You Ain’t Famous

January 3, 2016

Sweat Shirt

Who was it that said to me, ‘Just because you’ve written a couple of books and got your face in the Newspapers don’t let Fame go to your head.’
As if !

If there is one thing I have learnt over the years that is ‘Life’ has a great way of bringing you back to Earth should you be dumb enough to be swept away in all the praise of the adoring public.

Take Book signings as an example, these are for Real celebrities not for mere Wannabees. If you are somebody special, or better still if the public think you’re somebody special then you’re IN!

The gullible will flock to the event and happily part with their ‘hard earned pennies’ just to be close enough to smell the sloshed on perfume or aftershave, depending on whether it is a footballer or one of their WAG girlfriends flogging their latest ‘Kiss and Tell’ cookery book.

For the rest of us it’s pretty much a day trip to somewhere you’ve never heard of where you will sit on a hard chair behind a wobbly table covered in a pile of books trying to appear interesting to the passing punters desperately trying not to make eye contact with you.

However, for those that really need a lesson in humility please do a book signing in your home town.

Like many writers I write under a pseudonym, now that may sound a bit pretentious coming from someone who is comparatively unknown under either name, real or otherwise. However, I do have a good excuse, someone else is already using my real name, and for all I know he may also be writing under an assumed name…. The fact that it’s my name maybe completely lost on the man however that aside he has made a decent name for himself and his scribbling using my name so I chose another one for me.

But I digress from my tale, being as I live in a quaint rural market town it was suggested that I may wish to join in with the local Christmas Arts and Craft Fair and set up a ‘Meet the Author’ table as a way of maybe shifting some books.

It’s the sort of thing that sounds like a good idea at the time and it’s a decision you usually make when you are a bit too relaxed. Like when in the local pub propositioned by someone else who isn’t quite as relaxed as they seem and… well before you know where you are you’ve agreed to be the Star attraction at the local Meet and Greet!

This one was to be on home ground, I had time to plan and organise, A3 poster sized pictures of the book covers, laptop primed to show YouTube video teasers, (giving them something else to look at other than me).

I even put out a bowl of mixed candy to sweeten the little buggers and charm them into a false sense of security, how could they dare take my offering and not buy my book? Quite easily as it happens, they wait for you to go to the toilet or to fetch a fresh brew of coffee and they sneak in and empty the bowl.
So well organised were we that announcements had been made in the local press, there was even a special insert into the town’s local Free magazine. Come and Meet local author Merlin Fraser, the full drum roll and fanfare had been made, I had never been so organised.

As a small aside I think I should add that around the area where I live we have more than our fair share of celebrities (real ones) artists and a few quite famous authors as well. So you can imagine that for many reading in the local rag that local author Merlin Fraser will be at the next event there may well have been a slight glimmer of interest even if it was only to ask “Who?”

Experience has taught me that at these things you tend to need something to break the ice, this is after all England where nobody actually speaks to anyone without being formally introduced over tea.

Therefore one needs a gimmick, an Ice Breaker….. So I am now the proud owner of the pictured Sweatshirt with the logo : “Who The HELL Is Merlin Fraser”? blazoned across the front.

Yeah, OK I know, it sounded a good idea in the pub, alright ! How is it that when you’re in a pub there is always someone who has a friend who just happens to know someone who can fix you up with these things…. Who knows I might even wear it if things get desperate enough !

Come the day full of confidence, and caffeine I take up station by the table and wait, nobody comes anywhere near me. I head to the coffee pot come back and refill the sweetie bowl. I notice every stall holder in the room, except me, is trying to suck a sweet without moving any part of their mouth.

Then through the front door come three ladies, locals so at least if I can’t sell them a book I can at least have a chat with them, after all I know them and they know me.

Only they don’t… They are here to meet Merlin Fraser, famous writer of Murder Mystery stories and these three are a bit peeved to find that he’s not here and I’m sitting in his chair, presumably and pretentiously swigging his coffee out of his personal mug.
“So where is he ?” One dear old lady asks.

“Who ?” I ask.

“Merlin bloody Fraser, who else ?”
“He’s here…. I am he .”

“He who ?” Her friend asked.

“Me Who… I mean… I am He… I am Merlin Fraser.”

“No you’re not …your that bloke that drives the Dial a Ride Bus!”
“W-e-l- l Yes… but I do this as well.”

“Why,” asked the one in the middle, who up to that point had been silent ?

As this juncture I should have quit, offered them a toffee from my dwindling supply and changed the subject to seasonal things, but we writers are made of sterner stuff. “Why do I write books or why do I drive the bus”?

Little old ladies can be cruel, they turned on me as one, with that look, you know the one, the look that can freeze the blood in your veins. The look that without a spoken word says “listen smart ass” ! They also have that way of sighing and shrugging the shoulders in one move, the one they reserve for the feeble minded who are beyond hope. They declined the proffered sweet and moved away.

Not that the next encounter was any better. A total stranger stood silently in front of my table scanning all the A3 sized book synopsis before picking book three off the table and flicking the pages and asking why all three books had the same title but different covers ?

I explained that Inner Space was the banner heading to link a trilogy of three murder mystery stories with a team of central characters. I then made the mistake of asking him if he like murder mysteries… “Not really” was he reply “we only came in so that my wife could use the toilet”.

I’d like to say things improved over the three days of the Fair, but alas… OK I made a few sales and dished out a lot of Free book markers with the web site and links on it under the promise of they will look and buy later…. I wish I had asked for a small refundable deposit, would have helped pay for my pitch,but Alas!

Little Poster

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Change of Tack

July 2, 2010

What a tough world it is for a ‘ Wannabe Author’ the publishing world and their minions control a closed shop where only the privileged few are allowed in and only if they think you have the potential to make them loads a’ money!   I’d like to think I could but for the moment I am a minority of one.

The alternative is almost as bad as professional suicide, wander down the Self Publishing route and you are automatically branding yourself as not considered good enough for the establishment and their system and of course in many cases they are correct.

Many Self Publishing authors do so on an Ego trip to see their name on a book cover with little regard to the readability of their book content,  especially in the proof-reading and editing departments. (and no this isn’t something your best mate can do. Unless he’s a professional).    This puts readers off taking any Self Publishing author seriously, no matter how good a growing percentage of these authors maybe.

This is a shame for many reasons,  at this time of World monetary recession the established publishers are even less likely to take a risk on a ‘Newby’ and who can blame them in these days of growing pressure on paper books sold in High Street book shops of the world.  With  E Books and online sites taking a bigger and bigger slice of their markets they are going to concentrate their efforts on guaranteed sales opportunities even if this is pure celebrity driven drivel and  slop !   Just what the world needs more ‘Kiss and Tell Cookery Books….!

For my part I did go down the Self Publishing route and yes I made all the mistakes imaginable and it cost me dear as everybody in that world came at me with their hand out dumping just as fast when the money runs out.

However, never let it be said my mother bred a quitter,  I learnt a lot in that shark infested pool who to trust and who to avoid and yes in my own way I will put a dent in their world and hopefully by reading of my experiences I can at least prevent the unwary from making the same costly mistakes I did. 

No matter which route you eventually take to bring your work to the market it has to be the best you can make it.  Hire professional proof-readers and a good editor, yes HIRE this is how those guys make their living.  We need them, no matter how good your mate or spouse is at the end of the day it pays to get the work done professionally.  At least as professionals if they screw it up you can always sue the crap out of them.

Do this even before going looking for a literary agent,  remember they sift and sort their way through hundreds of manuscripts so if your work is untidy, not properly laid out as they want to see it, full of typos, spelling, grammar and punctuation errors your file will hit the floor in very short order.

Even if you are planning the Self Publishing route from day one still make it as good as you can.  If not for yourself at least do it for the rest of us struggling Wannabes.  Who knows one of us maybe the next JK Rowling or Dan Brown and wouldn’t it be nice to raise two impolite fingers at the established publishing profession knowing they are not going to make a bean from your efforts..

I personally have a growing list of Literary Agents to whom will get a signed copy of my book with the message, “Not as good as you thought you were are you ?” 

Readers are the real judge of a writers work,  In my case I write to entertain I have a style that I hope is just a little different from the norm, No Superheroes,  no unbelievable plots just hopefully a good read that will while away the time on a long journey.

My trilogy of  Inner Space stories is now complete and out there.  www.lulu.com  or www.merlin-fraser.com

please check them out and let’s prove Self Publishing works.  Or if you need a better reason you might just help a poor Wannabe stave off starvation !

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