Stop me if you've heard this one. After all the clack-clack-clacking of drafting, and the excruciating bleeding of editing, you have written a book. It's done*. Your work isn't just a pdf file floating out in the information superhighway**, but an actual, physical copy of a book. It smells of glue, and paper, and one day it may smell like the shelf it sat upon for years on end. You can touch it; it has mass. It is a thing that, were it not for you, would not exist in this world. You are filled with a quiet gladness that you had more resolve than you might have previously thought. I can't imagine the experience is anything like having a child. If the child smells like wood pulp and Elmer's, something else is likely wrong. But another key difference lies beyond the elation of the creation:
You have to sell the damned thing.
Online engagement and posts -- like this one -- have their place in the process, but something else will elevate those sales. Face-to-face contact is key. Have you ever tried to sit at a table on your own, peddling your wares to an indifferent public? The first book even I went to after I finished Right - A Novel of Politics went about as well as you'd expect. I sold one book in four hours, to a very nice lady who was far too polite to admit that she thought I was someone else. She may have taken pity. Either way, I hope she enjoyed the book.
Writing is lonely work. It's part of the reason I live for it. The quiet battle with the blank page is as close to a meditative trance as I'm likely to achieve. I believed for so long that making the case for your book should be a similarly long and lonely road. I was certain that going it alone was the only path to success.
I was wrong. There's so much out there to consume. Individually, our work is only a small drop in a churning, ever-expanding ocean of content.
Last weekend, the Nevermore Edits group*** had a huge weekend in sales. I sold plenty of books. Others sold plenty of books. The important thing is that we sold a lot of books. A rising tide lifted all boats, and we all quenched a little bit of our thirst for success in a field that is content to knock us down at every turn. I admire the hell out of these people, and while publishing success may prove tricky for anyone, I would much rather fail with the gang I belong to now, than fail on my own.
*Yes, I know "done" is a relative term. I've only abandoned books when I've published them.
**Apparently, I'm writing this blog entry in 1997. Time travel is hard, folks.
***Made up of myself, the aforementioned Murder folks, and more than a few other brilliant writers working in common purpose.