Friday, August 14, 2015

Is it the Writer or the Self that Matters?

I was at my book critique group the other night, and a few of us have novels that are incubating to the point where we to at least give a nod to marketing. All of us are over fifty. At first glance this doesn't seem important, but actually it's so damn critical that it's terrifying. None of us are comfortable with the concept of the selfie, which is basically code for promoting yourself. I have NEVER taken a picture of myself to post on my Facebook, Blogger, or any sort of social media. I have an author photo. That's it. The concept of selling myself, whether it's a book or just, well, me is so foreign that it's like someone is speaking another language. And yet every publisher who FAQS I've perused demand that you have a robust presence on social media. Not just a blog, because they are dead. And not just Facebook because that seems to be passe. But tumblr and twitter and instagram. Post away, people!  You have a fully formed "self" that actually has nothing to do with your book. In face, IMO, the book is incidental, almost an after thought.

And what exactly does a fifty-nine year old woman have to sell these days in a world that is obsessed with youth? Fuck all, frankly.

I have just finished a book. It's done and I'm about to shop it around. I'm not making money on my writing, so I basically write what I want to write. I have fun with it. It doesn't mean that I treat my writing as nothing more than a hobby or a lark, but my lack of success actually means that I don't have to please anyone but myself. I don't have to churn out a book every six months, which given that I work full time, is absolutely impossible. And the reading public need to be fed on a constant basis. Unless you're someone like Donna Tartt where you can write one book every ten years. I'm not Donna Tartt. You can't write a book every five years like I do and expect to have a writing career. This is both freeing and also extremely depressing. But that's my reality.

So yeah, I had fun with this book. I wrote it in two different POVs, both males, and young men at that. And now I'm faced with the reality that I can't market this book as is now de rigueur. I physically can't put a picture of myself on a website or the back cover of a book and expect the market whom might actually want to read it actually pick it up or click on it. Why? Because I'm a fifty-eight year old woman writing about twenty-somethings. I have no street cred basically. I plan to market it under a pseudonym, but I can't take that very far.

For the first time I actually understand why authors create these alter personalities to sell their books. And I don't mean just writing under a different name. Remember that scandal of a street kid who wrote his memoir and it was horrifying the level of abuse he was subjected to. And the book was a massive hit and he was an industry darling, and it turns out he was a middle-aged white women who had trouble selling her novels and adopted this persona because apparently abused kids who turned were selling really well.

This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.  The book and the author are now so joined, the "self" of the author so integral to the book, that you can't say I thought this would be fun to write and lease judge this book on its merits.

Authors are now a commodity and in some ways, I think more than the book itself.