There’s a lot to be said for connecting with readers on the internet. A lot. There’s also a lot to be said for being able to take charge of your own marketing rather than 1) paying someone else to do it, and/or 2) worrying the someone else doing it won’t think of all the angles you want them to think of, or that they won’t be on the ball the way you think you would be if you were doing it yourself.
Marketing and connecting have their drawbacks. Marketing, for instance, can become all-consuming. I’ll be in the middle of writing something new, and slowly I’ll drift off into thoughts of designing book postcards with Homefront‘s sparkly new cover, or I’ll begin to run through names of people I hope to hear from (and did I write that person I meant to write? who else can I write?). Write. Writing. Right! Writing! Back to writing. (Where was I?)
Connecting. While hearing from, and being able to write back to, readers with ease has probably been one of the more gratifying elements of this whole “writer” experience, I was reminded recently that not taking things personally doesn’t just apply to “your story sucks” comments in a writing workshop. (No one actually ever said that about me, by the way. That I know of. That is, we were all much more civilized than that and would, instead, say such things out of the author’s earshot.)
Here’s the drawback to connecting: Members of an online message board I have access to are discussing whether their book club will read Homefront. One member said with some vagueness that the blurbs about the book read in such a way that something didn’t “sit right.”
I spent far too much time wondering, “What does she mean, doesn’t ‘sit right’?”
When I read/hear “doesn’t sit right,” I imagine something fishy. Sketchy. “Somethin’ ’bout that just don’t sit right…” Right?
Then I clicked on her name, read her profile, visited her blog, all the while wondering, “Who is this person? Why, why doesn’t it ‘sit right’? Why didn’t she use more detail? Wah! Why won’t she read my BOOOoook!?”
Then I thought of people like Hemingway and Salinger and Atwood, whose books started selling long before the internet and this pesky availability of information, and I remembered they didn’t even know when people didn’t want to read their books. What’s more, they probably didn’t care, because they were too busy writing. Unlike me, who is too busy being on the internet and splashing myself everywhere in this ‘marketing’ quest and obsessing over a random person who doesn’t want to read my book (have I been marketing wrong? Does she represent a larger group? Should I forget marketing to that group, or should I find a different way to approach them? … aaaaand we’re back to marketing.)
The point: there is, of course, an upside and a downside to everything, and the downside of being able to connect with so many people with such ease also means coming across something I might otherwise never have known, never have thought about. It’s kind of like mind reading. It seems like it would be a lot of fun, but what if you couldn’t do it selectively? Imagine you’re reading the mind of someone you think likes you, and you hear, “Please, please just be quiet. You annoy me. Annoy annoy annoy. Stop it. Stop talking. Shhh. Shh sh sh. And stop blinking so much. Jesus. You’re always blinking.”