Modern Shouts and Whispers

My friend, Marie-Claude Bourke, is a finalist in the Dorchester American Title V contest. For those not in-the-know (I certainly wasn’t — she hysterically ranted about ATV for quite some time before I could get her to give me a translation), it’s an online contest that Dorchester publishing has been running for, you guessed it, five years now.

Dorchester editors picked seven entries from contest submissions and posted them online. For round one, readers voted (by sending an email with the book’s title in the subject line) for the best first line. One contestant was eliminated. In the second round, readers voted for the best hero and heroine, from short descriptions; another contestant was eliminated. We’re now at round three, voting on the best story summary and two of the five remaining contestants will be eliminated. Oh, the winner gets a publishing contract. No mean stakes.

So, because it’s all about reader votes, M-C has been out there engaged in promoting herself and her book, Ancient Whispers, like an unknown Senator pushing for President. A little frenetically so at times (she really, really wants this and who can blame her?), and her friends and family have had to tell her to chill.

At first I wondered if it was fair, to campaign for votes. Shouldn’t it be left entirely up to the reader to decide? But then, do any of us believe that the books that sell well do so entirely on their own merit? Marketing is a fact of American life. And as authors, we’re all learning that we can’t just sit in our garrets and drop our pages out the window, hoping they’ll be seized upon with gusto and celebration. Well… we can, if we don’t mind starving up there.

And would an unknown Senator expect to be elected just because he’s the best and everyone should recognize his merit?

In many ways, M-C is learning how to do what she’ll need to do once she is published: let everyone know about her and her book. I guess I’d better start learning lessons from her.

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