How and Why I Built a Bookselling Monster
Writing books is fun.
Selling them, THAT SUCKS.
For the littler authors among us, it's pathetic. It feels like you’re pushing copies on friends and family too nice to say no, maybe a handful of other writers, and when it comes to reaching a wide audience of people who don’t write themselves and don’t have a biological connection to you, it’s hard to escape the gross feeling of asking someone to spend their hard-earned money on your book about a paranormal investigator who’s terrible at his job.
It’s like being in some multi-level marketing thing where you host parties, get your friends together, they throw you a couple bucks out of pity, you scramble to break even, then rest a bit before jumping into a new multi-level marketing scheme.
Selling books sucks. There has to be a better way...
You know what makes selling books hard?
Every writer I’ve met has been very nice, pretty normal, kind, looks like they do in their author photo, has…averaglkdhgslkz…
Whoops, fell asleep on my keyboard there.
I’m a pretty average guy, a bit boring. Looks: 6 out of 10 (feeling generous today). I pay my bills on time. I drive a Corolla.
Someone asked me what kind of candy I like, if someone were to bring in a treat to work, and I sat there for like half a minute before I said, “You know, I guess I don’t eat much candy.”
How fucking boring is that? You can’t even come up with a CANDY BAR!? You can’t just say, I don’t know, Zagnut!?
I’m boring. This is partially why I write fiction.
Boring is the worst thing you can be when you’ve got a book to sell.
How can I be not boring?
The Story of Most Fiction is Boring
I’m a BIG advocate of making sure, when you try to sell something, that you add a story to the story.
Simple example: When people ask Kevin Smith about Clerks, they often talk about how he shot it in the convenience store where he worked, how he sold off his comic collection, and how he got his buddies to play multiple parts.
What works about this is that it gives Smith something to talk about besides the plot of the movie. There’s a story about the story.
Sometimes there’s a good idea behind a novel, but the process?
“How did this come to be?”
“Well, Queen Latifah [in this fantasy, I’m on the short-lived Queen Latifah daytime talkshow, I feel like she deserved a longer run], I had this idea, then I sat down and wrote it, and I kept sitting down to write it for like two years, here and there. Then I attached it as a file, I think a PDF, and sent it out to…”
NO! That’s so fucking boring! I mean, it’s unvarnished truth, but goddamn is it boring. Nobody wants to hear that. Why are you bothering Queen Latifah with such a thing?
How can I add a story to the story?
Enter: Theatrical Rock
KISS. Alice Cooper. Ghost. GWAR.
Rock cracked the code: if you’re not ACTUALLY a demon from hell who is good at shredding on guitar, or some kind of dead skeleton pope who's revived nightly to rip on a saxophone, fuck it, just make a character for yourself to play on stage.
I mean, really, any person in a band is a character on stage. They’re ON A STAGE. This is in no way a natural thing.
Same thing applies to writers: When one of us is behind a podium, we’re not really being our normal selves. This is not a normal activity.
And that was it, the moment of eureka.
If I don’t like selling my books, maybe I don’t have to. Maybe someone else, someone more theatrical, more interesting, more visually compelling can do it for me…
The backstory came to me pretty easily:
What if Pete: Author, was dead, and on his deathbed, he cursed someone to sell the remaining copies of his books?
And what if this someone was bound to Pete’s books, his flesh turning into the very books he was trying to sell?
Now you’ve got a vision of horror who is motivated to sell some books.
With that backstory, I set out to make a costume, film a little something, and, well, here you go:
Talking About Books
Being Archivos lets me talk about my books in a different way.
I write a lot of goofy shit. And talking about that goofy shit as an outsider with low patience for nonsense is…actually very fun.
Besides, what is an author supposed to say about their own work? There’s a reason most books have a blurb on the cover from SOMEONE ELSE. (Although, noted, I’m doing my own blurb for my next one. I mean, fuck it? Who can stop me?)
I can say the books are great if I want to, I can say they’re terrible. I can balance critique and praise in a realistic way.
I can talk about my own books as a seller, not as their writer.
And, because part of the Archivos lore is that he MUST sell these books, it gives me a pass to be super pathetic, really pushing books in a way that’d make Pete uncomfortable.
I’m not the kind of writer who gets invited to events, readings, that sort of thing.
But when I am, Archivos is going, not Pete. This is both a promise and a threat.
Archivos is fun. Archivos looks good on a sticker or a bookmark. Archivos might work at a table where you have to recite a rhyme in order to awaken him. People will take pictures with Archivos, even though they have no idea who Pete is.
Pete would be just another pathetic author at a table.
Archivos is a spectacle.
Why Haven’t Writers Done This Before?
We take ourselves WAY too fucking seriously. If there's one good quality I have as a writer, it's that I am immune to the problems of needing to be taken seriously.
I do understand, it’s hard to make it, and when you do, you don’t want everyone to attribute it to “Archivos the Cursed.” You want everyone to know that Pete made it. By god, that dumbass did it!
And I get it, too, for some people, writing is something they do to be taken seriously. Maybe they aren't taken seriously anywhere in life, and this is their shot.
And you know what? If that’s you, cool. I’m not here to tell you that you can’t be that person.
But I’m JUST SAYING, if I go to a con or a reading or something, and the next person I see puts on a full theatrical production instead of just wearing a blazer and reading out loud from a book I ALREADY READ, I’m in.
Ultimately, I did this because I think it’s fun.
Fun isn’t easy to add into the writing process. That’s why it’s called the “writing process” instead of being called the “writing joyride” or “writing borderline orgasmic experience.”
Archivos adds some fun for me.
If I can be so bold as to talk about my legacy: if my legacy ended up being one that encouraged other writers to do more weird, fun, unusual shit, I’d be good with that.
More than good with that.
For me, that'd be everything.
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