Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Stirring Up Trouble

Judging from the plummeting stats after the previous post, my suspicions that photos of very slow stitching projects are about as popular as watching ice melt have been confirmed. Or maybe that big snowstorm back east has knocked out half the continent's electricity. Oh well, it's a good thing I don't rely on blog hits for my self-esteem, and the lovely comments I do get are pure gold.

So, given that the stitching is still proceeding at a glacial pace, I will offer you a post that I wrote back in December, but didn't publish because I thought it might be a bit caustic. Looking back at it, I still think what I said is valid. But you be the judge of that! (And for those who make it all the way through, there's a little book review at the end.) Here goes:

Nobody has ever accused me of winning any personality contests. If anything, I'm more of a Nasty Girl, pointing out things that might be better ignored if I wanted to win friends and influence people.

What's the bee in my bonnet this time? Well, I recently received an email from an artist I know peripherally through the blogosphere, someone I think is an inspiring and genuine innovator, someone who works from the heart. A good person, in other words. This person has a book coming out, a book that I am excited about, one that I think deserves to have every success.

So what's the problem? The email I received was basically a set of instructions of how to support the release of this new book. How to tweet and link and like and use my blog as a platform to spread the word. All things I would be happy to do, and might have even done without prompting. But the questions that leap into my mind are:
"Where the hell is the publisher in all this?" "Since when did book promotion become the job of the author?" "Why are the author's friends expected to be willing (and unpaid) helpers (pawns) in a promotional campaign?" "Is the world of publishing so desperate and competitive that they think nothing of basically stealing MY time to do something that a) is their job, and b) is taking advantage of my good nature, even if it is to help out a friend?" "And what about the poor author being pressured to take on the task of marketing their book - wasn't writing it enough?'

I'm increasingly resentful that social media has been designed and manipulated by mercenary corporate interests to such a level that is is assumed that everyone will just mindlessly hop on the bandwagon. Worse, even good, decent people with something positive to share with the world have to hop on to that bandwagon too in the hopes that their voice might be heard.

I have another friend who came out with a book a couple of years ago. She had a marketing background, so doing all the promotional stuff just came naturally to her, I guess, and the book was quite successful. She has said to me a couple of times, "So when are you going to do your book?" I must confess that I have kicked a few ideas around, to the point where I actually got a copy of a guide to publishers. The advice therein was sobering. Apparently it's not enough just to have a terrific, original, wonderfully articulated idea for a book, and proven ability to write such a thing, but one must also have a presence on social media, a following that can be relied upon not just to buy the book, but to create such an online furor that everyone else will want to buy it too. Talent isn't enough, you have to have personality and influence too.

Yes, I have a blog, so I'm part of the system, I suppose, but I don't do Facebook or Twitter or any other annoying forum for superficial human interaction. It's a cacophony out there, and I value my peace and quiet. I'm not going to add to all that noise.

*****

I got this little gem, The Best Of Making Things, from the library the other day. The funny thing is, I'm sure I also got it from the library over forty years ago, when it was first published. In fact, I remember making quite a few things from this humble little book. Illustrated with simple, clear line drawings, it is far more inspiring than any of today's beautifully photographed craft/coffee table books. It covers all kinds of art activities from jewelry making to book-binding to weaving, sculpting and music making. Best of all are the words of encouragement and support sprinkled liberally throughout. Author Ann Sayre Wiseman was an educator, and I envision her as the queen of beloved primary school teachers. It's not surprising the book is still in print, the methods and projects are timeless.
And I attest to the truth of her opening words:
Remember, you know more than you think you know. And what you learn now in your early years will last longer and be firmer in your memory bank than anything else you will learn later.
 I have no doubt that Ann Sayre Wiseman was an early influence on me, even if I forgot her name, and indeed, even the book, until coming across it again so recently. I was fortunate to have good teachers, to be educated in the halcyon (ie. well-funded) days of the 1960's and early 70's, and to have a love of libraries instilled in me by my parents. I first learned many of the crafts I do to this day from books. Will future generations be able to say that of the craft books being published today? I wonder.

8 comments:

  1. You know I hadn't thought about this practise from this particular point of view, it's a good point. I suppose your 'payment' is a free copy of the book, or other product!

    I do have a snark of my own to add to the mix too: I have noticed that somehow even if famous blogger who writes a book was not previously best pals with the other famous bloggers in her field she/he soon becomes so then all of them all promote each others books, products and courses.

    From the outside this looks like a club I don't want to belong too, where everyone claims to BFF and promotes the heck out of each others products knowing that if they do so the same will be done for them.

    Or am I just a hardened cynic?! ;0 maybe they really all do love everything each other makes. Maybe my standards are simply too high.

    I am absolutely no good at scratching other people's backs just so they will do mine so I guess I won't be publishing a book anytime soon!

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  2. Very interesting thoughts. (and I LOVE and appreciate your embroidery--just haven't been around for a couple weeks :) )

    Regarding the use of blogs to promote books… I would like to think that if you have something important enough to say, it could be done without social media. On the other hand, I heard an advertising promoter say that Facebook was the new "word of mouth." Anyway, what also came to mind was that Nancy Crow is not involved with any type of social media, and she also warns her students that they will not be able to get their work done if they are on the computer for too long. And of course, she's had some beautiful books published.

    I've never seen that book. Off to investigate!

    (P.S. I use the big pincushion you gave me all the time! Thanks again!)

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  3. interesting thoughts re books, publishing and marketing, the book publishing industry is in a state of change as is the music industry and the art gallery scene, social media & indie publishing is changing how we view & share art, music and writing. Australia was a very far away place in the 60's and 70's but now we can see read poetry, see art and listen to music from all corners of the world in the blink of an eye!
    Have printed, hand bound & self published two books this century and am in process with editing the third one at the moment, each one has been a joy to make and been remarkably unsuccessful from a commercial point of view but very rewarding for the heart and soul, I love this 21st C world!

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  4. I also have a bee in my bonnet, also about marketing. Link on my blog or Bryan's. I agree with Sarah completely, can't blink without some form of advertising aimed straight at you.

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  5. Anonymous12:46 AM

    I think I totally agree with you Heather because I know a writer (YA novels, not craft books) who spends endless hours researching and crafting her stories, then rewriting according to the publisher's demands, and apart from posting the book on their website, I can never see what the publisher is doing to promote the book. This means, the author has to do all the things that you have mentioned, and more. She writes about it on her own blog and author facebook page, and sometimes other authors will do interviews with her on their blogs to help get the word out. Then if she does a book launch party she has to organize it herself. I always ask her, why doesn't your publisher do more of this for you? She says it's just the way the business is run these days. I guess if you're a super-star like Margaret Atwood, the publisher will do everything it possible can to get the word out. For the ordinary author though, the publication of a book simply means a lot more unpaid labour. It is a waste of the author's valuable time. I don't think you are being too grumbly.

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  6. I was out of blog land for some years due to personal reasons and I had at least one email a week from someone wanting me to post something on my blog that if they had been to look they would have seen had not had an entry for many months then years. I removed the blog but still got emails.... now I have a new blog....yea.... so lets see how many random emails come my way
    With reference to your stitching you are still quicker than I would be.

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  7. Nicely said...and as a writer and artist who thinks our time should go into what we are creating....I've always resented the idea of having to put on a side show to get attention

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  8. I'd be happy to tout a friend's book, IF it was not a rehash of 11tybajillion other books--too few truly original ones being written now--and it would have to be truly someone i trusted and respected and KNEW also.
    I think we also have to remember though, that *any* art form needs promotion *by* the artist--if we don't believe in ourselves, why would a publisher/gallery/collector/buyer/reader? Yes, they should do more, but equal effort is important by the artist as well--the old better mousetrap story....
    Blogging *is* a form of social media as well--just because it's not instantly interactive and doesn't have like or share buttons (at least most blog platforms don't have this, though many are changing to that action), doesn't mean it's anything less. Where would we be as bloggers without the comments and sharing of stories?
    i *do* read your every entry, but am not always able to comment. The slow and the fast are all fodder for thought:)

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