Carried Forward

Perhaps you have heard that authors, particularly newer authors, are increasingly responsible for their own promotion. Some writers have embraced this more than others. Some writers love playing the game of social media, love the book giveaways, the shotgun communication of Twitter, the visual immediacy of Tumblr. Some writers love to blog, and look upon an author website as a work of art. These writers would in all likelihood be tweeting, posting, tumbling, and blogging whether they had a book to promote or not. Some writers do not love any of this, but they do it anyway. They dutifully acquire as many Twitter and Facebook followers as they can, and they remember occasionally to post a blog on their website. These writers have no idea if what they’re doing is having any effect whatsoever, but as long as they are chopping some promotional wood every day, they can rest easier at night, believing their efforts have staved off the creeping threat of obscurity.

And then there are those authors who hate the whole promotion business. The very act of promoting their book depresses them. They would rather just write books and let someone else try to sell them. They sometimes make themselves attend a Market Your Book Now! workshop at a writers’ conference, only to leave more depressed and hopeless than ever, because the workshop leader no doubt reminded them that if they did not embrace self-promotion, their writing career would be dead in the water.

No matter which category you fall into, your writing career need never be dead in the water. The water, after all, is your best friend. The creative stream you entered to write your story, that current that carried you from beginning to end, that brought you ideas you hadn’t predicted, that sent your characters in surprising directions: that stream is still flowing, whether you are writing or not. It doesn’t know how to turn off. The only question is whether you will swim against it, or flow with it.

Writers who hate promotion do not see promotion as a creative act. These writers are highly attuned to the experience of swimming against that current, and they know to avoid it. For many of those writers, writing is the one place they consistently don’t swim against the current. Unfortunately, the publishing world seems to be telling them they must swim against it. And so now, it turns out, to succeed at this thing they love, they must, as always, do this thing they hate.

When in doubt, remember the book you wrote. Remember, above all, how much you love it. You wouldn’t have written it if you didn’t love it. I know you’re grumpy about it sometimes, but that’s only because you think you’re not sure how many copies you must sell to prove that story is worthy of the love you already feel for it. So remember how much you loved writing it, and then ask the book, which you love, “How can I best share you?”

If you ask the question honestly, you will find yourself back in the same stream in which the book was written. It’s possible the stream will say, “Do nothing.” In which case, do nothing. It might also say write a blog, or tweet like you’ve never tweeted before, or give a reading. I don’t know what it will say, anymore than I know what you should write next. But I do know that stream is there for you, that it never ceases to flow, and that its job and pleasure is to carry you forward where life is interesting again.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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