I launched Wasteland two years ago. I spent four years writing the novel; longer if you factor in the idea for Jack began in an Iowa Writer’s Workshop as an undergrad. I poured my heart and soul into that book. I bled. It was the piece of writing that pushed me over the edge, made me realize I needed to not worry about what my mother would think if she read what I wrote about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I shopped the novel around to different agents and publishers, and they all told me what I had written was really good, but that I had no audience for it. Wasteland would never sell. I felt like my authorial hopes were utterly dashed.
My wife several years back, when I attempted to write within the romance genre, asked if I would ever consider self-publishing, and I summarily put down anybody and everybody that self-published. I think my exact words were, “People who self-publish aren’t real writers. They’re hacks. There’s no respect there.” I kept running into people online that were doing really well as independent authors, though: Megg Jensen, Hugh Howey, Tamara Linse, Ksenia Anske, and these are just a few of the people I’ve carried on conversations with via lots of social media. So these authors made me feel better about my decision to self-publish, which was originally an act of self-indulgent desperation.
Today, Wasteland sells about a copy a month. That seems miserable to you—maybe. To me, that sales figure is absolutely marvelous. It means someone somewhere for the past two years has read my book, which means I have an audience, albeit a very tiny audience. As the months progressed though, what I didn’t understand was why my sales weren’t exponentially increasing, or at least just increasing. I had read all the blogs that said above and beyond any marketing, the book had to simply be good, and people would find you. I never had dreams of grandeur. No fantasies of becoming rich and famous. I only wanted to pay the electric bill. I figured, if I built it, they would come, you know the movie:
What I didn’t get was that nobody knew who I was. More importantly, no one cares who I am. The publishing world has changed. Gone are the days when one spent leisure amounts of time in bookstores browsing the shelves for new authors. We now have algorithms and online reviews and social media and Goodreads and Facebook. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, the list goes on.This is how authors are found now, and no longer can they be the recluse they used to be, hunched over their typewriter pounding out a novel in a night Jack Kerouac style. And even Kerouac found publicity:
- WilliamF. Buckley’s Firing Line, featuring a drunk Jack Kerouac
- TheSteve Allen Show with a very uncomfortable Kerouac reading his own work
It’s thought, by many too, that Hemingway’s tough guy persona was all an act, an ongoing publicity stunt to push more novels. Indeed, when in Europe Hemingway followed around famous authors like a lost puppy dog, latching onto the fame, looking up to others that had gone before him.
I’m not suggesting you as author or me as author or you as anyone selling anything (and we all sell something) put on a marketing campaign to gain notoriety. I am suggesting we say hello to each other, get to know each other, to be vulnerable and to let each other into our very private lives.
Um, that didn’t work out so well. I don’t care what anyone says, writing romance is hard. Very very hard. And I can’t do it. I just can’t. I’ve tried. Kudos to all you romance authors!
This is not true. Certainly I want to pay the electric bill, but I have dreams of packed lecture halls while I droned on to aspiring writers about how to make a book. This, at any given moment, is either a fantasy or a nightmare of mine. Either way, I’m considering putting together a udemy course. J
Bookstores are still a vital component to marketing a book, and I don’t think actual brick and mortar bookstores will ever go away—in fact, I believe we’ll actually in the long-run see a rise in the independent bookstores. Sorry Barnes and Nobles, Hastings, Borders, Walden.