Wednesday, May 27, 2015

De Niro, Angela's Ashes and Being an Artist

This past week, it suddenly got hot and humid here in southeastern Pennsylvania. Summer, with its languorous and lazy touch that slows life down whether you want it to or not, slipped in through the open bedroom window during the night.

I spent much of last week reading. I went to the library and found a copy of Angela's Ashes shelved on the discard table - in fact, it had been signed by Frank McCourt himself. It got me thinking - if a signed copy by a famous author could so casually be discarded  . . . .

Then I  heard Robert De Niro’s commencement address at Tisch, NYU's School for the Arts. I watched the video and listened to his advice to the up-and-coming writers, directors, choreographers, actors, who graduated Tisch.

Tops on his list: A lot is out of your control. Do the best you can. If you don’t get the part, realize it isn’t personal. The director just had a vision, someone else in mind. Move on. Next!

Made me think of McCourt's signed memoir and the reader who said, Next!  . . . the reader who passes over my book, not because it isn't well written, but it's just not what they want to read.

De Niro added that every project he’s worked on has been a collaborative one. Perform your part with excellence.

And always remember . . . you're not an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor or a businessman. You're an artist . . . this  is about passion, not common sense. It's a calling.

Here’s the link to De Niro’s 16-minute address at Madison Square Garden.

For the last month I’ve been involved in promoting and launching my new novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor. People tell me it's my best work yet. In some measure I tend to agree, although each book has its own merits.

De Niro said it. So much is out of our control. Rejection - get used to it.

Sales have been slow, yes. I’ve sold $600 worth of books in the first month, which I consider slow.

I’m not sure why, but I do know that I have developed more patience; patience in setting up signings and talks – I did three talks and signings in six days and it left me exhausted . . . patience rooted in knowing I gave this creative project the best I could.

My advice for writers/authors about to get into this business of authoring:

  • First off, write a good book. If you do that, half the battle is over.
  • Write what moves you, not what the market "demands."  Realize that this can present its own set of “challenges” – A Portrait of Love and Honor does not fall into any one category; romance, literary fiction, memoir.
  • Reviews – If experience is any guide, they come in time. And people often tell you they’re going to write a review, but they don’t. Forget it. Move on. Next!
  • Blog tours – I had crossed this one off my list as too exhausting. Now I’m reconsidering. I need to find some way to connect with audiences. That said, blog tours offer little in the way of tangible stats in terms of whether or not they sell books. Love to hear your experiences with that.
  • Take risks. This week I contacted the cadet bookstore at USMA in hopes they might consider selling the book at West Point. The bookstore manager told me to send her a review copy. It’s a long shot, but one worth taking. 
  • When someone tells you they’ve read your book, encourage them to tell their friends and networks. Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to sell anything, not just a book.
  • Realize that when you least expect it, a break might happen; an invitation to a signing, a new contact, a chance to promote your work in a new and visible way. Believe in the magic of your art.
  • As De Niro said, keep handing out those business cards . . . that resume. He does. 
And remember, we're all going to end up on that "discard table" some day.  So enjoy, do the best you can and then move on  . . . . Next!

Love to hear your thoughts about authoring, marketing and just putting things in perspective.

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