Earlier this week Jennifer Alsever wrote a piece for CNN Money called “Guerrilla Marketing for Books.” A cautionary tale for would-be authors, it tells the story of shrinking promotional budgets at traditional publishing houses and the lengths to which authors now must go to get their books to stand out from the ever-increasing numbers of both traditionally and self-published books. The truth is, it has been ever thus – unless you are a big-name author.
One tactic mentioned in the story is of an author who commissioned a jewelry artist to make necklaces that are featured on her book’s cover as well as a new perfume based on one of her fictional characters. The amount of work and money involved for an author in doing this is staggering to consider. This, however, reminded me of an event in the provenance of one of my recent ‘new’ books Confessions of a Failed Yuppie. Stick with me for a few minutes!
If you’ve been reading Backstory for a few years or even months, you might have realized that the “backstory” I’m trying to tell is the anchor of my own experience in writing and publishing. More than that, though, my objective is to explore the issues that are important to all of us who are more than passingly interested in reading – and writing. Sometimes I rant about things that have annoyed me; sometimes I tell you a story of my experience. Sometimes I tell you a real backstory to my writing: what inspired it, how it developed, what happened next. This post is one of those true backstories.
In the early 1990’s I was on a rant about the Yuppie lifestyle. So I decided to write a book about it – but rather than a non-fiction examination of the phenomenon, which would have been more akin to my writing experience at the time, I decided to write a novel – a satire of sorts. I felt strongly, though, that I wanted it published no matter what, so I did what self-publishing authors did at that time, I sent it to a vanity publisher. (For the working definition of a vanity publisher, you might want to surf back to last week’s post: The confusing world of 21st century publishing jargon: A glossary for writers).
In due course, a box full of hard-cover copies of Yuppie arrived on my doorstep. What to do with them? Those were the days before book promotion through online networking channels was de rigeur. Indeed, there were no social media channels. Just imagine such a world! I decided that the first order of business would be to have a book launch. But before the launch, I’d need some “merchandise.”
I created a design for the front of T-shirts and for mugs and had dozens of these pieces of paraphernalia created – all at my own expense, of course – and had them available on the day of the pary. I also had a poster-sized blow-up of the cover of the book so that it could be the focal point of the party, next to the book-shaped cake that adorned the dining room table. I then created a guest list and sent out invitations.
As parties go, the event was a great success. We had door prizes of T-shirts that the guests obligingly sported and everyone went home with a signed copy of the book.
As the weeks went by, a number of the guests told me that they had enjoyed the book and when was I going to write another one?
The book, naturally enough, never sold. Getting a self-published book reviewed in those days was not next to impossible, it was completely impossible. And since there were no social networks available to promote it, short of taking out advertisements at great expense (I did that once) and going door-to-door with a pile of books (which didn’t sit well with my personality), the book would languish with thousands of others. And so it did. Until last year.
Writers have lots of finished and unfinished manuscripts hiding on their hard drives or taking up space in filing cabinets. I know that most of us should toss most of it, but sometimes a manuscript draws us back and that’s how I felt about Yuppie.
So, I took out the hard-cover copy with its tattered edges and began to write rewrite the book. It’s now a 21st century Yuppie story, and taking advantage of the digital advances, I decided to make it available once again.
Two decades in the making, Confessions of a Failed Yuppie lives again, and it starts with a definition of Yuppie:
“YUPPIE”: A Definition
Acronym for Young Urban Professional, usually occurring in a married pair (often male/female but not necessarily). Categorized as upper middle class or at least moving in that direction, ambitious, well-educated. Characterized by excessive concerns about appearances. Lightly narcissistic. May have money or at least leverage. But not necessarily. Normal habitat is the urban condo, sometimes the single-family dwelling of dubious heritage in a downtown area with a postage stamp for a yard, for which a bidding war took place prior to acquisition. Yuppies with children often move to larger, more impressive dwellings. Diet consists mainly of cocktails, organic kale and the latest gastronomic fad. Would not be caught dead in a North-American-produced automobile brand. Skis in winter, does hot yoga, plays squash (it’s making a come-back), and quietly brags all year round. Widely thought to have become extinct in the early 1990’s. Not so much.
Maybe you’d like to read the rest. Or not.