Thursday, January 20, 2011
Why Do You Write?
It's a pertinent question to today's topic, and one I ask myself regularly. I mean, writing takes sacrifice ... of time, of money, of large chunks of your life that speed by with the velocity of a comet.
The reality is--as our CMs have pointed out all week--that writers who are not household names or NYT bestsellers do not have the luxury of NOT promoting their books. Even that's not entirely true: bestsellers need to continually promote in order to stay on top of the game--and move up the list (you can find ladders everywhere you look) ... but they more often than not can afford help or their publisher will pick up the tab.
Making traction in the slough of despond that is publishing in 2011 demands that the writer jump up and down as often as possible in order to be noticed in an ever crowded and more cacophonous field. So ... where to put your time and energy for the greatest return? And (scary thought as it is) ... does it do any good?
Two schools of thought here. I've talked to well-respected midlist writers who say "None of this matters a damn--just concentrate on writing the best book you can because ultimately, you can only control words on a page."
This is true. And yet ...
An attitude of this sort is more easily adopted if you already have at least one successful career already. And that brings us back to question one. Are you planning to make writing your sole source of income? Are you happy in your "other" career? Is writing about fun and personal satisfaction more than about numbers and longevity?
If so, you may be happier if you minimize your promotion efforts. If not--if you think of writing as primarily a business rather than a creative pursuit--you may want to spend some time on your marketing plan.
I can only speak for myself, of course, but going on tours (virtual and real), checking in to social networks, writing articles, making book trailers, etc. etc. makes ME feel better ... because at the end of the day, I want to feel like I've done everything I can to help make my books successful. Because, at the end of the day, I started my first book with the idea of making this a career.
Does it do any good? I wish I knew. I do know that I've made friends and forged professional relationships through nearly every channel of communication I've opened (book tours, Twitter, Facebook, conferences, etc.) I think it's necessary, though, to set boundaries--personal and professional ones, so that you don't get burned out.
Because, what seems like a long time ago but was only five years ago, I thought I'd write a book and try to become a writer. I didn't know then that you'd need to be a marketing guru and write like the wind to build up a backlist--or somehow juggle promotion and marketing to stay profitable for your publisher while you took time to write that backlist. I didn't know that demographics are misleading (you find readers in unexpected places) and that e-books would become the present and future of reading. I didn't know how much luck plays into publishing (it's a leading role).
I also didn't know how supportive, kind and generous the community is.
I know these things now, and I'm still here--in fact, THE CURSE-MAKER launches February 1st--and the cycle starts all over again. I learn something new with every book. And I hope some day soon I can have the full-time writing career I dreamed about.