I’m chickening out, right this second. See, this weekend is the Roanoke Writers’ Conference, which is supposed to be great, and some people sorta a-little expected me to go. But the idea of going felt like carving my own guts out with an ice cream scoop, and when I finally decided not to go, I felt nothing but relief. (It’s not like I just laid on the couch today, though; instead, I worked all morning at a sweaty-hot garage sale. Not that it matters. The important part is I still didn’t go to the con.)
I didn’t want to go to that con because I recently tried—to prove to myself and to anyone who might ask if I’m really committed—to sell my books directly to customers at FenCon, a science-fiction convention. I figured, aliens and zombies, of course my people will be at a sci-fi convention! And making small talk isn’t my favorite thing, but I was a Girl Scout, I know how to sell things, plus I love my books and sincerely believed they would sell like hotcakes.
Well, you can see where this is going. I sold enough to break even, but it was a near thing, and a ton of work. A (more famous than me) author twice came to my table and glanced through Beamed Up: Decide Your Destiny and when I made small talk about my book, he sneered at me and made snide comments about how he was a real writer (you touched my book, dude, I’m just trying to make a sale!). It was emotionally exhausting to the point that the next day I crashed so hard I could barely spoke to anyone.
Basically I sat at a table, cheerful smile plastered to my face, for two days with very few breaks… and it just didn’t feel worth it.
I sincerely came back after that and declared that I should just be a hermit author, like Harper Lee or J.D. Salinger. They don’t seem to be in style much lately, but I just don’t know of I can muster the kind of energy it would take to be something else. See, the authors I met at FenCon overwhelmingly also have day jobs and yet spend nearly every weekend at some kind of writer event. That kind of schedule isn’t sustainable for me; I need to curl up and feed myself emotionally, sometimes. It makes me feel like I’m not “committed enough,” not “real” enough somehow, not “good enough” to be trying to write.
And maybe that’s true. But I just keep thinking there has to be some other, better way. I don’t write for the money, and maybe that’s my problem; I should care more about the money. But, to me, the money is just a way to keep getting to do the writing—but it’s currently a paradox, because to get the money for writing I have to spend time and energy not writing. I just don’t have enough fuel cells to burn for that. Props to those who can, I guess. I wish I could be in your club.
4 responses to “Hermit Writer”
I feel like maybe the only response to the “real writer” comment is an apparent non-sequitur like “Wow. I had no idea. I’m really sorry you had such a terrible childhood.”
I mean, I grasp that people rank authors by totally-external-to-their-writing credentials, with “authors who make a really nice living from writing” on one end to, what, furry fanfiction authors? mommybloggers? Not sure who the lowest on the writing totem pole is, but the status-tsk-ers definitely seem to rank People Who Put Stuff Into The World That We Deem Inadequately Literary *lower* than people who just write and never attempt to put it out there for people to enjoy/interact-with… And “self-published” floats around somewhere in the middle there below “vetted by a publisher” and above “the lowest of the low”, probably varying on a number of factors specific to the person doing the ranking? Probably including “how insecure are you and how tightly do you cling to that ‘one book got accepted by a publisher! I’m a real boy now!’ trophy?” But I’ve read self-published books that were better than a number of traditionally-published books I’ve read, and I’ve tried to read at least one self-published book that *ought* to have been a gold mine [the autobiography of a lumber camp cook!] but was in dire need of an editor… and also a better writer/storyteller… and also would have benefited from not breaking into random fairly-bad poetry every couple of pages. So while, yes, the odds are perhaps better in some genres for traditionally-published books being better-written and more-tightly written, those are *odds* and not actually credentials/guarantees!
But yes. There are things to promote books that are worth it, and things that are not, and while breaking even *and* exposing a new crowd of people to your books is in some ways a net gain if you don’t count the mental drain (since you’re not just writing for the money, and since each person who bought a book might then spread the word) … the mental drain is definitely a thing, and an unfortunate thing, and it sounds like that tips the scales over into “definitely not worth it” territory. I hope you recover soon, and hope you get good writing mojo and a good community experience somehow. 🙂
Hey KC. I just wanted to say thank you for your kind and thoughtful response! It definitely made me smile and feel a little better.
Also, a less-painful promotional method of getting your books in front of another audience (unless you already do it/know about it, which would not surprise me!) is the Scalzi Gift Guide threads, which are apparently coming up next week (self-published is on Tuesday, and basically the way this has worked in previous years is that you leave a comment on the appropriate day with as brief and attractive of an “ad” as you can accomplish, plus links to where things can be bought): https://whatever.scalzi.com/2018/11/30/whatever-holiday-shopping-guide-2018-starts-monday/
It is a large audience, probably mostly sci-fi interested, but also some definite “other” as well, and I suspect choose-your-own adventure books for not-kids would be right up the alley of the main demographic (but I could be wrong).
You’re so kind! Thanks for telling me!