|Every item tells a story.|
Well, of course I wasn't going to let US Independence Day pass without a blog post.
After all, as someone once said, parodying a comment allegedly made about Billy Connolly and the shipyards, I spent one year living there and 25 years talking about it. (To which, I replied, "Don't forget about the short fiction and the novel.")
July 4th is one of those occasions steeped in myth and history that has come to mean something fixed, even though some of the reasons behind the decisions, battles and, ultimately, the birth of an independent nation can still be open to debate. If you're open to a good conspiracy, I recommend The Temple and the Lodge. On the other hand, whether you're British or an American and if you're capable of reflective humo(u)r, you might enjoy this glorious piece on revocation, which airs periodically and has been wrongly attributed to John Cleese over the years. You see, mythology again.
Our ability to attribute fixed meanings to events, or even to non-events, is probably connected to our seemingly primal need to tell stories. As Mark Twain may have said: "Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can't think of anything better."
Recently, Thorn Sully and I were chewing the fat over skype about A Word with You Press's inaugural anthology - Coffee Shop Chronicles, Vol 1, Oh the Places I Have Bean. It's a conversation we've had a few times since the book was released into the wild. Should we create a second book? Ought we to focus on an ebook rather than a more expensive paperback, and could we maybe reduce the size of it to slim down the unit price. We chat about the weather too, sometimes.
Anyhow, I happened to mention that it may be time to promote the book a little more deliberately by cranking up Twitter, Facebook and all the other toys. Out of interest and intrigue, I checked the book out on Amazon and discovered that we had zero reviews. That's not a terrible thing; we had sold in low figures after all, opting for a more organic (some might even say lesiurely) approach to marketing. But none?
If I explain that there were 100 entries in the anthology, it might go some way to explaining my disbelief. And, since you ask, as I was on the editorial team (as well as being a contributor), it didn't seem right to me to wave the flag personally. We've since emailed all those involved with the book, to ask for their participation, and at least a couple of reviews have appeared.
There is a valuable lesson here, and it's in no way a criticism of those non-reviewers. People are busy; people form and lose connections with equal speed and so we, as writers, need to work hard to maintain a relationship with our readers and contributors. Creating a book is not enough in itself to keep a reader engaged.
Maybe they didn't like it. Maybe they didn't even know it was out there. Maybe they're wondering why we haven't been in touch since the book launch (we actually have a website and online community at www.awordwithyoupress.com, but we have had some changes recently).
What we do know is that it's up to us to make the relationship work with the reader.
It's important to separate facts from conjecture and to not get lost in our own stories about what we consider to be the truth. So, stories on the page but not off it!
Speaking of the USA, in case you're wondering what's been happening with my transatlantic comedy drama, Scars and Stripes, here's the latest news:
1. Useful feedback from my latest beta reader - thank you, Helen.
2. A potentially shark-jumping attempt on Twitter to get a book-related celebrity to read my manuscript, with a £50 charity donation if he isn't entertained.
3. An email exchange with a 'chick-lit' site to find out if they know of any 'lad-lit' sites.
4. Conversion of Scars and Stripes to a epub and mobi formats for easier beta reading.
5. The search for a suitable agent or publisher continues.
Happy Independence Day, people, wherever you are!