I've been thinking about beefing up my online presence as I prepare for the Thomas & Mercer releases of The Righteous. I don't always feel comfortable actively promoting my work, but neither do I want to appear indifferent or even hostile to my readers. I love to connect with people who have read my books. I'm just not comfortable with grabbing passersby and pressing flyers into their hands.
Nathan Lowell recently posted about the failure of many writers to effectively promote themselves via social media. The problem, he notes, is that people are trying to sell their work rather than just connecting. Nathan wrote:
If you’re genuine and responsive, if you’re interesting and engaging, then people will find you. When they find you, they’ll click your links and explore your world. Engage them and encourage them to become part of your world. They’ll support your work, if they find it interesting. They’ll tell other people and promote your work in ways that you cannot.
I'm no expert on social media, but I immediately saw the connection between how Nathan advises that one connect with readers and the decisions that I make about what kinds of books to write. I went through a period where I struggled to know whether I should write fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, horror, and how to write books that could attract first an agent and then a publisher. As an unpublished writer, publication was an all-consuming interest. I would talk about it with writing friends, listen to panels on how to get published, read books about getting published, and lie awake at night wondering why I had not yet, in fact, been published. I spent more time worrying about how to get published than, you know, writing. When I did write, I focused on short stories (the quickest, best path to publication), and on whatever seemed most commercial at the time.
All of this changed about ten years ago when I realized something. The stuff I wrote chasing publication was crap. The stuff I wrote because it spoke to me wasn't half bad. These less commercial stories were the ones that actually sold. The reason is obvious. It doesn't matter how commercial the genre, if my heart wasn't in it, the story wouldn't be good enough to sell.
I decided two things. First, I would write novels. I don't read short stories, I read novels. My pacing, my writer's temperament leans toward novel-length fiction. Second, I wouldn't worry about what was selling at any given moment, I would write the kind of books that I like to read.
It was about this time that I started writing stories worth reading.