Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Selling to the Masses

There are trillions of eyes out there scanning paper, letters, sentences, and paragraphs all for entertainment. Yes, entertainment. They want to sit down and put aside their personal worries and troubles and bother themselves with the problems of others. They may not have to diffuse a nuclear weapon, stop a presidential assassination, fight some incredible form of mother nature, but they like characters that do.

Or they like to read about something in detail, broken down so that they can understand it better. They want different slants on opinions. They desire to be given opinions. They want to have their thinking changed. They want to be involved. These people are starving for writers.

And writers deliver. We do. If we didn't there wouldn't be franchises like Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, Publishing houses, Agents. The entire business, the structure and form would collapse on itself and vanish overnight once writers silence themselves. In Dune, by Frank Herbert, the pivot point of the galaxy was the 'spice'. The spice must flow. Writers must write. They must put out an output for there to be a machinery to process it. That's the deal, that's the story. What can you say about this? Nothing. Nothing other than writers have the best leverage. Our fault? The field of competition is just so massive, so vast.

Writers have lost the vision of how the process works. And the sad thing is that we think we know everything. That was my last discussion. The competition is so great that once a writer writes something he/she thinks they know it all. Once they are published, they climb upon what I like to call the “Golden Pulpit”. They are the know alls and be alls of writing anything. And that's where we part company.

That's the thing. Who's writing to the masses today? Are you? Is the person that sells anything selling to the masses? They may think that they are, but are they? That's my question. Who are you writing for? Here we go with my dissertation for this week. 

I know a lot of people writing today, and they are published at that, but my problem with them is that they write for what I like to call, the 'Niche Market'. Case in point: A friend, and I'll call him Teddy, writes historical pieces. He's a history buff in the American Civil War. He goes to a library, reads book after book on the American wars and then writes for a magazine that publishes every drop of what he has to say. He's made a lucrative business out of writing for them, and he's doing what interests him. Good for him, I say.

I have another friend, let's call him Douglas. This writer writes technical manuals. He makes scads of money. He makes a great living, but then again, its not the living that I want.

In fact, none of these men live the life that I want. They write to niche markets, not to the masses. They are not the Clive Cusslers, Stephen Kings, Tom Clancys of their day. They are just the opposite. They are the...well...those guys that fill the void of writing that a minority of people desire to have filled. But to me they are just as important to the machinery of writing. Just like the woman that writes about the latest Miracle Bra, the man that writes about the purity of crude oil, the woman that details the value of a popular diet fad, the kids that write about the latest Playstation game.

They are supplying a demand. Now my problem is not a supply and demand one, my problem is knowing everything about writing. Not so much Douglas, but Teddy is a self-proclaimed know it all. Clear and simple. To listen to him talk, one would think he is a New York Times Bestselling author. He knows everything there is about writing, in fact he's giving me instructions on how to write. What to write about, how to send it out, you name it, he knows all there is about it. I hate to say this, and maybe it's hubris on my part, but I read bestselling authors, NOT because I'm in love with their storytelling all the time, but because I'm trying to learn the simple lessons about writing that they are teaching without words. I studied how Clive Cussler and Peter Benchley details action, how Stephen King strings out suspense, how James Ellroy introduces dark characters, how Raymond Chandler lays out a detailed storyline, how Henry Miller handles the complexities of sexuality. I don't read books...I study them, to the minutest detail.

I like to study the product, not necessarily the man. Who knows, these men might be assholes, they might have had a lucky break in life, they might even have heard their story from a college friend or a friend of their father, and so wrote a book. But the book...the book itself is the product that needs to do all of the talking. Save your breath niche writers, I don't read magazine articles to be a novelist. Sorry, I'd rather suck the blood out of a victim to become a vampire than to have a conversation with a wine drinker. That's the way that I see it.

I'm not so arrogant to believe that I know everything there is to know about writing. I listen to Teddy and everyone else that has something to say just in case I learn something new. But the moment that they repeat something that I already know the neurons of my brain that listen darken and die. Actually, they do. But these blowhards never stop. The moment you listen is when you sell all rights to your own opinions to them, and they, like many others, want to jump on the “Golden Pulpit”, and preach to you until your ears bleed. Just because they are published.

And that's the sad story about authors, which I am one. The field is so vast, and the ocean so full of fish, that when we pass that line between writer and author, we get puffed up and join the ranks of the scant few that are published. It's because of this funnel mentality, the few, the proud outlook, that we fail to realize that it is the writer in totality....NOT the author that's published, that makes the machinery work. It's the product of our blood, sweat and tears that fuels the vehicle.

It's the WORK fellas. Always remember that when you get up in the morning and go to sleep at night.

It's the WORK fellas.