by Will Viharo
Increasingly, authors are marketing themselves as more than “just writers.”
They’re also owners of small presses (which are essentially self-publishing collectives, since most issue print books that are POD via CreateSpace), musicians, actors, enterprising housewives, etc.
Here is how I built my own platform, initially unrelated to my writing, from which I launched my own literary ambitions into orbit…
My first novel published (though far from the first written) was Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, issued by startup Wild Card Press of San Francisco in 1995.
The owners basically retired from publishing immediately after this, though, to focus on a far more lucrative venture, a combination movie theater/restaurant in Oakland. They renovated an old theater called The Parkway, and I was hired as their programmer/publicist, which is the position I held throughout its legendary 12 year reign as one of the Bay Area’s most popular venues.
I also hosted a live “cult movie cabaret” I called “Thrillville Theater,” hosting vintage B movies with live burlesque acts and retro-bands. My stage persona was a lounge lizard called “Will the Thrill.”
I met my future wife Monica at one of my earliest shows, and she soon became locally well known as my lovely assistant, “Monica Tiki Goddess.”
Long story short, when the company folded in 2009, I took my “Thrillville” reputation and brand name with me.
I also immediately started self-publishing my backlog of manuscripts via Lulu.
Where There’s a Thrill, There’s a Way
Via the media contacts I’d made during my years as The Parkway’s “front man,” I was able to land an article about reinvigorated literary career in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Flash forward a few years, the Chronicle just published another article about my latest Vic Valentine novel Hard-boiled Heart, just published by Gutter Books (which reissued Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me in 2013, hence this Chronicle article), even though I now live in Seattle – also due to my long-standing press contacts.
None of these three articles in a major newspaper, raising my profile as an independent author, would’ve happened if I hadn’t first established a public persona wholly unrelated to my self-designated, self-designed, and preferred identity as an author.
Good for you, but what does this have to do with me?
Glad you asked!
There are numerous ways you can attract positive media attention without getting arrested (although I was pushing it with some of the movies I booked…)
Creating a public persona independent of your authorial identity is relatively easy in this age of free social media.
You can adopt an amusing alias on Twitter and garner a following via witty observations of our cultural and political landscapes. You could become a freelance clown with your own Facebook fan page. You could learn how to play an instrument and join a band, assuming you can carry a tune (the aim is not to alienate anyone). The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Heck, you could even start hosting your own B movie burlesque show. Just don’t call it “Thrillville” (George Lucas already “borrowed” that name for his video game, but Wikipedia still acknowledges my show’s separate, unique existence, which pre-dates it.)
The idea is to develop a relationship with a potential audience and possibly even rack up some professional credentials in a different field that will earn you some press attention. Basically, anything that might appeal to people that don’t normally read.
And statistically speaking, that’s almost everybody, sad to say.
Okay, back to me now.
Another startup called Double Life Press issued the three volume anthology series I called The Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection last year, collecting several of my older novels and short stories. Unfortunately, that company has also just folded, but since I retained all the rights to not only my brand name but also the cover art, I am reprinting the same files under my own imprint, which I’m calling Thrillville Press.
I am quickly learning a lot of new tricks of the trade I am anxious to share with you.
There will be much more on this development and how it might inspire you in future blogs. Meantime, get out there and make some noise for yourself.
Just try not to get busted.
What are some ways you’ve established your brand name as an author?
PHOTO: THRILLVILLE LOGO (WILL VIHARO)