I read somewhere a while back that the only real way to make it as an artist is to do something every day to promote your work. In the article I read, they noted that these things didn’t have to be big, but just something to keep your name/product out there. It seemed like a rather simple idea. Yet, even then I knew it wasn’t something of which I would be capable.
I hate promoting. It’s something I get called out on quite often. Family regularly reprimands me for not telling them about my latest completed project and considers me too closed off about such affairs. They do so with good reason. I really despise marketing myself.
I’m just not really good at being open about my creative pursuits. It’s not that I’m embarrassed by them, at least not by the finished product. I think it lies within a fear of being yet another in the sea of many who believes they have artistic talent within them. I have many friends and family who express themselves in a multitude of creative ways. Sure, some of them are still early on in their pursuits and therefore have a bit more of an amatuer quality to their work. However, I find myself proud of each and every one of them for pursuing their dreams.
For some reason, when I look at myself for that same pride, I fear looking like a failure. It’s a rather stupid fear to have. THE LEGEND OF BUDDY HERO has been received incredibly well so far, and the few people who have had the opportunity to read THE AGORA FILES (many only having read a portion so far) have expressed a love for the story there. And I’m proud of what I’ve done with my writing so far. Incredibly proud.
But for some reason I just have that one piece of self-doubt left, that one thing that keeps me from actually considering myself an author, or allowing other people to do so. It’s really dumb. I mean, if you’ve got a band and play a couple shows, you very easily consider yourself a musician (heck, many consider themselves that just because they know how to play an instrument), if you paint on a canvas, I don’t think you have too many qualms about considering yourself an artist. Why then should I, a person who has completed two books with a third on the way, as well as numerous screenplays and short stories and whatever else, cringe whenever someone labels me “author”?
I think that’s one of the oddest pieces of the career of an author, and I’m assuming that the main reason I hesitate to allow the title to stick is based on the concept of a “published author”. It’s a rather stupid designation nowadays, as I am, technically, published, but in the world of writing, there’s still a stigma attached to those who have not been published traditionally. Self-publishing, or even independently publishing, puts you in the position of being an outsider to the craft. Whereas local musicians and painters have very easy methods to showcase their work quickly to an audience and therefore gain an easy following, an author has to convince their audience to spend a great deal more time with them before that reader may decide they are a fan.
A quick look at a local store which sells many local musician’s CDs shows there being an average going rate of $8 for a locally produced CD. The regular cover charge at a local live music bar is $5. The average charge for most self-published novels (looking at ebooks, since printed books have a much higher base cost than CDs, which cost very little) is $5. A CD offers at most 74 minutes of play time, a night at the bar, around 4 hours (although you will probably be gaining more costs by being at the bar for that long).
Researching on how long it takes to read a book shows some incredibly varying numbers (which is to be expected due to differences in reading speeds, lengths of books, and a number of other variables), but I believe the majority of audiences can expect to get at least a couple days worth of entertainment, if not weeks.
But that’s the real issue isn’t it? It can take weeks to get the satisfaction from a novel, whereas with other artforms, that satisfaction is rather immediate. You may enjoy a novel while you’re reading it (although that in itself can be difficult, as you have to find just the right author to get you really involved), but the payoff from a book is quite time consuming. A CD, you can listen to while you’re doing other things, cleaning the house, running, or, you know, reading a book. A painting can give you immediate satisfaction at any time of day, no matter what you’re doing, granted, you’re not going to be carrying it around with you, generally speaking. A book needs you to be intimately involved, few, if any, distractions. It’s an investment of time, not money.
When I hear that someone has read my book, I feel as if we have shared an intimate moment together, just them and us together for however long it took them to complete the damned thing. How then can I honestly put myself out there like that, requesting that each and every one of them share that time intimately with me? I feel almost dirty putting my information on every site out there telling people to read my book, almost like hitting up the personal ads.
Promotion is a dirty artform. There’s nothing graceful to be said about it. It is, without question, the most blatant cry for attention there is, as that’s exactly what it is. But books are different. Books are special. Books are something where, no matter how many people have read that same book, that moment between you and the book is a moment only you can have. It’s rather magical that way. Your experience with a book is not something that will ever be truly shared with another person, as there’s so much that you bring to the table yourself in order to create the picture.
How then can I really feel comfortable with emblazoning the words READ MY BOOK across my chest?
I think that’s where the difference really comes into play. And I think that’s where the issue comes into play for a writer actually considering themselves an author. An writer needs a reader to truly find themselves whole as an author. I suppose since my book has gone quite international, and seems to be growing a respectable audience, I should probably finally stop fearing that term and accept it.
But for now, I’ll just consider myself a word enthusiast. . . And hopefully find myself capable of dirtying the waters a bit further with some personal ads for my book.