The following statement serves as your CAVEAT EMPTOR moment:
I will be using examples of recent, wildly successful book projects and macro beers to make some points during this column. I am not dissing them, or you if you enjoy them while drinking a Bud Lite. Withhold your vitriol. I’m just making a point about “professionalism.”
If you are a good and loyal Liz follower you know this already but: I’m a founder and part owner of a craft microbrewery in Michigan. The Great Lakes State is 5th in the nation in the number of licensed microbreweries. The competition is stiff, between the Big Boys (like Bells, Founders, New Holland) and "The Macros" as we in the biz call them—and they apparently call themselves in a very humorous and sneaky way recently.
The craft brewing business is, for the most part, populated with like-minded, friendly, non-competitive personality types. We are all in the same boat. Trying to bring beer with real taste, hand crafted in small(ish) batches to both the existing craft beer appreciators and to a new crowd—those for whom "Bud Lite Lime" is the limit of sublime when it comes to malt beverages.
It’s an uphill battle. The stats don't lie. The market is dominated by beers with names like Budweiser, Miller, Coors. Period. We don't bemoan it too much really, other than to occasionally go “full beer snob" on folks who say "gee what do you have in here that tastes like Bud?" Or to over react to an advertisement during a Major Event designed to get us to do exactly that. Did you see how they did that? Genius.
Craft beer is getting pretty sexy, though. More and more home brewers are fulfilling their dreams of making money selling their products. Some big names (New Belgium, Dog Fish Head, Stone, Brew Dog, Bells, and many -- oh really many -- others) have been at this for 20+ years and we all thank them mightily for their efforts. But the fact remains that the beers that taste the most like beer-flavored water are still wildly popular. Try this little field trip. Go to your local grocery and carefully observe the Beer Section. It is likely dominated by the Big Names You Know and Have Known Ever Since You Had Your First Old Milwaukee.
Of course, I also write books (duh). Along with many (many) others, I am fulfilling my dream of making a bit of money selling my books. I have over 20 of those suckers on my (jargon alert) “backlist”. Many readers are recommending my books to their friends. I am one in a zillion though. Kind of like in the beer biz. Shelves are overflowing with "genre books" and "beer." How I managed to pick two of the most up-and-coming areas to focus my creative energy, I have no idea. But there you have it.
Hey, I know how hard it is to write. I am certain EL James worked really hard to take her fanfic concept to where it is today. She has a lot of experience and advantage in a lot of areas and used them all to further her product. It’s to be commended. I respect the heck out of the genius marketers at Budweiser, Coors and Heineken too.
WARNING: LIZ’S OPINION IS NEXT. SHE’S ENTITTLED TO IT BUT IT IS ONLY AN OPINION:
But I don’t drink their beer. And after a few pages of many of The Most Popular Novels Right Now I have to put down my e-reader, softly and carefully and go find something else to do. And now, of course, we are armpit deep in The Movie and the fans who’ve been pretending to love other books are back out, in force, making a lot of us feel a little, well, left in the dust and wondering why.
And now, finally, I get to the “advice” part of the monthly “advice column:”
If you are an author and are unhappy—oh hell, I’ll just say it—flat out so jealous of all the attention being given a book you may not have valued as much as the millions of women who did and continue to do, your best bet in public (And by “public” I mean of course “online.” Unless you are one of the lucky ones asked to be on a panel to give an “opinion” in which case you’d better drink a lot of craft beer before speaking) is to say absolutely nothing.
If you are asked a direct question: “Are you just dying to see the movie?” Answer with very little elaboration. A.k.a. “No,” and leave it at that. Because remember, dear Liz Acolytes, I am allowing YOU to learn from MY mistakes. I have made the grievous error of getting into a so-called debate with people so ga-ga over it they changed their online names to “50ShadesofTieMeUpAndStickMeInTheRedRoomChristian4Ever” or something similar. It is an instant “lose for Liz” I assure you and something that I’ve mulled over in my head way late into too many nights.
They are allowed their opinions. You are allowed yours. But you won’t win any points or new fans by expressing your opinion of their opinion of any book… or beer for that matter—you might as well try and convince them that YOUR view of “American Sniper” is the right one. Or that your choice of a triple hopped Belgian beats their aluminum can macro any day of the week.
It’s an ugly thing, this professional angst. But we all fall prey it. We are Artists and whether we admit it or not, we are competitive. But the bottom line is YOU own your destiny and YOUR time is better spent off the social nets entirely for the next few weeks so as not to get caught up in something that could bite you in the butt. Go and write a new book. I can tell you that so far, February 2015 has been The Most Prolific for Liz, at least in terms of words cranked (25k on one project, 40k on another PLUS over 50 agents queried. Yes, I have a lot of energy to channel).
File it under the "oh it's just Budweiser" compartment in your brain. The one that reminds you that professional jealousy is unattractive and nets you nothing but gnawed fingernails and people who avoid you—and you are in the business of being noticed NOT avoided.
Keep writing. Keep blogging. Keep talking to readers. And keep drinking craft beer!
Floor Time Links:
Check the rest of the original Jack & Sara trilogy and the whole best selling series here:
Liz Crowe bio
Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction hybrid/subgenre, “Romance. Worth the Risk." which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.