What is the image you have of a writer? Perhaps that of a thoughtful, bespectacled, unshaven, wan guy, contemplating life or an omelette, completely taken by the mysteries of life (or possibly simply grappling with writer’s block and looking stumped in the process).
Hyperactive Type A individuals who tweet more than they write suggest that a writer is now responsible for promoting his work. It appears Social Media has created a new paradigm (I hate that word!) and we now have no choice but to write, publish (self- or the normal method which usually takes about 16 years from manuscript to bookshelf) and then beat the drum and force people to buy (though most expect that I would have laboured long months just so that they can have a free, autographed copy).
But are we cut out for it? Do we have what it takes? I can speak for myself: I am not. I write in fits and bursts and don’t match the stereotype of the deeply intellectual unwashed writer with a coffee mug in hand who has some kind of gruelling writing schedule. I get easily bored with the eccentricities of publishers and editors; I don’t pursue them beyond the first attempt. I do not have a personal website though I am told it is a must. I actually appreciate the logic behind having one but I can’t get myself to do it. I know it’s important to go to book releases and talks and discuss my book and how incredible it is and so on. But I just can’t. I half-tweet and begin to yawn. Then I half-promote my book at panels and end up promoting some other book (not mine). Publishers are not very pleased by my attitude. But what can I do? I don’t mean any harm; I am the way I am.
The reality is that I must change. This attitude is not helpful for all concerned. There are wiser people than me who know that I have to be involved vigorously in all aspects of the chain. I need to get an agent (I don’t have one) and let him or her handle the complexities of finding a visionary publisher who shrieks in ecstasy when confronted with my ‘talent’. Then I need to leverage (ßI hate this word too) the wonders of social media, get interviewed in newspapers and magazines and come across as a deep thinker with layers and layers of complexities (or rubbish!) within. My irreverence is not going to help; I can’t expect the publisher alone to shoulder the burden. I shouldn’t think of publishers and editors as antagonists; they do want to help and make themselves and you successful.
And after all, who am I writing for? The public! I ought to make friends with them. They expect me to behave in a certain manner. What is the point of being an anaemic Vitamin C - deficient writer labouring away in a dark cellar, peering out occasionally at the world? No one really cares about my deep thoughts. They want an exciting book they can read on a train journey or while in the loo. If I don’t tell them I exist and have something interesting for them, they will read some other book, wherever they are. The loss is mine. There is limited sunlight out there and plenty of writers jostling angrily to get a bit of it. I need to join that mob.
I’d like to close this brilliant piece by requesting you, the reader, to acquire my two books from one of the finest publishers out there, Poisoned Pen Press. I will not be handing over free, signed copies.
See? It’s not that difficult, come to think of it!