Is this all we have to look forward to?

Photo of Tao Lin, courtesy of Noah Kalina

I read a lot about new authors.  I read plenty of blogs and surf websites and scan magazines for articles about new authors.  Why?  Because I find them fascinating and I love seeing the chronology of a fabulous author as it happens.  And authors have plenty of unique ways that they get themselves known, or get themselves to the point where they can call themselves an author. Each one is different and no one is more correct than the other, but how they manage themselves often says a lot about how much they will be respected, regardless of their writing.

The road to becoming a published author is often a very difficult one. Not only has someone toiled away for a year (or many, many years) on something they just had to put into words, but the job doesn’t end there.  There are countless revisions, bouts of insecurity and months of research involved….and that’s really where the hard part begins.

To get a book published, most people go through the “traditional” route of trying to get an agent first.  An agent is the one who will believe in the work and champion it to others.  They will tirelessly pursue publishers with the book, negotiate the contracts and deal with the royalties, all so that the author can do what he or she does best: write.  It can take a year or more for a book to be accepted by a publisher to the time we might see it on the shelves, and in the meantime, authors continue to write and then must go through the ordeal of promotion.

In the old heyday of publication, often authors were sent on long book tours, put up in nice hotels and given fruit baskets upon arrival.  They were treated like they were respected and cherished.  These days, more often than not, authors might plan their own book tours, stay in average hotels and grab a sandwich on their way to a book signing at a small, independent bookstore.  If they’re lucky, a few people might show up to see them and buy one of their books. But these days, it usually takes much, much more for an author to creatively promote themselves and make sure they sell books. It has been said that more than 90% of authors do not make a solitary living from writing alone.  Day job required!

Tao Lin is a newish author who is slated to become the “it” boy for our generation. Not only has his fiction been touted as original and relevant to the younger generation, but he is gaining some buzz for the antics he engages in while trying to live his life as a successful author. His most recent book  is a novella called “Shoplifting From American Apparel”, where Lin accurately portrays the internet-propelled lives of his generation as lifeless and pointless, a scattered group of events all tied together by social networking sites and blogs. He feels that the solitary aspect to our lives now is probably going to continue and he hopes to capture that hopelessness in his work.

Now, Lin has followed the normal routes to publication, but has decided that his interaction on the internet is going to be as important to getting his work out there to the masses as book tours and magazine reviews.  So, he’s gone to extremes to make a name for himself.  He’s tried a unique marketing idea by selling shares of a book he was writing in 2008.  A person could buy a share of the book for $2000 US and share in the residuals if the book sold well.  Lin figured that anyone putting that much money into an investment would do as much as they could to market it on their own in order to earn higher residuals.

In 2009, Lin held a contest on his blog where readers could try to win a selection of goods that he finds valuable, such as notebooks outlining his ideas for works in progress, a t-shirt with his likeness and doodles that inspired him.  He vowed to give the package to the person who paid the most money (but the catch was that he didn’t give the money back to the other people that didn’t win.  They took a chance.)  These are creative ideas for self-promotion and he says he makes about $700 a month on his blog just by offering up prizes like these.

And who knows, maybe Lin will become so big that someday, these notebooks and t-shirts will be worth so much more to a collector.  Interesting, nonetheless.

You can read more about Lin and his antics at an article at Salon here… or you can follow him on his blog here.  I warn you, the content might not be for everyone, and actually, I found the blog a little bare and boring (but that is also said of his writing at times, so maybe that’s the look he was going for…unaffected.)

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