On Book Marketing and Clam Chowder

06Jul12

Over on From the Write Angle, I have a post in which I compare Amazon to a New England clam chowder festival. Here’s a couple of snips, and if it tastes good, go on over and see the rest:

Chowder eaters come in all varieties. Some understand the fundamentals of chowder (can’t have too many potatoes or too few clams, can’t use too much pork fat or bacon, and for god’s sake, forget about the corn starch!), and some haven’t a clue what good chowder is, they just like the taste. I overheard one “judge” express his adamant preference for chowder thick enough to stand a spoon upright. This is utter heresy, as chowder aficionados know, but as the old saying goes, the customer is always right.

Still, while clueless chowder judges may indeed outnumber the culinary experts (you can tell by the plaid shorts and sunburn), never do they elevate a pasty gruel to the top of the chowder heap. Why?

A novel is like chowder. It has clams (plot), potatoes (characters), cream (voice) and onions (structure). In a good novel, each ingredient is of good quality, and in proper proportion to the whole. Too little of one (or more) results in a reader’s diminished enthusiasm. Too little of all is a revolting experience.

There is a lot of bad chowder out there on Amazon. But Budweiser isn’t the #1 selling beer in the world because beer customers have discriminating palates. A Burger King Whopper isn’t made by a graduate of the American Culinary Institute. But damn, it tastes good.

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3 Responses to “On Book Marketing and Clam Chowder”

  1. It is very hard to find good chowder and even harder to find a good book not only on Amazon but anywhere.

  2. 2 Peter R

    Lobster v. Good Clam Chowda (Plots and otherwise)

    Thinking back years ago, I remember helping an old timer from Chatham prepare for a real old time Cape Cod clambake. Chatham then was known as a small drinking town with a fishing problem. Old “Tim” was known for his bakes Cape-wide. Everything had to be just so, and done his way. The pit had to be a certain depth, the stones placed just right, the wood from the orchard at his old farm, and the seaweed from the rocks a his favorite pier. (I promised I would always keep tht a secret) When it came to the clams, Tim had a favorite spot that many sought, but few found. I was always honored to be included in the dig. Somehow he knew where they were, always just the right size. Small enough for a 3 chew swallow and big enough to savor the taste of the sea they held within thier bellies should you so choose, and most did. Preparation for the bake took days. Depending on who the bake was for Tim would prepare the clams two ways. Locals, who understood there would be an occasional piece of sand in the bellie of this sweet creature from the sea were cooked right from a salt water soaking. Non-locals (they really weren’t referred to so kindly) got the clams soaked with corn meal. It was alleged this made the clam spit the sand out, leaving a smooth but rather uninteresting clam. Tim always said the sand provided “ruffage” that your system needed. A Novel idea! Tim never shared the secrets of his chowda, but it was the best you would ever have. He guaranteed that, and it was true.

    The lobsters were local, and always cooked to perfection. After the fire was burned down and the rocks so hot your face felt like it was sunburned when approached, on went the seaweed, stacked just so under Tim’s careful eye. Then the racks of veggies, corn, sausage, hot dogs and other local surpises were added in the wooden racks followed by the clams and lobster. Everything steaming the pile was quickly covered by two layers of what appeared to be old army tents made out of heavy canvas, the edges in a small trench sealed with dirt. Now the waiting, it was sometimes painful as an occasional smell of what was cooking would escape giving you a teasing moment of what the final outsome may have in store! (plot)

    After the allotted amout if time and stories that went with the wait, Tim would give the word to pull back the tarps. The steam would exit and the smell of his famous bake would fill the air. The racks removed and placed for dishing out on bottoms of old skiffs that were turned upside down on saw horses now being used as serving tables. People couldn’t make their way to the line fast enough. No utensils you understand, Tim believed you had to get your hands dirty to understand what you were about to experience and later talk about. A real treat that all were not soon to forget.

    I’ll never forget the thoughts Tim expressed during his last bake. A young stylish women was complimenting the taste of the lobsters and asked Tim what his secret to the taste was. Tim looked at her with a stone cold look and responded, “The Sea ya damn fool, girly the tail of a lobster ain’t worth a damn compared to the taste of the sweet bearded clam”, then got up and left.

  3. Thanks, good analogy, Edward Smith.


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