On Selling Books
I heard a depressing snippet today about being an independent artist. It seems the market is so saturated that the quality of the product takes a backseat to the back-story of the artist. As though it’s not enough to show your soul in artistry and metaphors anymore, but the artist is now the product and not the art.
I find that depressing for many reasons, the first being that I am a writer and I give a ton of information under the guise of fiction; the second reason is if I wanted to be on stage I wouldn’t have quit drumming, and not to mention I have terrible stage fright. But as now it’s the back-story and likeability of the artist that gets folks to hit the buy button - I’m screwed…
Some folks find me adorable, while others don’t – despite my story and my struggles. I am one of those people who others like or hate out of the gate and I never understand the decisions - sometimes because I am too outspoken, other times because I didn’t speak enough. Sometimes I am callous, and other times overly empathetic. Sometimes I am aesthetically pleasing, and other times I am not – my weight and looks change with the seasons and they are seasons I have little control over.
My talents are writing, caring for animals, cooking, and sometimes painting, photography, sewing, or healing sick things. In the world, I’m not much of anything. In my youth, I could turn every head when I walked in a room, but I also could be ignored just as easily. I find the world, and most people in it, confusing. Hell, a lot of times I besquirrel myself.
So not only does the world want the novels, which takes a lot from me to write, they also want my story, my trials, my pains, my angst, and my losses to make them buy a product from me, and it makes me wonder if they also want my blood. Yes, I know this sounds cynical, but I am cynical, while still having faith and hope.
Back in the day, while Chris and I were in a band together – 3 Feet Up – a national TV show contacted us and wanted the story of us, but it felt wrong. Yes, the band was a reaction to losing my only child and then spending months in bed from a surgical procedure gone awry, but it felt wrong then to use that pain and loss for success, just as it feels wrong now.
I survived all the things, evidently, because here I sit writing this lament. And it disturbs me that the stories of my survival are more interesting than the novels, but actually, most astute people would see I put snippets of my survival in each novel or novella or short story.
Do people really want the dirty, heartbreaking details? Do they need my confession to decide whether or not to spend 2-20 dollars on a book? Do they want to hear the thoughts in my head as I stood over my son’s coffin? Or exactly what I felt when I watched a huge open wound grow closed? Or how I puked on my shoes while raking a yard after a concussion? Or the trauma of being beaten by a lover? Or being drugged and raped? Truthfully, all those experiences are in the books, but not so close to me that I have to relive the trauma day after day for the enjoyment of the spectator.
I know we live in the Reality TV World, and I wish for softer times. Yes, I have struggled, and I have lost, but it has always felt wrong to use the loss for anything except tears, remorse, and trying to do better, and be better. I could not parade my dead kid around and feel good about success.
I could have filled this blog with a hundred pictures of my son who passed too soon – I could have pulled every heartstring with his struggles, hospital visits, surgeries, and trauma. I could have posted his last messages, notes, and words, but those are mine …
I hate the world. I have been chastised so many times for saying it, but it’s true. I survive because it’s not my time yet. I endure because I have to. And I laugh a lot. I write books and short stories because something in me says I must write. I have accepted I will never be a King, Steinbeck, or Hemingway, and I do that with a sigh, because it’s all I’ve wanted since I was a child. But if getting there means I have to carry my dead on a pike, I’ll just give it up that dream and choose poverty.
I’ll still write though, I have no choice over that. The stories will come and flow through me, and I’ll write them down, but my struggles are my own and if I survive them, the folks who read will get the hints along the way without the 3D multiplex experience.
As always keep seeking and keep believing.
Although I hesitated putting this video out years ago because I didn't like the way I looked, the message is a good one.