This Could Be a Problem

I like languishing in obscurity. Languishing is my love language.

This could be a problem.

Well, not yet. But it will be if I reach any of my writing goals for the year, which include: a little book based on my #thewritinglife Twitter updates; the first novel in a YA series; a contemporary adult novel that’s been six years in the making; a few more blog posts; at least one provocative tweet.

You can’t have a successful writing career unless you embrace marketing and self-promotion.

I get it. If no one knows about you or your book, the book won’t sell.

In my past life as an editor in a traditional publishing house, I spent many hours in marketing meetings. I understand the rationale, the importance of planning, the risks and potential rewards. I find marketing fascinating. Nothing tests the creative process like trying to come up with ways to make every book a bestseller when your dollars are limited. Marketing meetings may be rooted in reality (“this is our marketing budget for the book”), but they’re fueled by big dreams. Even when pressed down by the weight of that reality, the air in most of my remembered marketing meetings was always thick with hope.

I inhaled that hope. I wanted each book to sell a million copies. I wanted each author to become a household name. I wanted to walk into Borders (R.I.P.) or Barnes and Noble to see eager readers holding the books in one hand and open wallets in the other, their expectations high and about to be exceeded.

It was easy to believe this for other people’s’ books. But now I’m closing in on the reality that I soon will have a book (or three) of my own to unleash upon the masses. The closer I get, the more I long for obscurity.

This isn’t because I hate or fear marketing (see above). Nor is it some lame attempt to apply reverse psychology to my publishing dreams. (Unless it works. Then it was my intent all along.) I wish I were high-minded enough for it to be about letting the words stand alone, untainted by the evils of self-promotion. (I’m not.)

It’s just that I like obscurity. Obscurity is my favorite pair of pants.

Experts will tell you that marketing and self-promotion are games of chance you can’t afford not to play. They’re right. Absolutely right. Especially if you want to sell books.

I do.

This could be a problem.

6 Replies to “This Could Be a Problem”

  1. I think you are too harsh on yourself. Or on the reality of the fact that on the Twitter alone you have a few thousands of followers out of whom half, perhaps or so, would by your books with no promotion at all. For people like me on the other hand, the publishing mountain is a lot steeper and higher one. So far for me the Twitter is an empty place.

  2. I find popularity (another word for self-promotion) to be mostly timing and good luck, just like anything else. Sure, there might be a moment you need to seize, but you won’t know about it until you get there. I try not to worry about it.

    And I’m pretty sure I’ll never be famous. But that’s okay.

  3. Obscurity keeps us on the precipice of safety and soul clenching exposure. In which, the outcome may break our carefully constructed spirit into fine little pieces of dust. Then what becomes of us? If we could only stand solid inside the triumph of our accomplishment before the marketing whip lashes. Then, I think, we would have the last laugh no matter the outcome. (Or budget) Either way, you land on your feet; as a houshold name or blissfully back into obscurity.

  4. You are never going to be allowed obscurity, so long as you write for an audience, be it tweeting or blogging or novelling. You’re too charming as a writer. (And I don’t mean that as flattery – except insofar I admire your skill in being purposefully charming. It’s a brilliant writing style – and marketing style.) Like Joseph said, people will buy your books just because they’re written by you. You also know exactly how to use your instinct for obscurity to very good effect. So clever.

  5. You might be obscure on purpose, Stephen, but you do not reside in obscurity. You and your clever words, your intelligent craft, and your knowledge of the industry (and being known by and in the industry) make you more visible than you might desire and it all keeps you from genuine obscurity. Your talent can’t be hidden – that’s for sure!

    Some of us have been waiting for your books for a long time.

    Marketing is a bona fide curse to some of us even though we understand its value. It’s definitely not our strength, and we can’t seem to find what works – not only for us but for novels in general.

    I doubt you’ll have that problem.

  6. If obscurity is your favorite pair of pants, you’re not alone. The best writers I know are mostly uncomfortable with the promotional side of the business. But you are rather brilliant, Stephen. And perhaps brilliance is its own reward. I’ve enjoyed the short stories I’ve read and would love to read an entire book from you.

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