where the writers are
Book Reviewers and Porn
camera.jpg
While pondering over a pint the difficulty in getting media attention for books, especially fiction, in this day and age of shrinking review space, I joked that book reviewers choose their subjects the way people choose their porn. I said something like, "I ain't pretty or famous, so I'm not counting on any column space for the paperback." The more I thought about it, the more the book reviewer/porn analogy panned out:   The Barely Legal "Virgin"   Everybody wants to witness your first time, including book reviewers. Any story they pitch needs an angle to get the editorial green light, and "this is a really good book by a writer you've never heard of" is an angle that rarely works. Angles that do work for unknown writers include "local author," "regional interest" or something politically topical or pertinent to current events. Above all, the "debut author" pitch is virtually guaranteed to garner newspaper attention, regardless of where you're from or what your book is about (see, The Contortionist's Handbook). By book number two, unless you're a household name (see, Jenna Jameson), or you're a local author or have written a book of regional topical interest, then you're damaged goods (see, Dermaphoria).   The Whips & Chains   Some people find Playboy or "vanilla sex" just not enough, so they prowl the aisles and internet for their release via sex as a post-apocalyptic interrogation. Book reviewers--and the book-buying public-- are the same way. Try pushing a well written, humorous and insightful memoir (see, Wendy Dale), and your chances of public attention are slim. Try that same memoir with a recovery story mixed in and you're getting somewhere. Every shameless confession you make to either victimhood or perpetration of any number of vices increases the odds you'll get covered and the amount of column space for it. You don't have to go the memoir route, so long as the grizzly details of your life are the staples of your publicity bio as you market your "fiction," which gives you the added bonus of not having to write worth a fuck (see, J.T. Leroy, the aftermath of which plays nicely into this metaphor as a sort of inverse Traci Lords scandal).   Pick your poison: child abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, or molestation and cross out the "Anonymous" half of your recovery, then get down on all fours for the camera and do that chain gang.   The Ron Jeremy   Rumors aren't good enough when it comes to size. People want to see it and yes, it does matter. When it comes to precious review space and choosing between the Brilliant But Little-Known Genius Wordsmith on the Small University Press versus The Semi-Talented, Just-Out-of-College Kid with the Six-Figure Advance, guess who's going to win? Of course, the argument goes that the Big Advance is a sign of a publisher's faith in a book and therefore an indication of its literary merit, and I'll go with that... to a point. That's until the size of the advance itself becomes the significant topic within the media coverage of the book. Big advances are like big winners in Vegas. You might hear about them the most, but they're far outnumbered by everyone else. Regardless of the statistical reality, the press likes the big numbers, the kind you whip out and watch people's eyes go wide, the kind you force into that small, tight bank account of yours with generous amounts of lube... you see my point.   The Paris Hilton   You're sick of her, no doubt, and donkey porn sure ain't your thing. Admit it though, the combination of the two holds a sick roadkill fascination for you. Slap her name on a dvd of her being slapped around, and a goodly portion of the "I don't buy that sort of thing" public will come out of the woodwork, cash in hand. The fact is, publishers can bank huge amounts of money on the sales of books written (or ghost written) by someone whose fame or infamy is already established. If you've never written a book in your life but you're the star of a long running and highly rated sitcom or a factory engineered pop star, then your memoir/attempt at fiction/attempt at poetry will be almost guaranteed press coverage, even if it's bad (see, Brittany Spears, Jewel) . If you're an established author whose books sell in droves, then you have review space waiting by default. Much like the Whips & Chains category above, being included in the Paris Hilton category affords the benefit writing prose that most anyone else could outdo with a pen clenched between their ass cheeks (see, Dan Brown).   Aspiring writers take heed. Unless it's your first time, you need to write a graphic and gut-wrenching memoir, get a shitload of money up front or already be a celebrity. Otherwise... well, perhaps you're a dedicated wordsmith of formidable talent. Perhaps you were lucky enough to have been born beautiful (which can tip the scales in your favor with press coverage), or perhaps instead you drew the genetic short straw (see, Will Christopher Baer). Maybe you're over thirty, holding down a job and raising a family and have decided to go the dignified route and keep your skeletons in the closet. If so, be prepared to hear the crickets chirping come publication date. Sometimes being naked and pretty just ain't enough.   -Craig