Tuesday, October 6, 2009


When actors were auditioning for roles in the British SF comedy Red Dwarf: Series 1, Danny John-Jules tried out for the role of the Cat. Now, the Cat is vain and greedy, but he’s the epitome of coolness as well. Nothing flusters him. Even when hunting a predatory shape-changing mutant, the Cat is confident and suave (and always ready for sex, even with the pretty stranger who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere).

John-Jules showed up half an hour late for his audition, but didn’t realize that he was late. As a result, he wasn’t at all concerned or bothered by it, and the producers decided right away that he was perfect for the Cat’s role.

In contrast, I recently read the blog of a writer who had signed up with a vanity press. Not only did this press provide no distribution – which is normal – it made her job of selling copies even more difficult. That’s not so normal. Nor is it customary to see a writer telling people that if they buy her book,

If you live in Nevada, not only will I personally come and sign a copy of the book, but, you will get a special, one of a kind, custom made, handmade gift of your choice. These value from $5.00 to $150.00 (Remember, your choice!!!) Not only that, but you will receive a coupon for 20% off of {author’s next book – title redacted – Marian} when it is released at Christmas time.

Promoting one’s book is an excellent thing. I read a great post by Maria Zannini on the subject, and I recommend the strategies in J. A. Konrath’s The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. But what I read crossed the line from promotion to desperation. Offering incentive after incentive to buy a book comes off to me like bribing the reader. It might also imply that the book has little merit by itself, hence all the freebies that come with it.

And we won’t get into the financial costs (or the personal safety aspect) of driving through a large state to sign books for strangers.

Desperation scares people off. Whether those people are potential dates, employers, agents or readers, they can tell when someone’s coming on too strong, and they run. We’re attracted to confidence and coolness, not to insecurity or need.

The topic also reminded me of turn-offs in query letters, such as writers claiming that they wouldn’t ask for an advance. To the writers, this might seem accomodating, a way of showing that they’re not demanding or greedy. To the agent or editor, though, it seems desperate. Someone who is willing to give their rights of publication away for free doesn’t place much value on those rights, so why should the agent or editor value them?

This business could make anyone feel desperate, so that's normal. As long as we don't show it.


Hazardgal said...

Cha-ching! So true and once again you've hit the nail on the literary head!

Anonymous said...

Uhm...what are the homemade gifts?

But seriously, not only is the desperation a turn-off, there's so much potential danger here...

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks for the shout out, Marian. Glad you found it useful.

I really like the story of Cat. It's a perfect example of confidence.

As for the desperate writer... (shakes head)

Publication isn't for everyone.

Marian Perera said...

Hey Tasha,

The link to the gifts is here.

And I hope the writer changed her mind about traveling to sign books. She could always just ask people to mail the books to her, to be signed and returned with postage paid.

Marian Perera said...

Hey Marge,

Thanks! Glad you liked the post.

There are other inadvisable desperate actions I've read about (like waiting outside an agent's office for the agent to leave at the end of the day), but this one could expose the writer to so much worse.

Marian Perera said...

Hi Maria,

You're very welcome! It's a very helpful article, especially for those of us who might not be too familiar with the virtual nuts and bolts of internet promotion. :)