Giving it away
I recently began giving away Dance of Souls on Noisetrade, in the spirit of indie author experimentation.
Also, as an experiment, I purchased a featured spot in the Noisetrade newsletter to promote it. (Sorry to disappoint, but those newsletters, like most in the publishing world, are curated not by editors but by money.)
The experiment was a success in that I made a start at building my e-mail list, albeit a very small start. The percentage of downloads compared to the size of the Noisetrade e-mail list was so small that my calculator insisted on displaying it in scientific notation. (I did the conversion; it was .1 percent, which as a download percentage is actually not too terrible. If you’re familiar with direct response e-mail you know that fractions of a percentage in terms of opening e-mails is considered normal.)
This experiment was going on around the same time the story broke about the celebrity-account-hacking-and-nude-photo-distribution scandal.
I mention this not to comment about the wisdom of taking nude photos of oneself or where the responsibility lies for the unauthorized access to such photos, about which you can read many accounts online, like this one. I mention it because the temporal juxtaposition of these two events—celebrity photo kerfuffle and the availability of my novel for free downloading—highlighted one of the cruel ironies of the publicity world today, one that is especially cruel and ironic for an indie writer.
If you are already famous, it’s easy to become more famous—even in ways you’d rather not.
If you are not famous, it’s really, really, hard to get anyone to pay attention to you.
The Internet is essential to this irony and to the celeb photo story, which wouldn’t be possible without digital media and a means of distribution. (Richard Heppner wrote an interesting reflection about fame on and off the Internet.)
If only, I found myself thinking, my novel would gain such currency as the celebrity photos have. Because here’s the thing: I don’t want to be famous. I want my work to be famous.
But then I might end up like J.D. Salinger, the famously reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye, who detested the trappings of fame and stipulated that much of his work not be published until fifty years after his death (2060), although some will apparently be published between 2015 and 2020.
Celebrity, fame, writing, and becoming known on social media all connect to the central theme of Dance of Souls and many of my other stories: Our abiding need, as human beings, for connection to other human beings.
Unlike personal connections—which so often are unsatisfying since real people are flawed and make emotional demands on us—the relationship of author to reader, celebrity to fan, Twitterer to follower, has none of the mess of real human relationships. You get admiration, approval, sometimes even adulation. And that feels good.
You also, of course, open yourself to the possibility of exploitation and cruelty, loss of privacy, and to hearing words spoken about you that people might never bring themselves to say face to face. And, as ardent as your readers or followers may be, they won’t get up with you in the middle of the night when you’re sick, or rub your back when it aches, or put an arm around you when you need a hug.
Am I putting my work out there just to feel good or fill some aching emptiness unfilled in my personal life? I think not. But, on some level, I do hope for a connection to my readers.
Would I want the kind of attention lavished on the truly famous? I think not. But I would like a few people to read and enjoy my work, and in the cacophonous world that passes for a public square these days, that’s becoming increasingly difficult.
Are you famous? Have any photos of you ever gone viral? How do you feel about “putting yourself out there“—whether it’s in the form of a work of art or something else?