Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Gimmick

So you've written a book, now what's your gimmick?

I hate to sound snide, but it seems that much of the talk about literary novels by small or new name authors has much more to do with their attention grabbing activities than the novel itself.

In the most recent Poets & Writers there's an article I found fascinating written by Mike Heppner covering his alternative publishing scheme (and I mean that term in the non-sleazy context). He publishes two novels through traditional means and channels, then dead ends (he gives reasons and details in the article) then writes a novella which he posts on his website because the website was terribly sad and empty. The project evolves and he's suddenly writing four interlinking novellas. The second he publishes with a small press that he's worked with before -- I believe making chapbooks of novella two which are (were? have they sold out?) for sale in the traditional sense. Novella three consists of a print run of 500 photo copies which have been left around the country and parts of Europe with instructions to read me, then email your thoughts. Heppner is posting reactions from readers as well as their photographs of novella three in the wild.

After these three mediums what could novella four possibly be? How about one. One copy, handwritten by the author, available if you discover the secret and you're the first to contact him with the magic code/handshake/password.

I'm insanely intrigued.

Next, on Lynn Viehl's blog I came across this link to an author website that I am in love with. (Viehl seemed more annoyed than intrigued but everyone's entitled to her own opinion.) Yes, I clicked through all the messages, I am thoroughly amused and intrigued and since author Miranda July was compared to Lorrie Moore by her blurbers I'm off today to the library to go find and read her collection.

Which brings me back to the so what's your gimmick? question.

Do you need a publicity gimmick? Well you certainly need something to catch people's eyes. And I have to admit that if you are a in a situation where you can do writing as art (i.e. you have a secure, reasonably well paying day job) then why not do distribution as art as well? Eastern Michigan University has an interesting writing MA program in hybrid writing which explores these facets more thoroughly -- I always think of it as hybrid storytelling as it combines visual art with writing, with technology, with community, with ... well, with whatever you can think of.

Anyone else seen/heard anything intriguing of late?

Update: "Talking Man," the aforementioned (print) novella by Mike Heppner is still available from in its second edition format.

Highly Recommended