Let me start by saying this post is a social experiment and you, dear reader, are the subject. But that’s par for the course when it comes to social media. At least I am being forthcoming in letting you know you are being used for data. Don’t worry though, I am not interested in your personal information, I am just trying to figure out this brave new world of attention grabbing headlines and demographics’ driven marketing.
You see, I am an old school author. My first computer, an Amiga 500, didn’t even have access to the Internet. When I attended college twenty years ago, I was more interested in the past than the future. I loved history and literature, and spent those years studying the giants of the written-word, like Shakespeare, Chaucer, Melville, Dumas, and Hugo, to name a few. We were never taught how to make compelling YouTube videos or how to write clickbait articles, and I would have abhorred that kind of sensationalist pandering anyway.
Fast forward to 2021, and I’ve got two books I am very proud of: Ages of Aenya and The Princess of Aenya. But The Princess of Aenya, I feel, is a better story and much better written. IndieReader gave it a 4.7 out of 5 stars, calling it, “not just a great indie book, but a great book, period,” and this month, Kirkus Magazine included Princess in their list of “20 Great Indie Books Worth Discovering.”
Given all this acclaim, you’d think The Princess of Aenya should be selling like hot cakes, right? Wrong. Ages of Aenya has been outselling it by a HUGE margin, from my author site, www.nickalimonos.com, from Amazon, and even from brick and mortar bookshops. Ages of Aenya flies off the shelves, while Princess just sits there collecting dust (well, not always, but you get the idea), and I can only think of one reason to explain the discrepancy:
Ages of Aenya is a book about naked heroes, and that garners considerable interest. I am not sure whether my readers are nudists, people curious about the lifestyle, or people who just assume a naked girl on the cover equates to soft porn, but either way, Kirkus be damned, skin sells.
Now I don’t know if this should discourage me or not, because while nudism is an important part of who I am, the world of Aenya is so much bigger. Calling the Aenya series a book about nudism is like calling A Game of Thrones a book about incest.
Using nudity to sell nudist content is essentially a paradox, because the goal of nudism is to normalize the human body. And yet, this is the machinery driving our social media world, and our attention economy, and for the foreseeable future, at least, nudity will always grab eyeballs. Which is why an inferior book about naked heroes outsells a book worthy of the top critics’ praise.
So here is where you come in, dear test subject. Because, while The Princess of Aenya doesn’t feature any naked heroes per se, its heroine, Radia Noora of Tyrnael, is an avatar of nature, with empathic powers that allows her to feel the emotion of humans and animals alike. She shares a special bond with her environment, so that flowers bloom in her wake and come back to life at the sound of her voice. Nature, for me, is central to naturism. I have always felt a spiritual dimension to hiking through the woods in nothing but the body the Goddess gave me. The touch of grass and leaves, the soil under my soles, there is truly something magical about that experience, and it is something that informs my writing, and what inspired the character of Radia in the first place.
When her adopted brother, Zaibos, seizes the throne of Tyrnael, Radia is forced to flee for her life, accompanied by her loyal praetorian guard, Demacharon. They find themselves in the catacombs beneath the Compass Tower, which leads them to a cave. Here, Radia doffs her stuffy royal garb to chase butterflies about a small underground pond. Later in the story, Demacharon finds her lying naked in a field, where she declares that she is “giving up wearing clothes.” None of this is meant to be sexual, of course, which is why I buried these events in the book, not wanting buyers to get the wrong impression about the kind of story I’ve written. Radia is innocent, after all, a child of fifteen, and these moments of casual nakedness are meant to reflect that innocence. Some people might say I’ve buried the lead, but nudism isn’t supposed to be sensationalist.
Now what I want to know is this: knowing these scenes are in there, will you be buying the book? And if so, what does that mean about the role social media plays in the nudist movement? Is the sexy cover driving sales of Ages of Aenya, or is it something deeper? And should nudist creators like myself be hiding the more eye-catching side of the nudist lifestyle, or should we be relying on skin to get the message across?