I’ve been criticized for being too far afield in this blog. Writing about the conglomeration of things I love leads to a kind of eclecticism that does not sell books. And since I am a writer, and since I want to sell books, I should get my act together!
I’m also an editor, and I recently worked on a book about sustainability that seems to have awakened some latent Republican DNA running through my veins, because all of a sudden I long to be a small-business-person-cowgirl type who makes a living by her own rules … selling books!
But back to my over-broad eclecticism. (I hope this is not too eclectic for you.) This concern started when I read publishing consultant Alan Rinzler's very fine blog on The New Author Platform.
To sell books, Alan says, you need "personality, authenticity, expertise, and subtlety." In other words you have to be who you are on your blog (but entertaining, even if the real you is slightly dull), you have to know what you're talking about, and you should never ever ask people to buy your books. You just charm them so much with your non-dull authentic personality and expertise that they can't wait to click that PayPal button. Alan also suggests you comment a lot on other people's blogs, so I commented on his:
I’m not sure I’m doing it “right,” but I’m trying. I just self-published a new book called Conversations with Mom: An Aging Baby Boomer, in Need of an Elder, Writes to Her Dead Mother. I did it because I crave exactly what you describe in your very helpful blog: connection directly to readers. I want to talk to them, to have a direct exchange, to send them the book with my own hands. [I left out the part about my wanting them to pay me for it, because that's not subtle.]
I got a waiver from my agent to do this. I’ve been sending out email promos that reflect the book’s web page, and I sold about 40 books in 10 days. But nothing in the last 3. I blog when I have something passionate to express—for instance yesterday’s blog about the documentary Serving Life. My blog certainly expresses who I am, but I don’t think it has much to do with selling books. Am I making a mistake?
This guy Alan is something of a mensch because he actually answered my comment:
I found your blog posts too far afield and not related closely enough to your book or people who might buy it.
For starters, how about posting more about the actual content of Conversations with Mom, since it’s not that easy to understand and sounds interesting. What can you do to help the reader fully appreciate the promise of the book’s title? Who are you, who was she, what are the fine points of your relationship now that she’s no longer alive?
You could also write about the general topic of aging without a mom around, or unresolved conflicts with parents that can no longer be worked out in person. You could also offer tips and links to the many websites and bloggers who focus on these topics.
And by the way, readers of a certain age may be interested to know more about your playing the part of Amy in the film Return of the Secaucus Seven—if you can figure out a way to weave it into the subject of Conversations with Mom!
Phew! That's a whole lot of stuff to weave together in a little blog. But I'm a wannabe cowgirl writer, so here it goes:
My mother is dead and I miss her. I particularly missed her when I lost my job at the age of 57 and there was no Mom to tell me, "Don't worry, sweetheart, everything will be all right." Not that my real mom ever said anything like that. My real mom was rather hilarious. So was I. We wrote together, we fought, and my idea of a really good time was to call her up in the middle of the day to tell her what a wretched old woman she was. Even before I lost my job, I missed Mom's off-the-wall sense of humor. I missed her cluelessness. I missed the whole thing. I thought if I wrote letters to her, maybe I could taste the relationship again. So I did. And I did. And it ended up that Dead Mom was still pretty funny.
Of the two of us, she was more optimistic, and, even though she answered my question about being addicted to false urgency by saying,
"You are asking me, an alcoholic who shook with terror at the prospect of getting lost if I ventured out of my familiar neighborhood, to know more than I knew when I was in my body. Why do you expect this? Just because I'm dead?"
She ended up telling me about dying in the ICU, which ended up helping:
"That free fall you dread, it's the lightest most wonderful feeling in the world. It's when you learn you can fly. It's when you meet in the unknown everything you've ever longed for. Yes, you are addicted to your confused urgency. And you have a choice. Stay addicted, or enjoy flight."
My mom and I have no unresolved conflicts, and to see how to do that, you have to buy the book. (Whoops, not subtle.)
And I have no idea how to mix the fact that I was briefly in the movie Return of the Secaucus Seven—which day of shooting was one of the most fun days as an actress I ever had—with Conversations with Mom … except that after I subsequently played a naked lesbian in John Sayles' next movie, I told my mother that if she had a problem with it, she should write to John directly, and she did. John was nice enough never to divulge the content of that letter, so it is nowhere in the Conversations with Mom letters.
Even though I am aging and trying to achieve sustainability, you may notice that I am not asking you to buy Conversations with Mom: An Aging Baby Boomer, in Need of an Elder, Writes to Her Dead Mother.