Sunday, May 14, 2006

Anonymous Rex

What is a writer? Is it a state of mind? A title dictated by a paycheck from your publisher? I'm still not sure...

While I was writing THE MARK, I refused to refer to myself an a writer or an author. I was working as an editor, being paid for it, and that was my profession. I love being an editor, still do. I wanted to be an author as well, but refused to call myself one until I actually had a book deal. I felt that calling myself a writer--despite not having sold a book--was like Tobias Funke calling himself an actor, or a med school student calling him/herself a doctor. Until it was official, I didn't want to hear it. I'd written a few things here and there, nothing major. A few articles for my college newspaper, a brief op-ed for the Boston Globe, a short story for an online literary magazine. Hardly material to hang your hat on.

Now I'm not saying this has to be the way everyone does it. Maybe for an unpublished author, being called an author is motivation. Maybe they feel it is a state of mind.

But what's difficult for me to grasp, now, is that pretty soon I have to talk about my being an author. A lot. And often. In the past, if someone asked me what my book was about, I'd respond with a lethargic, "Oh, you know, it's a novel." End quote. Recently my fiancee gave me a well-deserved scolding, saying that if I didn't sound excited when talking about THE MARK, why would anyone else get excited?

It's easy to do this on a blog, which despite being an outlet for personal feelings is rather impersonal. I can rant and rave about how great it is, because I never actually see anybody. But stick me on a panel, and boy, hopefully I'll be ready for it. But it's true. If you want people to get excited about something, there's no replacement for the messenger being excited first. Editors don't go into edit board meetings hoping to buy a book, then pitching it by saying, "This book is ok..."

Many authors choose anonymity. Many post on blogs or message boards because they crave solace (or think there's something sexy about agoraphobia). Recently, even editors and agents have taken to blogging anonymously about the industry (i.e. Miss Snark, BookAngst, etc..). I can't take this route. I have three books coming out in the next 26 months. And I want them to sell. I want them to be embraced. I think they'll deserve to be. So I have to drop any anonymity I might have felt in the past, embrace the role, and hope other people will feel the same thrill reading my books as I felt writing them.


Blogger Stacia said...

LOL! I blogged about this not too long ago, about how I hate it when people ask about my work or how the stuff that's already out is doing, and I hate when people ask when the new stuff is coming out (until I can say, "Next week", at which point I'm slightly more enthused) and I just wish we could all pretend these books don't exist, except when everyone buys them. Then they exist, but have nothing to do with me.

I too didn't feel like I could call myself a writer until I sold work, and even now I feel wierd about it because my publishers are so small. (And because I can never figure out how to spell weird.) I don't tell people I do this unless they ask.

And you're right, I should be promoing like mad! Maybe it's that I live in a small town in England, where I'm already conspicuous enough as the American woman. Maybe it's just that, in the words of Florence King, "Some people become writers because they have something they're burning to share with the world. I became a writer so I could stay home alone." I think it's mostly that the only people I really talk to regularly are my daughter's teachers, and somehow pushing my erotic romance on them seems a little...yeah.

I dunno. But you're right, the thought of an editor saying, "This book is okay..." doesn't work, does it?

I guess I'm just afraid of being like an obsessive PAer, shoving their books on the person in the bathroom stall next to them or whatever.

2:57 AM  
Blogger Bernita said...

Possibly the problem arises from a certain innate dignity and modesty that rejects the blatant promo style.
Some writers choose to act like a shill in a circus.
This is not the only way to promote your books.

5:23 AM  
Blogger Stacia said...

Yeah, what she said. :-)

7:29 AM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

I think in the end, being a writer is really in the eye of the beholder since there are no "official" qualifications. By refusing to call myself a writer, it motivated me to do better work until I could.

A lot of writers, in my opinion, put the cart before the horse in putting together a terrific marketing and publicity plan without the book to back it up. They put the steak before the sizzle, they're sweeping the front porch while the house is burning get the idea.

Bottom line, it begins and ends with a great book. Everything else is just supporting that.

11:05 AM  

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