New Year’s resolutions - write that book you’ve always been talking about


So, is writing that book you always wanted to write on your list of New Year’s resolutions? I say, go for it!

My book tour made 2011 the best year of my life!

I shook a lot of hands and kissed a lot of babies campaigning for the first installment of 'This Is Your Brain on Shamrocks,' and I ran across a lot of people with unfulfilled writing dreams.

“I always wanted to write a book,” they would sigh. “But I could never get that done.”

I remember the last time I said that. I was a cub reporter for the Irish Voice a number of years ago and I found myself on the breezy porch of Mary Higgins Clark’s beach house.

She had just written 'Kitchen Privileges,' a short autobiographical story that she penned for her grandchildren until her publisher snatched it away for public domain.

I had just gone through a litany of reasons and considerations on why I couldn’t write -- the toddlers always in diapers, the freakish travel, hectic meeting schedules, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Higgins Clark sipped demurely from her dainty Belleek tea cup, nodding occasionally. When I asked how she pulled a book each year out of thin air, she leaned in and gazed intently with those milky blue eyes.

“Y’know, there’s a difference between me and you. I wanted it worse than you did. The best place to start a writing career is to shut up and start writing. There’s no magic here.”

When one of the top selling authors on the planet tells you to shut up and write, well, you shut up and write!

It was the best advice I had ever gotten before or since because I had a book outline within nine months of our interview and had a published novel within 18 months. 

So, dear reader, my first advice to you is to shut up and write. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s good enough such that someone might buy it. That stops most people from even picking up a pen, and that’s just a copout.

There are plenty of self-publishers out there that will happily load the book into B&N and Amazon for you, which means your book will be on an e-reader without any need for an agent or big book company marketing arm, thank you very much. Who the hell are they to judge and assess your words?

And speaking of big book companies, if there’s anything I heard on the book tour more often than, “Gee, I always wanted to write a book,” it was, “I never saw a dime after that crappy little advance check, and I am convinced that my book company is screwing me over.”

So, as the Irish say, all mountains look green from far away.

I’ve run into dozens of famous writers out there crying in their beer and complaining about their book contracts. Think about that next time you waste a decade of the rosary moaning to the Lord about the rejection letters from would-be agents and publishers that make their way into your mailbox on a daily basis.

I always cite Prince as a model of how to market your own art. He got so fed up by his restrictive record contract that he wrote the word “slave” on his face and submitted one crappy album after another to spite Warner Brothers.

Once he was released from his contract he began marketing directly to his fan base, making up to $5 more per unit sold when he rang the register, and created art on his terms.

Not many people looked down their nose at him for being “self-published” when he took to the Super Bowl halftime show stage in high heels a decade later. I rest my case.

The creative process doesn’t just include writing the book, which is another common myth. You have to be a Mick Jagger type of artist -- make a product that rocks, make a spectacle out of yourself as you promote it, and always have an eye on the bottom line. All at once.

Many of the snobby writers in the social circle I run in (this includes most of them) think the selling of art is beneath them.

But I am of the belief that the marketing process is an extension of my self-expression. Using a combination of print media, websites, Facebook, Twitter, e-book signings posted on YouTube, and free excerpts placed on appropriate newsletters are the tools to build a buzz about the book.

For my book, as an example, I enlisted the help of some musician friends, and we staged “rock and read” events that enabled us to draw new sales from fans of one another’s works.

A well-executed launch strategy doesn’t have to be a chore, nor does it have to be a commercial concern and sellout that is beneath your creativity. Let it be an extension of your creativity!

We would like to think that the whole world is waiting for your first book and that once you write it, you will be set for life.

I’m sorry to tell you that neither one of these statements are true. People are so fixated on their smart phones that many folks are contracting a “text message attention span” when it comes to reading.

You literally have to compete with an iPad and a Facebook post for the entertainment mindshare of a consumer nowadays, something that never concerned Hemmingway or Twain.