you are going to make zillions on blogs. Topics of interest to me actually. One of those blogs is named, Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen. This blog is described by myself as:
A humorous look into the adventures of a single parent who learned the hard way and with a great deal of trepidation how to cook, feed his children, friends and the rare date with a measure of dignity and (hopefully) good food - Recipes Included! And it is all KOSHER to boot!
(No this is not a plug for the blog!) When I began Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen, it was a mixture of frustration and just a desire to entertain a few people. Frustration because I had tried to sell a humourous though "real" book on recipes and humor, to the publishers aptly named of course "Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen". My agent at the time loved the idea. But I had NO "name recognition" - I had no "Facebook". So the answers came back and almost all said, along the lines, "Great idea. Good reading. But no commercial name recognition."

Lots of terms were used but it all boiled down to "Who the hell is this guy who is writing recipes? Is he famous? Is he on TV or Radio? Is he a famous chef?" Witness the success of the new cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld, Deceptively Delicious, (wife of the famous Jerry Seinfeld).

So on the advice of a friend I just took Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen from a book into blog format. And to my total shock, and I do mean complete and total shock, the blog "Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen" became famous in just a couple of months. It won awards. It had thousands of hits a week. People from all over the world were submitting recipes, and kosher ones to boot.

So after a few months, I tried again on the book vein. After all, I could now lay claim to the fact that "Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen", as a book was a viable and popular project. I could prove it with numbers. To me it was a no-brainer. And guess what? Again I got back:

"Who the hell is this guy who is writing recipes? Is he famous? Is he on TV or Radio? Is he a famous chef?"

My own "FaceBook" still did not make it in the big leagues. It was a frustrating lesson and a depressing one to boot. But a real one. In 99% of the cases, the book is not going to make you famous or rich or sought after - You are going to make the book! In other words: The Book Will Not Make You Succeed - You Make The Book Succeed.

Publishing is moving forward. But your work is not going to become an overnight sensation even if you have a thousand friends in Facebook. You need to create and work on, along with writing your book, your own Facebook. So anyone who told you the business of a new, fledging writer is to write, and only to write, is full of crap. You don't only have to write. You have to sell yourself. You need to create your own unique Facebook.

Oh, and by the way, before I forget. I am Ted Gross on FaceBook. So add me as your friend. My nieces are telling me that I really do need more friends!!!!

Posted On: Cobwebs Of The Mind

1 comment:

aelwyn fields said...

Hi Ted, I have to say that this article points out the sheer pervesity of the modern world. Namely that you will never get published until you are well known, yet can not be well known without something to be known for.

Ironically, even if you have something as successful as "A Fire In My Kitchen", it's not necessarily a door opener.

Your article begs the question, what on earth does it take to market yourself successfully?

Certainly the more I learn from you, the greater my awareness of just how ignorant I am of the whole business of writing. Oh, and just how intimidating the pursuit of success can be.

Regards aelwyn.