Thursday 19 March 2009

Tips for Authors on the Brink of Fame (and even maybe Fortune)

Devil's Kiss by Sarwat ChaddaI've just finished building Sarwat Chadda's website in anticipation of the May launch of his "goth-lit" thriller, Devil's Kiss. Check it out on
I'd always wanted to do a website with a dark, dark theme and Sarwat has now fulfilled that wish, thanks for hiring me Sarwat!
I thought I'd blog about a few ideas that came to me while making the website. Here goes:
TIP FOR AUTHORS WAITING FOR FAME AND GLORY NUMBER ONE: Have your author portrait taken as soon as possible, preferably five or ten years ago, before the crow's feet, thinning hair, wattle chin,  and other signs of aging have totally set in.
The most dangerous part of this project (for Sarwat) was handing over a CD of studio portraits for me to pick and choose from. Woo hoo!  I tried hard not to rub my hands gleefully in front of him. Oh the magic one can do with Photoshop! But then Sarwat of course was wise to my game and threatened me with the kind of violence even his book would blush at if I dared upload anything silly to Facebook. 
Luckily we came to a compromise and I got to make these humorous mash-ups for his 'About Me' page.
Sarwat on holiday in the East.

Sarwat realising he was in competition with Buffy.

Sarwat being told he should write for Bette Midler (hey, I love Bette Midler!)

Sarwat winning a place in the Undiscovered Voices anthology. 

Oh I didn't go ahead with that last one. I couldn't get a satisfactory blend of Sarwat's neck with Miss America's.
When you have that pictorial with the professional photographer, make sure while they are shooting off the customary 101 frames, that as well as the formal I am a glamorous author pose, you pose with different expressions. Smiling, looking right, looking left, looking upwards, looking downwards, making silly faces ... this will be useful for future digital compositions by your friendly neighbourhood designer. I suggest this because Sarwat had exactly two expressions on his CD which made it hard to make him look truly ridiculous. Dang.
Part of the job was redecorating Sarwat's blog to match the livery of the website. Sarwat's early blogging has been targetted mainly at fellow writers. With his book out, he will have to change gears, target his readers - without alienating his currrent following. 
Spooky that Nathan Bransford picks this moment to blog about blogs - authors' blogs - citing a piece in the Globe and Mail about how the new intimacy between reader and author has resulted in some extraordinary public blow ups.  
Apparently some authors have had to endure severe lambasting by fans when they're late with the next book or not living up to their duties as Famous Author!
These days, writers invite personal involvement and intensity from their readers. In direct proportion to the way in which they share their personalities (or for-consumption personalities), their everyday lives, their football teams and word counts, their partners and children and cats, it encourages in readers a sense of personal connection and access, and thus an entitlement to comment, complain, recommend cat food, feel betrayed, shriek invective, issue demands: “George, lose weight, dammit!” More
attack dog
Fans can be deployed to attack critics
The flip-side of course is that authors like Stephenie Meyer (her fans threatened to bombard Stephen King with hate mail for saying he didn't like Twilight) and Patricia Cornwell ("slimed" by several Amazon reviews, she called on her fans to counteract the bad reviews).
...“Release the fans!” seems to be the phrase that applies ... Globe and Mail
Hmm. So what is my Tip Three?
Sure, go ahead and blog. Blog because your editor and your agent said you probably ought to. Blog because you've enjoyed keeping a diary since you were five. Blog because that's what they say authors have to do. But remember: it's a two-way relationship. The fans can dish as much as they take.

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