My theatrical career is behind me, or at least I thought it was, until I came out of the shadows of ghost writing and and selling articles and stories to magazines and newspapers. I didn't need to be anything but the writer. I was invisible. My words took center stage. Then someone came along and changed everything. Now I am expected to "Sparkle, Neely, Sparkle." I can't do it. I'm a writer not a performer.
I agreed to do the book signings because I wouldn't be alone and it was close to home. I'd sit for a few hours, smile, make small talk about the book and listen to people's stories, sign my name and wish them a nice day. Simple. I can do that. Once, twice, ten times. All I wanted to do was get back to the writing, let the avalanche of words and stories race down onto the blank white page and fill it up. I didn't want to have to become an expert in marketing. What happened? Who changed the rules so that now I must know about advertising, shelf placement, marketing, genre breakdowns and all the minutiae that goes into making a book a best seller. Wasn't writing it enough?
Now I spend part of my precious writing time researching marketing tips, designing giveaways and gifts (bookmarks, candy shaped like books or planes or whatever and pens with the book cover) and forcing myself to sparkle, Neely, sparkle. I can't concentrate on writing the next book or the book after that until I have bought a few cases of books, contacted a hundred reviewers, packaged, stamped and mailed copies of the book, emailed PDF files, followed up on reviewers, paid for lists of book clubs and advertised myself into frenzied chaos that slowly erodes what little time I have left to write. I have a full time job. I don't have a housekeeper or a maid and in order to keep the Health Department from declaring my house a hazard, I must do the housework and the laundry and the dishes because I have developed this habit of eating off dishes with forks, knifes, and spoons, and cooking in pots and pans. I have a life, although what little social life I have has taken a backseat to marketing and interviews and answering the same questions over and over about my book. When did it all get so complicated?
When the Internet connected everyone? When publishers stopped putting money into advertising and book tours? When people stopped reading?
People didn't stop reading. I see them reading everywhere I go, fondling books and carrying filled canvas bags out of libraries and bookstores. People are still reading.
They're also watching.
Now I have to pay someone with more than a nodding acquaintance with producing videos to create a book trailer. More of my hard-earned paycheck gone to promote my book so it will sell more copies before it's even on the shelves. Guerilla marketing. Foot in the door marketing. What's next: hiring salesmen to go door to door? I just want to write.
But no one will buy my next book or the one after that if the sales aren't good. How can one book stand out from the millions of books published every year without a gimmick or branding? Good writing, interesting characters, familiar settings and spell binding plots are no longer enough. There must be more: series, tie-in movies, products, flavored lip gloss and blood packs with fangs. There must be hype.
Sparkle, Neely, Sparkle.
It's all so confusing and it takes away from all I ever wanted to do--write.
I expected to be interviewed and I am ready to be brilliant, witty and thoughtful. I wouldn't even mind a book tour as long as people showed up. I can read -- out loud -- and make the words and characters come alive. I have a theatrical background and I was good. I mesmerized children at bedtime and calmed fears during thunder storms. I can read. I can act. I can emote. What I can't do is write. There is no time when I'm still busy promoting, marketing, branding and sparkling for the last book. What will I do when the other books come out?
Sparkle, Neely, Sparkle.
Okay, where are the dolls? No dolls. No sparkle.
And no more writing life.