by Will Viharo
With the proliferation of self-published books flooding the Internet these days, one might assume that everyone in the world has decided to become an author.
While taking advantage of free DIY technology to publish and promote one’s own creative work is certainly recommended, the temptation to abuse and exploit this opportunity merely to satisfy one’s own ego or neuroses must be avoided. Here’s how...
The mass literary onslaught of the past decade or so has resulted in a wide variety of quality, ranging the spectrum from amateurish to amazing, offering a global platform to authors from both ends of the talent spectrum.
The irony, of course, is that this all happened after literature was declared all but dead, because reportedly nobody really read anymore – particularly fiction – in the 21st century cyber age of visually stimulating technology.
Of course, the death of books was prematurely declared. While most Americans don’t even read one book a year, obviously somebody out there still is, or else there wouldn’t be so many success stories, especially for enterprising indie authors.
Of course, as with any industry, a lot of that can be attributed to just plain luck. But a good deal of smart strategy contributes to these thriving careers as well. It’s a combination of factors, and none can be ruled out.
Knowing what to do is almost as important as knowing what not to do, and the number one mistake you need to avoid as your own publisher/editor/marketer: do not be overly self-indulgent.
Only Fritter on Twitter
As anyone who spends any appreciable amount of time surfing the Web knows, cyberspace is full of malcontents with a mischievous or downright malicious agenda, taking advantage of their anonymity to sublimate their personal frustrations, anger, hate and insecurities into random online tirades, mostly relegated to social media forums from Facebook to IMDB to the comments sections of any controversial (or even innocuous) article.
But some even turn their bitterness into full-length books. Because why not? Who’s stopping them?
Nobody. That’s why it’s up to the discerning reader to spot and avoid suspiciously subversive or self-obsessed books, many masquerading as legit literature.
But even the majority of authors who are merely mining their own lives for material, whether it’s a novel or a memoir, can too easily slip into a state of self-indulgence that exceeds the boundaries of autobiographical creativity.
Self-Police As You Self-Produce
One way to catch this trend and nip it in the bud is to ask yourself: Would anyone who doesn’t know me care about this story at all? And even if they do know me, do they really want to sit and read all the gory details about my personal life, my political opinions, etc.?
Face it: they have their own problems and troubles to worry about. Most people read either for information of escapism. If you’re not providing one or the other, you just might be totally missing the mark from a professional point of view.
Now, if you’re a cancer or war survivor sharing your story of hope and triumph over potential tragedy, or an orphan sharing their experiences for the sake of empathy with other parentless people, you are not only entitled but obligated to be completely honest, even to the point of possible embarrassment. (But if you’re really being true to yourself and to your story, you won’t feel any shame – only pride).
Publishing a book should give you a sense of accomplishment and boost your self-esteem. That’s a perfectly normal motivation to sit down and start writing in the first place.
Basically, just keep your target audience in mind at all times. That is if you want to be a commercially viable, universally respected author, and not just a loquacious troll with access to a computer and the Internet.
In short, your book should not be mistaken for a feature-length Facebook status update or epic rant. It should be a unique piece of entertainment or education that you’re contributing to society as an upstanding member of the human race.
Don’t destroy anything with your words – create with them.
Art Imitates Life
Consumers best appreciate one’s publicly promoted output when it’s embraced as a noble art form (even if it’s pulp), not exposed as gratuitous self-therapy. And the art part comes in weaving your own pain and pleasures into your work so deftly that no one but those closest to you can even tell. Use your personal feelings about life and the world as a secret resource, and never use your public platform like it’s a virtual toilet.
Strangers can always relate to your common humanity, and in fact that’s a selling point for any book, but they will be quickly turned off by your individual bitterness, no matter how cleverly you try to disguise it.
If you feel like you need to vent, talk to someone that actually wants to listen, whether they’re paid or not. Otherwise, reserve your most intimate thoughts – especially the nastier, unduly negative ones - for the one person they matter most to: you.
Do you ever feel you’re being too self-indulgent when you write, and how do you know when you’ve crossed the line?
PHOTO:HEY PAUL STUDIOS