Monday, January 13, 2020

Guardians of the Limelight Galaxy

Guardians of the Limelight Galaxy

James Joyce, Literary Hub, New York

Photo Arlo Hennings Publishing Co. (Hennings book Guitarlo and Chris Riemenschneider's First Ave)

Did you ever spend 6 years to write a book and then upon servicing the media with it treated you like the worst thing that ever climbed out of the sewer? If the answer is yes, then you’ll want to read this.

Arlo Hennings' memoir is called, “Guitarlo” (Hear2Ear 2016). It was self-published not because of rejection from traditional publishers (he never shopped the manuscript) but because he didn’t want to spend more years trying to get it into print, sign away his rights, lose control, and then after a brief appearance in the limelight disappear. If you’re not famous memoir is a hard sell but don’t tell Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat, Pray, Love” and Cheryl Strayed “Wild." However, if they had self-published their manuscript probably would find a quick death? If fact, the Minneapolis Star & Tribune has the policy to reject self-published work and states unless your work is on the New York Times Bestseller list don’t bother. Then again that’s for literary work. If you wrote a book about Prince or the Replacements or coffee table celebrity photos for example, then possibly the vampires will give you a little feed.

Arlo's story: starting as a teen in 1968 selling pop in a dancehall to 22 years later a local A&R rep for a major record label, and in between traveled the road from Woodstock to performing in Jay’s Longhorn, managed his own venue, recording studio, record distribution manager, live musician, and artist manager. He thought across the past 52 years, survived it all. It might be a tad arrogant to think it meant something? He wrote about the wake-up call in his memoir when he discovered that beyond personal achievement no one was buying his cornucopia resume. Had he the money best open a hair salon? His life took a major, late in life downturn. So to our benefit tossed the memories into a word processor and spit it all out in the form of a book.

His stories do not follow the typical music autobiography, e.g. business struggle, rags to stardom, coming out, drug addiction comes back, name drop, anecdote, and detail. Nor is it about being famous or thinking he was famous or testament why he thought his life mattered. Not that those things don’t matter, his book covers more ground.

My words are an acknowledgment about an artist trying to raise awareness for their book to media outlets who unabashedly don’t care. Matter of fact, they went out of their way to be rude about it. Why. One editor noted the game of which he was aware: “I think that so many people are wrapped up in and trying to make a go of their own thing -- whatever that is -- that unless there’s an immediate payoff, they feel that they can’t risk stepping out of their focus wheel.” I think as long as artists have been trying to market their work this has always been the case? It got a whole lot harder.

Guardians of the Limelight Galaxy?

Chris Riemenschneider, a music writer for Star & Tribune. Hennings tagged Chris on a book press release thinking in his line of work that was normal. If he doesn’t want to be tagged simply change the Facebook settings? Hennings has no idea how you go about trying to promote a book off someone else’s book? Especially, considering that his book and Hennings are completely different genres. Status: unfriended and blocked Hennings on Facebook.

Photo Nate Ryan/MPR
Jay Gabler, Digital Producer, Current radio. Jay posts book releases and reviews on the MPR owned web site "The Current" among his other pencil-sharpening assignments. The Harvard Grad wrote confusing submission guidelines for their book site, and Hennings decided what the heck harm could it do to let him know about his book? Gabler sent Hennings an email and said his book didn’t fit their format? He never read the book! Status: unfriended Hennings on Facebook. Nice response from a community and State-funded media non-profit.

Jim Walsh (photo Larry Hutchinson)

Jim Walsh, author, and musician. After several months of unanswered email, Jim finally responded and said he had no review space? The day before, he reviewed Peter Himmelman’s book in a neighborhood newspaper. Hennings suggested a blurb on Facebook was fine, and if he thought he deserved it. No answer. Hennings showed up at Walsh's Hootenanny gig and shoved the book into his hands. Several in his band wanted a copy. Not him. Later, Walsh posted a blurb of all the local music books released in 2016 and included Hennings on the list! Finally, he set up an interview and didn’t show. Status: unfriended and blocked him on Facebook.

What do receptions like these mean? Don’t need God or an attorney to spell it out. If they thought Hennings mattered they’d whistle a different tune past the pop graveyard? It’s all about what’s in it for them i.e. stand in the artist's limelight by association. Don’t see any eyeball juice? It's goodbye yellow brick road. I recall how Prince and Bob Dylan were ignored by the Minneapolis media until their success couldn't be denied.

Tangled up in glue.

In 1983, Hennings' chapbook of poetry, “Tomorrow Never Answers” was featured in the local Twin Cities Reader and that book was self-published too. What changed? For one the Internet; back in pre Internet media, the press was more open, took chances, and wasn't worried about their search engine ranking. In today’s Focus Wheel social media circus everyone is an influencer and the competition for mindshare vicious. Getting on anyone’s newsfeed is a matter of luck, hard work, and money. The good news is an Indie artist no longer needs to subject themselves to the ego gauntlet that permeates many media outlets. Today, platforms like BLOGS, VLOGS, and other non-traditional channels can offer more exposure than the “politically compromised” gatekeeper.

Hennings did make the misnomer to think that because he'd spent 45 years in the local music scene it meant something. It does just not to these people. Perhaps, had he'd been a celebrity or affiliated with one (wait a minute he was). An innocent mistake was he targeted the wrong people. Before you click your mouse do deep dive homework or hire a publicist.

"Thanks to all the mainstream media outlets out there who amplify the same people year after year," Sara Mew - singer/songwriter, Black Widows (Minneapolis based band)

The many books about the Minneapolis music scene released in 2016 (Photo by Larry Hutchinson)
In response to Prince’s death, there was a resurgence in the history of the Minneapolis music scene. A record (7) books were published in 2016 that covered the beat from journalism to memoir. Hennings' book without any media help achieved more 5-Star reader reviews than the other publications.

Nominated for 5 International literary awards. Where ever books are sold
Check out Arlo Hennings writer's retreat on Bali

Learn more about Arlo Hennings

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