Saturday, June 18, 2011

Funeral Supper

The transforming of day to night is a balm to the spirit. 
It is here that my soul finds the serenity that I desire. 
What seemed, in the bright glare of the sunlight so incredibly glaring and pressing 
is suddenly distant and shadowed 
a faint memory left in the wake of the moon's shadows.  
It is here that I find clarity 
as I watch the clouds wing their way through the heaven, 
there is a great lifting of the weariness of the cares of the day 
and my soul takes flight among the clouds. 
Sunset on Green Mountain with Champagne!
And it is here, on my blog that I share my writing. And The Writing is without a doubt the most important thing. As I have said, that will be always be the case. I would like to thank all the commentors on my last few posts. I don't think any of the readers of any of these posts have necessarily been comfortable with what I am writing and the commentors have been very helpful as I have waded through some difficult topics. So I wade on in what I hope will be my final post on this topic because I (like you, no doubt!) am getting a bit weary of thinking about it. It is a bit overwhelming- even if does wind up being helpful!  
The clouds bandy about sunlight- like they're playing catch! 
   So as I wrote previously, I began thinking about this because of the New York Times Book Review Article called "Building the Brand" in which the author bemoaned the necessity for authors, even published authors of long standing to go on the game (my term) for the their books. He pointed to authors in history like Hemingway who reinvented himself and pulled publicity stunts in order to sell books and told a story about Grimod de la Reyniere who invited guests to a “Funeral Supper” who then "found themselves locked in a candlelit hall with a catafalque for a dining table, and were served an endless meal by black-robed waiters while Grimod insulted them as an audience watched from the balcony. When the diners were finally released at 7 a.m., they spread word that Grimod was mad — and his book quickly went through three ­printings." Geez! Talk about getting your reader's attention! At any rate, the article is interesting and the follow-up comments are also interesting. The entire article is posted below this one if you want to read it. 
Then shimmy off into golden paths

This was followed up by a fellow blogger, Conchscooter's of Key West Diary decision to try and make his blog a commercial enterprise. He did some research and found that one of the keys to successful blogging was posting FIVE times a day. As he did so, he found that his readership went up significantly. He gets around 1000 hits day on his site. He doesn't get as many comments as he used to but readership is up and he is happy with how things are going. He is not trying to build himself a reader base (like I am talking about) as he is not writing a book. He is a writer of a blog (and an interesting writer at that!) and posts pictures of Key West alongside his musings. He blogs on just about anything and everything that comes to mind. Sometimes his musings directly relate to the pictures and sometimes they are completely random. Readers from all over flock to his blog. His readers are not all bloggers- they may simply google Key West-  but the ones who are bloggers are not necessarily writers. Anyway, you should check it out! His pictures are lovely! And should he ever decided to write a book, I would bet that many of his readers will preorder his book.
During that time I found an article on google that talked about how blogs that had original content were boosted up in the food chain when topics were googled. In other words if you were merely copying and pasting someone else's article then you were likely to be low in the page numbers. But if, for example, you were one of the first to post a review on a book, you would be high on the rankings for a google search. You can read more here. And then of course if your own name is the only thing in the "label" then you are less likely to get a hit then say a topic that is more widely searched such as "Key West"! 

The other blog I mentioned: Why Evolution Is True in in a similar although much more successful vein. Jerry Coyne the owner of the blog already wrote a New York Bestselling book. His publisher or agent (or someone) has advised him to keep his name Out There. So he has his blog/website (he doesn't like to call it a blog) which he maintains himself. He posts at least five times a day. He has reader cat contests (which I could care less about since I have no cat) but his readers LOVE! and posts on a wide variety of topics, not just evolution. This week he posted a video each day from his favorite musical and said what he thought was so great about them. He posts about great food in the Chicago area and interesting news bits or even (AHHH!!!) POLITICS! He gets as many as 235 comments on some of his posts depending on how controversial they are!  They are READERS!!!! And they love that he posts the blogs himself of course (who wouldn't!) and adds to discussions. Granted his blog (oops!) website is helped that he already has a book published but he is certainly going to be ahead of the game when his next book is published and he is very generous to other bloggers with similar topical blogs by quoting them and linking to them (of course). Oh and I will add that when a newcomer (like me!) posted a comment, the response was quite nice. The other commentors respond and welcome you, it is not just the owner who notices the comments. 

Finally I will post the link to an article I found on Twitter the other day. It was called "More Sacred Cow-Tipping: Common Blogging Misconceptions" at Kirsten Lamb's Blog I generally don't check out these kind of blogs but here are a couple of her tips and I think there are more to come so it might be worth checking out for yourself. "Sacred Cow #1  Writers write, thus they must write writing blogs, right? Um….WRONG! Sacred Cow #2—You need multiple blog sites if you talk about more than one thing. Um, no. Multiple blog sites dilute your brand and erode your author platform. You need one place where alllll your precious nuggets of wisdom collect.Writers write, thus they must write writing blogs, right?"  Well I wouldn't use her terminology I think I would just say that having a blog where you have varied topics will keep readers interest and if your wondering about her reasoning- go check out the article- 
 I've made this post LONG ENOUGH! There is also a third Sacred Cow on Group blogging that I think is worth thinking about but I won't get into that either.

Ultimately the point is that even if our readers ARE only other writers we want to keep them reading because this is our window to who we are as writers (and maybe even commenting.) 

So! I am over and out on this topic. I know where this leaves me on the topic of my blog.  I think I know what I have to do. I don't think my blog guarantees me success (No! I do not think an agent is going to pop round looking for me!!!) nor do I think it is invisible to the external world -after all my most popular post remains my review on the "Civilization of Maxwell Bright". (Lots of people google "Patrick Warburton" and "naked" apparently!)  And I am going to attempt to put a better foot forward from here on out even if it is only once a week. And when the time comes perhaps I will have the content that I will need to draw in more readers- Whoever they/you are. 
And finally dissipate into the night 

New York Times Book Review Articles

How Writers Build the Brand

As every author knows, writing a book is the easy part these days. It’s when the publication date looms that we have to roll up our sleeves and tackle the real literary labor: rabid self-promotion. For weeks beforehand, we are compelled to bombard every friend, relative and vague acquaintance with creative e-mails and Facebook alerts, polish up our Web sites with suspiciously youthful author photos, and, in an orgy of blogs, tweets and YouTube trailers, attempt to inform an already inundated world of our every reading, signing, review, interview and (well, one can dream!) TV ­appearance.
Advertisement From P. Ballantine & Sons, Newark (1951)
Gold standard: Ernest Hemingway's 1951 magazine advertisement.
In this era when most writers are expected to do everything but run the printing presses, self-promotion is so accepted that we hardly give it a second thought. And yet, whenever I have a new book about to come out, I have to shake the unpleasant sensation that there is something unseemly about my own clamor for attention. Peddling my work like a Viagra salesman still feels at odds with the high calling of literature.
In such moments of doubt, I look to history for reassurance. It’s always comforting to be reminded that literary whoring — I mean, self-marketing — has been practiced by the greats.
The most revered of French novelists recognized the need for P.R. “For artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed,” Balzac observed in “Lost Illusions,” his classic novel about literary life in early 19th-century Paris. As another master, Stendhal, remarked in his autobiography “Memoirs of an Egotist,” “Great success is not possible without a certain degree of shamelessness, and even of out-and-out charlatanism.” Those words should be on the Authors Guild coat of arms.
Hemingway set the modern gold standard for inventive self-branding, burnishing his image with photo ops from safaris, fishing trips and war zones. But he also posed for beer ads. In 1951, Hem endorsed Ballantine Ale in a double-page spread in Life magazine, complete with a shot of him looking manly in his Havana abode. As recounted in “Hemingway and the Mechanism of Fame,” edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman, he proudly appeared in ads for Pan Am and Parker pens, selling his name with the abandon permitted to Jennifer Lopez or LeBron James today. Other American writers were evidently inspired. In 1953, John Steinbeck also began shilling for Ballantine, recommending a chilled brew after a hard day’s labor in the fields. Even Vladimir Nabokov had an eye for self-marketing, subtly suggesting to photo editors that they feature him as a lepidopterist prancing about the forests in cap, shorts and long socks. (“Some fascinating photos might be also taken of me, a burly but agile man, stalking a rarity or sweeping it into my net from a flowerhead,” he enthused.) Across the pond, the Bloomsbury set regularly posed for fashion shoots in British Vogue in the 1920s. The frumpy Virginia Woolf even went on a “Pretty Woman”-style shopping expedition at French couture houses in London with the magazine’s fashion editor in 1925.
But the tradition of self-promotion predates the camera by millenniums. In 440 B.C. or so, a first-time Greek author named Herodotus paid for his own book tour around the Aegean. His big break came during the Olympic Games, when he stood up in the temple of Zeus and declaimed his “Histories” to the wealthy, influential crowd. In the 12th century, the clergyman Gerald of Wales organized his own book party in Oxford, hoping to appeal to college audiences. According to “The Oxford Book of Oxford,” edited by Jan Morris, he invited scholars to his lodgings, where he plied them with good food and ale for three days, along with long recitations of his golden prose. But they got off easy compared with those invited to the “Funeral Supper” of the 18th-century French bon vivant Grimod de la Reynière, held to promote his opus “Reflections on Pleasure.” The guests’ curiosity turned to horror when they found themselves locked in a candlelit hall with a catafalque for a dining table, and were served an endless meal by black-robed waiters while Grimod insulted them as an audience watched from the balcony. When the diners were finally released at 7 a.m., they spread word that Grimod was mad — and his book quickly went through three ­printings.
Such pioneering gestures pale, however, before the promotional stunts of the 19th century. In “Crescendo of the Virtuoso: Spectacle, Skill, and Self-Promotion in Paris During the Age of Revolution,” the historian Paul Metzner notes that new technology led to an explosion in the number of newspapers in Paris, creating an array of publicity options. In “Lost Illusions,” Balzac observes that it was standard practice in Paris to bribe editors and critics with cash and lavish dinners to secure review space, while the city was plastered with loud posters advertising new releases. In 1887, Guy de Maupassant sent up a hot-air balloon over the Seine with the name of his latest short story, “Le Horla,” painted on its side. In 1884, Maurice Barrès hired men to wear sandwich boards promoting his literary review, Les Taches d’Encre. In 1932, Colette created her own line of cosmetics sold through a Paris store. (This first venture into literary name-licensing was, tragically, a flop).
American authors did try to keep up. Walt Whitman notoriously wrote his own anonymous reviews, which would not be out of place today on Amazon. “An American bard at last!” he raved in 1855. “Large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded.” But nobody could quite match the creativity of the Europeans. Perhaps the most astonishing P.R. stunt — one that must inspire awe among authors today — was plotted in Paris in 1927 by Georges Simenon, the Belgian-born author of the Inspector Maigret novels. For 100,000 francs, the wildly prolific Simenon agreed to write an entire novel while suspended in a glass cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub for 72 hours. Members of the public would be invited to choose the novel’s characters, subject matter and title, while Simenon hammered out the pages on a typewriter. A newspaper advertisement promised the result would be “a record novel: record speed, record endurance and, dare we add, record talent!” It was a marketing coup. As Pierre Assouline notes in “Simenon: A Biography,” journalists in Paris “talked of nothing else.”
As it happens, Simenon never went through with the glass-cage stunt, because the newspaper financing it went bankrupt. Still, he achieved huge publicity (and got to pocket 25,000 francs of the advance), and the idea took on a life of its own. It was simply too good a story for Parisians to drop. For decades, French journalists would describe the Moulin Rouge event in elaborate detail, as if they had actually attended it. (The British essayist Alain de Botton matched Simenon’s chutzpah, if not quite his glamour, a few years ago when he set up shop in Heathrow for a week and became the airport’s first “writer in residence.” But then he actually got a book out of it, along with prime placement in Heathrow’s bookshops.)
What lessons can we draw from all this? Probably none, except that even the most egregious act of self-­promotion will be forgiven in time. So writers today should take heart. We could dress like Lady Gaga and hang from a cage at a Yankees game — if any of us looked as good near-naked, that is.
On second thought, maybe there’s a reason we have agents to rein in our P.R. ideas.

Tony Perrottet’s latest book, “The Sinner’s Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe,” will be published this month.


Building the Brand

To the Editor:


In his essay “Building the Brand” (May 1), Tony Perrottet provides informative and entertaining historical perspective on how authors have promoted their writings. Perhaps most intriguing among his examples is the early use, by the Belgian-born writer Georges Simenon, of what we now call crowdsourcing. Using input from the public and his readers, Simenon in 1927 created a framework for the type of direct-to-consumer marketing and public relations frequently used today.
In an age when many of the underpinnings of publishing have been thrown into a tailspin by technology, there are valuable lessons to be taken from the examples Perrottet cites, despite his assertion to the contrary. Among those: You can never be too proud to promote your own work. But more important, if you are going to engage in self-promotion, have a strategy in place.
It may seem antithetical to the spirit of being an author, but a focus on marketing has helped turn once nascent businesses into successful brands. It is critical, however, that this is done in a transparent and ethical manner. There is nothing wrong with self-promotion, so long as it does not distract from the overall quality and value of one’s work.
New York
The writer is chairwoman and chief executive officer of the Public Relations Society of America.
To the Editor:
Tony Perrottet laments the degree of authorial self-marketing necessary in today’s publishing climate. He finds himself reassured, however, by several examples of the lengths to which past literary greats have gone to promote themselves. I would add to his list Stephen Crane, whose friends rode the train while conspicuously reading his self-published novella, “Maggie, a Girl of the Streets,” in an effort to demonstrate to potential readers that New York was “Maggie mad.”
Palm Coast, Fla.


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