Back in one piece from Left Coast Crime, the Great Cactus Caper it was dubbed, in Phoenix. Yakked it up on a panel or two, hung out and talked shop and trash with fellow writers and fans, and played poker — badly . While the act of writing is a solitary one, not all writers are solitary by nature. Many writers enjoy mixing with the public and can be found in the bar holding court as they spellbind with stories of Hollywood deals gone awry or reveal just who was the inspiration for that shoe sniffing pastor in their last book. Certainly many other writers feel their work speaks for itself and while perfectly lovely people and not recluses, don’t dig the “hustle” one can find themselves doing at fan conventions.
Not to be crass, but writers, at least those of us plowing the crime fiction fields, have long ago concluded we’re not coming out of pocket for transportation and hotel fees to attend conventions because we sell a ton of books at them. Though none of us are opposed to such should that be a byproduct of these public interactions. Rather we enjoy the camaraderie and ideas for new projects are sparked while talking with your colleagues. There have also been time when I’ve chatted with an editor and not been in hard sell pitch mode, just two pros talking over ideas of interest. Now and then an idea might become a project that will see the light of day from the house the editor works at.
To some extent I’ll admit I still subscribe to the adage expressed by Alec Baldwin’s Blake in the classic film of greed and disillusionment, Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet. Blake has come to give a highly charged pep talk to the harried salesmen trying to unload land parcels of a supposed development.
‘Let me have your attention for a moment! So you’re talking about what? You’re talking about – bitchin’ about that sale you shot, some son of a bitch don’t want to buy land, somebody don’t want what you’re sellin’, some broad you’re trying to screw and so forth. Let’s talk about something important…A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!”
But you can’t hard sell a book, the work will ultimately resonate with the reader or not. Though you do have to let the potential reader know your book is out there to give it that chance. Yet what’s the balance between the tactics of the abrasive Blake and writers such as Tomas Pynchon who lead hermit-like existences? For instance I get inundated by emails daily with notices that some writer has posted in this or that Facebook group their book in e- format is now on sale for a limited time or why it is you should buy their book. I routinely delete these emails even with the knowledge that I also post in these same Facebook groups promoting my work. Let alone the amount of time and effort writers put in doing social media to maintain a presence.
I seek then to achieve a zen in my journey as a writer, a lifer in the game as it were. It’s about always striving to improve my work, to hone my craft. Yes, I want readers and potential readers to know about my stuff, but there is only so much time in the day and on balance, it’s better to sweat the storytelling than the telling you I’ve written a story. That doesn’t mean I won’t let you know about it, just will do my best not to overdo it.
See you at the next convention.