Even at the time of my second book (Fire and Bronze), I still had this idyllic vision of writers doing nothing more than writing their carefree novels in vine-covered cottages, and perhaps answering a fan letter or two following their afternoon walk.
Recent experiences have put paid to that.
Now that I have to do everything myself, I’m learning what my sister knows about self-promotion, self-marketing and personal shilling. It’s hard. Humans are by-in-large modest; our culture wires us that way. Villains brag, heroes don’t. And now that I’ve had to set up my appearances, to gussy myself up and sell and sell and sell til I can’t sells no more, it’s evident that the marketing side is not at all fun.
It even shows up in our writing. The first sentence of our novels, the “hook”, has to be carefully crafted so that the browsing public (and agent!) will be sold. Remember those ideas of the gradual building of character and situation, of careful plot development, of settling the reader into the novel’s world? Gone. In the back of his mind, the writer knows he’s got to snare a flighty, distracted, and amusement-saturated reader. For Indigo, I knew that the magic of flight and the introduction of crowish concepts would only go so far. I needed a dogfight by chapter four, something to throw the reader into. Through the book, I’d constantly remind myself that I’ve moved the plot for three or four chapters – time for something gory, stupendous, fantastic.
Even this blog is an example. Sure, I like passing on what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, and what’s going on in my life. But this blog is a marketing tool, first and foremost. It’s linked to my Facebook effort, and to my book links. And so I write interesting articles and keyword them to lure potential readers into my “shop”, to dazzle them with my writing and perhaps sell them more.
And it’s not just me. The more I sank into promotion, with every talk and table, the more I realized how much it exists in the world around us. Every time someone appears on TV, it’s a mutual orgy of projection, with the broadcaster grasping for viewership and the guest flogging their product or POV. Everything in our society is layered desperation. Look at your car. Every part was pitched and sold to the manufacturer, who in turn assembled a product with every line and every component considered, with multilevel marketing hurtling their image into every facet of media. Superbowl commercials are purposely leaked and then the story about this leakage is spun up. Ten political lies are launched; the one that “floats” becomes the accepted truth. Nothing is done by chance, not products, not politics, not art. Nothing. Everything is spun to sell priced to move.
It’s why I wake up at 3AM, look at the ceiling and think, “Am I doing enough?”
A few weeks ago, after blogging and facebooking, after considering my next book’s presentation and my current book’s status, I went out into the garden to weed. Sitting on my knees in the mulch, surrounded by bright flowers and spreading foliage, I realized that the Darwinist struggle was taking place even here, with plants advertising and crowding and positioning and struggling.
Just like writers.