This post also appears today on The Writers Vineyard.
The job of a writer is to write. It’s in that process of writing that the writer discovers love and joy — love in telling stories and joy in grabbing readers. I am humbled when a reader tells me that they became emotional while reading my works. I’ve had reviewers tell me they were close to tears while reading certain scenes in Autumn Fire.
Next month, Silent Hearts, my new book, comes out. In addition to the regular hot content (as it’s m/m erotic romance), there is also a very strong and very prominent emotional storyline. I’m nervous as the release day approaches. I took a bit of a risk in writing the things I wrote. Will it come off as cheesy? Or will tears spill like they did with the last release? Writing the emotional content is easily my most favourite task in writing. With an earlier draft of a sci-fi novel I wrote years ago, one of my beta readers told me she screamed “NO!” at the death of a character. If I can get a reaction like that, I’ve done my job right.
The job of a writer is not to be a self-promotion machine. I do believe some level of self-promotion is necessary. After all, writers should be excited about their books and should be thrilled to share them with their readers. I manage a blog and a Twitter account where I interact with readers, and I have Tumblr and Pinterest accounts to share *cough* hot pictures of men. But I don’t flog my product constantly. I celebrate my releases. After all, they are personal success milestones, but they are also something I want to share with the world, stories that I hope will bring those emotional reactions to readers. But I don’t tweet every five minutes that you should buy my book, I don’t Facebook that three times a day, I don’t go on continual blog tours (though I do them occasionally), I don’t do interview after interview, and I don’t make continual sales pitches through all the various media that I can. To do that would mean I’m not a writer. To do that would mean that I’m a PR machine.
So, where am I going with this? This blog post is loosely based on this very readable and very worthwhile blog post by gay erotic romance writer, Heidi Cullinan. In her very long and very eloquent post, she discusses how constant promo is the death of writing for her. This is something that has been on my mind for quite some time and reading Cullinan’s post finally hammered it home for me. I’ve felt for quite some time that I’m being pulled in too many directions and I need to streamline things a bit.
Part of that was finishing school. Now that my masters is done (and there’s no way I’m doing a PhD anytime soon). I suddenly have all this time back, and I feel like I need more. And so now I’m looking at some of my promo involvements and the extent of my platform and looking to see if there’s anything I want to trim, to take back some time that I can then invest in writing. Part of this process is measuring the effectiveness of my platform and making adjustments like ending the things that get me no return and trying new strategies.
I feel incredibly relaxed right now. I have tons of time for writing. I’m working on a ton of different projects and am able to give ample time to all of them. My writing life is much more enjoyable right now. I’m no longer pressured to do twenty hours of things in the five free hours I have. Now I have about five hours of stuff to do in my twenty hours of free time. Normally I have about twenty minutes to write this post. This month, I’ve been at this for about an hour and I’m listening to a great new acoustic covers album I bought off iTunes. I find the music affecting me as I write. This musician does covers of other people’s music and puts an indie/acoustic edge on it. He does what he loves, I have no doubt. I’ve never heard of him before, so he can’t do all that much promo. He could make more money if he’d put all of his energy into it, wrote original songs, went on tours, appeared on TV every night… but he doesn’t. He wants to put a really mellow spin on well-loved music. He wants to relax and enjoy the music-creation process. (Oops! The album just ended, I think I’ll buy another of his right now!)
(If I may divert for a moment. This musician, Boyce Avenue, came to my attention because a friend posted a music video on Facebook. I listened to it, loved it, and bought the album. I loved the album and went on iTunes to search for more. What did I find? An impressive backlist of albums. I bought another one and am listening to it now and am sure I’ll be buying more of his backlist soon. What was Boyce Avenue’s role in any of this? All the group did was create a music video — everything else was out of their hands. This is how promoting writing works — you create your product and you do some promo, but the majority of sales will NOT be due to your direct promo efforts. They will be from random sales or by word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth is the strongest seller of any product.)
Writing should be the same. Writers should be able to relax and enjoy the creative process without all of the extraneous expectations. The job of a writer is to write, not to endlessly promote. Success as a writer comes not from promo, but from an impressive backlist. When a reader finds you and loves you, s/he will work their way through your backlist and share his/her love of your books with his/her friends. How many times have you bought a book because of author-driven promotion versus how many times you’ve bought a book because a friend said “You have to read this!”? I thought so. The largest section of sales is outside the hands of the writer, yet it is something writers constantly stress about. The love of writing is tainted by this compulsion to be a constant salesman for your books. For a writer, joy and love of life comes through crafting stories, not through constant promo. The life of a writer should be enjoyable.
When you’re a writer, especially when you’re a newly-published writer, it can be hard to understand that. You are the product creator, you shouldn’t be the marketing team, store, and customer service department all in one. Should you have a little of all of those? Yes. If you do a little of them, it shows you believe in your books, that you are excited about them, and that you want people to experience your world. Should you do all of that all the time? No. If you do, when will you write? When will you have the time or energy to write? Where is the joy and love of what you do?