There is an interesting transformation required of all writers. Writing is solitary work; I am isolated, I focus internally, my story is in my head. I spend hours, days on my own in my writer’s cocoon.
Then I hit a turning point. The day my book is published I need to become an extrovert, a public promotor. I must focus externally. I chase media, I court book reviewers, book store owners and reps, all are now my new best friends. After being so intensely self absorbed, it is a bit of a shock to the system.
Writers are schizophrenic. Yes, writing is solitary, but our mission to communicate ideas, tell stories and change people’s minds is very public. We want our readers to think differently, we seek to influence them, we want to tell people how to view the world.
We write…alone. Then we to go in front of the public and defend ourselves. We are stars for a day at our book launches, we show up for book readings and book signings. I give a copy to my Barista at Delany’s on Denman, my favorite writing coffee shop. We answer questions from people who haven’t yet read our book. We sell our book, our ideas and ourselves.
My second book was recently launched at a wonderful independent bookstore, Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks In Vancouver. While many independent bookstores are struggling, Books to Cooks is an exception, it seem to be thriving.
Last week, about 40 people showed up at 5:30 PM one evening for a book, a glass of wine, a chance to hear me read and a chance to socialize with friends, old and new. It is a warm, reinforcing ritual. Books come alive, reading is still a virtue; readers gather to affirm our support for the arts, ideas, the written word and, I hope, for writers.
For two hours I am an extrovert. I am surrounded by friends whose best wishes fill this moment and this room with such generosity of spirit. I joyfully sign each one with my special pen.
I make the switch to a public persona, mindful that the more publicity I can generate, the more I can sell books to pay for the next one I’m thinking of writing. My guests head off into the night, all feeling much better, I hope, about the state of the nation and the future of literature.
The economics of book publishing are brutal, writing is an optimistic statement of hope over reality for most of us, the writers who create books. We seldom make money.
It’s like the farmer who manages to eke out a living with each year’s crop. That farmer, when he wins the lottery is asked what he’ll do with his winnings. “Well,” he says, “I think I’ll keep on farming till the lottery money is all used up; after that I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Here’s what you can do. Read more. Turn off the TV and read. Buy a book, if not mine than someone else’s. Give books as gifts; they are universally appreciated and reflect well on you, the gift giver. Encourage others to read and buy books. In case you were wondering, you can buy my book at bookstores across Canada in soft cover (ask for it, it generates orders) and on the web in both softcover and as an e-book
Book reviewers and publishers used to be gate keepers, curators of our taste; they suggested worthwhile books to read and told us why we might like them. Their role has disappeared; there are more books and more books are independently published; we all want you to buy our bit of printed genius. If you read a book and liked it, tell people about it. Write a review.
Here’s a few places to start;