To Writers: it’s all about the trend, right? Nope.
Follow Trends or No?
I’m not frequently on the socials, but guarantee that if you hop on Twitter right this second, you will encounter a raft of posts telling you exactly what to do to increase book sales. The posts will sound urgent and, probably, cost you a few bucks to become enlightened. Recently, I listened to a lecture about book marketing and can whittle the forty-five-minute lecture down to one bit of free advice: scan through the top ten books of your genre on Amazon and do exactly the same thing those writers did. Check out the liner notes, the cover pictures, the title, and title fonts, and…copy every single thing they do.
And you know what? It might work. But I’m not interested, not even a little. Call me an outlier, but I write what I want, when I want, and present it how I want to. Sometimes, it strikes a chord with readers. Other times, people have rather untoward things to say. But I am happy every day, and that’s why I write.
Man, I’m sorry…
So, even if I knew these guys’ names, I wouldn’t tell you. I’m too nice.
But if your Twitter feed looks anything like mine, you are inundated with advice from every corner. 6 Words To Avoid When Writing a Short Story! 18 Rules for the NEW Social Media! 5 Essential Trends in Exercise Marketing! It’s all hype. Most of it is the same-old-same-old junk repackaged by a ‘content marketing’ genius. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Most of it is mindless filler intended to get you to click your mouse.
But remember this: the tried and true – the thing that works – is often a hard sell. And believe it or not, it’s usually free. Moneywise, anyway. But expect it to take a serious bite out of your life and lifestyle. Want to lose weight? Then consume fewer calories than you burn each day, every day. You will lose weight: it’s a law of nature. But no one will buy a book with that title. Want to be a better writer? Then write more. And when you are done, then write even more. Write until your fingers ache. There is no other way to improve than to do more. The infamous guitar player Ted Nugent was asked once how to practice and improve as a guitar payer. “Practice until your fingers bleed,” he said. Natch.
Who pays for this good advice? Who clicks on an ad claiming that “We Will Teach You French in Only Eight Hours a Day!”? No one. Ages ago, my classical guitar teacher told me that I could be a good player if I would commit to practicing for eight hours a day. I still don’t know if that was a compliment or a sarcastic slam.
It’s not all bad or good. Learn to choose.
I’m not saying that everything new is bunk. Nor am I saying that everything old is genius. What I am emphasizing is that you should invest the time to know the merits of what you’re investing in compared to your long-term goals.
Take a look at the sad souls above. I guarantee they were trying to look the part. A manager or publicist told them that this is how they had to look. Go with the trends! Forget talent! Forget singing ability! Or magic or whatever they were doing. “Look the part, and legions will flock to you!”. And maybe they did. For a night or a month or maybe for a year. And maybe it was a fantastic year. Maybe it was worth this hideous picture. But if you are looking for something lasting, then it’s tough to beat whatever worked for the successful who came before you.
I wrote this a couple years ago, and when I read it now, I think of Jerry Seinfeld’s new Netflix show Comedians In Cars. I started watching for the cars but am hooked by the conversation. Mostly, it’s about what it takes to be a comedian. I’ve learned two things: the first is that standup gives almost immediate feedback, and it’s brutal. I think of writing and how long it takes to get a letter back from a publisher. And they go out of their way to make me feel good about my writing, and what promise it has, and how much they were impressed with it. But they don’t need it now, it doesn’t fit their theme.
The second thing I’ve learned is to respect a comedian’s work ethic. I am flabbergasted by how many of the folks – men and women – do four or five shows a night at one venue and then run to another place for two shows, and then close up another at 3:00 AM. Who in the world is up at 3:00AM for a comedy show?
When they’re done, they run home and fall into bed until 8:00 and spend the day working on new material. And writers complain about two pages a day?
I wrote about it here.
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