What if I labeled this article, “The Business Side of a Novelist”? You might pass it up for an extra ten minutes on FaceBook, or worse yet, watch a re-run of The Bachelor. If we, as authors, hope to succeed in selling books, in building a fan base, and quitting our day jobs, then we MUST understand the business of authorship. It’s not about writing—it’s about marketing. That means leaving the sanctuary of our writing caves.
Old writer's cave (with writing coaches).
When I was young, I was a wallflower. Still am, actually. Despite being painfully shy, I attended high school dances where I looked for the darkest corner from which I could watch the other kids have fun. Why attend? In some weird way, I felt part of the event even though my role was little more than shadow-filler. My habit of people-watching, spawned in those early years, heavily contributes to my writing. Airports, train stations, on the bus, grocery stores . . . it did not matter where I saw them. I studied the habits, characteristics, and social rituals of strangers. Sometimes, I saw things they would not want me to see. Things like the mournful smile of a lonely girl as she glanced longingly at a young man kissing his girlfriend. I saw her. She did not see me.
Such is the life of a wallflower, destined to observe life while others live life. Similarly, many novel writers enjoy seclusion that comes with solitary hours in contemplation and creativity. I do. The problem arises after the writer’s work finds a willing publisher. All of a sudden, a book company prints thousands of copies for national release and expects the author to become animated and outgoing. Happy solitude ends, replaced by business demands of publication. Book signings, radio interviews, reading clubs, fan questions, press releases--scary demands for someone who prefers emotional safety in a writer’s cave. Such public settings draw the writer into an unfamiliar and often uncomfortable world. The wallflower dies, releasing an author’s carefully constructed public persona, a necessary metamorphosis in publishing. Platform defines the author's marketing potential and is important to publishers for that reason. Can this author promote? Does he or she have the ability to leave the comfort of writing and step into the spotlight? Can he or she command respect and generate sales?
Inflexible wallflowers rarely succeed in publishing. Publishers know it. Like most of my writer friends, I enjoy the bright lights of public acclaim, but my positive demeanor and friendly handshaking is not my happy place. Inside, I yearn to return to my late-night solitary tryst with a computer, immersing in some new fictional world. Fortunately, when my public persona completes its mission, the wallflower comes back to life. Then, I disappear into my fantasy world where I am both master and slave.
New writer's cave.
Are all authors, wallflowers? Nah, but lots of them are. The point of this blog is simply to inform introverts about the business side of writing. Sales don’t happen by themselves. Even word-of-mouth bestsellers begin with author promotions. And, if you want to get a publishing contract, you’d better convince your literary agent and publisher of your ability and willingness to take care of “business.”