by Will Viharo
No writer is an island, even if it feels that way sometimes. At least, it can seem like you’re stranded on an island, casting out notes in bottles, praying someone will find your work, and “rescue” you from oblivion.
The fact is, you can make yourself feel a lot less isolated by reaching out and sharing that note you just found floating by, cast out from your neighboring author, also in need of aid…
Networking is the key to success, not just as a writer, but also as a human being. And I say this as someone who operates mostly as a lone wolf by nature. Solitude is my comfort zone. That’s the case for many writers. We cherish our privacy and autonomy above all else, especially when we’re not motivated chiefly by profit.
You have to realize that even when you’re all by yourself, hunkered over your computer, typing away, you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of other people just like you – and completely different, too – that are doing the exact same thing, most likely at the exact same time.
A psychic, spiritual or even physical connection to other writers helps fill that void when it seems like we’re the only one in the world struggling with this career option, even those of us that feel like we don’t really have a choice in the matter, at least if we’re being true to ourselves.
I’ll Scratch Your Back If…
It may sound corny that you can improve your self-esteem by helping others, but the fact is, it’s true. And it remains true even if your motivation is to swap accolades for your respective books.
But if your gesture of good will (so to speak) isn’t reciprocated, no matter. You’re still doing a good deed, and if your love indeed goes unrequited, it won’t go entirely unnoticed, especially if you develop relationships with a group of authors, not just singling one or two for strategic reasons.
Being too pushy with your “forced friendship” may backfire and make you a social pariah, the opposite of your goal.
Just maintain a relatively low, polite profile, sans any aggressive agenda, and you’ll be just fine. More than fine, in fact, if you play your cards right – without showing them all in full public view.
Review, Review, Review
I’ve written before about how much we authors rely on our readers to spread the word. But it so happens that many of our readers are writers, too. So if you enjoy the work of someone you know even informally via social media, post a comment on the appropriate Amazon product page or your Facebook profile (and tag them), tweet out a few positive words with a purchase link, or maybe even write a comprehensive review on your own blog. Goodreads is perhaps the best place to share useful feedback.
Let the object of your praise know you liked their work, but don’t make them feel obligated. They may just resent you, like you crashed a birthday party with a gift, and then expect them to come to your birthday party, also with a gift, even though they don’t even know you.
This should never be about “political favors,” which are inherently corrupt and self-serving. It’s about feeling like you’re a part of something bigger than you. It’s about putting something helpful out into the world that benefits a casual friend or a total stranger, even if Amazon might reject your product review if they “suspect” it’s the result of a personal tie (and this unfair practice remains quite controversial).
It’s not just about them. It’s ultimately about you, and how you want to be perceived as an author, and as a person. We’re all in this together, even as competitors. At least that's how I've always seen it.
Being a part of something bigger than yourself can grow your own small business as well. There are also several creative ways to supply your time and talent in support of a fellow author besides reviews, some of which will automatically boomerang back some decent professional karma.
One is to write blurbs for other author’s books. Most of the time these are solicited by either the author or the publisher, but if you have a few published books of your own under your belt, you’re in a position to at least offer a few words that will be published either on the book jacket or the product page, most likely both, that include your byline and maybe a shout-out to one or more of your own books, i.e. free self-promotion in the service of another.
Yet another two-way avenue, which requires far more effort on your part, is to write a foreword for another author’s book. Again, these are primarily done via direct request, and your own reputation is the reason. I’ve been honored to supply blurbs and forewords for several publications, but that’s only because I’ve been putting my brand name out there for years, so now it’s actually worth something, at least to a select group of fellow pulp authors, if not always to me!
So, to paraphrase a famous speech by the very late President John F. Kennedy:
Ask not what your writing community can do for you, but what you can do for your writing community.
After all, what goes around comes around…eventually.
PHOTO: JOSE CARLOS CORTIZO PEREZ