For going viral, naked flesh beats naked emotion every time

Giving it away

I recently began giving away Dance of Souls on Noisetrade, in the spirit of indie author experimentation.

Noisetrade Download

If you download a copy and leave a tip before September 30, I’ll send half of your tip to support the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.

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.)

Getting taken

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.)

Going viral

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.

CelebPhotoSearch

Audrey Kalman Search

A search for “nude celebrity photos leaked iphone” yielded 20 times more resluts (oops, results) than a search for “Audrey Kalman.” What am I doing wrong?

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.

Putting out

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?

22 thoughts on “For going viral, naked flesh beats naked emotion every time

  1. I’m with you. I have no desire to be famous, but I’d love it if my books became famous. Guess one can’t have one without the other. So I’ll settle for enough visibility to make some decent money off my writing, which is starting to happen after four years of trying to scratch out my niche.

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  2. As much as I love writing, I definitely read to be read. It’s tough when we compete with so much noise on the internet. The idea of being famous? I don’t have that desire at all. I would like a post to go viral again. That was very fun and short-lived.
    Congrats on your book!
    Thanks for stopping by to hop! There are a lot of new faces in the crowd today.
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We’re pretty limbic. Naked flesh sparks naked emotion. Viral stardom reminds us of that — also that fame is random. One person accidentally expresses, in just the right way what a lot of other people are feeling at the same time and BOOM.

    As you say, you gotta promote your work. You just do. It’s such a weird dichotomy to go from the solitary act to the public one. You describe the dilemma well. If it flies, YAY. It might not though. Either way, on you go with the next project, and that’s the important part. You are good enough that if you keep at all you are doing, you will find your audience.

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  4. “If you are not famous, it’s really, really, hard to get anyone to pay attention to you.”

    Obscurity is the biggest challenge for the Indie author and with 1K ebooks being added to Amazon each day I suspect it’s not going to get any easier.

    Unfortunately the personality of the author IS part of the draw, which doesn’t help us introverted souls who sit in dark rooms and type out stories that should be taken on their own merit. Look at Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – would that book have ever been as big without all the author mystique?

    So you have a few choices: arrange your own demise (extreme perhaps), leak naked pictures of yourself (not wise if you are an old geezer like me) or write more great stuff and wait for people to come to their senses. Which you do!

    I like the new cover BTW.

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  5. I’m wrestling with this too – how to get anyone to notice me/my work. They do say that your brand is always you, not your book. That’s because you want readers to be looking for the next thing you write if they liked the first one. For most writers, it’s just not where the comfort lies, however.

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    • Good luck with the wrestling and let me know if you come up with any brilliant schemes. 🙂

      Yes, absolutely an author is the brand, not the book. I learned this the hard way when I set up a Facebook page for my book and had to change it to an author page. Some writers just use their personal Facebook pages, but as you pointed out, my comfort does not lie there.

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  6. Ditto what dmswriter said above. I have no desire to be famous– and so far have accomplished just that! But maybe someday my words will move the world. Probably not, but I can dream.

    [Susie sent me, btw. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.]

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  7. I don’t like the idea of putting myself “out there.” Like you, I’d rather put my books out there. But nowadays with the publishing market like it is, the two become entwined. To present one, we must present the other. Hopefully we’ll do so in the absence of nude photos…

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