Promoting a Book, Pressing the Flesh and Clit Rodeos

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A friend of mine, someone with a big smile and lots of teeth, told me I have to promote myself more. “Get out there,” she said over the phone, her smile practically radiating through my mouthpiece. “Go press the flesh.”

Believe me, I’ve tried pressing the flesh. You can’t give flesh away these days. I’ve offered full skin grafts without a single taker.

Like every second person out there (it seems, anyway), I’ve written a novel. Even my former boss wrote one. He went through a self-publishing operation, I went with an agent. After a year, he got a royalty cheque for ten dollars. He admits he should promote his book more, but his house in Cabo blew away in a hurricane. It’s probably still circling the Pacific. Who can promote a book when your address keeps changing by the minute?

Promotion is a tough game. I’ve listened to the experts talking about SEOs and SMOs and every other trick in the book. I’ve raised my profile on social media to the point where I have five pages on Google. My biggest fan base is in India. They don’t care that I’ve written a book. They seem more impressed with me appearing to be a population unto myself.

I’ve even posted videos showcasing my novel. People say they’re “a hoot,” but not as funny as the couple mistaking Superglue for lube.

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That’s the thing with social media. You stand a better chance of being recognized gluing yourself to your partner than writing a book.

James Patterson, author of nineteen consecutive best-selling novels, offers tips on writing in a video that has 859 likes. The Try Guys do a video called: “Labor Pain Simulation” and get over 29,860,392 views in one day.

Each of these guys only lasted five minutes, which is still considered more interesting than a world renowned author. Their collective guttural sounds amounted to: “Ah-h-h-h-h-h!” which women viewers responded to with: “See?”

Someone posted a segment of Bill Maher’s Real Time, where he mourns the plight of comedy. Describing how Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Larry The Cable Guy think college students need to “lighten up,” he concludes that it’s pretty bad when a “Jew, a black and a moron” are telling you to lighten up. That video got 31,397 likes, still a far cry from six guys screaming through five minutes of simulated child birth.

In Don Delillo’s book “Mao II,” his main character, Bill Gray, a reclusive famous author, says: “The secret force that drives the [book] industry is the compulsion to make writers harmless.”

I don’t know if we can blame the book industry as much as social media. And I don’t blame social media as much as the people who watch it. If writers are harmless, it has more to do with interest than opinion. You have to be interested enough to have an opinion. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

Opinion seems to stem from what makes our blood boil, something authors have a hard time doing. E.L. James did it by unhinging all that bottled up lust that came from being, well, politically correct. Seems the same people who want us to “watch our mouths” don’t mind their own mouths being stuffed with a rubber ball, as long as the guy’s rich and, at times, conflicted.

We also get pretty upset when someone starts talking about the condition of our earth. In an article posted by Science & Environment called: “Earth ‘entering new extinction phase’,” they claim the current extinction rate of “animals with backbones” is 100 times higher than it was in the early 1900s. Most at risk? The lemur.

A reader angrily wrote: “Do we really need lemurs?”

Reality really is stranger than fiction, and we obviously like things to be strange. What book can compete with one of our greatest Olympian athletes calling himself “Caitlyn”? Or Donald Trump starting his Presidential race bragging: “I will build a great wall along the Mexican border — and nobody builds better walls than me.”

Someone commented: “Yeah, but how do we stop the ungodly graffiti on the Mexican side?”

And what book, fiction or otherwise, can compete online with “Cliteracy 101,” a series revealing such tidbits as the “internal clitoris” being longer than an unerect penis (up to 9 centimeters longer)?

The fact that males don’t know this is a major faux pas on our parts. As New York artist, Sophia Wallace, told HuffPost: “It’s insane to me that this is still happening in 2013.” She’s started an ongoing art project called: “100 Laws of Cliteracy.” One feature is the “clit rodeo,” a stylized inchfest, proving an internal clitoris can match an unerect penis any day of the week.

In an environment such as this, what chance does an author have? How do we compete with clit rodeos? Do we go waving our book around, saying: “This is longer than any internal clitoris”? We could try bootstrapping our promotional efforts with an art show, like: “See a clit and an author doing his bit.”

There doesn’t seem to be an alternative, other than hoping people eventually get tired of things like clit rodeos. It’s not that size matters, but certainly kitsch beats content. I’ve seen more likes for a photo of someone’s dinner than a book, and less interest in a million seller than a fox jumping on a trampoline.

Social media may not see a problem, but writers do. Our existence depends on being noticed, and it’s tough to compete with Caitlyn and whatever that fox calls itself. Maybe we need someone like Ted Turner. Look at what he did for vintage movies. Maybe he can do the same for authors.

Bill Maher might decide there’s something inherently funny in writers trying to get noticed. Ann Coulter’s been on his show a number of times. She’s funny as hell. I don’t think she’s trying to be funny. Unfortunately, it’s tough to tell with Ann, especially when she talks about immigration leading to rape.

“Latins are just more expressive,” Maher responded to wild applause.

Coulter smiled, but you could tell she wanted to put a rubber ball in his mouth.

We can put rubber balls in everybody’s mouths, and I’m sure writers will still go unnoticed. We’re just not kitschy enough, though I saw a video of one writer signing books in a supermarket. It wasn’t a clever ploy. It was the only place they’d let him set up a table. He spent more time telling people where the soup aisle was than signing books.

Maybe that’s our fate. We’ll all end up as greeters, holding our books up, hoping someone notices (they’ll still probably want the soup aisle).

What do you think of social media today? Is it a place for writers? Or is it destined to be the domain of foxes on trampolines and clit rodeos? Let me know at: rcormack@rogers.com

Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. For more details, go to Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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