Today I’m celebrating a fearless group of enterprising innovators: The Hustlers. Hustlers are people who shake the world up and make things happen. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They never stop selling and believing in what they sell. In particular, I love Book Hustlers. These energetic, creative authors realize that writing the book is only half of the equation. You’ve got to get out there and promote yourself. In other words, you gotta hustle.
Best-selling author Jackie Collins appeared via Skype at my art salon, Mama D’s Arts Bordello. She doesn’t need to do this type of small venue publicity. Jackie Collins is an incredibly successful author who lives in a gorgeous Beverly Hills mansion. She doesn’t have much to gain by talking to a bunch of crazy artists at a murky New York bar. But I told her about my show on Facebook, and she immediately said she wanted to be a part of it. She then Tweeted about my show. Moreover, she sold books at my show. But Jackie Collins believes in the art of promotion, in all it’s various forms. And guess what? This week her latest book “Goddess of Vengeance” is on the New York Times Best-Seller list. Yeah. While certain publishing professionals wring their hands and whine about changes in the industry, Jackie Collins is still at the top of her game.
Author Jacqueline Susann was another Book Hustler extraordinaire. She’d go to bookstores at 6am and offer coffee and doughnuts to the guys unloading her books from the truck. She knew the names of the book sellers and sent them birthday cards. When she found out that her rival Harold Robbins was staying at The Beverly Hills Hotel, she passed out free copies of her book “Valley of The Dolls” to sunbathers at the pool. So when he came to the pool, he saw everyone was reading it.
Of course, Harold Robbins was no slouch in the hustling department either. Not only was he a prolific writer of fiction, but he tirelessly promoted his books and fabricated his backstory to make himself seem more intriguing. Real life rarely has such a juicy story arc. These lies changed over the years, but they were even printed in his newspaper obituaries.
Book Hustlers have various techniques: Anne Rice arriving to her book signings in a coffin by hearse, Oscar Wilde touring America and talking to Denver coal miners about aesthetics, Stephen King pioneering TV commercials for books, David Sedaris staying hours overtime at his book signings, remembering the names of people he’d met before–these are stellar examples of hustling.
I decided to single out some of these top-notch Book Hustlers because here in New York I see so many of these wan, dull writers who somehow think that the books are supposed to sell themselves. These mopey, pasty, ever-so-anguished writers think the world owes them everything for being a genius. And guess what? They’re all broke and complain that no one reads anymore. Oh, and they’re misunderstood. And they’re the same people who give tired, boring readings and assume the audience will hang onto every word as they mumble and stammer over their work. Afterwards, we’re magically supposed to buy multiple copies of their book.
What they don’t seem to get is that you’ve got to give people a reason to pick up your book or listen to your reading. Especially today, when there are so many options out there. These tortured geniuses think they’re entitled to live in some rarified world; that a writer’s life is a genteel realm exempt from the messy, “unseemly” business of promotion. Well, it’s not. No matter how brilliant you are, books are products. Authors are brands.
So Book Hustlers, here’s to you. You make me proud.