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All of us writers know a lot of other writers. But how many readers do we know (that aren’t also writers)?
Think about it. Or actually, maybe you shouldn’t. It may only freak you out to the point of creative paralysis...
Most of my network is composed of like-minded folks from a variety of subcultures I’ve been involved with over the years, mostly via my platform (and source of my brand name), “Thrillville.”
This means people interested in B movies, “tiki” culture, burlesque, lounge music, and of course pulp fiction.
Unfortunately, many people I knew before I returned to my true passion, writing, simply weren’t voracious readers. They were movie buffs, primarily.
Since my social media platforms are my main (sole) way of promoting my work, as is the case with most independent authors, I recently decided to start “friending” as many authors as I could find on Facebook, mostly via authors that were already mutual “friends” (meaning they’ve already been “vetted” by the online literary community).
Where Everybody Knows Your Name...
I reached out to both male and female authors, in all genres, even Romance, which I never read, but also Horror writers, since most of my social circles are populated almost exclusively by crime authors, and frankly I’m burning out on that genre, as talented as they all are. And I mean all of them. It’s overwhelming to consider all the great authors working today. Makes you feel rather insignificant and even invisible in this massive context.
Once you get started on this journey, you’ll find it’s endless, at least until you reach your 5,000-friend limit, especially since Facebook will keep recommending more and more mutual friends in the same field of interest.
Be careful not to take the bait too often, because then, ironically, Facebook will temporarily suspend your account for friending too much and often, even if it was at their behest. Yes, it’s a strange, inexplicable trap, so tread cautiously and judiciously, limiting your requests to a few per day.
If I’d started with none, I could’ve had nothing but 5,000 author friends. And that’s only a fraction of the writers that are out there promoting their own work on their own pages.
Slowly over the past few years, I’ve managed to plug into a network of authors that I thought would be relatively finite, limited to the number of actual book purchasers these days.
No dice. There are not dozens, not hundreds, but literally thousands upon thousands of writers out there, doing exactly what you’re doing, if only in their own unique ways, distinguished only by their voice, which seems to be part of an epic chorus. Trying to make my little voice stand out amid this spirit-crushing competition for attention is more than daunting. It seems downright impossible.
On the flipside, it’s good to know that the business of writing is still alive and well in this otherwise exclusively audio/visual oriented culture of ours, even if the ratio of actual readers is falling off steadily.
Even worse perhaps, is the fact many readers that purchase books never actually read them. So much for scoring a supportive review, which is the best method of promotion for any author. Plus Amazon has been recently blocking reviews by suspected “acquaintances” of the author, further undermining the whole point of the process, which is painful enough without these additional roadblocks.
So why even bother? Why are all these writers still writing, given these discouraging odds?
Because...Why Not? It's Free!
Part of it is the artistic autonomy. A single individual can not only produce, design, edit and promote their own products, like a one-man or woman band or film company, but they can start their own imprint, and publish the work of others. All it takes is a computer with Internet access, and the ambition.
Raw talent is often just a bonus, because above all, it’s a business as much as it is an art form. Give mainstream readers what they want, even if that means ignoring your own muse, and you might just be a commercial success. Otherwise, you’re just singing in the shower, praying for a miracle.
DIY publishing is the literary equivalent of garage rock.
Like When Captain America Thawed Out...
Speaking strictly for myself, I began writing when I was only a teenager, back in the nineteen hundred and seventies, long before there was such a thing as an “Internet,” and personal computers were still just a fledgling concept straight out of science fiction. I wrote many of my novels on something called a “typewriter.” I had a New York agent, nearly got published by a major New York editor, and even had my first published novel optioned for a film.
By the time I decided to self-publish some of my backlog in 2010, after my long time “backup” career as a film programmer crashed and burned along with the company I worked for, and following several career disappointments, the DIY digital revolution was already in full swing. I took full advantage of the new opportunities to bypass the conventional system, first via Lulu, then Kindle, and eventually, CreateSpace.
But I was out of the loop when I first jumped into this game. I had no idea so many other people were writing and self-publishing. I didn’t even realize my self-designation as a “pulp writer” was likewise ubiquitous.
Six years later I have a whole body of work on the market, both self-issued and published by small presses, not that there’s much difference from a profit and profile standpoint.
I’m also involved in regular live reading events, though I don’t attend any of the many conventions. I should, I guess. I’d just be another face in the crowd, pitching my products alongside hundreds of others, like lost puppies in a dog kennel, barking for love and mercy, even pity.
But it’s too late for me. I’m a writer. I can’t help it. Maybe you can. Take my advice and get out now, while you can, before it’s too late.
Of course, a real writer will take that piece of “advice” as a challenge. Others will take it as an excuse to bail.
Either will be the right decision, depending on the individual. It’s your life and your call.
If you love books as a reader, not as a writer, well, God (or Goddess) bless you. We legions of stubbornly insane writers need and appreciate your support.
If only there were many, many more of you, we’d be so much better off.
That won’t stop us, though. You can't win the game unless you play. And hey - you never know.
PHOTO: DAVE MORRISON
New Orleans, LA