Typeset on The Shadow of the Sun is complete! The book turned out to be exactly 500 pages long. Wynette is at work on the final cover–and in the process put together much better back-cover copy. You can see the final copy here, but it will be a few days before the final version of the cover is ready.
Archive for October 2010
Being a popular author is a lot of work. There’s all those hotels you have to stay in, and all those bookstore appearances, and all those drooling fans with books they want you to sign. Oh, sure, it sounds glamorous, but you have to smile at a lot of people when you’d rather be watching re-runs of CSI, and your hand gets tired from signing all those books. There’s got to be an easier way.
OK, yeah, I mock the problem. And I do have a faint notion of how stressful and tiring that scene can be; I know I tend to come home from cons and other public events worn out. But while I am learning (slowly) to marshal my resources at public events, I think we forget why we do those events at our peril. They’re not for us; they’re for fans. Yes, we have to take care of ourselves; but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t leave fans feeling unappreciated.
This morning on Facebook, I read this post from my friend Mitch, who graciously agreed to be quoted here:
Unless you’ve been under a rock for a while, you know The Hunger Games is hugely popular right now. I’m sure all the appearances Ms. Collins does are swamped, and the bookstores at which she appears have no reasonable choice but to impose some sort of order on the chaos that her presence creates–not only for their sakes and the health and safety of the author, but also for the fans who come to see her. And when the crowds get huge, inevitably some fans will be disappointed. But in this case both the bookstore and the author seem to have lost sight of the goal, which is to serve the fans. That is a separate issue from selling the book, as you may observe from Mitch’s reaction. While this episode represents a lost sale, it also represents something worse: a fan who feels used and disrespected. In short, a lost fan. And that’s the loss of far more than one sale.
I recognize that this failure is an outgrowth of real problems for the professionals involved. So here’s my question: how should this situation have been handled? How could the interests of the author and the bookstore have been protected without leaving fans feeling used? Please help me troubleshoot this one.
I am learning new lessons today. At the moment I think they are lessons about marketing oneself and one’s work, but already I sense deeper layers of what’s going on in my mind and heart. I stand with my fingertips brushing something that is, at least to me, huge.
Yesterday, with the page count for The Shadow of the Sun stable, I sent final data for cover development to Wynette Hoffman, the friend and artist who is doing the cover for the novel. She’d already put together a concept a number of weeks ago; now we’re dealing with the nuts and bolts of actual measurements and fine-tuning the design. Among the things I sent, naturally, was the back-cover copy (or blurb, as we say in the trenches) I wrote a few months ago, and which my editor blessed with minor tweaks.
I always write the blurbs for Mercury Retrograde books. It comes with the territory. Naturally I always work with the author of the book in question, asking them to fine-tune, making sure that what I’ve written accurately represents their intent. One of the things I’ve observed is that authors consistently tone down the language I come up with: I over-dramatize things; I don’t quite nail the intent here or there. Naturally, this time, no author asked me to tone my description down.
Actually, quite the opposite happened: Wynette called today to say that she agreed with all the ideas I’d put forth for fine-tuning the cover concept…but, she said gently, that blurb was awfully dry. Was I attached to it?
Well, no. I was surprised to learn it was dry, as I thought it was a reasonable representation of the story; but I found it easy to believe that I was too close to the work in question to do a good job of reducing the concept to 75 words or less. Wynette is the publisher of Alien Perspective and an author in her own right (as well as a visual artist. Feeling inadequate yet?) and has written her share of back-cover copy; so I asked her to see if she could draft a better one. We yacked for quite some time about non-work-related things, as is our way, and she said she had some ideas for how to attack the blurb, promising to send a draft today or tomorrow.
Tonight, as I returned to my desk for a last check-in, there was a draft blurb from Wynette. The drama level in this piece almost knocked me out of my chair. Really, it’s *immodest*. I couldn’t ever write such things about my own work, and I’m not comfortable with someone else making it sound that dramatic either.
As has so often happened during the process of bringing this novel to press, I suddenly see things from the other side of the desk. This is how all those authors for whom I’ve been writing blurbs feel, I now suspect: jittery and insecure at seeing the contents of their imaginations, their fantasy lives, described in such huge and dramatic terms.
I’m almost certain Wynette is on the trail of exactly the blurb that should be written for this book. But I am reeling, and will have to come back to it tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have a theory: what I am feeling stems from every writer’s bugaboo, insecurity. Our years in the world, most of them spent as geeks, have taught us that the likeliest follow-up to being held up as awesome in public is being taken down several pegs shortly afterward. To see one’s own work described as dramatic and actually kinda magnificent raises embarrassment and defensiveness, as we anticipate humiliation–whether consciously or not.
There’s a lesson in there that is about way more than publishing books. I’m going to be chewing on it for hours. Tomorrow I will come back to the blurb.