Success is a subjective thing, especially when it comes to artistic accomplishments. For a lot of writers finishing a novel is cause for celebration, as is getting it published, let alone it becoming a bestselling author. Most of us have realistic expectations. We know it’s unlikely a stranger will recognize us from the photo on the back flap of our books. We know our asses will never grace the guest chair of The Late Show, and we’ve got a hunch that we’ll never get blisters from signing autographs.
The pragmatists among us aspire to cover our expenses with our work. We hope for fandom amongst friends, and for our parents to acknowledge the legitimacy of our work. That’s the biggest benchmark we strive for as artists. Sure your fiction isn’t your primary source of income, but your mother can introduce you as “my son the writer” at family functions.
Okay, that last one might be a bit of a lofty ambition. It turns out a lot of parents don’t want to spend their retirement reading metafictional horror satire even if it was written by their son. They need a little persuading, some subtle guidance to steer our work to the top of their reading list.
Here are some ideas to help you with that.
Leverage Peer Pressure
If your novel is geared toward a younger audience give your siblings, cousins, and family friends free copies. Then when you’re together, at like a baptism or a funeral, shoehorn one of your novel’s themes into casual conversation, not your book itself, but one of the subjects a reader might recognize. Leave it to your extended family to actually bring your book up. If you’re lucky one of them will ask your parents what they thought about that part.
Quiz your parents like a middle school teacher honing in on a student who didn’t do the reading. What did you think of the setting? Did you find the heroes voice too grating? What did you think of the twist?
If your mother says, “It was nice. It was all nice.”
Pause for a moment to let all the awkward looks sink in. Give that peer pressure a moment to really boil over.
Then turn to your father. “What did you think of military father? Did you think his portrayal was one dimensional or did you think it was fair?”
If he says, “I thought it was fair.” Then call him out.
“There was no military father, but there was a rather explicit sex scene. What did you think of that?”
Let that ellipses waft around everyone in the room like a bad fart.
Push Notifications on Them
The next time your father needs tech support for his phone take it, change your photo in his contacts to your cover art and your personalized ringtone to “I’m writing a novel” by Father John Misty. Then set a reminder for the day it comes out and change the alert sound to “Cats in the Cradles” by Harry Chapin to play on his heart strings.
If your father asks how these changes occurred tell him that you’ll take a look at it. Then ring the bell on your YouTube account so he gets a notification when your book trailer drops. Set his phone to follow every Podcast you’re due to appear on. Open his photo gallery and link to your book tour photo stream so he sees you with fans.
When an author blurbs your book text the quote to your parents followed by. “Whoops! Sorry, I meant to send that to my publisher.” Then send your folks a link from Goodreads and caption it with “Hey look, another five star review!” Then follow that up a few minutes later with. “Sorry, that was meant for my publisher too.” Then forge an email from a fan who was so moved by your prose that they decided not to take their own life, but rather to forge on, and become a veterinarian. Then forward it to your parents. Followed by, “Whoops. Wrong email address.”
Pwn Their Computers
Sure you could buy targeted advertisements to play between the World War 2 videos your father watches or the Carpenters songs your mother listens to, or you could just take over your parents’ computer and make them see what you want to.
Use a browser based caller ID spoofer to appear as though you’re calling from regional tech support. Utilize the spoofer’s voice changer FX, stick to a tight script, and lay the urgency on thick. Leverage the data breach headlines the media is always frightening your parents with.
“I’m sure you’ve heard about the vulnerabilities to our OS in the news. Well, I’m sorry to report your machine is one of the ones affected. Hackers are already using your IP to host a dark web marketplace, mainly drugs and some photos I’d rather not discuss, but don’t worry. I’m going to walk you through a simple fix and we’ll have you safe and secure in no time.”
Then direct them to a website you’ve cobbled together with flipped assets: a stock photo of a smiling technician with their headset on, a pair of senior citizens looking ecstatic at their computer desk, and some copy and pasted cybersecurity jargon (something about catfish caught in a botnet, it doesn’t matter, so long as it goes over their heads).
Call your link URGENT UPDATE DOWNLOAD IMMEDIATELY and advise your parents to do as it says. Your trojan should contain a rootkit to give you remote administrator access to you parents’ system.
Assure your folks that they’ve nipped the problem in the bud without compromising their social security numbers and that they can rest easy. Now wait until they’ve gone to sleep and get to work.
Install a plugin that reroutes local news sites to a profile on you: Local Author Makes Headlines with Latest Magnum Opus.Install a plugin that switches their Amazon recommendations to your bibliography, and another that makes it so that every other Facebook post they see links to your blog directly.
Use the Postal System
If your technological tactics prove too subtle try going old school.
Send your parents complimentary Kindle download codes, in small envelopes with elegant rose gold seals. Order cards with an illustrated border of laurels, cherubs, and hearts. The cursive script within should read:
Together with his publisher
Invites you to join him
In the celebration of his book launch
(enter release date,
Followed by the download code)
You should ask them to RSVP just so you know they got it.
Forge Orpah’s Book Club stickers, slap them on a boxful of your novels, and plant copies at a supermarket you know your mother frequents. Write up a Staff Picks card and slide a copy into the window at Axe Man. It will subconsciously register with your father when he passes it.
Don’t fret if either of your parents bring your book to the front counter. As long as your book has an ISBN number that shit should scan. Sure, it might not be in the store’s inventory, but a nervous cashier will push that transaction through when they realize the customer’s son wrote it.
Take Over Your Mother’s Book Club
So this long con is going to take a bit of commitment. Have you ever seen Mrs. Doubtfire? Robin Williams plays a recently divorced father who wants to see his children so he does what most people do, he gets fitted for an elaborate latex prosthetic and takes on the persona of an elderly British woman. You’re going to be doing pretty much exactly that.
The best way to sell your senior citizen persona is to rent a house in your parent’s neighborhood, build relationships around their block, and gather intelligence. Invest in a small yappy puppy. Trust me the puppy will do the introductions for you. Hang out around those Little Free Libraries people leave in their lawns. Inquire about a book club, bring home baked cookies, bide your time, and drop you metafictional horror satire on everyone.
The best part about this scenario is get to hear your parents sing your praises when they think you’re not in the room.
Click Bait and Switch
Post an ultrasound on Facebook. Caption it with WE’RE EXPECTING in all caps. Doctor the photo so that the fetus’s fingers are holding your novel. This shouldn’t be a thumbnail image. It should be large enough for the fetus to feasibly read the book from within the womb. After WE’RE EXPECTING write this novel to crack the bestsellers list. Then tag your parents in the photo. Tag the whole extended family too.
If this doesn’t get your parents’ attention then nothing else will.