Wednesday, December 05, 2007

If I were a songwriter ...

I keep thinking about this problem: Promoting a novelist is harder than promoting most (if not all) other kinds of artists. And as publishers and book retailers more and more are run by the bean counters who think of a book as simply a product (no different than, say, toothpaste), it becomes more and more of an uphill climb to launch a career as a new novelist. You almost have to be pre-famous to even get anyone to know you exist.

If I were any other kind of artist, I would not have this same problem. Think about it:

Gretschguitars.comIf I were a songwriter. I would write my song. I would have several options available to me: I could record a demo. I could record a finished studio track. I could go down to the street corner with my acoustic guitar and play it for you in person.

My song might get played onstage. My song might get played on TV. My song might get played on the radio.

And as you listen to the song, you can generally get a feel for whether you like me as a songwriter. Whether you want to hear more of my songs. Whether you would pay money for one of my albums.

I can't do any of that as a novelist. A novel is 80,000 or more words. I can't go on the road 300 dates a year, "performing" my book onstage. (When would I have time to write the next book?) They aren't going to play my book on the radio. I have only once seen someone read aloud from their book on a TV show.

Novelists don't have "singles" ... except for an excerpt (which is not the whole story, so it's not the same) or if I had a short story (which is a different art form, so it's not the same).

So this is the world I am trying to figure out. One where the novelist has fewer options for presenting their work than nearly any other artist. Let me think on that a bit.

(To be continued ...)
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