I am a writer. It is a simple, declarative statement and all that anyone needs to know about me. I do not write in hopes of making a great deal of money or because it makes me happy or even because I am good at it; I write because it is who I am. I write to breathe. I write to connect and, not only to others, but also myself, I write to grow, I write to be. Writing as a profession, however, is not simply about writing anymore. Maybe it was never as simple as just sitting down to write, but today it is about marketing, brands and platforms, publicity, readings and so much more. It makes my head spin!
When I was attending graduate school there were people who always participated in student readings. In two years, I only participated in two. The first was to prepare for my required Senior Reading and the second was the actual Senior Reading. When people would ask, I would say, “I’m a writer, not a reader.” Of course that statement in and of itself is absurd. I am a voracious reader, any writer has to be. What I meant was, I don’t read my own work, I don’t read aloud, let me go sit in back and please do not notice me, typing away, head down. I want to be invisible.
But in modern times if you want to write professionally, get published, and share your work with the world, writing doesn’t cut it anymore. You have to be the driving force behind your work. Big publisher or small publisher (or hell self-publishing) your book will only do as well as you allow it. Part of me is like “Oh damn, really?” But I get it.
I am an introvert who has made a career of masquerading as an extrovert. (We INFJs are tricky like that.) Social advocacy, a close second passion and a great deal of my interests require me to put myself out there, to be in the thick of it, exactly where I do not want to be. But I do it, because of the pay off at the end, and that nagging voice in my head that pushes me forward, will never let me alone until I do. I am good at connecting with people, or so I am told, but now as I gear up to break into the world of publishing I have to rethink tactics and figure this out, and fast.
Everything I read talks about being able to promote your work. That means reading, giving talks, seminars, workshops, seeking out speaking and publicity opportunities, and using your platform or brand to drive your project into publishing success, which is nothing short of stardom. Yep, I am already supposed to (ideally anyway) have a platform. I need a base audience; people who think that I have ‘it’ and will help me reach that next level. I need to market and promote myself as well as my work, I need to use the skills I utilizing when advocating and throw them into my writing. My kneejerk reaction of “But I’m a writer,” needs to disappear beyond that kneejerk moment.
I have never thought about having a blog (seriously anyway) because I like my privacy. And why would strangers care what I think? And what if someone I know reads this and thinks “Oh My God,” because the last thing I need in my life is background noise. I don’t censor myself when I write, which is why I had such an aversion to reading my work in the past. My work is my truth and a few lines of my fiction probably tell a person more about who I am as a person and a long conversation with me would. My writing is a part of my soul, moving through me and out onto the page. When I read my own work, I am baring that soul to the world, naked and exposed, all of my beautiful and terrible imperfect humanity is right there to be cheered or to be stoned to death.
As a budding memoirist, I need to get over that, all of it. The past week I have been consumed with target markets, promotion ideas; pitches and trying to figure out how to make my query and proposal stand out. They’re winners not just because of the ideas they show off, but because I get it. Publishing is a business, and I understand business. Would I prefer to focus solely on writing, book after book? Absolutely! I would be lying through my somewhat crooked teeth if I said otherwise, but I also accept that this promotion and each book’s success is necessary, and necessity is another thing I understand far too well.
I have a story that I need to tell. I don’t want to tell it, I don’t think people will find it interesting. I have to tell it. It is a need, not a want, and so I have. I am in the midst of my third draft that is more about cutting it down more than anything else to a more marketable length. And there is that word, marketable. If I want this book to get published then that will only be the prologue of the book’s journey. The book can only be as successful as I want it to be and just like that need to write it, I need to share it, which means the book needs to sell. (Good Lord that is a whole bunch of needing, isn’t it?)
With the help of my husband, who is a visionary and wealth of ideas in his own right (but of course I may be biased) I am thinking of starting campaigns, fundraising and creating buzz about my book because, well, why not? I will build the platform, I will create the buzz and I will show them that whether it is raising funds or making people hungry to buy my book (before I even get a deal) I will write, and be published and soar on to be in the exclusive bestsellers club all while working on my next book. Because the only reason I am doing all of this is that fundamental, “I am a writer.” Without going on to write one book after another, I would only be a one-hit wonder whereas I intend to be a wonder, again and again.
The thing about me is tell me that I cannot do something and I will surely do it. I am built that way. Just like the day that I died, but the death didn’t take (and yes that would be literal, physical death) or five months later when the doctors told me I was done after so much fighting to the person I am today, nearly five years later. I am stubborn and not finished until I decide to be finished. And this tale of death and rebirth, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually is the story that I mentioned that I need to tell and share.
So, I will do what I do and do what I need to do and then do even more. I will hop in the car, travel place to place, and read, sign, speak, publicize and do whatever it takes to make my story soar. And then, when my agent and publisher sit back and think, “There is an author who gets it,” I will simply reply, “Why are you all sitting down? Let’s work this momentum people!”