Saturday, March 10, 2012

Speak To Me

A few years ago, I embarked on a new career--writer of romance. In the beginning I received considerable encouragement from fellow writers (most of them were also new to the publishing business).

Over time our little group dispersed and went on to other endeavors. Some are self-published. Some are "retired" from writing--either temporarily due to personal issues or permanently because writing is a long lonely business that pays poorly.

Because I grew up part nomad, I can have a discussion with almost anyone, anywhere, anytime, about anything. My children used to writhe in the throes of embarrassment when I struck up conversations with total strangers in the line at the grocery store. They didn't understand there is a difference between talking about impersonal subjects and sharing deeply personal insights. All they knew was I was chatting with a total stranger!

But!

Yes?

Well, don't ask me to promote myself. That's completely different. I grew up in the era of ladyship. Those women who are near my age will understand exactly what I mean. Most women born after the 1950s probably won't. Oh, they'll believe they do because they might be familiar with a lady in their family or close friends circle.

You see, a lady never, ever put herself forward. A lady might accept the accolades from her peers, but she would never boast or even mention her accomplishments. She could be a concert pianist, a scholar with a string of degrees, a race car driver with a shelf of trophies but you would never know those things about her unless someone else told you.

It's difficult for those of us who grew up with our mothers and aunts and grandmothers drumming the rules of ladyship into us. Very difficult. Because for those of us who are writers or other creative types, we're encouraged, nay expected to "toot our own horn". This is the new reality.

At the same time, we're trying to survive in an increasingly isolated culture, a place where we relate to fewer people and have less in common with those around us. Competition is fierce. Friendship is shallow. And the new neighborhood is Facebook. Now instead of coffee klatches, we have circles and lists of friends we know in the most superficial of terms.

There's are certain expectations in this brave new world. Almost all of them are understood though they're never actually articulated.

I'll promote your book if you promote mine.

If you read my blog and comment, I'll read yours...and comment.

If you rave about my book, I'll purchase yours and rave about it...even if I think it's terrible.

If you don't follow the rules...well, what can I say? I don't know you. 

Back in the days of ladyship, when you were touched by a book, you wrote a letter to the author and expressed your appreciation. I miss those days. I wrote to some of my favorite authors b.e. (before e-mail) and received handwritten replies. It was a two way street, linking author and reader on a level I suspect rarely happens now days. Instead, readers belong to reader sites where they rate books they read with little thought about sharing their thoughts with the author.

When an author writes a story, they are reaching out to the reader and sharing their inner vision. This is akin to standing naked on the street corner. We all have an intensely private life comprised of thought and fantasy. When we write, we reveal some of those private thoughts.

If we never receive any feedback, we have no idea whether the onlookers are cheering or laughing at our nakedness. Is it worth the risk to reveal more of our inner selves? Or should we really go back to our dark cave, hoarding our gifts, never sharing those bright fantasies and ideas?

I won't know. Unless you speak to me...

anny

9 comments:

  1. Yes. I relate to so much of this. I dislike promoting myself for the reasons you mention; I miss the author/reader relationship you describe.

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  2. I view FB and twitter as hit and run guerilla tactics. But a necessary evil all the same.
    I too hate promoting myself.

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  3. I really hear you on this, Anny. I hate promo. I too can chat with anyone but few people in my "real" life know I write. I am forced from time to time to call attention to my work, and it never gets any easier.

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  4. Then there's the chats where you post comments, post excerpts, and no one speaks to you. Or where the moderator never turns up so your posts aren't approved until long after the chat has finished.
    Publishing can be a tough, lonely world. Every writer needs a group of supportive friends.
    Helen

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  5. Hear hear:)

    In the early days, I'd manage to work my series into nearly every conversation with family members, or friends. They were heartily sick of it. Now, they ask 'So what are you working on now?' or 'When's the next book arriving?' And the spouse asks, 'When are you going to write the next BIG THING and make millions?' (LOL!)

    I'm much better at promoting other authors than myself....and yes, I'm still shy at times. And it's very discouraging to post excerpts on chat loops and seeing everyone else getting the comments. But I console myself that maybe a shy reader might see it and follow the links.

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  6. Wow, you touched on everything most of us are feeling.
    Funny, I remember sending handwritten letters to my favorite authors too!

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  7. Promo is hard for me too, Anny. I'm basically shy (stop laughing) and am always afraid that I'm crossing the line when I promote. It's easier to stay in my cave and write:)

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  8. "I'll promote your book if you promote mine.

    If you read my blog and comment, I'll read yours...and comment.

    If you rave about my book, I'll purchase yours and rave about it...even if I think it's terrible.

    If you don't follow the rules...well, what can I say? I don't know you."

    ....sums up writers

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  9. As a reader, I admit that there are times when I don't take the time to let my favorite authors know how much I've enjoyed a book. When I first read a book I am most inclined to say/write/email some kind of thank you or response to an author. There are however some times when I am so touched or moved that I cannot find words to send to an author. It makes me sad that this seems to happen more when I most feel the need to chat/talk with an author. I just hope that my favorite authors will continue to share thier gift with the world.

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