Monday, May 28, 2012

Why You Are Sad With Your Career (aka My American Psycho Review)

I think a lot has been said about Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho both in the novel form and in the film adaptation starring Christian Bale. It has even been reviewed on a parody of Reading Rainbow on FunnyorDie. While I decided not to review the film (that will be for later), there is a lot to be said about Ellis' novel that doesn't involve a comparison.

American Psycho traces the life of Wall Street yuppie Patrick Bateman and his extravagant lifestyle as a member of the privileged elite. As we progress deeper into Bateman's life, we see that he is not all the promising young man we are first led to believe that he is.

A lot of the narration and dialogue focuses on the brands, types of alcohol, clothing,  electric toothbrushes, and other accessories that Bateman cherishes.

As anyone who has seen Mad Men can tell you, what you own determines your lifestyle. Bateman finds more value in his consumer goods than he does the people around him.

The sad part is, most of Bateman's colleagues, with their backstabbing corporate ways, would probably look down on Bateman if he were to be compassionate.

He even joked about saving the whales to his friends, only to be jeered in response. His colleagues see empathy as a sort of weakness. As we progress into the story, we see that Bateman is in fact a serial killer who kills with a diversified portfolio's worth of weapons.

There's a reason why Patrick Bateman is not the sweetheart we wish for him to be.

Bateman has been rewarded his entire life for his behavior, and encouraged to see others as worthless if it helped him compete.

There's even a real life counterpart to Patrick Bateman. Wasted: The Preppie Murder by Linda Wolfe details the real account of the murder of Jennifer Levin in Central Park by prep school burnout Robert Chambers. While Chambers, who dropped out of multiple prep schools, can appear to be more like a cocaine addicted Holden Caulfield, there is a lot that happened in the case that echoes of the work of Bateman.

Chambers had everyone protecting him from his friends to his mother and their deep denial of events is something that they both share with Ellis' novel. Bateman's open declarations of violence are met with silence and quick changes to other subjects. The denial that the Chambers family had in face of these allegations show the coverup mentality the elite feels when faced with their own dysfunction.

Patrick Bateman has the need to acquire his surroundings and control them in his own image. Gordon Gekko said it best in Wall Street "I don't create things. I own". Bateman utilizes this ethos not only in his work but in his way of living.

He needs to dominate things and control them. Only by controlling things does Bateman show release. He can't make music, so he will go into minuscule detail deconstructing Genesis albums or the career of Huey Lewis and the News to show his worth.

He can't love, so he will kill to control it.

With all of the parables of restrained primitive violence, consumerism, and hallucinatory self-worth Patrick Bateman has a lot in common with Tyler Durden, the "protagonist" (if you will ;) of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club.

In a way, it feels like Patrick Bateman and Tyler Durden are the same person separated by a tax bracket

Now, I will admit that I am in the middle of reading Fight Club as a novel, I only have the movie as a real reference point. Same way I haven't seen the movie adaptation of American Psycho as of this moment.

Tyler Durden spent a good portion of his time questioning life, about what happens when we do good, go to school, and get a good job. He always asked "Now what?". In a weird sense, Patrick Bateman is the demented answer that Tyler Durden could have been looking for.

Bateman went to a prep school, graduated Harvard, and worked at a great job.

There was nothing left for him to accomplish.

Both Bateman and Durden are reactions against the advertising-as-lifestyle consumer culture that they were born in. They both have violent impulses from the attempts at social engineering to silence their primal needs.

Both have problems feeling other people and need to do drastic things to achieve their sense of fulfillment. While Durden felt that society ignored him and he had to do things to be noticed, Bateman created acts of violence only for the world to be in denial of it.

Durden thought he was part of " a generation raised by their mothers" and we see Bateman talk to his mother, not entirely sure what his relationship with his father was like.

It can't help but be wondered if Bateman would stop going around killing people if Durden asked him to be a part of Fight Club. It couldn't help but be wondered if Durden might have stopped Project Mayhem if Bateman could have talked him out of it.
Tyler Durden would probably make the soap that Patrick Bateman would wash himself with as part of his morning ritual.

Since the soap was made from a sinister means, he might have taken even more joy bathing in it. 

David Fincher said it himself "We're designed to be hunters and we're in a society of shopping". Patrick Bateman decided it would be better to kill when he ran out of things to buy.

If we can get even deeper, it seems that both characters were created by LGBT writers and elements of homo-eroticism occur in both works, whether with Tyler Durden and male bonding with the narrator or Bateman's relationship with Luis Carruthers. Chuck Palahniuk is said to be influenced by Ellis, so the parallels might even be intentional.

Consumerism plays a big part in both stories.

Whereas Durden revolted against the consuming culture society presented him, Bateman embraced it. Bateman's love of ownership got to the point where he saw people as something to be owned, an accessory to be put in a locker to make him feel better about himself.

Durden is the product of self-loathing while Bateman is the product of constant admiration all throughout his life.

In a sense, the end result is disastrous in both works but the approach couldn't be further apart. I wouldn't be surprised if there's fanfiction out there pitting these two against each other.

Don't think lifestyle advertising isn't some paranoid delusion either. It's real. Companies that want to connect customers with their brand go to extreme lengths to present how they should live.

Beer commercials for example.

A false sense of lifestyle helps one brand of toothpaste sell over the other even though they're both basically the same thing.

Patrick Bateman associated himself with his brands more than he did with other people. That was okay when he was wearing expensive Armani suits. Not so okay when he was renting violent movies from the video store. He became what he associated himself with.

Sort of reminds one of cosplay gone wrong. Dress up is fine, but have some respect for yourself. Cover bands don't change the world.

If anything, Patrick Bateman serves as a bizarre marketing fable.

A lot has been said of violence in culture. There's been a lot of fear about this. On the surface, conventional wisdom says that the fear is regarding protecting "the children" and how we could encourage bad behavior through culture. But the root of the problem has never been openly addressed for the repercussions that could occur if it was openly discussed.

It is rather simple: Place your product in our outlet and people will go to you.

There's a lot of examples where this works. When people think E.T. they are reminded of Reese's Pieces. Shawarma restaurants got an 80 percent boost from Tony Stark's endorsement.  

It can work.

I'm hoping you'd check out my ebook when this review is over.

However, this can be a problem with sex and violence, because advertisers wonder "If I place my product out there in hopes that people will buy it, wouldn't people kill each other if violence is also advertised?"

Culture makers must always play this balancing act between both extremes. 

Things can get complicated when you realize sex and violence is an attractor for ratings and people will pay more attention when you raise primal urges.

But there's a difference between buying candy in a vending machine cause you saw it in a movie and killing people cause you watched Sylvester Stallone do it as Rambo.

Most portrayals of violence show that negative consequences can occur to people who act in that manner.

So, getting back to the title of this post, what does this have to do with you?

I'll tell you.

The world we live in is evolving. I probably won't be on Blogger ten years from now. Google will probably force me to engage in something else. There will probably be a struggle, and I will reluctantly agree in the end because there's nothing I can do about it at this point. My audience and my "brand" will have to change.

I don't know. I don't like the term "brand" for this reason. I like doing different things. I'm not Mike Tyson. I'm not a fan of pigeonholes.

Branding is for cattle. I could mention the term for lack of finding better words to connect with the audience as far as identity goes, but "brand" sounds like all creative decisions were made by marketers to squeeze out the last cent.

Weight Loss Terrorists was not approved by a focus group, and no matter what I do in the future, right now I will enjoy it because of that.

There's footage online of Drake talking about how he would love to work with Sade. He talks about Sade declining for whatever reason, and he points to the fact that Sade needs to "respect her brand" and how he respects that. Now, I wasn't there. Maybe Sade really wants to keep her brand intact. Maybe all those songs about heartbreak are done to promote the "Sade lifestyle".

I'm all for an artist understanding the business side of things, but being that this is an article about books about unstable men reacting to consumerism, there's a time to do things and there's a time not to do things.

If the suits can't understand this, I will speak in MBA talk: it's not good business to make your customers feel like a cog in the machine. Might work for people you pay, but not so much for the people who pay you. Doesn't it piss you off if something you like was part of some marketing scheme?

Like all those kids who realized the 1986 Transformers movie killed off all their favorite characters so they could be forced to buy the toys of all the new characters. Did they buy the new ones? Nope. They had to bring Optimus Prime back from the dead in order to bring business back from the dead.

When you get to the root of it, this is why people don't like corporations in the first place. Little shops where the owner and the manager are one and the same in the front line (as Seth Godin explained in Linchpin) are much better at addressing the immediate needs of the customer.

Giant bureaucracies that raise ticket prices, get rid of the ability to sell used games, and do other things without caring too much about the customer because "those idiots will keep coming anyway" often find their big heads on the chopping block.

The same can be applied to what can only be called mainstream superhero comics in the 90s. When diminishing returns hits, it hits hard. Combined with backlash, it makes for a bad combination.

When we think about the positive competitive nature of capitalism, we like to think about two companies working hard to find the cure for a disease.

When we think about the negative competitive nature of capitalism, we tend to think about two companies working to sabotage cures in hopes that they can profit more from treatments.

There really is no way for the rebellious at heart to stop their lifestyles from being capitalized on. Rebellion can be a lifestyle that is ripe for marketing to disillusioned youth. It's impossible for a movement of substance to move forward without the suits seeing it as an opportunity. 

Some might even find being off the grid as a welcome invitation to grab more resources from the so called "voluntary poverty".

So, to anyone who finds themselves disillusioned with the world at large, now is the time when it's important to look inside and figure out how you want to live the rest of your life.

Both Durden and Bateman struggled to find identity in a world that didn't want them to have identity on the grounds that it interfered with their ability to consume. Having a sense of who you are and what constructive goals you wish to accomplish helps make things better.

A lot of violence in the world occurs when people don't have an identity. When you don't know who you are in life, you'll join a gang, whether it's Project Mayhem or something more real and deviant. Extremists of religion want to show their devotion by doing drastic actions as a way to prove who they are. 

You shouldn't be depressed if your life doesn't match up to the image of life portrayed in beer commercials. Ever play the Fight Club video game? It's not as good as the movie.

Unfortunately, if you want fans by the teen idol volume, it seems that you have to make some fake fanfare archetype for your audience to handle. People can't handle the truth, that's why writers make up stories for a living. 

It's weird to think of being depressed over something that doesn't exist. If James Bond were real, he would be in a VA hospital struggling with syphilis and alcoholism.

While the media projected a desired target of a life to make you consume, social media seems to amplify this in its extreme till you succumb to a depressing effect. It's important to understand that a lot of people do feel this way from time to time, and what you're going through is not an individual case. You can't be everywhere at once.

As you miss out on their fun, they miss out on yours. Sit and ponder on that one. Green grass growing greener.

Technological connection can lead to emotional disconnection. 

Bateman serves as a personification of all that could be seen as an evil of the 80s. Bateman's actions have been said to be "alien", which is funny considering John Carpenter saw most yuppies as aliens.

It's interesting to think about where a person like Patrick Bateman would be in regards to modern society. All of the things that Bateman worked hard to possess: giant cell phones, VCRs, stereo systems are all in a way obsolete. You can go to used electronics store and find everything you need to feel like Patrick Bateman.

It doesn't cost a lot to be 80s rich nowadays, as far as the technology is concerned anyway.

And all the while showing how silly the shallow world he represented really was. What was deemed so necessary a couple decades ago is now shown to be laughable. And where would they go from there?

It's weird to think that someone who has achieved what most people dream of would succumb to misery and violence as they went through with their lives.

There shouldn't be a lot of tears she for the ones who got everything they wanted, but it is a question that should be pondered when thinking about what you desire out of life.

The Charlie Sheens and the Lindsay Lohans of the world seem to be in this stage in life. Now, Sheen might have never got to be a baseball player, and Lohan never had parents who she could depend on (and Charles Foster Kane never got his sled) but society sees them as pretty well off. They get paid to show up at parties, and people wonder why they don't show up to movie shoots.

The money that people save to retire and live the rest of their lives in bliss is only a fraction of what people like Patrick Bateman make in a year, if that. And the money most people make is much more than what a lot of third world families accumulate in a year. 

A lot of the working up to achieve your dream can give you purpose in life, as long as you can one day accomplish it.

There's a lot of drama on the way to your goals.

Planning, action, setbacks, and adversity are all things to be expected in the path to your dreams. Some people sabotage themselves for fear of reaching their dreams since it can change their life and what they're used to. But when someone reaches their goals, as Bateman did, the result is to want more. Only thing was, he already had everything society could give him.

Homeostasis can be a drag to a lot of people. Some people would rather die than be bored.

All entertainment, especially when it deails in fiction, is built around conflict and drama. There have been a lot of theories to why people act this way. Freud came up with the theory of the death drive, the idea that we all have a yearning to not only handle death, but welcome it. Entertainment might be seen as a form of that.

I guess life comes down to finding a way to do what you love for the longest time possible, and hopefully getting paid for it.

It's when people don't know what they find joy in that things start to come apart. That's when people start committing felonies in the hopes that it will entertain them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How To Get Fans In Other Countries

A lot of people (including fellow writer Nicola Palmer) have been wondering how they can expand themselves from their domestic boundaries out into the world and create a worldwide fanbase. 

As you have heard from my past exploits, I have had a lot of experience in this area. While it was not all glory, fortune, and fame I have learned a couple of things. 

Go To Them 

This sounds really obvious (you may have heard similar advice here, here, and here) but the gist of it comes down to this: You need to know where your audience hangs out and find them. 

Even if you're publishing books about hillbillies that live off the grid, you can find them somewhere on the Internet. It might be a little weird when trying to find it in terms of country, but if you take the time on Twitter and in the forums, someone is about to show up. 

There might still be a chance you are still unsure who you are writing for. You like to experiment and play around with things, so it's hard to find the right age or gender that defines who your core audience is.

If you're more right brain, don't think of it in terms of statistics and demographics. Think of it in terms of who do you wanna write for. 

One time, I was at the gym when I saw this blonde, borderline preppie woman on one of the exercise bikes reading something. I asked her what it was about and she replied with a smile "It's about an airplane that crashes in the mountains and the survivors have to eat the dead to survive". 

For whatever reason, I decided not to continue my conversation with said person, but when I think about my body of work, she is my imaginary audience member. Maybe pandering to a mysterious blonde possibly borderline psychopath is not a good indicator of success, but knowing she exists helps me when I deal with people who think "you're writing for women, they won't get it" and all the things people say when they think too hard about stupid things. 

Dabble In Local Culture

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that we can now communicate with people in other countries freely whenever we want. When you think about how it used to to cost a thousand dollars to send a transatlantic telegram back in the day, it is really something to ponder from time-to-time.

The comments on Yahoo articles have the occasional foreigner in between the common redneck riff raff. When you ignore the trolling and misspelled words, it's really a wonder.

If you allow yourself to dabble, you can find out a lot about people. A lot of stereotypes I have had about British people in their posh etiquette has withered away and been replaced with images of godless drunken hooligans and the exploits of Charlie Brooker. I'm actually glad this has happened, it's made me like British people more.  

As for Americans, all I can say as a writer is you have to get our attention. You have a lot of competition. Americans like to get to the point and do things. I tweeted a while ago that I would actually watch soccer (futbol) if they had a shot clock. A shot clock, for those unfamiliar with it, is a device used in basketball that forces players to make a shot in under 24 seconds unless they want the ball to go to the other team.

It always makes the game exciting. I can't stand a bunch of guys running around a field for three hours. So remember that if you wish to grab a Yank's attention. A lot of Americans still fear this elitist perception the they of Britannia, so if you can be down-to-earth and unique, you should be okay.

Then again, these are the same people who created and embraced Twilight out in the southwest. Something happens when you are alone writing manuscripts in the desert that makes you think of rain and shiny vampires.

Sometimes it can be the way things are distributed in one country that can mean all the difference. In Rip It Up and Start Again, Simon Reynolds chronicles the history of the postpunk movement where he discussed the state of British radio as compared to American radio.

American radio has a large selection of radio stations to choose from in any regional area. Because of the large number of stations, the musical choices are often stuck with Top 40s hits mixed with classic rock. Now, I'm not entirely sure how English radio is, but apparently it's different with single channels that broadcast nationwide. That's why MTV was a big deal in the US. It was the only thing that broadcast music nationwide.

That's why all those reality talent shows are big deals here. This changes how both sides of the pond perceive culture. Once Americans find a comfort zone they in it, whether it's rap or anything else. But in England, you can take risks. You can have Ellie Goulding. America would have rejected Ellie Goulding if she came here first. Same with Adele. Same with Amy Winehouse. 

In a Hitquarters interview with either Marcus Beese or Nick Gatfield (I can't fully remember which one it was) it's small rule in England that if you replicate what Americans do best, it won't work. British rappers seem goofy over here. But, Amy Winehouse worked because there was nothing like that here. 

Same thing with Danny Boyle movies and Tom Hardy in Bronson. Bronson has to be one of my favorite movies about criminals American/British or otherwise, and a lot of that has to do with the unique voice the film is presented in. You might see him as some local buffoon, but I thought it was an interesting character study.

(As an aside for a second, I wanna say that if someone can write a Harry Potter/Narnia/Tolkien story with pottymouthed British melting pot immigrants as the main characters, I think that would be awesome. Like Attack The Block mixed with magic)

Change Your Sleep Cycle

This is a little thing you can do that might improve your chances for a foreign fanbase. I like to write at night. Writing at night is fun. All my best essays as a kid were slung out at 4:00 AM. Late night typing is a sign of greatness. You can keep your goofy Folgers coffee morning routines. 

Anyway, my nocturnal writing habits means that I am more aligned with Australians, Kiwis, and Limeys (saying Aussie, Kiwi, and Limey makes me want to put a lime and a kiwi into a Victoria Bitter) whenever they pop in on Twitter. This gives me the chance to interact with a group of people I normally wouldn't talk to if I had a normal sleep cycle. 

So, if a foreign fanbase is something you desire, take a night (if your work schedule allows) to play around with when you tweet and see if you can chat up your overseas fanbase. 

Trial and Error

Taco Bell is an American fast food outlet that serves Americanized Mexican cuisine. They have expanded into a bunch of different countries. 

They tried to expand into Mexico.      

It didn't work. 

They tried again, this time selling American food. 

Still didn't work. 

Disneyland Paris. Took a couple tries and a lot of money before they made it work. 

I wanted to chat with people in different languages. It's a funny story I tell people now. 

In wanting to quench your imperialistic thirst for recognition, you will encounter a couple pitfalls. It happens. 

If you want an exotic omelette, you have to climb a tall tree, get some weird eggs, and crack them. 

For whatever reason, the country you might want could be hesitant. But that could be okay. The Darkness singer Justin Hawkins once said that his favorite band was Aerosmith. He acknowledged that Aerosmith was not that big in England as they were in America, but he felt like it was his own little popular obscure band. 

Chances are, there could be someone who sees you as that awesome little cultural secret. So embrace it  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

How Not To Promote Yourself Overseas

What I'm about to tell you is a cautionary tale about man's arrogance in the face of superior technology. 

Most writers starting out usually land in two categories. There are the writers who focus solely on marketing to the point where sometimes the book isn't even written yet. The second type are those writers who write so much and feel like even mentioning their book to people they know is a form of selling out. 

The first kind of people are the ones who spend more time on the bookmarks, the hats, the Frisbees, and all these things designed to create a poor man's media franchise when what they need to do is go back to the drawing board and create a better story

These are the ones you see at book fairs schlepping their wares and reminding you why kids hate reading in school in the first place. 

Did you ever wonder how those horrible books in school got published? Now you know. 

This is an easy fix. Work on your craft. Experiment. Play around with different genres. Switch up the recipe. 

Now, the second group, the zero marketers, are the people I want to talk about today.

A lot of writers have a reluctance to treat what they work on as a business for fear that they will be a "sellout".

Now, if you have no need of being discovered, of having your work expand to its full potential, of having someone somewhere feel an emotional embrace in your work, by all means send it and forget it. But, if you find yourself dissatisfied with how your work is being received, you might need to give it a little push.

A lot of contemporary popular society has trumpeted the myth of the starving tortured artist in seclusion who shuns any attempt at commerce, hoping only to be discovered in a bizarre accident. They don't want to worry more about the bottom line than their audience.

Which is important, there's no doubt in that. Artistic integrity is needed. 

But promoting yourself does not have to suck. It can actually be a lot of fun.

Promoting yourself gives you an opportunity to let you express yourself in your own words as opposed to 

What is promotion anyway? Isn't someone telling somebody about an awesome band promotion? Do you randomly type in bizarre words to find new videos on the Internet, or do you look through suggestions or other media avenues?

You can find a way to show people that you are the legitimate author in a field of phonies, and that you want to shake things up a little bit in hopes of stopping the current line of culture that has not performed so well. People who brag about their creativity always seem to come up short when things get rough.

My rebuttal to their minor issues has always been the same: be more creative in solving your problems

I know it sounds rough to see things that way, but the ego in people wanting ingenuity shows no bounds. Some people would rather be a renowned author than write a book that doesn't suck. Luckily, they never seem to get that far.

The market for literature is blowing up to a crescendo, and a lot of people who have nothing but snake oil to bring to the ereader are crowding in with people who want to stay to write.

But, if you seem to know what you're doing, people want you to succeed. Everyone, fan, agent, whoever, wants to be on the cutting edge of the next one. So it is silly to not to at least try. 

Artistic integrity can be subjective. One of the most commerical-designed-in-a-marketing-test-tube bands in the world was the Sex Pistols. A lot of ballad heavy R&B singers come from a bad background while rappers promoting the hood lifestyle were actually middle class. At the end of the day, something that works is something that works with background or no background.  

So get your work out there.

I understand why you're hesitant. Everyone else does it. The Twitter, the Facebook, the bandwagon. You want to be unique. How can you be different if you do all the things they do? AC/DC doesn't wanna release to Itunes, why should you go digital?

That's okay.  

A lot of times, people who wish to be innovative will hesitate to do something on the account that everyone is adopting it. It can be hard to tell when a technological wonder (ala social networking) can become a mainstay or a fad. Certain artists feel repelled by the omnipresent nature that the Internet brings, since so much of the behind-the-scenes element is now in the forefront of any artistic endeavor.

If you want to build a system of cans and wire to get the word out, do it. If you want to send out balloons with posters of your book out, do it.  

Get your word out there being you if being you matters so much. 

But understand this. 

Innovation comes at a cost. With anything bold and different, there comes a good chance people will hate it and you will fall on your face if you worry about the criticism too much

Every major company has faced opposition from a loud mouthed select few who did not want them to succeed for whatever reason. 

They call this the three percent rule. The three percent rule states that "for every hundred people who love you, there will always be three people will never be satisfied" It's the science of haters. 

Don't think this is a new phenomenon because of the Internet either. In an interview with Mike Wallace, Rod Serling talked about the "lunatic fringe" of people who sent him postcards on a daily basis complaining about the subtle themes they were offended by in television programming, be it The Twilight Zone or Lassie (watch the interview, I'm not kidding about the Lassie thing). 

Haters happen. 

The Internet has made this easier. Any idiot can blog about it now. 

And they do it often. It's one thing to address the need for constructive criticism, but sometimes lines are crossed. People lose sight of the big picture and find conflict in the banal.

Never confuse the loudest voices with the voices of the majority. It happens. 

Don't confuse reality television crazies and neurotic protestors with the zeitgeist of the people at large. Drama is a wailing child that sucks all the attention from the sane ones. Mandy Moore is a pop culture example of this. You have to work hard to make her E! True Hollywood Story be interesting.

The only problem is, sometimes the subjective nature of creativity can distort things. A lot of artists are told they would never make it, only to strive and achieve. Later on, they become engulfed in their fame and lose touch with what got them there and more focused on developing reality tv shows. 

This is when backlash occurs.

When is it hating and when is it constructive criticism? It has a lot to deal with how you feel about the criticism and how much someone's career is riding on what you have to accomplish. Do the people criticizing come from a sympathetic place, or are they looking out for their own agenda?

You ever see someone who's happy for your mediocre success when they normally hate you? That's a hater. You ever see someone who does not have a good answer for your criticisms? Hater. 

A good amount of common sense should be applied here. People in the bleachers of life tend to take themselves more seriously than the ones on the field.   

Some people like to talk more than walk. Don't worry too much from the words of the occasional jogger when you're training for a marathon.

At the end of the day, this is your project not theirs, and don't listen to nobody who doesn't help you. Life is short. You're not going to look back on your life happy that you won over the opinion of superficial people. You're going to be happy that you set out to accomplish your own personal goals.

I think it is important to understand that publishing requires some form of marketing nowadays. 

You can't be like Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell and hope a single book will exist in the ether and guide you to riches. I mean, you can hope, but wouldn't you rather do instead of worry? You need to join the conversation.

It doesn't have to be intrusive, it doesn't even have to be marketing. You can observe, admire, and make mention of your work to people who seem interested. See, do things you already do, with a little mention here or there. Okay, shy person?   

You know how there's that one movie you actually kind of like, but because a person you don't agree with likes it, you're reluctant to appreciate it? Marketing seems to be like that for a lot of people. If that's the case, do a little digging, a little research, chat me up on Twitter if need be, and find a way to hone your own personal bullhorn in your own way.

Sometimes promoting too much can alienate people into not buying a product. Promotion in some circles should attempt to be sincere, as opposed to chucking a can of spam at someone's head.

If you don't Twitter, find a way to make it work for you. I like making fun of people in jest on Twitter because I don't wanna talk about what I had for breakfast. Some people get it, some people don't. I don't insult, I make jest. It's tweeting on my own time.

If you feel like you can reinvent the wheel and do something else to get the word out there, do it. But, understand that innovation can come at a cost and that it's a lonely climb to the top.You can do a lot of good things when you don't worry about social stigma. You can also do a lot of bad things when you don't worry about social stigma.

Good ideas and bad ideas are like babies. It's hard to tell which one will grow up into a psychopath and which will grow to a person of good standing. Sometimes, bad ideas are just good ideas that weren't nurtured well while going through horrific circumstances.

It is romantic to "want to go where no man/woman has gone before", but individuals who test the boundaries of what is accepted to be possible will deal with those who will say that it cannot be done. Every minor setback will be seen as a shining example to the opposition about how it cannot happen. 

There are also the people who go on blind faith and make risks without any work or research and fail to achieve their goals. These people are often used as examples of why you cannot succeed by the naysayers.

A lot has been said regarding the methods, protocols, and other things people must do in order to "succeed' in the world. History has shown that while certain methods are more consistent and preferred than others, the only thing that makes a bad strategy different from a good strategy is the results the come with it.

That's where the uncertainty and fear of doing things differently comes from. 

It's okay to feel uncomfortable in becoming what you wanna be.

Writers tend to create work in a enclosed environment. It's safe there. It's when the gates open that fear comes.

There is a fear in letting your work out in the wild. There's a couple evil scenarios that brew in the mind on the eve of sending it out. You might overdose on success. You might be become depressed on failure. You'll have it all, and lose it in one fell swoop. When you think about it, it's better to have once than have never.
If all fails, understand that failure's more interesting than success.

If it's any consolation, I will proceed to tell you my own tale of falling flat on my face and what I have learned from said experience.

I decided to practice what I preach and promote my ebook through several avenues available on the Internet.

It's a sad fact that, outside of buzzwords, promotion usually works best by proxy. 

Read anything about finding fans and they will tell you what can only be seen as future common knowledge:  find out where target audience hangs and chat them up there while plugging your product

This is where content suggestions, Amazon, Google, whatever becomes important. You're playing six degrees of promotion. 

A part of you will feel like this is cheating in a certain way. By the mythical tortured artist viewpoint, it very well could be. If you find a better more sincere way of promoting yourself, by all means tell me.  

The first thing I did to promote myself was communicate with my fellow writers on different author boards. I made my presence known, and did my best to help them with questions (I was juggling a couple things, circus of life, you know what's up) and tried not to alienate anybody too much.

But, I noticed something. 

The message boards pertaining to literature had divided themselves into different sections. There was an entire section devoted to foreign authors promoting their books in different countries.

I thought about what would happen if I talked to them there. Google translate could easily take what I was saying and turn it into something they could understand.

So I said "why not?" 

I had changed up several posts I had written on the English site and translated them into Spanish, German, and French

What's the worst thing that could happen? 

I'll tell you.

To some people, planning out your dreams and having them fail in the face of reality is a big cause of misery and depression. In the creative arts, that's a truth that occurs every other day, mainly because paranoia heightens the failure into something that doesn't exist. 

The next time you're having issues writing something, think about how many metaphors, similes, and hyperboles you use. You don't really notice them because it's a part of your life since the fourth grade, but when you are having your work translated into different languages, these things make a difference.     

I went to the foreign section of the message boards (multiple sites, Kindleboards, whatever) and began to engage in conversation with authors in foreign lands. 

I had visions of international recognition and world wide book tours. Rick Riordan has international fans, why can't I?

I thought this would be the most paradigm shifting innovative thing in the world. Pull out the Monopoly board when you're playing checkers, the game was going to change

I looked at my stats after a couple of days. I was popular in Germany! I was popular in France! Argentina was checking me out! It felt great. 

Then I translated what the responses were. 

Apparently, asking "I wonder what drives you to write" translates into "I wish to be beaten" in German. Which wouldn't have been a bad thing, if I wasn't writing to a bunch of creeps who had a bunch of smiley faces in their responses. 

I was popular in Germany alright. 

Be careful what you wish for. 

The French were the polar opposite. A lot of snooty hatred, no mercy for mistranslations and syntax. 

I'm actually glad the French hated me for butchering their language. It was better than wanting me for all the wrong reasons. Seemed like future material for meditations on haters vs. psychotic fans.

I don't know what it's called when your visions meet reality and the farthest thing you want to happen happens (I know people call this "reality", but sometimes awesome happens), but I experienced it that day. 

This isn't to say I stopped right then. I went in and made my apologies, explaining this was after all a social experiment and an attempt to get to know the world better. It made me appreciate the foreign sections of message boards a little more. Knowledge brings closure.

I guarantee someone wants to go "good going idiot" to what occurred. I know there's some hater out there who wants to kick me when I'm down, and I think that person needs to take a good look at their life before opening their fat disgusting mouth. 

Everybody talks about taking risks and being bold. I don't think they really mean that, cause if you go on to do something and fail, it's usually those same people who will nail you to the cross for it. Legitimacy is hard. Dedication is humiliating. 

It's worth repeating: if you're going to do something no one's ever done before, people will tell you that it cannot be done. 

Sometimes you cannot measure someone by their resume. You have to execute. You can't really talk things into execution. You can only do them. A lot of people find this difficult, because it is. I can't write you into doing awesome things.

I think people just like complaining about things. You shouldn't listen to people that much. Work with what works, and don't work with what doesn't. Every once in a while, you'll see a motivational quote, message, etc. that goes on to state the obvious, which you respond "no duh", but sometimes the little things need to reiterated when all the complications are done.

I wanted to share this story to give aid with other authors and creative types who are holding back from the arena. When all is said and done, it's better to lose than wonder about whether you could ever compete.

Again, doing is hard. And that's okay.

What was lost? Nothing, a little humiliation and goofiness by some people I will probably never meet (I hope, I don't want to meet anybody who wants to beat me) and it didn't cost anything. 

So, if you yourself are a contrarian that doesn't want to conform to conventional ways of promoting yourself, be free to do so, and don't be afraid of a little trial and error. 

It's the scientific method, not the Super Bowl. People forget that.

Stay tuned and I will tell you how to get fans in other countries the right way.