The Meyer Effect

The other day I saw an interview with 50 Shades of Grey author E. L. James where she said that she was inspired to write her book by the success of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.  As I understand it, the book actually had its beginning on a Twilight fan site.

I had to laugh.  Not at James, who is clearly parlaying this inspiration into incredible success; no, I was laughing ruefully at the latest and (probably) most famous example of what I call the Meyer Effect.

Visit any group of writers, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll meet at least one who will admit that Stephenie Meyer and the phenomenon that was the Twilight series gave her the impetus to write her own book. I myself am a member and admin of a writing support group that was once, in our early years, called the TwiWriters; we all met on the huge Twilight fan site Twilight Moms.  While many of us have drifted away from that fan site, a small strong core of us are still writing.

What is the Meyer effect and how does it work?  It is the situation wherein someone (almost always a woman) has read the interviews with the Twilight author wherein she describes how she came to write the books.  Meyer talks about a vivid dream and having to fit in writing down the dream between swim lessons and other mom activities.  That dream became a pivotal and well-known scene in the first book.

I believe that the way Meyer entered into authorhood–the juxtaposition of a story that would become a world-wide hysteria with the very ordinary elements of suburban mom–somehow made the idea of writing more accessible to millions of people.  The most commonly heard words are, “I decided if Stephenie Meyer could do it, so could I.”

We all of us hung on her stories of typing late into the night and at poolside during swim lessons. . .dropping the huge manuscript into a mailbox (that to this day gives her butterflies when she sees it!). . .getting miraculously discovered in the dreaded slush pile by an editorial assistant (who has since become a literary agent).  Again, it echoes in our minds:  If it happened this way for Stephenie Meyer, it could happen for me.

Had Twilight happened ten years ago, or ten years from now, I don’t think the Meyer effect would be as widespread. The combination of her story with the rise of independent publication has come together to create a perfect literary storm. For instance, JK Rowling’s stories of writing the Harry Potter books on a train didn’t launch a motherlode of new writers. I never heard anyone say, “If JK Rowling can do it, so can I.”

The ramifications of the Meyer Effect will be felt for a long time, as many of the authors whom she inspired are just now hitting the bookshelves.  Will it ultimately be a negative or a positive result?  Stay tuned.

Managing Media

All writers, indie or not, have to harness the power of social media these days. It’s a necessary tool for promotion of your book and your brand.

At the same time, this kind of PR work can consume your life.  Ask any author who has at least one book out and is working on another about the struggle to balance promotion and writing.  It’s not easy.

So the wonderful powers that be on the internet have come up with programs that allow us to manage social media, to schedule tweets and to track what elements are working for us. I can sit down on a Sunday night and schedule tweets for an entire week (I usually don’t; a day ahead is the best I’ve been able to do!).  I can write posts for my site here and have them appear exactly when I want them.

Of course, there are some people who believe that this kind of scheduling is wrong.  One author recently claimed that the true impact of social media lies in its immediacy, that by ‘manipulating’ it in this way, we are somehow cheating.

I disagree.  I am a writer, yes.  However, I am also a wife, a mom who homeschools, a caretaker of 20 month old. . .even with an iPhone, I can hardly be tied to the internet twelve hours a day. At the same time, in the current climate, being absent from social media even for a day can drastically impact standing and sales.

Scheduling social media makes my life possible. I try to keep even my scheduled tweets and posts fresh and timely.

I don’t call that manipulating; I call it managing.

Music Monday

I am in deep edits for Restless.  This is kind of a different experience for me; Fearless was adjusted, re-written and retooled so many times that I knew just about every line by heart.  Breathless was critiqued by my writing partners, so that book too was very familiar to me. But I haven’t really touched Restless since I finished writing it, so it’s fun jumping back into that world.

At the same time, I am chomping at the bit to finish the last book. . as yet untitled.  And so I’m really enjoying listening to music that inspires that part of the story.  These days, one of my favorites is Be My Only by FM Radio.  I love the music, the lyrics. . .it sounds just like something Michael might sing to Tasmyn.

Not sure what the rest of the playlist for this book will look like.  When I’m ready to get down to serious writing, I know it will all come together. . and the perfect music will present itself to me through the wonders of Pandora and iTunes. I can’t wait.

Amazon: Devil or Savior?

For the last several months, most of my posts here have been about book promotion–and that is how it should be, since for the last several months, my life has been about book promotion.

Today we’re going to veer off that topic just a little.  I’d like to talk about Amazon.

I’ve spoken with quite a few people who work in different parts of the publishing world. There are some who believe that Amazon’s very existence is threatening small business, state governments, the future of publishing and the very fabric of life itself. There are others who see Amazon as the wave of the future, the only possible solution to the challenges that have confronted the ever-changing world of business in general and book publishing specifically.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll remind you that my books are epublished and sold through Amazon.  I clearly have a business relationship with them.

I am grateful that Amazon exists.  The company has not only opened wide the doors of publishing for the independent author, it has for all intents and purposes held our hands as we walked through. Indie publishing is that easy through Amazon.

But I see the bigger picture as well.  I know that Amazon’s existence and ease of use has made us lazy and demanding consumers.  When we want something, we simply go to the Amazon page, search for it. . .order it. . .and usually it arrives within a few days, at a price that it is at least competitive if not better than that of our local source.

I know too that many consider Amazon’s open door to publishing to be a death knoll of quality books, that without the traditional gatekeepers of agents and editors fighting off the specter of bad writing and poor stories, we’re all doomed.

I don’t agree. Visit your local bookstore, pick up about ten books randomly.  Some of them will be great; well-edited, well-written stories that deserve their spot on the shelf.  But some of them are the equivalent of literary garbage, poorly written drivel that slips through because of the perceived demands of the reading public. (“We need MORE VAMPIRE BOOKS!!  I don’t care if there’s a story. . just GIVE ME VAMPIRES!!”)

Here’s the truth, folks:  Amazon isn’t the devil.  It’s not going to usher in the end of days. But it’s not the savior either; it’s merely a vehicle that’s helping to take us from point A–our old way of doing things–to point B, whatever the future might hold. Change is never easy, but it’s constant. Let’s hold on and see where we end up.

In the meantime, I’m happy to marching right through that door.