Now that I’ve finished marching round the house singing Rule, Britannia, I’ve resolved to get back to work. Yesterday (in between salutes to the Queen), I read a post by Kristen Lamb. In it, she managed to scare the pants off me – which I have to admit, she does quite often. It’s not her fault. I’m easily spooked.
Both she and another blogger I follow, C. Hope Clark, maintain that the act of writing, finishing and polishing something is not the end of the game anymore. Gone are the days when an author sends an envelope of neatly typed pages to agent and editor and they do the hard work. Authors today are required to do much, much more than write.
Much more. Let me say it again in case you thought you’d let your eyes scamper over those words- much more.
As if writing good prose isn’t daunting enough, writers now have to acquire boatloads of knowledge about things that they might have no aptitude for. In fact, some of the things writers should know (if they want to be anything more than hobbyists) were taught in courses they probably actively shunned in university.
I can’t think of a course I didn’t actively shun in university…I really should send them a thank-you for graduating me with a degree.
To make matters worse, we have to learn about things that didn’t even exist when some of us were in university.
For me, social media is the mystery. Blogging? I resisted for years – what could I possibly have to say? No doubt some of you are asking yourselves that very question about me… Facebook (and Mark Zuckerberg) were just twinklings in the ether. Twitter? Isn’t that a nervous laugh? These are things we must now not only be aware of, we have to become expert in IF we want anyone other than our mothers to read our work.
Hope Clark has been documenting the birth of her novel, Low Country Bribe and frankly, I get exhausted just reading about it. She lives in South Carolina but for a few weeks recently I thought she had moved to Pennsylvania. Or, was it Indiana? Between book signings, writer conferences, and other publicity events, the woman hasn’t been home much. All the while, she has maintained her presence on the Internet. Poor thing probably Tweets in her sleep nowadays.
She has posted quite a few photos of herself, seated at cloth draped tables (no doubt she had to provide both table and cloth) with stacks of her novel beside her, smile on her face. Maybe she enjoys this sort of thing but I don’t know. After all, she wrote a book entitled The Shy Writer. If any of us are shy, we need to get over it. Now.
Hope has long been proselytizing about the need for authors to get out there, be visible, toot their own horn. However, I think even she must be slightly gobsmacked by the sheer physical effort it takes to publicize and sell a book. (Note: she is not self-publishing this book either).
What I’ve gathered from both Kristen and Hope is that authors must be prepared to practice in the following areas: public relations, marketing, legal, public speaking, fundraising, medical, spiritual.
Medical? Yes. You must be adept at restarting your own heart when the stress gets to be too much. No agent is gonna do it for you. Spiritual? Anything that appeals to you, be it prayer, voodoo, dervish-ing – whatever floats your boat and gets you through the sales pitch you will have to make to innumerable independent booksellers. It can’t hurt. Legal? You’d better know your rights at the very least. A course in basic contract law, perhaps.
I get chest pains just thinking about it. So, in addition to writing well, would-be authors should also train as if for a marathon or triathlon for stamina and energy are also needed. A firm tushie will help with those hours you sit on hard metal folding chairs as you sign copies of your book.
But, as with all things literary, there is no guarantee of success. At least I might end up in killer shape; and, if I do it write (Freudian slip! Meant to say “right”), I will reap more rewards than just a firmer tushie.