So Much Stranger Than Fiction
Marketing a true-crime story about reptilian overlords
|Anthony Russo||Jun 10||1|
My wife has assured her father that my book, Dragged Into the Light: Truthers, Reptilians, Super Soldiers, and Death Inside an Online Cult is not a work of fiction. Twice. A friend told me he’s decided to read it as if it were fiction, and the subtext in many of the (flattering) emails I’ve received boils down to, “Really?”
It is hard to accept true beliefs that are so out there as to border on the comical. It might be a tough ask, but I think it’s important.
At some level, most of us don’t accept that Sherry Shriner’s followers “really” believe what they claim. That’s the only way it makes sense. We want to dismiss them as fabricated or the result of some latent psychosis.
In fact, one of the main criticisms of my story, both from some early readers as well as in some advance reviews, was that I didn’t talk to mental health experts to see if they could diagnose the people in this book. The trouble is I don’t think we’re ready to have a serious discussion about which religious beliefs are insane and which are just embedded in our attempts to understand the divine.
Circumsision is normal, placing energy stones around cell towers isn’t.
That said, I know a lot of this stuff is pretty out there. There’s a passage in the story where I recount something I call the Battle of Fort Knox. Sherry and several of her followers drive to Fort Knox, Ky. and do battle with reptilians, kill a giant brain in a jar, and rescue a race of turtle people.
When my wife got to the passage, she questioned me about it. I’ve written before that an early editor literally wrote:
The thing is, those were the kinds of adventures the Nashville Christmas Bomber used to go on as well. Fiction keeps bleeding into our reality, which is what makes a nonfiction account of it difficult to talk about.
At the very bottom, though, this is as much a true crime story as anything else. There are criminal actors, there’s a dead body on page one, and a trial wherein the very real threat of religious extremism is glossed over in favor of the more palatable domestic dispute narrative.
The crime has elements of the supernatural, but what faith-based killings don’t? From where I’m sitting the difference between a mentally ill person and a martyr is about a thousand years. You’re only a madman screaming in the desert until people start to believe in you. Just ask John the Baptist.
Sherry’s people still share her prophesy, still collect donations to support her ministry, and still give a sedate account of how Satan’s army is still at work in the world, disguised as members of the global elite.
So, if anyone asks, this isn’t based on a true story, it is a true story. And it is so much more real than I wish it was.
Have you heard of Bookshop.org?
Convincing people that the book is nonfiction is actually the least of my difficulties. Promoting a book is pretty tough for people who are good at it. I am terrible at it.
For most of my writing career, others have been in charge of getting people to read what I’ve written. As a book author, no one has nearly as much skin in the game as I do. There are no salespeople hustling for commissions or marketing teams pitching big advertisers, there’s just me coming to terms with the fact that I abandoned social media as anything but a mind-numbing distraction for the last five years.
That wasn’t a good move, I admit.
In fact, one of the reasons I didn’t get a newsletter out last week was because I struggled to even write something as heavily promotional as this. The thing is, I really want people to read this book, and I’m sure they’ll connect with it but, outside of shouting “Please buy my book” occasionally, I’m utterly lost.
I’ve connected with a couple of bookstores who are willing to have me, and I’ve been on a ton of podcasts (which I’m really comfortable doing), but the kind of marketing that successful authors do eludes me.
Part of it is a club that I don’t want to be in.
Sometimes I see people hawking their books so ham-handedly it makes me want to lie about being a writer. I too often define myself by who I don’t want to be. I’m pretty comfortable with who I am, but who I am isn’t a guy that’s good at selling himself, and that probably has to change.
I am open to suggestions if anyone wants to throw some my way.
I recently discovered BookShop.org, though, and wanted to share it with you in case you hadn’t heard of it before. The way it works (as I understand it) is you sign up and designate your local bookstore. Then, when you buy a book from them, your store gets credit for the sale and they send them a cut. I think that’s pretty cool.
Lots of people want to avoid Amazon and this is a great way to do it.
Amazon is still a big deal, though, and if you have a copy of my book or if you get one from them, I’d appreciate it if you’d throw whatever number of stars you feel is appropriate up on the site. If you wrote something I’d be over the moon.
Finally, if you get a kick out of these emails, maybe tell someone else who you think might like them.
It is so weird. Ask me to explain the reptilian conspiracy and I have full descriptive powers, but anything that is self-promoting reads more like ad copy than I wish it did.
Todcasting on the Road
This week on Day Drinking on Delmarva, we take a look at getting back to going out safely.
I went to Georgia and Todd went to Dewey Beach. It’s still a little dicey but I can see a future where we learn to be comfortable with the masked and unmasked alike and even to be them as appropriate.