The Wall of Nobody
December 20, 2010
Picture this …
You’re a new author just hitting the scene. Your book looks awesome. You’ve got a good idea and a story to go with it. Your book is written with heart and soul, and it’s just crying out to be taken home and read. You’re standing there at the show, your books in a nice stack; you look good and you smell good, and you’ve marked it down to nothing. Heck, you’re practically giving it away.
But, avast! … nobody’s buying. Why??
Dude–nobody knows who the hell you are, that’s why.
Let’s face it, we’re all creatures of marketing. We just love surrounding ourselves with the familiar and the tried and true. Jingles pounded into your head like a ten-penny spike up a Geek’s nose, and slick slogans burned into your retinas. It’s like sucking on a tailpipe your whole life, no matter how rotten it is, you start to need it after a while, and a bit of fresh air just won’t do. Things that are unknown to us are things not to be trusted no matter how pretty and cheaply priced–just like a guy stepping in front of you trying to sell a pocket watch out of the lining of his trench coat. Your mother warned you about shady guys like that, and she warned you about strange authors at shows as well.
Just ignore them and maybe they’ll go away.
Take this for example. My wife wanted to go into an Aldi the other day. We never shop there, but she wanted to go inside, God only knows why. So, we stopped, went in, and I was immediately put off. Look at all these weird brands that I’d never heard of before, it was like I’d fallen into Bizarro-world in there, or a particularly uncomfortable episode of the Twilight Zone where nothing’s as it should be, and I wanted out.
Crackers, and toothpaste, and breads of all kinds, each made by obscure people in obscure places. It was Hell. I was in Hell. “Don’t you need peanut butter, hon?” my wife asked. No–don’t go down there! I ran to take her by the arm and flee, but, there she was, browsing like it was no big deal.
Look at the peanut butter! Where’s the Jif? I want my Jif! I don’t give a flying hoot about Golden Bunny Peanut Butter. Where did that come from? It’s evil. I made her put down her purchases and I carried my wife out of that den of horrors, back into the comforting sunshine of trans-fats and mass-marketing.
So, that’s a rather manic example, but it’s basically what you’re going to run into as an unknown writer selling an unknown book. There is a wall between you and the people you’d like to sell to. You’re on one side and they’re on the other. Your image on the other side of that wall is distorted and demonic. Oh, they pass by and politely smile and try to get away from you as quickly as they can and forget the whole thing ever happened. Try and say a few words to your potential customers and it’s like you just spat out the Lord’s Prayer backwards. Seriously. Nothing you can say or do’s going to get past that wall, and it’s simply because these folks don’t know who you are.
Is there any hope for you, the unknown author? Are some authors just born “Somebody” and others are forever “Nobody” and therefore consigned to the dregs of obscurity and oblivion?
Sure, there’s hope. Sure there’s a way to step out of the shadows and become a familiar face.
There is a way to get out from behind the Nobody Wall and let somebody else occupy it for a while.
Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you what it is.