Over the past month or so, INTERN has been shocked by the amount of work she's found herself doing to prepare for her book's** release. Between printing rather superfluous flyers, making a book trailer, and setting up a ridiculous website, the time she spent writing the actual book has become a faint, innocent, candy-coated memory.
But it all pales in comparison to the amount of work INTERN has seen tons of writers do to promote their book—before they even have a book deal.
Over the past year, INTERN has seen it all: writers who make a blog from the point of view of their fictional protagonist, book trailers for books that are actually half-finished manuscripts, sample cover art printed on glossy paper at great expense and submitted with the query or book proposal, custom-made stationary featuring a quote from the book, links to twitter and facebook accounts for a manuscript or character—pretty much everything short of feature-length films of the unpublished manuscript.
As someone who is pretty aversive to doing anything on a computer except writing, it boggles INTERN's mind to think of all the hours of labor that go into producing this mountain of manuscript-related media. It further boggles INTERN's mind that anyone would willingly spend time making all that stuff unless there's a publicist or agent threatening to beat in their skull with a cricket bat if they don't. It must be fun or useful or rewarding in some way, because more and more people are doing it—and after all, aren't authors supposed to build a platform at any cost?
But which of these endeavours are worthwhile? And which ones will actually help pave the way to a published book?
INTERN has a childhood friend who spends all her free time on the internet looking at wedding dresses and printing sample invitations. She's never had a serious relationship (probably because she spends all her time on the internet looking at said wedding dresses and forgetting to leave her apartment). Too much promotional material for unpublished manuscripts feels a little like those imaginary wedding invitations—cute, until you ask when the actual wedding is and things get awkward. As an intern, INTERN never witnessed an editor being even mildly enticed by any such bells and whistles (it's about the writing, silly!) And there's a big difference between producing a lot of promotional stuff and building an actual platform.
All these Negative Nancy-isms being said, INTERN thinks manuscript-related blogs and videos and image galleries can be extremely useful—to the extent that they help writers get deeper into their characters' minds and imagine the world of their books more richly, thus allowing them to write better books. INTERN has seen a few truly magical media creations yet-to-be published writers have made—not for the express purpose of promoting their manuscripts, but to explore their stories more deeply, clarify their ideas, and use those insights to make their characters more believable, their worlds more finely detailed—and their manuscripts better.
This is where, in INTERN's opinion, the real value of all these creative side-projects lies: in improving the manuscript itself (or, in very rare cases, building a huge and ravenous following who will demand more fictitious blog posts and tweets, pronto). And, oh, also the fact that lots of people apparently find it fun and interesting to make media related to their manuscript, which is a wonderful reason for doing just about anything.
INTERN wants to know: Have you ever made media related to your (fiction) manuscript before it was published? Was it fun and interesting? Did it help you write or revise your story? Did it help you in other ways? Would you do it again for future projects?
Have an ecstatic Monday!
**For those who missed INTERN's confession in a previous post's comments section that her book is NOT, in fact, about funky senior destinations in the Midwest, INTERN hereby confesses that that information is completely erroneous and apologizes for her treachery.