Friday, March 30, 2012

I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can

In a Panglossian world, all a writer would have to do is sit down, write a book, send it off to a publisher, and cash royalty checks. This, as you may have noticed, is not a Panglossian world. The old saying, "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door" regrettably has no basis in reality. If nobody knows you've built it, you and it are just going to sit there looking out the window watching the grass grow. And if nobody knows you've written a book, I wouldn't expect much in the line of royalty checks.

"Name" authors writing for big publishers need only scribble an idea on a cocktail napkin and be deluged with huge advances for the book. How "name" authors get to be name authors has largely escaped me. Exactly how/why their books hit it big when dozens, hundreds, or thousands of books by equally talented writers slip silently beneath the surface leaving not a trace is another mystery. 

I am not a "name" author. Though I have a name, relatively few people know it. I don't have a monolithic publishing house behind me, sending me on book tours or booking me on the talk shows. And trying to get my name better known is, frankly, equal parts time consuming and frustrating.

As a result, I must constantly walk around with my little drums, kazoos, and flags, taking every opportunity to call attention to my work.

Like many authors on the lower levels of the literary pyramid, I find the struggle to let potential readers know that I even exist, let alone convincing them to read my books, to be a monumental one. On any given day, I spend several hours working on whatever book I'm writing at the moment, and even more time doing my little "Yoo-hoo! I'm here! Look at me, please!" number. I do it through any means available to me...such as blogs like this one, and trying to make my presence known on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, AuthorsDen, Open Salon and a sometimes dizzying number of places on the internet.

There is, of course, a strong element of narcissism in all this. I don't know of any writer who does not write to be read. I certainly do. But even the most avid of readers can only read so much. One report says that in 2007, the last year for which such figures are available, there were 407,000 books published. The mind boggles.

Far more people write blogs--an estimated 133 million in 2009--than write books, so on one level, the "competition" for readers is infinitely greater. Blogs, of course, are much shorter than novels, and people can therefore read more of them, though I haven't been able to find any figures on how many people read blogs. But for "C" and "D" level authors, blogs have several potential if unmeasurable advantages. They are an effective way for writers with limited financial resources or with little promotional backing from publishers to serve as their own publicists and introduce themselves and their writing style to prospective book readers. And the informality of blogs enables the writer and reader to establish something akin to a personal relationship. I've always believed that a potential reader will lean toward books by someone with whom he/she is familiar on some level.

Still, all the odds mentioned above gives me something of a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. How can I possibly expect anyone to select mybooks from all the others? Don't get me wrong...I have no false modesty on my abilities as a writer. Great literature they're not, nor are they intended to be. They're light entertainment, but each addresses a subject of some general importance to the human condition without beating the reader over the head with it. In my opinion and experience the world could use a lot more light entertainment and a lot less head beating.

Unfortunately, there is no real way I or any writer can be sure just how effective all these efforts are, which lends yet another small element of frustration to an already frustrating situation. So all I can do is keep doing whatever I can to prompt someone who has never read my books to take a chance with me, including putting the first chapters of all my books  on my website  (http://www.doriengrey.com).

As I say, I'm dancing as fast as I can.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 )                                           

4 comments:

Diana said...

I, for one, am very thankful to a good friend that I've found you. It only took reading one book and I was hooked and wanted to read everything you've ever written. Word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertising so keep doing what you're doing. As for commercial advertising I wish I could help you but that's not my fortay. I'll just keep spreading the word about your wonderful talent.

Dorien/Roger said...

Ah, Diana! You've just made my day (several of them!). Thank you so much for your kindness and support.

C. Zampa said...

Nobody---but nobody---can say it like Dorien. I so loved reading your thoughts here.

You DO have a name and a presence, my friend. And a beautiful,rich talent.

I don't know how to promote myself very well either. I love to talk, I love to blog...but to pitch myself or my work. I cave. LOL..

Dorien/Roger said...

Carol, you--being one--prove my point that there are so many good writers out there who, for whatever reason, do not reach the audience they deserve. As Momma Rose says in Gypsy: "Sing out, Louise!"