There has been some talk lately about authors and awards, and whether it is a good thing to post about the awards your work may be eligible for in the year gone by, or not. The blog that sparked me to write this was Alastair Reynolds’ but I don’t want to get into the area that Alastair addresses, about the way people fight online. And I’m not even thinking about awards. It’s just that reading different views on the subject has made me think about self-promotion when it comes to myself.
When I started out as a writer there wasn’t a whole lot of internet to shake around in, and the only piece of self-promotion advice I can recall being given was the suggestion to have bookmarks printed with an image from one’s new book cover, to give away at conventions (which I did not do, because I was lazy). There was no need to worry about how (or whether) to do a blog tour or what interviews to do or what bloggers to target with your allotment of advance review copies or how to best use Twitter or Instagram.
I feel old!
But also, I feel like I am in over my head with some of this stuff, because the scale of self-promotion that genre authors are now expected to deal with is way more than I ever signed up for. I got into writing because it enabled me to be out in the world without ever having to leave my own head. The fun gets sucked out of it when I’m required to maintain a public persona. I do what I can, in my very minor way. But it goes against my grain. I am a person, not a brand.
I’ve heard it said a number of times over the years that women are at a disadvantage here because we are socialized to avoid blowing our own horns, and that backlash comes a woman’s way when she does. I’m not disagreeing with that, except to object in the case when this state of play is used as a lever to imply that women must be more pushy in order to compete. For myself, I just can’t get with that. I reckon people should do what they want, what works for them as individuals.
Me? I don’t want to have to shout about my work. I want to do my work. That’s what I came for. And frankly, I’m a little tired of feeling that this attitude is a deficiency on my part.
At the same time, I’m tired of feeling like I should apologize every time I make an announcement of the ego-squee variety, lest I be mistaken for one of those people who bombard everyone in their immediate vicinity with announcements about their 17-volume self-published series (and who can blame them, since this is how self-publishing works?)
How can I feel both of these things at the same time in a single brainsack? I HAVE NO IDEA. I can only conclude that something is crazy here—and you know what? It ain’t me.
Being an author is like being a parent. No matter how hard you’re working, it will never be enough. By the time you figure out how you should be doing it, time has moved on and the parameters have changed. No matter what you do, somebody will be convinced you’re doing it wrong. It’s a messy, sprawling business.
For a few years I made a concerted effort to blog, go on Twitter, become more visible. I felt I had fallen short with promoting my work when my kids were babies and I had no broadband. I realised I would need to hold up my end better. It’s true that I’ve made some great friends online. But honestly? I can’t see any difference between my visibility before I got on social media and after. It was low before and it stayed that way.
One reason why it’s taking me a long time to get this new website off the ground is that between my studies and writing I’m really very pressed. The other reason is that I’ve enjoyed being inaccessible for a little while. It’s been a relief. I’ve been able to hear myself think. And, coming back even a little from this break, I’m conscious of a shift in my feelings about these things.
I’ve finally got a novel coming out this year, and I’m going to need to do some stuff to publicize it. I‘ll make announcements. I’ll blog about stuff. I will do what I can to push the book, within reason. I’ll be available to readers who are interested in my work, as ever.
Honestly, though? The more of this drumming that I have to do, the less I am writing fiction.
Life is short. I know what I’m here for.