The Cream Rises to the Top

Hop over to the Novelists, Inc. blog and read my “Mark Twain Didn’t Twitter” blog posted on October 15, 2010.  I’m sure that will be a popular one, especially since it follows right behind an industry professional’s blog whose job is to promote authors and their work.

Once I’d finally put myself on the Novelists, Inc. blog schedule I had to write something.  I have this bug up my butt about the pressure on authors to self-promote.  It’s part of the “business” of writing.  Is it?  Is it really?  These days publishers have convinced authors that they have to have to have to market their own work because the publisher sure isn’t going to do it for you.  That part is true.  The publishers won’t do it. 

And yet, I can’t help but wonder, what if not a single author did a single thing in the way of self-promotion?  Where would that leave readers?  It would leave them where they’ve always been, wandering the aisles of bookstores looking for a book that interests them.  It would leave them wandering the internet doing the same thing.  And you know what?  If there weren’t any authors doing more or less to promote their work, the readers would find them anyway.  That was the point of my “Mark Twain Didn’t Twitter” blog post.  What if we leveled the playing field and there wasn’t an author alive who promoted his/her work?  We wrote our books, put them out there and let the readers discover them (or not) on their own?  I wonder if anything would change.

I will not apologize for the fact that I visit my local library and withdraw books to read.  I also wander the aisles of bookstores.  Eventually I will browse Amazon.com because I now have a Kindle.  I can’t tell you how many books I’ve picked up by authors I’ve never read before and never heard of.  Many of those were really good books.  They are out there and I found them and not because of the author’s self-promotion efforts!  It’s a miracle!  If you want to know who these authors are go back and take a look at my many “Picky Reader” blogs.

You can promote a product all you want.  Yes, you’ll get some sales from a gullible public.  But if your product is sub-standard, the word will get out and soon no one will buy it. Likewise if you have a fantastic product, word will spread (with or without the internet) and everyone will want it.  Maybe someone like me will promote it for you for free.

How did I first hear about a book entitled The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?  A Starbucks customer who is an avid reader told me about it.  Correction.  She raved about it.  Then I noticed it on the bestseller lists.  Still I resisted.  (I have a pile of unread books on my shelf already.)  Then Al Zuckerman of Writers House planned a workshop around the book at the recent Novelist’s Inc. conference.  That’s when I decided to buy the book and read it.

The author, Steig Larsson, did nothing to promote this book.  He couldn’t.  He died before it was published.  So…go figure.  Is that not a slap in the face to all the “you must self-promote” gurus? 

My real gripe about the pressure to self-promote is two-fold.  I think it sucks away at the creativity and time authors could spend actually writing better books.  And two, most authors are unable to quantify the results of their promotion efforts.  I know authors who’ve spent their entire advance and then some attempting to “get their name out there.”  They’ve actually gone into debt doing this and if I mentioned their names to you, you wouldn’t recognize them.  

Yes, I have a web site.  Yes I do guest interviews and blogs on other author’s web sites.  I blog on the Samhain blog and on my own and on Novelstis, Inc.’s blog site. I’m on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.  Occasionally I post things there.  But I don’t know if any of it has helped me sell books. 

The truth is I could spend all my time “promoting” my work instead of crafting a high quality manuscript.  Self-promotion bores me (unless it’s a blatant opportunity to talk about myself).  Creating brings me joy. 

I think it’s a law of the universe that the cream always rises to the top.  Nothing we do is going to change that.

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