Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Insecure Writers Support Group - Oct Edition

It's that time again. Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group. It's that time of month when those of us that have all sorts of insecurities about our craft, future, whatever, all get together and vent about how freaked out we are. The goal is to visit everyone who is part of the group and offer your best wishes or encouragement.

Man, I can write one of these posts about once a day. Last month I talked about. Damn. I have no idea what I talked about.  But whatever it was, it was one of my insecurities. This month, I’ll talk about, well, another one. Or, maybe it’s the same one, since I can’t recall what I wrote last time, it’s hard to say.

Writing for me, the dream part anyway. Is that I’ll do it well enough so the people of this world will pay me to do it. It would be all I would need to do. Never have to work another job, just write my little stories and have folks eagerly hand over cash for the privilege of reading. I think it’s odd that I used to think writing, being a writer that is, was the equivalent of me becoming a theoretical physicist. It was something reserved for only the select, elite, and noblest members of society.

So, early in my twenties I started thinking that I wanted to be a writer. To write novels. I know most people have long since figured out whether or not they will write way before then. But not me. The funny thing though, once I made that decision, I figured I had to get permission before I could try. So I spent years, and I mean years, planning on writing as soon as I knew how – or got permission to.  I recall during one of my many stints in college, this one somewhere around the time I was 30, talking to one of my professors, an author of several books, including novels, about wanting to be a writer. He said, “bring some of your work in and let me take a look.”

I didn’t understand, I said I wanted to be a writer - I didn’t say I was one.

Believe it or not, I was dumb enough to rush home, whip something up, and bring it back. Yep, I really did. I’m so embarrassed about it now. What makes it worse is that it was a scene about a college professor worrying about the sun exploding. Geez. I’m going to have to write him a letter and apologize for subjecting him to that. He was great though, he gave me a book on writing as a gift and encouraged me to continue.

And I did.

So, what did that have to do with anything?  Well, it brings me back to that dream I was talking about. I’m afraid that the world of writing is going to leave me behind. Self-publishing seemed so cool to me a while back, but after a month where sales were really close to zero, I started to wonder if that was what I should expect to see if I'm not going to be constantly beating the bushes and screaming at folks to buy my stuff. Because, I don’t like doing that. I’m not a sales guy. I’ve been reading a lot from folks that are successful, and they all seem to spend quite a bit of time promoting themselves, they don’t talk as much about the story, the craft, it’s isn’t a creative endeavor for a lot of them. It’s a job. They talk about sales quotas and hitting targets.

Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!

I don’t think I’m one of those people. Some facets of it might be okay, but I don’t want everything I do online to be a business decision. I joined Goodreads to keep tabs on books I was reading, (and later, to see what people I know are reading) not to ‘network’ with potential readers, I am on twitter because it’s awesome, I don’t want to follow 1000 people because I hope they’ll follow me back so I can spam them with crap about buying my books.

If that’s the future, then I’m going to be left behind. It makes me sad, it makes me want to… well, I don’t know what. But it makes me doubt that dream I mentioned earlier will ever come true.


Tonja said...

I totally relate. Even the idea of having to sell my story with a query letter is amazingly uncomfortable to me.

I think what you should do is keep writing and have the faith that the more you write, the more readers you'll get, that if you write excellent stories people will read them, but that takes time. I've heard that it's normal to take 8-10 years to get published if you go the normal route. Maybe over 8-10 years, your ebook(s) will earn enough to fulfill your dream.

I have excluded the money part from my dream, just so I won't be let down.

Rogue Mutt said...

That's the worst part about self-publishing is you have to go out and try to market yourself, which has never been my strong suit. But by all accounts you still have to do that stuff even if you're with the Big Six. I always think it'd be better if I could get someone to write the Tweets and do the Facebook pages and such for me. Also because I'm lazy.

Incidentally, buy my book!

Andrew said...

I'm with you on this one. The trick is to find someone else to market your work for you. This could be hiring someone to do it. It could also be finding the right fan or group of fans that start telling people "I read this great book; you should read it."
I have one of those, but he's not 10, yet, so it's not quite as effective as it could be.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I understand completely. I went to a Writer's Convention, with a half-finished novel and set up a time to talk to a real live editor from a publishing house. I broke out in a sweat and couldn't even describe what I had already written. When he realized that I didn't have my novel completed, he wondered why I was wasting his time. (argh!) Thankfully your professor was more encouraging, and thankfully I've had a few friends, and writing teachers along the way that have given me the thumbs up in my pursuits.
So . . . keep writing, keep writing, and keep writing. Believe in your talents and keep reaching for the stars!

Laila Knight said...

Your post rings home for me. I've been writing for a while but I did it just for fun. Then, two years ago I decided maybe I wanted to publish. And suddenly I was reading how I had to promote myself, tie myself to a PC and sleep in the internet. I visit quite a few blogs and some of them are about promoting...and they're boring. I don't care to tug people along just in the hopes that they'll buy what I'm writing. I'm looking to tell a good story that both of us will enjoy. I'd like to watch them smile and know I've touched them at a deeper level. And making money at it suits me just fine. Heehee, I liked your teacher story. Let's hope the publishing industry wises up and neither one of us will be left behind. :)

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

I'm not to the publishing point yet, but I can certainly sympathize with what you're feeling.

Although unsolicitied advice is the worst advice, I'm going to take a chance and throw in my opinion, here.

The romantic period of publication, where authors like Hemmingway wrote from a hut on the beach, while the publishers marketed their work, are dead and gone. Now-a-days the sales responsibilty falls primarily on the writer.

I can't say for sure, but chances are you put a lot of time and effort into composing your book. Although marketing and sales isn't the most glamorous part of the job, it's necessary if you want to make a name for yourself.

Sometimes you have to suffer through the hurricane to get the rainbow. Once you've established a readership then more time can be devoted to writing, IMHO. Best of luck.

Sarah Pearson said...

This post resonates with me. I wouldn't really know where to begin with the marketing stuff. Still, it's something i don't have to worry about for a long time.

Michael Offutt said...

Joe Konrath says that all of his sales are due to luck. I don't think that you should give up on your dream. Instead, I encourage you to write another book. And then another after that. One of these days, you will get lucky.

N. R. Williams said...

Nice to meet you. I came over from Alex's.

I hear you. I think promotion must be put into a category that is comfortable to you. I am struggling with this same issue right now and have taken the advice of Smashwords, offering a short story for free. So far that hasn't translated into sales of my epic fantasy.
N. R. Williams, Fantasy Author

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You will not get left behind! Crap, how often do I tell people to buy my book? Or even mention it? And yet every day someone online tells me they just purchased it. You don't have to scream it to the world - just put yourself where others can find it.
And you are not allowed to give up. Not until that novel of yours is in print. And maybe not even then!

Cindy said...

I have the exact same problem. In fact I think my next insecure post will be about how horrible I am at marketing and my fears that I will never be good at

Laura M. Campbell said...

I totally agree. My web presence and my desire to stay below the radar will never coexist. It instills some serious fear that if I don't jump on the self-promotion bandwagon, I won't make it. It makes writing unappealing. So, I decided to do what makes me happy. If avoiding every social media network out there is what I need to write, then so be it. I'm not writing to make money, although it would be nice, I'm writing because I'm compelled to.

Anonymous said...

Don't be concerned about being left behind. I love self publishing and marketing and promotion. I've accepted this is just the way it is and to move forward. I'm good to go.

The Golden Eagle said...

While I'm not at the point of having anything publishable, marketing scares me. I blog because I enjoy it--I'm not sure I'm so comfortable with the idea of trying to sell something at the same time, as marketing would seem to require.

Green Monkey said...

I totally relate and therefore, I have no advice. I've never want to be sold anything. I have been known to beg people to read me but no $$$ exchanges hands.

Briane P said...

Why are people embarrassed about telling someone to buy their book? If you go to a job interview, are you embarrassed at having submitted a resume and telling them you want the job?

There's advertising all around us -- your background is for your book, after all. You shouldn't be embarrassed about telling people you did something good and you want them to buy it. I try to walk the line between blatant self-promotion that's annoying:


And not saying anything at all, because people don't know your book is out there unless you tell them, but people don't (I figure) want to just hear "I have a book I have a book I have a book." So I try to tell people that and also give them a reason to follow me on Twitter (where else would you get "If the Internet had always existed, Paul McCartney would be Justin Bieber?" (that's @whyihatepeople, everyone) and read my blogs, because maybe then they'll go read my books.

So pimp your book but also say something interesting, and remember, if you had a Big 6 deal, you'd be talking about your book on every morning newscast and drive-time radio show they could book you on, and you'd be expected to fit in a thoughtful commentary about your book between fart noises and weather reports.

Munk said...

I think we are a lot a like in the respect of our expectations and desires regarding writing Rusty. What's the use of chasing the writing dream if in the end it becomes a sales job. Love what you write, write what you love and promote the work with the energy you have in reserve. Most of all, enjoy the travails.

Donna Shields said...

I totally agree. I couldn't do the self-publishing thing.