WRITING: A Solitary Pursuit?
Please help me welcome this week's guest blogger, my friend and fellow Pixie Chick (aka 2008 Golden Heart® finalist), Avery Beck.
A two-time Golden Heart® finalist, Avery writes contemporary romance for Samhain Publishing and is currently celebrating the release of her second book, For His Eyes Only. For more information about Avery or her books, please visit www.averybeck.com.
There’s a common misconception that writing is a lonely career, with romance novels specially reserved for bored housewives or spinsters with fifteen cats. Writing is antisocial, quiet and private—after all, it’s just the writer and her computer. Right?
Wrong. Once you’re published, it’s you and the whole world. At the very least, it’s you and the millions of people on the Internet. Google me or my books, and up come pages and pages of results. Search images, and there’s my face plastered across the WWW dozens of times over. Ack!
Promotion is a must in this business. Readers can’t buy your book if they don’t know about it. Authors are encouraged to do workshops, signings, contests, guest blogs, social networking, you name it. Online and off, there are a barrage of opinions on each book, whether they be intelligent critiques from seasoned reviewers or scathing posts about how much “this book sucks”—written by anonymous twelve-year-old boys. How many people visit my website every day? Read my blog? What about the readers who might come across that scathing post from the twelve-year-old boy and believe a book is horrible…and the hot, explicit excerpts available to Mom and Grandma with the click of a mouse?
For writers who expected to hide behind book covers and Word documents, finding ourselves in the public eye can be a bit intimidating. But books are entertainment, and authors are entertainers (though most of us, sadly, go without the bling and the red carpet), so take a breath and consider how to make the most of being “out there”.
Take advantage of the opportunity to edit yourself. In college, I took a required public speaking course. The planned, written-before-delivery speeches were fine and good. However, I also had to give two improvised speeches—as in, the professor handed me a topic and five minutes to come up with an argument to present to the entire class. Oh, boy, did I stink those up. In fact, I bailed on the second one and told the guy to give me a zero, because seriously. I don’t do improvisation. Being the center of attention is nerve-wracking enough with preparation!
When it comes to shyness, the best part of being a writer is that much of our interaction takes place in print. Our stories are revised multiple times and approved by editors before they go public. Online, we can use the magical delete button and rewrite sentences, entire posts or emails before hitting “send”. The computer serves as a great filter to help you put your best self forward. Unlike my miserable speech class, you have time to make sure you say what you mean—tactfully—and avoid foot-in-mouth syndrome later.
Make friends—and not just to raise your Facebook tally. Facebook is a useful tool, of course. But there are myriad ways to meet readers and other writers, all without having to worry if your shoes are cute, your breath fresh and your opening line interesting enough to carry a conversation. Comment on blogs, join forums, and if you find someone you enjoy talking to, send an email about a topic of interest to both of you. Ask questions. Give compliments. People I’d never met approached me at RWA’s national conference because they recognized my name from online communities. My fellow GH finalists and I greeted each other with the kind of squeals and hugs usually reserved for long-lost friends—and we didn’t have to fumble for a reason to approach and say hello. We already knew each other because we’d participated in joint activities online.
Frankly, just don’t give a damn. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is this: do what you need to do, and don’t worry about anyone’s reaction. I have a bad habit of hesitating to do or say things because I constantly think, “What if he says this? What if she does that? Oh, surely they’re going to laugh at me.” You know what? It doesn’t matter. You get nowhere fast trying to please everyone. Blow off the bad reviews, the internet pirates, the journalists who pull bits and pieces from your interview answers to make romance novels sound like the trashiest things ever.
If you spend your career trying to hide from that stuff, you won’t get your name or your books in front of your audience. And isn’t that the point of being an author?
Writers: what do you think? Has author-dom brought on more attention than you expected? Readers, do you care how much effort an author puts into public appearances (online or off), or do you just want to pick up a good book?
Next week: Debut erotica romance author, Cari Quinn, talks about busting out of her introverted comfort zone to write and sell erotica!