Inspiration (from the Latin inspirare, meaning “to breathe into”) refers to an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavour.
Kate Flora: From time to time, we authors find ourselves scanning bookstore shelves, reading best-seller lists and reviews, and trying to put our fingers on what moves a book from ignored or midlist to best seller status. Is it the catchy two word title, like The Nix or The Nest or The Help? Is it, as recently seemed to be the case, anything with the word “Girl” in the title? Will it help to read James W. Hall’s book, Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers? All of this reminds me of the playing the game of trying to find the perfect blog title that will evoke Maine and mystery: The Lobster with a Candlestick in a Downeast Lighthouse.
Usually, except for those books that are discovered by booksellers who love them and hand-sell them to their patrons, most of what makes a book take off is the marketing behind the book. That is publishers putting their money behind the book and getting it recognition through ads and reviews that bring it to reader’s attention and paying for prominent placement in bookstore displays. These days, the clever and informed use of twitter and Facebook ads can also help to promote a book.
If you don’t have a publisher behind you spending those big bucks to promote the work, the job is harder. How do writers strike the balance between the time spent writing and the time spent getting readers to buy our books? What are the best avenues for promotion and do they do any good? How do we avoid hitting Facebook several times a day to scream: BUY MY BOOK! and tweeting: “There’s a killer out there targeting police officers. How will one determined detective keep it from happening again?” so that everyone will rush out and buy Led Astray?
I don’t know the best ways to market a book. And I confess, now that we’re three paragraphs into this post, that I don’t really want to write about marketing and promotion today. I’m more concerned about how the demands of marketing and promotion clash with the more quiet, yet more passionate, pursuit of craft and story. And with a question that has been very much on my mind lately as I’m entering my thirty-fourth year of sitting at this desk telling stories: does it make sense to keep writing–and publishing–if you are sick to death of the “buy my book” dance? Is it reasonable to keep writing if you aren’t keen on marketing? Or perhaps more particularly, can a writer prioritize the passion and the magic of writing and turn her back–for a time, at least–on the demands of marketing?
Yeah. I’m kind of suffering from a case of “I don’t wanna.” There is hope for this malady, though. Over the years, something I have learned is that the best way to shake off angst or a bad case of the “I don’t wanna’s” is to take chances. Explore a new corner of the genre. Write something that feels like it is out of my comfort zone. Try writing short stories for a while instead of working on novels. Or go out and explore someone else’s world, as I did with Finding Amy, Death Dealer, and A Good Man with a Dog. My muses tend to come in unexpected forms.
Right now, I’m waiting for the inspiration to take a chance to ring of my doorbell or call me up. If this sounds passive, it doesn’t feel like that to me. Every time my writing has gone in a new direction, it has been because somehow while I thought I was going straight ahead, doing the same old thing, fate gives me a nudge. Joe Loughlin needed help writing a book. The Maine wardens sent me to Miramichi, New Brunswick, to explore a story. Susan Oleksiw decided it would be interesting to explore New England crime writing through the medium of the short story and Level Best Books was born. I started writing Joe Burgess police procedurals because my Thea Kozak series was dropped by the publisher.
Right now, even though I am very intrigued by the plot of my new Thea Kozak mystery, my writing feels kind of like a holding pattern. But one day soon, the phone will ring, or an e-mail will come, or I’ll have a random conversation or drive by something that spurs my imagination, and the new direction will be revealed.
So, dear readers, two questions:
How do you shake off the “I don’t wanna’s?”
What do you all think of me working with a cold case detective?