By Court Merrigan, Guest Post
I haven't updated my blog since December 15, 2014, and it's been a lot longer than that since I updated the site itself (where you will still see advertised my collection of short stories, which came out in 2012). At one point I had almost totally torn myself away from social media, ignoring Facebook, never logging onto Twitter for more than five minutes at a time. Then my publisher, Beat To a Pulp, gave me the release date for my new novel, The Broken Country: Being the Scabrous Exploits of Cyrus & GalinaVan, Hellbent West During the Eighth Year of the Harrows, 1876; With an Accountof Mappers, Bounty Hunters, a Tatar, and the Science of Phrenology. So I started tweeting and posting again, sorta. No one's perfect.
This, I am told, is a bad idea. I should be engaging in a continuous publicity process of various sorts and sizes, blog tours, a social media blitz, the whole works. I am sure this is true. Among my other failings, I am failing to expand on my personal brand.
Now, I grew up on a farm in western Nebraska. On this farm, we raised cattle. Every spring, these cattle received a brand, a real one.
|Not very romantic, I'm afraid; like this picture, |
we used a cattle chute and an electric brand.
So for me, the word "brand" will always carry the scent of burnt fur and flesh, slippery cow shit on your boots, and howling bovines, a day's hard work, dinner well-deserved at its end. Meanwhile, the branded bovines carry the brand for the rest of their (short) lives. That brand signifies a profit-producing commodity owned by you, the farmer. A brand is all business. It is a perpetual motion machine, the perpetual motion supplied by your labor, namely feed and water and medicine until such time as the cow can be converted into hamburgers and leather jackets and cash. There is no whimsy in a brand. Only hard work and reality's barbed wire. The marketplace is merciless. Just ask the cow on the killing floor at the wrong end of the stun gun.
Now, I know publishing is a business (though I doubt very much that David Cranmer, who runs Beat to a Pulp is getting rich ... and if he is, WHERE'S MY CUT, DAVID? WHERE???) and I see that social media and self-promotion and personal branding can be one, too. It just happens to be a business I've never quite wrapped my head around. Like lots of people, more than a few minutes on social media leaves me feeling hollow, confused, and lost. Jealous or, vastly worse, smug with schadenfreude. I feel a lot better about my slice of the world when I'm off social media, the longer, the better.
All of this, of course, is a long preamble to say that you should buy and read The Broken Country. Now that I’m (sorta) back on social media, I’ve been yapping about my book like everyone else. Of course, since I've let my presence slide the last couple years, no one is much paying attention. Certainly not a certain breed of tactless and dull writer who treats Twitter like a Turkish bazaar, hocking their goods nonstop. That’s okay, I’m not paying attention to them, either. I’m just glad most writers have better sense.
That said, I have got some good response (and some preordering action!) from the civilians of the social media world, those who log on to post pics of their kid's dance recital and to ask friends how to keep rabbits out of the garden. Real people, in other words, the ones who, as it happens, need to be buying your book for it to have any chance of selling in real numbers.
Am I suggesting that the best marketing strategy is to not have one? Certainly not. I'd never presume to hand out book marketing advice. After, all, I'm the guy who thinks "burnt flesh of cattle" when the word "brand" is mentioned, which is not a very 2017 kind of guy to be.
But fortunately for you, The Broken Country isn’t a very 2017 kind of book. It's set in a post-apocalyptic 1876, about as far from our current reality, wherein the device in your pocket stores the sum total of human knowledge, as you can get. (Then again, maybe the Cassandras are right and Trump will lead us over the cliff and The Broken Country will suddenly get a whole lot more relevant. Let us hope not.)
For The Broken Country, I imagined the hardest world I could think, a literal turning-back of the westbound wagon trains as America turned its back on Manifest Destiny. A world where people believe in a pseudoscience like phrenology and a man with a working sixgun is as good as a feudal lord. What sorts of characters would such a time loose on the world, I wondered, and proceeded to write this novel to find out. I hope you'll want to find out, too.