I engaged in an interesting experiment today. And now that I'm done wanting to bang my head against the sharp corner of my desk, I find the results interesting.
This started with me seeing an ad for a terrible-looking book with a terrible-sounding title with terribly-written teaser copy and a terribly-illustrated cover1. And if that wasn't enough, the words "DEBUT NOVELIST" were proudly on display.
By now you know that I'm deeply involved in yet another publishing initiative, this time focused on training/educating authors on the new digital publishing landscape of today. Glutton for punishment? That's me.
And it was with that eye that I realized: authors and publishers have imbued the word debut with legendary status. I've seen that word -- or heard that word -- associated with new books by new authors countless times.
The amazing debut novel from... Ground-breaking work by debut novelist...
The marketer in me2 couldn't let it go. Was that word somehow a trigger that publishers and authors have learned enhances the purchasing response? Would adding the word "debut" to a book somehow increase the chance of someone deciding to purchase the book?
So I did the only logical thing that a skeptic would do: I ran the most unscientific test I could devise in the 3.4 seconds I thought about it. I asked FACEBOOK!
My first attempt was met with abject failure. I asked the following question:
Dumb-ass me. I of course got plenty of answers like "A" and "B". [sigh] So I resolved to re-write the question in somewhat of a less ambiguous way. Hence my new missive:
This time I learned an interesting and valuable lesson: People don't fucking read! Not that they don't read books, mind you. They just don't read questions well. Or rather, they try and anticipate some hidden meaning behind your question. Worse still, they play out a whole conspiratorial scene in their head, crafting their answer as to somehow keep them in good graces with whatever group might read too much into the answer.
Just. Answer. The. Fucking. Question!
Yes, I had an answer I was trying to get to, you idiot! But it was not whether or not I see value in a new authors work. Nor was I trying to infer that you should only stick to the books you know. Nor do I give a shit about how many new authors you discovered because you took the chance on an unknown. News flash, dipshit: I've done the same fucking thing! As I said before:
Just. Answer. The. Fucking. Question!
So I decided to show just how inane the answers were. Because really, in no other purchasing decision I can think of is it ever, EVER, beneficial to shout out to the masses, "Holy hatshit, folks! Hurry up and give me all your money while I'm new, clueless and PERFECT, 'cuz I'll be worth dick-squat when I take a second swing!"
That just doesn't happen. And to prove my point, I sent out this slightly tweaked question to the Facebookers who have the bad sense to follow me:
Yes. That is the point I was trying to make. You dumb-ass, you. And to drive it home more, there's this:
Authors and publishers: Please, pretty please, with sugar on it. Stop adding the word "debut" to your books. I already know I don't know you. You're not helping things telling me it's your first book. You may think that is somehow a buying signal, especially if you read the comments left on my status updates. But I assure you this: all of those people are lying. Through their teeth. Don't get me wrong. They have the best intentions at heart and do not even know that they are lying. Kinda like many psychics. But it's a lie none the same.
Write. Get better. Write again. Rinse. Repeat. Publish as soon as you can, for a back-catalog is key. But stop putting a barrier to entry on me trying out your book. It's great that it's your first book. Impress your mom with that shit. Me? I just want you to be a decent writer. Telling me you're new at this doesn't tempt me to buy. It just makes me think you probably suck. So icks-nay on the oobie-nu-ay, OK?
1 - No, I won't put you through the trauma of showing you the book. I've wiped it from my memory. You are welcome.
2 - Don't hate, motherfuckers. It puts food on the table and I'm not evil.