Given that more than 50,000 novels are published in the U.S. each year, what makes me think mine will ever find its way on to the shelves at Barnes & Noble?
A better one might be – why should I care?
Why do writers feel their efforts are wasted unless the product makes it to the marketplace? Wouldn’t the satisfaction of having created something, and sharing it with close friends and family, be reward enough? I’d always believed that it should or, rather, did until recently when something happened to alter my opinion. This is the story of my change of heart, and a confession of sorts.
The urge to create seems to be a basic human impulse – whether something simple and practical, like a pair of socks knitted to keep us warm, or something more complex and less substantial, like a poem or a story written to engage the heart and mind. But the urge to market our creations – where does that come from?
Ego is a prime suspect – a desire for that flush of endorphins triggered by the gift of positive feedback.
There is also the potential for fame or financial success, although we know fame is a double-edged sword, and that only the cream of the literary crop ever manages to make a living, let alone become wealthy, from their art.
As for myself, the desire to be published has always conflicted with a desire for privacy. Unfortunately, writing fiction requires one to reveal oneself in ways that can be uncomfortable. No matter how well an author thinks he has concealed his most intimate thoughts and feelings behind a bizarre plot, or within a story set far in the past or into the future, they will always find their way on to the page.
Of course, there is the option of using a pseudonym, something that many authors of those bodice-ripping romances do, but that doesn’t always work, especially if you’re very successful. Ask J.K. Rowling how that went. Ultimately, I decided against this option when I was first published, for reasons I chose not to examine too closely at the time.
One thing I have learned for certain is that literary success today requires heavy self-promotion, especially via social media. In negotiations with a publisher who was interested in one of my novels, the editor made it quite clear that the first thing I had to do was establish a presence on Facebook, with Twitter and Instagram soon to follow.
For reasons I won’t go into now (that’s worthy of a whole column itself), to date I have refused to grant Mark Zuckerberg the right to monetize my identity by selling it to advertisers, and don’t intend to ever do so. When the editor heard this she admonished me that I had to have a cyber-presence of some sort before they would consider publishing me.
That contract negotiation eventually fell apart for other reasons, but I got the message and recently, reluctantly, I created a website that has links to some of my work. Then something strange happened. Once the website began receiving visitors, the guy who’d hitherto smugly self-identified as an Artist only for Art’s sake (note those capital “A’s”) became a click-obsessed narcissist, continually checking to see how much traffic the site was generating.
Apparently the ego will not be denied.
Finally, right about here is where I’d intended to list my website address, that is until the wife wisely reminded me how unseemly that would be. Instead, I’ll close simply by observing that any search engine worth its salt will lead anywhere you sincerely wish to go.