I used to know a guy who came out of construction. Said he was almost a million bucks in debt, and he took a job as a used car salesman to try and pay that debt off (!). When I shopped there, he was nice and honest, and told me he just couldn’t learn all the slick tricks they tried to teach him.
Couple of years later I went back to the dealership. You know what? Not only was the guy still there (which I assume means he didn’t make a millions dollars), he was now the used car sales manager.
And he was the biggest prick I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. He was a jackass and not funny and a smart aleck. A big guy, he tried to use his size to intimidate customers too. He’d leer, glower and sort of stand over you, trying to menace (he wasn’t super-muscular or anything, but he had big bones and stood about six-six or six-seven [which is about two meters, my Canadian and overseas comrades]).
In the end he was a blow hard and he made me walk away from his car lot never to return. I told a couple of other people I’d met not to go there because of it. I don’t know how many of them did or didn’t, but I crowed about that jackass to everyone who’d listen.
He’s probably still there, doing his a$$hole thing, but he’s never going to see a nickel of my money.
I sat in a restaurant and looked around. Rich, plush carpets muffled the sounds. Great amber-wood accents on gleaming metal fixtures. Glittering chandeliers dangling from stamped-tin ceilings, held aloft on marble pillars. Gorgeous. Better be for the cost of eating there.
But the one thing they made happen which kept me coming back over and over again was making me feel as important as the eight-figure income guy from that start-up company in Silicon Valley sitting two tables over with his board of directors. He raised his eyes and someone rushed to his aid. I raised mine, same response. I never felt more served. It set me back a few C-notes every time I went, but I went a few times a year because they catered to me.
What do these stories have in common?
If you’re a writer, you’re doing one of two things: writing to the industry – and I used to do that not so long ago, so I know of what I speak here – or writing to readers.
I have a fan, a true, loyal, die-hard fan. She reads everything I write, and she gives me honest feedback. She’s not a writer and doesn’t pretend to know everything about the craft, but she’s with me in the process and helps me get through it. At the end of it all, she’s the one who’s my first reader and will tell me what she thinks, what other readers are likely to think.
I have another fan, a die-hard loyalist, who loves what I write and loves to read and just can’t wait for the next thing I do. And she tells me what she thinks of my work and how it compares to other works she’s read recently. She encourages me and wants me to keep going and wants to know when I’ll work on the next thing I write.
There are others, I’m sure, but these two leap to mind whenever I sit down to write fiction. Along with all the other jumble of things I have going on in my head, how these two will react is one of the foremost things on my mind. There’s so much which goes into writing a book, a story of almost any length, really, but with a novel more so, it feels stupid to ignore the intended audience when I do it.
You ignore traffic to your peril, you ignore weather to your peril, and if you’re running a business, you ignore your customers to your peril. How many times would I have shelled out those bills to that high-end restaurant if I’d been ignored, or served something I didn’t want, or given something I could get from any other restaurant for less? How many times would that towering used car salesman have closed a deal with me or people I recommended to him if he’d been nice, easy to deal with as he was the first time I met him? How much closer to his million dollars?
Writers are business people in the end. We want to connect our stories with customers – readers. We’re selling something. Our work. We want them to buy it. And if we want that relationship, we want to find ways to consider them, to give them what they want.
If we write to the industry, we ignore readers. The industry doesn’t want to consider readers, boys and girls. It wants their money, but it wants them to shell out that income for a limited, repetitive, and ever-narrowing scope of work. It wants them to pay exorbitant prices to keep covering the high cost of doing things the old fashioned way, because it’s an industry which hasn’t acknowledged a change in time and technology (except as it suits THEM) to make things better. Printing methods and machines are only ONE of those technological changes.
It’s a crooked industry too, full of people who say “trust me” over and over, and make promises upon which they can scarcely deliver. It’s a hypocritical industry, saying different things at different times to writers about how to come into that gate, so well guarded. It wasn’t long ago agents were actively serving the writer. Now they serve the publisher. How did this happen? Why? Both agent and publisher smile shark-sweet smiles and say “Trust me!” to us and we sign the dotted line.
Don’t believe me? Don’t want to take my word for it? You don’t have to. The evidence is clear, the documentation is there for anyone caring to research it. Here’s a great place to start. This is a business-savvy individual with experience in traditional publishing, and reading what she writes only makes me want to run the harder from it.
I doubt, at this point, anything could sway me to write for the industry again. I don’t need anyone to connect me with readers anymore. When I did, I considered it the only way, and despaired and raged at the convoluted, conflicting, contradictory things I read on industry blogs and web sites about how to be granted that special key to that oh-so-special bathroom.
But no thanks, because inside the bathroom it’s just a dirty, dingy, urine-soaked and fecal-crusted tile room with holes in the walls and leaks in the fixture, rust stains on the porcelain and cracks in the plaster. Pass.
I may not succeed at my goal of connecting my story to readers who want it, but I’m going to try it anyway. I get nothing from people who aren’t writers telling me I’m good enough. I know I’m good enough, I just don’t want to. And I know I’m good enough because my readers love my work. That’s enough for me to take a chance and try it.
Have a great weekend y’all!
Copyright 2011 DarcKnyt, All rights reserved