Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Fallacy of Constant Visibility

I'm giving a talk in a couple of weeks about anxiety, stress, and finding ways to be happy in the midst of a writing career.

Twenty years ago, the pace of the publishing world was much slower. You submitted a manuscript (in print, via snail mail), and you might hear back in eight months. Then, maybe you would land an agent, and it would take another year to get a publishing contract. And then another year or two before the book was released.

There was still anxiety and worry and desperation, but the time line was different.

Now, things happen in days.

Thanks to indie publishing, books can potentially be cranked out in days. Not saying that's good, just saying it's happening.

Feelings of desperation and worry and anxiety are so ramped up right now, if you're not constantly in the public eye, you feel like a failure.

I've seen authors recommend staying "current" every 2-3 months in some way. Either releasing a new book, doing a special promotion, something. 

Constant visibility.

And if you're not doing that? You feel worthless, like no one cares, like you are no longer important in the writing world.

I'm gonna call HUGE bullshit on that. Right now.

Something I discovered after doing a Book Bub ad...there's a big difference in readers-addicted-to-cheap-deals and readers-addicted-to-YOU.

Readers looking for cheap deals are looking for daily fixes, and this drives the idea that romance authors MUST-DO-SOMETHING-EVERY-DAY-NEWSLETTER-NEW BOOK-SOMETHING-SHEER PANIC!!!

I sold a lot of books with Book Bub, but did I gain a lot of long-term readers? That's the kicker. I think a bunch of those consumers are looking for a freebie or a cheap deal, and do not necessarily develop author-loyalty.

I'm looking for author-loyalty. Readers who really dig my books, my voice, my vision. 

I know, even if it takes me 1 year, 2 years, 10 years to release the next book, those loyal readers will buy it.

This push for constant productivity and visibility is making lots of money for promotional businesses. It's also encouraging less-than-stellar books on the market. I see plenty of books with no editing at all. 

This is the way I look at it...

For readers who want free/cheap books, and lots of them, and daily new deals, there are plenty of books to choose from. Tons.

For readers who want to read a Penny Watson original, there are books for them, too.

These are two different types of business models, and it's fine to pick one or the other.

But for folks who feel like they are failures if they can't keep up this pace, please stop and think...

Amy Tan had four years between THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE and THE HUNDRED SECRET SENSES. Did we forget about her? Did she become irrelevant? No.

Pink, the singer, took time off to be with her kids. Did we forget about her/not care about her? No, she's awesome. We didn't forget.

Maybe, instead of seeing ourselves as a disposable commodity, we should see ourselves as artists. It takes time to create art. It's special and unique and worth-waiting-for. 

It's a different way of looking at this writing business, and it's a different way of dealing with stress and the current push for constant visibility.

I'm not satisfied with seeing my colleagues sell a lot of books. I also want them to be happy and not feel crushed under the stress of this business.

Go ahead and take your time if you need to. We will all still be here when you're ready for us.

You're worth waiting for!

All my best,