Now that I am thoroughly embedded in Marketing Plan Land, wading through sales figures and bestselling titles, I’m experiencing a strange relationship between art and commerce.
I can feel the shift in my brain, like a manual transmission that could use some TLC, it clunks then revs. Having spent nearly two years developing a compelling story, combing my prose, writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, all for beauty and truth and story, it’s weird to focus on what will get people to buy the damn book in the first place.
On one hand, I know the book will take care of itself for some people. I mean, lesbian werewolves, people. Lesbian. Werewolves. But on the other (very large) hand, no, the book will not sell itself. It has to be shiny and exciting enough for lots of other people to want to buy the book, too.
So, I’ve spent today with LL and LL’s brother, working on a new title and pouring over Amazon.com, sorting by, for the first time ever, “Bestsellers.” I clicked on W’s new book for chrissakes. I barely recognize myself.
I admit, I enjoy this stuff. Marketing is fascinating, even if you’re not in the business of selling anything. It’s not about sales, as much as it’s about clarity of communication. If you communicate with integrity, the product sells itself. Yet, I do get queasy when I look at Twlight’s incomprehensible* success.
It’s just hard to reconcile the book I wanted to write with the book that will likely sell. I love the title Lunatic Fringe. It says exactly what I want it to say. The problem? A lot of people have no idea what it means. So, okay, it goes, to be replaced with something more palatable, something more accessible, like “Moon Borne” or some such thing. Fine. No problem.
Having worked as a producer for years, I see the choices an artist has to make to do their work with integrity while still compromising with the consumer. It’s a necessary choice, but it can be difficult to understand where that middle ground is.
It just feels a little funny when you’re the artist and not the middle-woman.
It’s a delicate balance. Pitch too far towards ingratiating oneself to the audience, and I can lose integrity (I wouldn’t, for instance, change the gender of Archer to make the book more “marketable” or “traditional”). But if I were to stubbornly hold to my own preferences, I’d risk not finding an audience at all.
Ultimately, marketing involves trusting the taste of the audience, while trusting your own creation. Somewhere in between is the elegance of sales.
* I know that’s not the right word. More appropriate would be “disheartening,” “befuddling” or “frustrating.” The success isn’t incomprehensible. It’s written by a mental teenager to appeal to actual teenagers and it sells classic (read: misogynistic) romance in non-confrontational ways. The graphic design is stellar and the marketing is killer. I comprehend it, I just don’t want to.