It’s a strange thing. I took up writing because I had no other choice. It’s a cliché, but it rings true for me: I didn’t choose writing, it chose me. And so I respond to its call as and when it strikes.
It took me almost seven years to write my first book. The end result was 204 pages and a lifetime of confusion and frustration spewed out in narrative form. A lot of things happened in those seven years. I became a father, first and foremost. I gained and lost friendships. I changed jobs several times. I quit writing many times over that span, swearing that it wasn’t worth it and no one would read the finished product anyway. I’m the consummate glass half empty type of guy, always have been really. But the story kept calling me back. I wanted to finish it, to climb to the top of that illusory mountain, so to speak. So I did, and it felt great to “finish” something. I enclose the word finish in quote marks because as a “writer” I have found that nothing ever truly feels finished. I enclose the word writer in quote marks because I’m not completely sure I truly feel like one. Having said that, I don’t know how a writer is meant to feel. Maybe that’s a thing that self-publishers experience and need to overcome. Who knows.
So I finished the book and published it myself. No one bought it. So I did some research, something I probably should’ve done long before I put pen to paper, but no matter. All indications were that the toughest part of writing a book, aside from the actual process of writing it, is marketing. I’m no salesman. Never have been, never will be. It’s just not in my DNA. Selling requires confidence and persistence, and I have limited supply of both. The common piece of advice that I saw was that it was wise to have multiple books to sell. This way the chances of exposure or breaking through are increased. Makes sense. But to me, that lends credence to the notion that this generation is a culture of content feeders; consumers that just want to take in something – anything really – and move onto the next thing. Twitter is a perfect example of this concept in action. Content is 140 characters maximum, therefore quickly and easily consumed, leaving the culture free to graze on whatever is next.
I don’t want to be party to that way of thinking. I don’t want to follow trends. This probably means I will fail initially, and perhaps ultimately too. Look at Bret Easton Ellis. He’s published just seven books in thirty years. I appreciate that it was a different era, and I’m not sure if Ellis would make it if he started writing today instead of 1985. That may seem like a knock on Ellis, but it isn’t designed to be. It’s more an indictment on the disposable culture we currently exist in and have to reckon with. And if ol’ Bret thought life was empty and vacuous in the mid-1980’s, I wonder what he makes of today’s living…
Another piece of advice is to use social media as a marketing platform. I don’t have facebook and I don’t use Twitter, and I refuse to create a profile on each just to try and sell some books. That goes against everything I believe in. I’m not social, but if I interact with people I prefer to do so in person rather than via a modem.
So I guess I’m my own problem when it comes to selling books. I can’t possibly win at a game I’m not participating in.
I’m left feeling like I am screaming into the abyss, a person with a lot to say and no one to listen, and that’s a pretty lonely feeling.
I will continue writing because I genuinely enjoy the process, but I am having a tough time reconciling with the commercial aspect of publishing and, if I’m honest, this will likely be what forces me out of the game.