Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: Meet Me Halfway

by | April 10, 2014 | Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker

(thanks to the great WriteSex site, where this first appeared) 

Meet Me Halfway

Let’s open with a joke: a guy pleads with god over and over: “Please,
Lord, let me win the lottery.” Finally, god answers: “Meet me halfway –
buy a ticket!”

Back when publishers only put out – gasp – actually
printed-on-paper books I was known as a writer who would give anything I
did that extra mile: readings, interviews, PR events, press releases …
you name it, I’d do it. To be honest, I’ve always had a small advantage
in that my (unfinished) degree was in advertising and I’ve
less-than-secretly really enjoyed creating all kinds of PR stuff. I’ve
always felt that a good ad, or marketing plan, can be just as fun and
creative as actually writing the book itself.

Sure, some of my PR stuff has gotten me (ahem) in some trouble …
though I still contest that the “other” M.Christian who staged that
rather infamous plagiarism claim over the novel Me2 was at fault and not me, the one-and-only; or that my claim to amputate a finger as a stunt for Finger’s Breadth was totally taken out of context…

Anyway, the fact is I’ve always looked at publishers as people to
work with when it comes to trying to get the word out about my books.
Sure, some publishers have been more responsive and accepting than
others and, yes, I still have bruises from working with a few who
couldn’t have cared less about me and my books, but in the end most of
them have been extremely happy to see my excitement when one of their
editions hit the shelves.

Duh, things have changed a lot since then – but in many ways things
haven’t changed at all. Books are still books, even if they are now
digital files and not dead trees, and bookstores are still in the
business of selling those books, even if they’re now Amazon, iBooks, and
Kobo instead of brick-and-mortar establishments … and publishers still
want to work with authors who want to work with them.

Not going into the whole publisher-versus-self-publishing thing (in a word: don’t) one thing that has
totally changed is the importance of marketing, social media, and
public relations. Simply put, it’s gone from being somewhat necessary to
absolutely essential.

But this post isn’t about Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, blogs and the
rest of that stuff. Instead I want to talk about how you work with a
publisher: what they do, what you do, and how to make it all work for
the best.

A very common myth is that publishers are finger-steepling,
mustache-twirling villains who pay for their volcano lairs and
diamond-collared Persian cats with the sweat of writers. Okay, a few do,
but the good ones started as writers themselves and have simply worked
their way up to being in a position to try and help other writers – and,
sure, make some bucks along the way.

Another common myth is that publishers don’t care about their
writers. Okay, let’s be honest: a writer who sells a lot of books is
definitely going to get the lion’s share of attention, but a good
publisher knows that any book in their catalogue can be the one to go
from one sale a month to ten a day.

There’s a very important factor: publishers deal with a lot of
writers – some of whom have written dozens of books while others have
two or three … or only one. With that many titles you can’t really
expect a publisher to be able to give you 100% attention 100% of the
time. Yes, they want you to succeed – they have a vested interest in
your success, after all – but they have to try and bring that same level
of success to as many of their writers and books as possible.

That does not let them off the hook when it comes to doing their jobs. A good publisher, most importantly, knows the business
of publishing. Often this means they have to do things that authors
don’t like: saving money on covers (or refusing to use your aunt’s
watercolors as cover art), asking for changes to books or titles,
requiring authors to think about social media and audience, asking for
copyedited or clean manuscripts … and so forth. They do this not because
they enjoy watching a writer cringe, but because they have lots of
experience with what won’t sell, what might sell, what is worth a lot of time and what isn’t.

Believe it or not, publishers are also people: they work very hard –
too hard in some cases – to be the publisher they, as writers, would
want to work with. As such, they don’t just want to make a book a
runaway bestseller; they want to make that book’s author excited and
happy about their work.

Personal disclosure time: yes, I am a writer but I also have the
honor of being an Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks. To put it
mildly, it has been an eye-opening experience to start out looking at
publishers as a writer, and end up looking at writers as a publisher.

During all this I try to remember my own excitement of when my books
came out, and all the plans and strategies and so forth I had the
pleasure of putting together. It was stressful and depressing more often
than not, but then there were the wonderful moments when I felt the
publisher was also thrilled about me and my work. As a publisher, I’ve
tried to return to the favor to other writers.

Did you feel a “but” coming? Well, you should because sitting on the
other side of the fence I’ve noticed that a few – not a lot, thankfully,
but still far too many – writers want to win the lottery but won’t buy a
flipping ticket.

Okay, I promise I won’t turn this into a “get off my lawn” rant but I
do have a few words for advice for dealing with publishers – and how to
making the transition from A Writer to A Cherished Author.

For one thing, always remember you are just one of many writers a
publisher has to deal with. Yes, you have rights and a publisher should
always respect and care about you and your work – but being demanding or
a prima donna will get you nothing.

A good publisher will work very hard on marketing, promotions,
exposure, new ways of doing anything, etc. – but, and this is extremely
important, you need to as well. In short, buy a ticket!

Don’t have a website? Make one! Don’t have a Facebook page? Create
one! Don’t have a Twitter feed? Sign up! Don’t have a Goodreads,
RedRoom, etc., presence? Get moving!

The same goes for following your publisher’s social media links and
such. Sign up and friend and favor them, and when your book comes out
let your publisher know that you are excited and happy about it. Tell
them of your marketing plans, send them your press releases, talk to
them about the ways you are working to reach your audience … don’t just
sit back and wait for them to do all the work.

Social media is timeless: your book might sell tomorrow or next year,
which means that your marketing and such should also never stop. It
breaks my heart when authors decide that their book is a failure when
they don’t immediately see a fat royalty check – when the fact is the
book is a failure because it is they who have given up on it.
Publishers feel the same way: none of them want to hear that they
screwed up by not making a book a bestseller when the author walked away
from the title after a few months.

I could go on, and I will in more columns, but let’s wind down by
restating the point of this post: working with a publisher is a
partnership. They have duties and responsibilities but you, the author,
have to step up and enthusiastically show that you, too, want to make
your book into a magical, hotter-than-hot, golden ticket.

M. Christian

Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement.
Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and in fact too many anthologies, magazines, and sites to name. In erotica, M.Christian is known and respected not just for his passion on the page but also his staggering imagination and chameleonic ability to successfully and convincingly write for any and all orientations.

But M.Christian has other tricks up his literary sleeve: in addition to writing, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited 25 anthologies to date including the Best S/M Erotica series; Pirate Booty; My Love For All That Is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica; The Burning Pen; The Mammoth Book of Future Cops, and The Mammoth Book of Tales of the Road (with Maxim Jakubowksi); Confessions, Garden of Perverse, and Amazons (with Sage Vivant), and many more.

M.Christian's short fiction has been collected into many bestselling books in a wide variety of genres, including the Lambda Award finalist Dirty Words and other queer collections like Filthy Boys, and BodyWork. He also has collections of non-fiction (Welcome to Weirdsville, Pornotopia, and How To Write And Sell Erotica); science fiction, fantasy and horror (Love Without Gun Control); and erotic
science fiction including Rude Mechanicals, Technorotica, Better Than The Real Thing, and the acclaimed Bachelor Machine.

As a novelist, M.Christian has shown his monumental versatility with books such as the queer vamp novels Running Dry and The Very Bloody Marys; the erotic romance Brushes; the science fiction erotic novel Painted Doll; and the rather controversial gay horror/thrillers Finger's Breadth and Me2.

M.Christian is also the Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, where he strives to be the publisher he'd want to have as a writer, and to help bring quality books (erotica, noir, science fiction, and more) and authors out into the world.


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