Many people tell me that they’ve always wanted to write a book but don’t think they could actually do it. I always encourage them to try. Each of us has a story to tell, it’s just a matter of finding the time. What I don’t tell people is this:
The writing is the easy part.
Because once the book is written, they should be ready to spend the better part of their days selling themselves and their work to anyone who will listen. I can promise you that unless you’re either lucky enough to get a huge advance from a publishing company or you have a horseshoe in your pocket, chances are your book will not sell itself. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it anyway.
The writing is the fun part.
I discovered not long ago that I’m a highly functioning introvert. That means I do just fine in large social settings, where I’m able to small talk with the best of them. I enjoy a good party, going to the theater, attending concerts. It just takes me a little time to recover afterward. A day out among the masses is usually followed by a day hunkered down at home in silence.
What does this have to do with writing? Well, one of the most appealing things about trying my hand at becoming an author was the opportunity to go within for a while. I started writing my first novel shortly after my mom died. It was a period in my life when it was a little more difficult than usual to gear up for social events. It felt good to be alone and to escape into the fictional world I was creating. Even when it came time to turn my manuscript over to my editors, it didn’t require much more than emailing back and forth, and the occasional conference call. In other words: minimal human contact. This writing thing seemed to be a perfect fit for me.
Then came the book launch.
A great big party where I had to stand up in front of close friends and family, talking about myself and my work. It’s an event that would strike terror in the hearts of most introverts. I used to anchor sports and news for a living, so it might sound strange that I’m so nervous about public speaking, but it really is completely different. When you’re anchoring, you’re delivering a script to a camera. There aren’t any sets of eyeballs on you except for the folks in the control room and the camera operators, and they’re focused on their own work. When it comes time to speak to actual humans at book signings, author talks, library events, and so on: lots of eyeballs, and they’re all waiting to see if you have anything interesting to say. And they have questions. Lots of questions.
To compound the fear, as an author, you’re speaking about something so deeply personal. Something you’ve likely spent hundreds if not thousands of hours of your life creating. By the time you’re holding your book in your hands, you couldn’t love it more if you’d carried if for nine months and breast fed it for a year. (I’ve done both, and I love my children with a ferocity that would make mother lions blush. I love my books almost as much.)
Another hurdle: authors have to learn to be social media savvy, and be prepared to post interesting and thoughtful things across all platforms daily. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest. And don’t forget about managing a website and writing insightful and witty blogs! (Sometimes it feels like I can go weeks without anything insightful or witty to say! I’m a mom. I’m tired!)
Authors should also find an excellent literary publicist to help guide the way, if budgets allow. It doesn’t hurt to invest in some fun book-related swag to send out to the incredibly generous bloggers and media that go out of their way to help spread the word about your literary prowess. Book-loving people are generous. They want to help you. Make sure to thank them at every opportunity.
And be sure to hit the gym. You’ll be carrying boxes of books in and out of events, particularly if you’re an indie author. My arms have never looked better. (not really. They were much better in my twenties, but whatever.)
The good news? It gets a little easier each time. You’ll get better at it. It will feel good when you realize that the people that take the time to come to your events are genuinely interested in what you have to say. And best of all: they’re your people.
And readers are the very best kind of humans.