The good thing about Christine Rose’s book is that she is telling the truth that she lived. The bad thing about this book is that, whether because the industry is changing too quickly or because Rose can only report on the way she’s done things, it can be inconsistent, daunting, and overwhelming.
I found a recommendation for “Publishing & Marketing Realities” on an agent’s blog, which seemed like a pretty solid endorsement. Right from the start, I was surprised by Rose’s definitively negative outlook on traditional publishing. It seemed to be a case of “the lady doth protest too much.” Granted, her concerns seem valid–long, slow process designed to slow incoming writers down and keep them out–but that negative view from the outset tainted my perception of the rest of the book.
She publishes through her own independent publisher, which she earnestly claims makes her something in between an “indie” publisher and a self-publisher, all while claiming that self-publishing no longer has such a stigma. Rose does an excellent job of listing out her perceived pros and cons of each style of publishing, and it was a great beginner’s guide to an overly complicated system.
I would have liked a more clear analysis of the amount of money she spent creating her own press and marketing herself. While she does drop dollar amounts periodically (and they all seem absolutely astronomical), it’s hard to get a sense of how much she is spending, on what, and whether she is even seeing a return on her investments–or if we should all just stay home and learn basket weaving instead.
The book really shines when it gets to the second part, explanations of all the marketing avenues available and how to use them. She has really done her research (though I had to laugh at the bit about how exciting a Kindle might be…while I was reading the book on a Kindle), and was extremely detailed in her how-to portions. It’s a great synopsis of what’s available (though, again, the industry is changing in great leaps and bounds right now).
I’m glad I read her book, but… I’m not sure I trust all of her advice. There are some inconsistencies throughout that make me question whether this is a “how to” book (as it is advertised) or more of a personal memoir of how she did it. The detail she devotes to her cross-country caravan to sell her books (at a cost of $65,000; don’t even get me started) is confusing when you realize later that she made more by staying local. Additionally, her schedule for marketing sounds exhausting, like a recipe for certain burnout. I’m okay with hard work, but this recommendation seems both expensive and improbable.
There’s just not a lot of “life” in her work-life balance.
There doesn’t even seem to be a lot of writing, for that matter.
Her chapters on working a day job while performing all these writing and marketing activities also seems ludicrous…until she reveals that her day job is as an English professor at a community college. That makes a little more sense.
I was also concerned about her revelations about her secondary persona, O.M. Grey. While earlier she says not to latch on to a trend just because it might be marketable, this is exactly what she does by adopting the Steampunk genre. I don’t participate in that culture, but I would be pretty insulted by the way she talks about it, particularly the conventions. I believe she means it to be endearing, while also showing authors who haven’t ever been to a genre con what it’s like, but her teasing references to men in superhero costumes struck me as unkind. Furthermore, she seems to have adopted the trappings of the Steampunk genre just for money-making purposes; she doesn’t seem to really “get” it. This rankled me; it seems to lack integrity to co-opt someone else’s interests, but apparently she’s been quite successful, so perhaps it is my compass that is wrong.
In summary, this book has a lot of information, but whether or not it will actually be useful is going to depend a great deal on the reader. That said, I thank Ms. Rose for her courageous and thorough work on how-to-be-a-writer, and I’d like to gently recommend she take a short vacation. It will be good for her mental health, and I’m sure she needs the rest.