Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Man Who Didn't Want to be Known.

Would you like to be recognized as a writer? Or, would you rather have your books recognized and read?

Tough choice, isn't it? It's human nature to want a pat on the back for a job well done. You've put a lot of time and sweat into writing your novel. Certainly you'd like someone to appreciate what you've achieved. Some might call it egotism, and it is. Still, that's not a totally bad thing. As long as it doesn't get out of hand, ego is important in building self-confidence--something all artists need and often lack.

On the other hand, we all want our books to be read. There's joy in walking into a library or a store and seeing your books on the shelves--especially if they're being borrowed or purchased. Isn't that a primary reason we write books, produce art or do anything creative?

We're all familiar with some writers who produce great books, whose names are recognized, yet give no or few interviews and limit marketing activities to the minimum. In our time, Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, among others, come to mind.

How about B. Traven?

A man who said, "An author should have no other biography than his books." And, "The biography of a creative man is completely unimportant."

Traven, whose personal history raises as many questions as answers, assumed many other names in various phases of his life. There have been claims he was an American, born in Chicago, and that he was Ret Marut, German anarchist, who fled Germany for a new life in Mexico. Some speculation has Jack London and Ambrose Bierce using the Traven name as a pseudonym. There's even a rumor he was the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

But none of that has to do with his success as a writer. His first writings as B. Traven appeared in 1925--a short story and a novel--published in Germany.

His best known work (though not his best) is "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which John Huston made into a film starring Humphrey Bogart. Ten of his works have been translated to the big screen, though "Treasure.." was Hollywood's lone attempt. The others were produced in Mexico and Germany.

It wasn't this book/film that made his name synonymous with good writing. That came with publication of his second novel, "The Death Ship," first published in Germany in 1926. A Spanish edition was published in 1931 and it came out a third time in English in 1934.

Since then, his books have been translated to some 40 languages, he continues to be read around the world, and new editions of his work are still being published.

Would Traven's technique of putting all attention on the book and none on himself work today?
Doubtful. Unless you're already famous or your background is so mysterious or weird as to make you a celebrity without trying.

Publishers, agents and other experts tell us we must 'brand' both ourselves and our books in order to achieve sales. There's so much good competition out there today. It's no longer a matter of do I want to market or not. Marketing is too important to ignore.


So get out there and market.

17 comments:

  1. Great post, John.
    You're absolutely right. Things have changed. These days, writers need to be both introverts - we live in our heads so much of the time - and extroverts - we need to "socialize" in order to promote our books.

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  2. It's a tough new world, Pat. But we love it, don't we?

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  3. Boy, I wish I could spend the time I do marketing just on my writing. I'd probably have more books out, but honestly, like Patricia says in this day and time, unless you're already famous, tooting your horn is essential. We're up against a glut of other books and most aren't going to sell themselves. Your story about B. Traven was fascinating.

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  4. Thanks for commenting, Linda. Keep marketing.

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  5. Thanks for commenting, Linda. Keep marketing.

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  6. Good advice, John. The next step is to find what works!

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  7. Mystery author Cheryl Crane has no online presence. Perhaps as the daughter of the legendary Lana Turner she doesn’t feel she needs one. Or she prefers to keep a low profile. She’s written three books in a series and I hope she writes more---but I have no way of contacting her beyond the old-fashioned one of going through her publisher.

    She does give the occasional interview. When asked what made her want to become a mystery novelist, she replied, “It has always been my favorite style of reading and in some ways I have been a mystery to people.”

    I like that: she’s been a mystery to people. I’ve probably been a mystery to people as well, but only to people I’ve known. Cheryl Crane has been a mystery worldwide!

    John, this all ties in with what you wrote about not putting all the attention on one’s book: “Unless you're already famous or your background is so mysterious or weird as to make you a celebrity without trying.”

    I guess I’d better get cracking on my marketing.

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    1. I wasn't aware of Crane. I think most of us have to stick to the marketing--like it or not.

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  8. Ah, for the good old days, John, when writers only wrote and publishers promoted and marketed.

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  9. The salad days we missed out on, Earl.

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  10. I was SO afraid you were going to promote not marketing! The last part was a relief for me to read. Otherwise, the Posse idea would be in the dust! The fact that I love marketing does make me a strong advocate. The "good ol' days" are gone, and they weren't all that good for most writers. At least now we have a fighting chance.

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    1. No intent to let you down, Sunny. I know how necessary marketing is today.

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  11. What an eye-opening statement; recognized as a writer Or your books recognized and read? I can answer this, the later of the two. The work itself is most important. The good ol' days are not so ol' when we focus back on what is important and write with the same passion

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    1. Good point, Augie. Thanks for commenting.

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  12. As others have said, such an attitude won't work for nearly all of us today. I very much admire his sentiment and agree with it.

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  13. No acknowledgment of Judy Stone's book on the subject?

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