Dear Writer … it’s not all about you, ya know!

A few weeks ago, I completed a sentence that had been posted by a writing-related Page on Facebook: What I like most about writing is …

I answered with, “when a reader enjoys what I’ve written,” because that’s why we all write in the first place. Right? So readers will read, and be affected by, what we’ve written. The bonus comes when they tell us this is the case. If that’s not why we write then we might as well just maintain locked journals and diaries. Or burn everything we write.

I was the first to reply to this, so it wasn’t until I went back to the Page a day later that I noticed mine was the only comment that took readers into consideration. For the rest of the people posting – and there were very many! – it was all about them.

When I write The End.

When my writing goes well for the day.

When I sell a lot of copies.

You get the picture. It scares me that so many writers are that self-centred they can’t see the real value to writing anything is to move, to entertain, to persuade, to get a reaction, and just have their writing read. (And it doesn’t matter here whether the reader actually purchased a copy, downloaded it for free, or borrowed your book from the library – as long as they’re reading. We’re not talking about making big bucks from writing and that that should be the reason we write, because I think everyone realizes there’s very little money to be made from writing books. And, if you don’t realize that then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell to you … )

I know the vast majority of those who posted in reply to that original sentence will become published authors, or most likely will become self-published authors. I’m a self-published author. Unfortunately, most of those commentors will become the brand of self-published author we’ve all come to know and despise – The Self-Promoting Self-Published Author You know the ones – they spam you and mention their book, and only their book, every chance they get, and wonder why no one is buying. They never seem to wonder why no one is reading; they’re only interested in the money they’re not making.

So we end up with articles like this by Michael Kozlowski on GoodEReader: Self-Published Authors Are Destroying Literature. ALL self-published authors are painted with the same brush, because too many are making nuisances of themselves. I have stopped following and friending any author who only talks about themselves and their own book in social media. I will not follow anyone whose Twitter bio is only about their own book and not about any of the benefits they can offer to me – like, that they’re a READER, or a librarian, or a bookseller or someone else with a vested interest in books in general.

Sure, I want to know you’re a writer, but I also want to know that you read and will promote books by other authors. I will be more inclined to look at your website, in that case, check out what you’ve written, and – here’s the clincher … Help you to promote that book of yours by telling my friends about it, if I enjoy reading what you’ve written.

Now we’ve come full circle as to why readers’ enjoyment in our writing should be of the utmost importance to all writers and authors. If readers like what they read they will share it with their friends. The very best promotion anyone can ever ask for is word-of-mouth, because it means our readers are endorsing us and want to share our work with their friends, and it’s not just us blowing our own horns all the time. Word-of-mouth is also the most flattering form of promotion, far better than any review in a newspaper most new readers will never see. And it gets rid of any perceived need to self-promote, ad nauseum.

This word-of-mouth business doesn’t just happen overnight, either, so I suggest that, along with restraint, writers and authors need to learn to be patient. I first published my eBook in Feb. 2012 and the print edition in June of that year, and I’m still finding new readers who haven’t previously heard of me or my book. But I’ve been quietly making connections here and there and one thing has been leading to another, so I’m very pleased with the readership base I’ve developed, and how many of those people have asked when the next book will be available. I keep writing, and I continue to publish the work of other writers and help them promote their work. And I’ve tried to do it in a way that, I hope, has been helpful to other writers/authors and their readers by not making it all about me and my book.

I’ve recently “met” online a couple of other self-published authors. (I read and enjoyed their books, wrote reviews, and heard back from them both. We’ve made a connection and are now discussing promoting and promotion and I believe some good things are going to be coming out of this that will benefit all of us.) I’ve made the suggestion to one of these authors that, if every writer/author out there were to help five others promote their work (so for every tweet about their own book they would tweet five times about five different authors) this would be a wonderful world! You must have read something recently that you want to talk about to everyone you know. Maybe you’ve discovered a new writer whose book you just couldn’t put down, or perhaps you have a writer friend who is struggling to get the word out, because they just don’t have as many friends on Facebook as you do. It could also be an established author whose work you admire. Even established authors still need promotion, after all.

So I’m putting my money where my typing fingers are and am proposing to begin promoting five other authors myself. This was my business, after all, when I ran Alberta Books Canada. One of the authors I promoted then said that if I could find new readers for his writing he would be happy, so that became my mandate – finding new readers. At that time, I was working to promote many authors, primarily to libraries, and the authors paid me for displaying their books at conferences. What I propose now is to promote books by authors because it’s a good thing to do! If I promote these authors now, somewhere down the line someone else will promote my book. And all of this promotion will be done for free with no expectation of receiving anything in return. After all, what goes around, comes around. That’s Karma, man!

Please join me! (Readers, you too can get in on this idea …) If you know of a deserving book, tell your friends about it. Write a review, mention in your status update, Tweet about it. (As Tim Baker said in a recent blog post, Write a Review — Independent Authors Everywhere Will Thank You) Do that for five authors for a while. Then change over to another five authors. And continue. Your friends will be grateful for the reading recommendations. The authors will be grateful for the promotion.

And … it won’t be all about you any longer, so your friends will begin to return.

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4 responses

  1. I agree that it is hard to find the right balance between book promotion and self promotion and excessive single-minded promotion that becomes spam. Maybe we should think of the online writers’ community like going to a reading: we listen quietly, we give praise where it is due, and then maybe, in a conversation with someone, tell them that our own book is coming out soon.

    1. This is an excellent suggestion, DMartens! I have also been suggesting GOOD blogs and books to other bloggers I follow who have a common theme and who I think may be interested in knowing of them. We can’t possibly see everything we should be aware of on the Internet, so it’s good to spread the knowledge around. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Being a writer myself, i agree with a lot of the points in your article. The reason i started writing was because i wanted people to read what i read and hopefully, like it or in a few rare cases, get inspired. I remember how one of my poems shook a cord in a close friend of mine and he acually stopped being lazy 24 hours of the day, though being lazy 20 wasn’t much better but at least it did something.

    1. But you did affect him in some way, so kudos to you! And keep writing. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, shrey.

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