FULL BLEED: THE GREAT AND DURABLE LIE
Marketing sucks. There. I said it. Daydreaming is great. Research is great. Writing is great. Editing is something that I do but I'm no good at. Posting updates to my blog and to social media is not so great but whatever.
But marketing sucks. It's the worst, the most awful job in writing.
You wanna know why? Because it has nothing to do with writing. It is wholly removed from the experience, both on the creation and consumption end. See, writing a story (and we'll just stick with that example for convenience's sake) is only half of things. The story itself is nothing more than render instructions for an experience in the mind of the reader, and maybe even in the heart, if we're to invoke that dichotomy.
The reader makes the experience. The writer is the guide, but since it's co-creation, the outcomes can be unpredictable. This, however, is something that we all better be ready to deal with. You can't dictate the experience that the reader has. And if you can, maybe you overwrote it? But some people like that sort of thing. Me, I prefer impressionistic writing that's evocative and not overworked, got a looseness to it, space for the reader to sketch the rest of the background in.
Marketing, however, is about a false experience. One that hasn't yet happened, and in actuality may never. Like when you see the preview for the movie and you realize that it was sold one way and it presents utterly differently (thanks, expectation of the marketplace.) Not-so-coincidentally, this comes to the heart of my problem with genre, in that it is a manufacture of experience expectation ahead of the actual experience. IE, you're being sold on a thing being X when it may in fact be Y. Pretty soon, you only want that X thing. Pretty soon, people are producing X-like things because that's what people want.
But imitation of success is no new thing, right? Even when the thing that's a success is itself an imitation of a number of other things (okay, a synthesis, if we're being kinder.)
Okay, back to marketing, and veering away from the sorts of unsavory unintended consequences that marketing has on the creation process. Let's just stick with you've made a thing and now you have to get people to pay attention to it. But how's that work? I mean, what you're really trying to do is to promote consumption of the item in question. Now it used to be that people consumed entertainment for fun. However, in the world of the Howling Pit, in many cases, consumption has been tied to identity. And wow, is that ever a recipe for an atmosphere so toxic that chlorine seems like fresh mountain air by comparison.
So writers aren't tasked with building audiences now, but with building clubhouses. Boom. Author as product. Right there. Star in your own podcast. Write for your own blog (ahem). Build up that wacky and lovable persona in social media. Always be closing. Writing isn't the end goal anymore, but just another way to build that hashtag brand. Mash the subscribe button. Set your RSS readers for…whoops, can't do that anymore. Don't forget that Facebook presence, since that's how lots of people interface with the entirety of the internet now. Oh well.
And all of this? 100% not writing. Oh sure, writing ad copy and creating a fictional persona to execute online, that's writing. But it's not the writing you're here for, right? All of this stuff to convince people of the kind of experience they can expect, when we all know that's a dubious proposition anyways. But still we keep doing this stuff. We keep paying for Google ads and appearing on blogs like its 2003. We're all hoping for just one more set of eyeballs to linger on things and willing to promise all manner of experiences to get there. By hook or by crook.
So yeah, these are durable lies. If you prefer, they're magic incantations we're undertaking as pleas for success. Recast it as chaos magick if you like. But you gotta know that the marketing is just that. Marketing. Hey, I'm all for letting people know that the book exists and the can pre-order it. Just don't expect me to construct a persona around how many times I can tweet "buy my book" in a day. It's exhausting.
THE QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS will not be a ticket to conversation or to the cool kids club. (I was about the uncoolest kid in school from elementary to high school, even among my group of outcast friends.) It's no proof of bona fides. It doesn't desecrate the corpse of Lovecraft. It won't rewrite the rules of genre. It's not the latest chapter in the world-wide smash franchise hit.
It's a book. It might even be a weird little book, filled with all kinds of the things that I wanted to read about and have a good excuse to look up. Sure. It's that. But I can't tell you, other than that, what kind of book it is. I can't tell you what the experience is going to be, though I can guess at it at least. I can tell you it's coming out and where it's available from. I can tell you that in most cases I'll be happy to appear on your podcast to talk about the book, but if you're into selling the whole writer's journey jive, you might be disappointed. But that's okay. Some lies are more durable than others.
I wonder if it's yet safe to talk about the biggest lie. Which is that, anyways? Overnight success? Transcending genre? The guilty pleasure? That of consumption based identity and how the fan really creates the work that generates success (which is not the same as the work being co-created by the reader/viewer.) Or is it the simple fact that all the money that gets spent on marketing things like books and comics doesn't actually move the needle all that much?
I mean, let's be honest. I can write some copy that makes outrageous promises for QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS and decide that I'm going to spend ten thousand bucks on advertising. And all that is me literally paying people to say things. Or paying to have my words get a bigger reach. Assuming that it actually reaches any number of people and isn't just rolled into the background noise of the Howling Pit. Of course the even bigger lie is that marketing tells you what a thing is. Nonsense. Marketing tells you how a thing wants to be perceived. (Freshman media studies spoiler.)
Coke isn't friendship. But it wants you to believe that it is, that the feeling will hit you when you crack open that can. The advertising isn't the thing. The marketing isn't the thing. It's not even a perception of a thing. It's just trying to shape that.
But don't you dare skip on marketing your wares. Not today. Not in this moment.