It’s Not Me. It’s Them.
Welcome to Day 2 of Honesty Week.
Today, I’m all in for the breakup. Not between you and me, dear reader. Between me and that shameless strumpet whose attentions I’ve been seeking the whole time we’ve been together.
The Other Writer.
See, that’s what happens in this game. If you fall in love with books to the extent that you’re actually willing to try to write your own — a task that is often akin to crawling through an Andy Dufresne-style river of feces — it’s probably because somebody wrote something so profound and moving that you want to know what it’s like to create something potentially magical. In other words, you want to be that writer you admired, or a reasonable facsimile. In further words, you buy into the fantasy.
So you write the book. And you beat the odds and someone actually wants to publish it. And now, if you haven’t done this already, you’re confronted with the challenge of impressing other authors who might praise your book, introduce you to their agent or their editor, drop your name at parties and all that other B.S. that informs the fantasy. And, hey, maybe that’ll happen for you. It’s certainly happened for others.
But it’s still B.S. I’ve yet to see reliable data suggesting that the endorsement of a well-known author spurs significant book sales. And yet I have significant personal experience suggesting that direct interaction with readers does sell books. Plus, groveling isn’t involved, for the most part.
Now, I have to backtrack a bit. Honesty Week has a tendency to send me rocketing down a strident path.
I’ve written two novels and a collection of short stories. They’ve been well-received (generally) if not bestsellers. I’m happy with them. Proud of the work. For better or worse, I think I have a self-imposed standard for my work that meets and/or exceeds the general standards of the industry, if the industry even has a general standard. And in the course of production of those two novels, I’ve eagerly tried to build friendships with other authors.
I won’t go dropping any names, but suffice to say, I’ve been fortunate to have met and become friendly with a good number of highly regarded and successful authors, people who have been really wonderful to me and who have been generous with their time, their expertise and their endorsements. Those people know who they are, and nothing I have to say here changes how I feel about them. They’ve given me a model for how to treat folks who might approach me in the way I’ve approached them.
I’ve also met some incredibly petty and punitive writers, too — enough that I was moved to observe the other day that, in twenty-plus years of journalism, I never dealt with a newspaper person (an edgy, hard-to-love lot) whom I despise nearly as much as I detest some of the authors I’ve met. But you know what? That’s cool. Book writing is a crazy, stupid, maddening business, and if some people lose their minds and become vicious bastards, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised. By the end of Honesty Week, I may well be one of them.
My point, and I really do have one, is this: My proportions have been all wrong. Meeting and becoming friends with other authors is cool, and it’s something I’ll continue to do. Meeting and becoming friends with READERS — people who actually would like to read my books — is a far more worthy pursuit, and one that should get the vast preponderance of my time. That’s not to say I haven’t done it. I just haven’t done it enough.
One of the aims of Honesty Week is to change that.