There, I said it.
You hold the first print copy of your novel with a sense of pride and accomplishment. But after a few days in the self-promotion trenches, you start to feel about as dignified as a telemarketer who calls during dinner hawking herbal Viagra supplements shipped from Uzbekistan.
I hate those rah-rah, go-get-‘em, book marketing web sites. You know the type. It’s run by a cheery expert whose claim to fame is his circular ability to sell himself as an expert on how to sell. His only book is an ebook on how to sell an ebook. Each page is framed by six different ads for the product. Every article (“7 Ways to Market Your Branding,” “10 Ways to Brand Your Market.,” “6 Surefire Ways to Get everyone Buzzing about Your Book Buzz!”) is embedded with at least three references to it: “As I mentioned in the third chapter of Marketing Books for Book Marketers….”
I roll my eyes and then get back to work. I fire off a guest article pitch to a popular book blog. The article is focused on a subtle lesson I learned while writing my novel. (Angel by Laura Lee available wherever fine books are sold) That’s when I start to wonder if there is really much difference between me and Mr. Buy-My-Book-Marketing-Book.
But I want you to read my book.
You see my problem?
The process of writing a novel was as selfless as anything I’ve experienced. After a lot of effort and trial and error, when I finally came to what my story should be, I felt as though I had discovered it whole. In the past when I wrote fiction I labored. This time, once the pieces fell into place, I wrote in a complete state of flow. I felt as if my characters were real beings. Because I was the one who had found them, I had a responsibility to them to get the story right and to work on the craft of writing to the best of my ability.
In the best possible way, I did not matter. I wrote in order to lose myself and to see life through someone else’s eyes. By so doing I hoped to have an intimate conversation with far away people I would never meet. My role was matchmaker. I would introduce my characters to someone in Boise, Idaho, and with any luck they would be meaningful to his life in some way.
Once the writing was done, though I had to shift gears entirely. I had to talk myself up to potential publishers. I had to think of my fictional world in terms of sales and market niches. I had to boast about my resume.
Now I’m in the awkward position of asking people to drop what they are doing in their busy lives and to pay attention to what I have to say. Buy my product! Listen to me! Listen to me! This part feels anything but selfless.
I’m trying to find a way to overcome this feeling and see the shameless book plugging as part of the matchmaking process too. I can’t introduce my characters to the world by being quiet and hoping people discover the book on their own. This part does not come as naturally or comfortably to an introverted literary type like me, but I am trying to persuade myself that it is the next responsibility that I have to my characters. I must do enough talking so that the people who are supposed to meet them have the chance.