These are hard times for writers due to a Malthusian conflict: There are more writers than readers. Soon, there will be room for just 20 authors — those featured on The New York Times Book Review best-seller list. (This may devolve to zero readers when the NYT ceases publishing.) Most writers’ work will then be consigned to desk drawers or photocopies they sell outside supermarkets.
But, there’s hope. Four “hopes,” specifically, that you can use to gain writing fame and fortune.
1. Censorship. Google some secrets that might embarrass the CIA, NSA, or people in high places, then go to print on demand with your manuscript and order 50,000 books. The government will buy up all copies and reimburse you. Operation Dark Heart by Anthony A. Shaffer irked the Pentagon, Defense Intelligence Agency, and a few other espionage agencies in 2010. The Pentagon paid St. Martin’s Press $43,000 for all 10,000 copies, then pulped them.
2. Insult that Religion with No Name. This is somewhat dangerous, so first secure your family in Arizona where even children can carry guns. If no one pays any attention to your turgid-but-blasphemous book, notify an imam. He will issue a fatwa to kill you. Join your family in Arizona (after calling The New York Times) and wait for the royalties to roll in from the resultant publicity.
3. Build a Ghost Audience. Contact all of your friends by e-mail, texting, Tweeting, and Facebooking. Instruct them to go to their local bookstore and demand your book. You don’t actually have to write it yet. When thousands of people begin screaming for, say, Existentialism Takes a Pratfall by [insert your name], publishers will come running to you. This happened in 1957 when radio personality Jean Shepherd had his audience demand I, Libertine, a non-existent book about an 18th century rake. Three months later, Ballantine rushed the book into print.
4. Calling Tree, Prayer Chain. Call it what you will. The author needs to have 10 friends each call 10 of their friends who, in turn, call 10 more friends. Arrange to meet on a Saturday afternoon at a central, urban location like New York City’s Union Square. The police will be very perplexed. So will the TV and newspaper reporters. They’ll want to know why you’re all demonstrating. Everyone should insist they’re not protesting, just minding their own business and thinking about your book. This is benevolence at its best. Like a good Japanese wabi sabi print, the space becomes solid and the non-event takes on substance.
Some people may accuse you of perpetrating a cheap marketing trick, like telling everyone it’s your birthday so they’ll give you presents. What you’re really doing is opening the floodgates of communication.
Rallies are fundamental grassroots efforts by people who believe in a cause. They’re a manifestation of our populist culture. With the demise of culture and any pretense of serious thought today, you will have created Astroturf — bright, green grass that is plastic and artificial. Just like money.