Tales From the Metalnomicon: D. Harlan Wilson

Welcome to Tales From the Metalnomicon, a new twice-monthly column delving into the surprisingly vast world of heavy metal-tinged/inspired literature and metalhead authors…
The metal-loving elite purveyors of literary insanity over at Raw Dog Screaming Press are celebrating their tenth anniversary this weekend at DogCon 2 in Columbus, Ohio. Scheduled amongst many alluring events, readings, and talks, was one particular presentation that caught the Metalnomicon’s attention: “Desire, Morality, and Arena Rock in the Publishing Industry” by the great bizarro writer, teacher, and editor D. Harlan Wilson.

We reached out to Wilson to see if he might give Metalnomicon an exclusive preview. He graciously agreed. Dive in below. For more up-to-he-minute info on DogCon happenings, follow Raw Dog on Facebook.


The publishing industry is like a hair band: Only a few groups get to sing power ballads under the stadium limelights. Unfortunately the most famous hair bands are often the worst, whereas the best never make it out of brewery corners and nightclub basements.

What does it take to get “the deal?” To garner national, or even international, coverage? One way to go is to try and find your very own Colonel Tom Parker, but even Colonel Tom couldn’t have made it far without a legit Elvis Presley. There’s an adage in the publishing industry: there are no bestselling books, just bestselling authors. You can just as easily substitute “authors” with Elvises, Bon Jovis, Springsteens, David Lee Roths, etc.

Now brace yourself for some cold water, because you need to take your idea of the bestseller and flush it. That’s right, yank you faux-platinum album off the wall and drop it in the john. Writing a book, marketing yourself to publishers, and then marketing your book to readers isn’t like playing Rock Band. No, slipping a fifty in with your manuscript doesn’t work on editors the same way it doesn’t work with DJs receiving new music down at the radio station anymore.


The current reality is that like trained, talented musicians competing with every failed American Idol contestant and 15-year-old with a poorly-recorded YouTube video, as an author you’re facing off with a million new books published in the USA alone this year. Think about that. On a level playing field you get one-millionth of the attention, and the playing is not at all level.

Aside from the obvious — such as honing your craft and ensuring your work is submitted to well-researched targets — there are other crucial steps toward carving out a niche for yourself while creating an audience. And a lot of it has to do with the internet, because the internet is a 24-hour rock tour with no days off, and as many bands have proven a solid year or two of touring right can launch careers through the stratosphere.

So, where do you start on the internet? The first thing you need as an author is a website. The website is like Ticketmaster and your management combined. Where and when will you appear? How can somebody book you? All of it is answered by the information you should have on your website. The next step is to sign up with Empire Avenue and Klout. These sites function like a publicist, providing you daily stats on how you are performing on the internet as a brand, and even enabling you to set up missions other members can perform in lieu of your own street team.

After setting up your site and getting accounts on EA and Klout you are finally ready to enter social media. Sure, sure, you’re most likely on social media already…but not as a brand. You’ll need a presence on all social media, not just the one or two networks you prefer. Yes, going on Saturday Night Live can be tricky because it’s live, as the title suggests, but you go on regardless. That’s what each social network is like, variety show or music venue. You have to hit each stop on the tour and please the crowd.

The above provides a good primer for building your platform to ensure better publishing deals, higher sales, and more undergarments tossed your way during your encore. For more nuanced elements of publishing–such as contract negotiations, pay scales, and the like–you can read the “how to” books, but nothing beats going to industry events like DogCon or WorldCon to network with authors. It’s the same as hanging out backstage with the headliner.

Can you be a Juke Box Hero? Yes, you can. Rock on…