I haven’t mastered the epic grandiosity of being me. And while overall in the great scheme of eternity, this is probably a good thing, it’s doesn’t help when you’re an author.
You see, when you’re an author, you’re selling yourself. You have to. It doesn’t matter if you refuse to do interviews and act like you’re a living William Faulkner. The very act of refusing interviews is a brand in itself (hello Mr. Cormac McCarthy). You have these things called books, and they have YOUR name on them. If you write nonfiction, then it’s a no-brainer. It’s all about you and your platform. But even with fiction, it’s about selling a story, not just in the pages but in the author blurb.
Some authors have mastered the art of making their own Kool-Aid. You see them stirring big vats of it with a big old rubber spoon and you wonder what in the world they’re doing. Sometimes you even take a sip from their plastic cup and you realize that yep, it’s just Kool-Aid. It might taste sweet and feel refreshing, but it’s still just Kool-Aid.
There’s something about believing in yourself as a writer. You absolutely have to or else you’re not going to get very far in the field. I also think you have to help sell those books, meaning you have to promote and talk about them and engage readers. I struggle between overdoing this and not doing this enough.
But then there’s stepping over the abyss and sinking into a delusional world where you begin to talk like Yoda.
I’m not joking, either.
Sometimes I hear authors talking as if they wrote the second book of John in the Bible. Not in public but in private. I’ve had conversations with bestselling authors who were doing amazing things and absolutely knew it. They not only knew it, but they liked to remind everybody about it. They had bought into their press. They’d started sipping their own Kool-Aid. And they were starting to walk and talk like a live infomercial.
Then there are authors who try to outdo The Most Interesting Man In The World. You know, that sophisticated man with the accent surrounded by wealth and women in those Dos Equis commercials. Not even Donald Trump or Jay-Z are that interesting. Yet there are some authors who look and act and talk like they are The Most Interesting Author In The World. The very mention of another book idea should stop the world in its tracks.
Sometimes, the public buys this, the myth and the fantasy. It’s marketing and it works. Why do people spend lots of dollars trying to make this car out to be The Most Amazing Vehicle In The World or to claim this liquor to be The Most Awesome Beverage In The World or to have this bra be The Most Sexy Piece Of Clothing In The World?
I, for one, know I’m not the most interesting author in the world. Those around me know this too. So if I started to act like this, they’d all start mocking me. They’d all see through the bologna. They wouldn’t just refuse a sip of the Kool-Aid. They’d knock down the table of cups and empty the jug.
But still, sometimes I wish I could live a life of mystique. To leave readers wondering and breathless in anticipation. If I had enough sales, perhaps everything would be different. J.K. Rowling helps her brand by remaining out of the public spotlight. Because even the biggest authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. (Okay, Rowling is royalty, but she’s unique).
Whenever I mention a story idea, I sometimes feel like a dog barking at a stranger walking by on the sidewalk. Eventually you just tell the dog to be quiet because you’ve heard it a hundred times before.
Then again, sometimes I feel like there’s nobody else doing what I’m doing, that there’s nobody out there in my same boat. That I’m unique and that the world will wake up one day and get me and then I might possibly be "The Most Interesting Author In The World" (say that with a South American accent please).
For now, I might be one of the top ten most interesting authors in the western suburbs of Chicago. But I don’t know—I know some really interesting authors around here.
Becoming a father is a reminder that life is not about me. Being a Christian is a reminder that life shouldn’t be about me. So maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t make my own Kool-Aid and try to get people to drink it. Knowing me, every single cup I’d make would taste different anyway. The Kool-Aid branding police would come to me and in a Nazi-like tone tell me “No Kool-Aid For You!”
And you know what? That’d be just fine.
Labels: Branding, Hype, on writing