Selling Books: Who Am I As A Writer?
In a discussion with the Beard after this year’s Greeley Readcon, the subject of my writing persona emerged. The collection of writers present at the book signing offered an interesting and eye-opening perspective into the marketing techniques of other writers. I’ve established, if you’re Stephen King, Toni Morrison (who’s releasing a new book BTW) or James Patterson, there’s no need for marketing strategy. You just be.
The rest of us work hard to build our audience, nurture a connection and develop ways of getting our books into reader’s hands.
The room stood bountiful with a wide variety of authors. Authors dressed in period clothing to accentuate their historical fiction. Authors in 18th-century garb for no apparent reason other than showmanship. Mystery authors, cookbook authors, and children’s books authors selling books. Did you know there is a horror, soft-core porn genre? Now I do.
We took a table next to a writer, Rachel Weaver, who pitched her book as an Alaskan adventure novel. On the other side of Rachel, sat an author, Emily Kemme, who’d co-authored a book about the 100-year anniversary of the Greeley Orchestra and a novel about family and sushi. The discussion of conferences, book sales, and publishing illuminated each of our different paths to authordom.
As I schmoozed and pitched, the Beard said, “Maybe you should create a writer persona.” He gestured to the author wearing a black 19th-century hat with a bird attached to it.
“Can’t my persona be ‘I write a good book’?” I countered.
“Maybe you should go with badass, tattooed writer.” He suggested.
I sighed, “Great, I’ll terrify readers into buying my book and intimidate other authors.”
Being tattooed is a complex experience. I’ve craved a tattoo since I was young. I heard, “You’ll die of ink poisoning.” regularly as a child. Myth, by the way. Reaching adulthood, I had a friend, Betsy, who had a delicate tattoo of stars and planets just under her armpit. It was lovely and inspiring.
At the time, I was engaged. Long story…Too young, too naive, and too wrong. Besides the point, my fiancé held powerful objections to tattoos having grown up in a less savory environment than I did. He equated tattoo with drug-addled, biker chicks and expressly forbid me from acquiring any body art.
Thank goodness I grew up and stopped listening to him. Lead to the end of the marriage, but by the end of ten years, I’d also acquired four tattoos. Fair trade.
Another aspect of being tattooed, frequently, one is not enough. I’ve also learned to go big. The only regret I have about some of my work is the piece isn’t big enough.
Life moves forward. I met the Beard. While he has zero body work and zero interest in having any art, he never objects to my tattoos. My tattoo artist friends love our mixed marriage. He’s so upstanding and depending on your perspective I’m a tattooed rock star or a tattooed harlot or a crazy, biker chick.
I’ve received such varied responses to my tattoos it’s mind bending. 80-year-old men tend to admire my ink and tell me about their tattoos. The average folk do one of two things….they grab their children and hide from me in the grocery store OR they say, “ I’ve always dreamt of having a sleeve tattooed.” My friend and writing partner regularly asks me to disrobe for her friends. Good thing I have photos on my phone.
As an artist, I think having tattoos is a given, but the recoil comes at such surprising times. I need to build my audience not terrify them. Developing this writing character will take time. If you see me around town, I’d love to chat with you about the book. I’m the one with the ink.