The effects of writers’ preoccupations with constant marketing

Just found a nice post by Jason Pinter  (here) on writers having to spend so much time marketing their work.  And really, on having to spend so much time and life energy marketing, instead of just writing whatever it is their mission in life to write about.  I added a comment and thought it might also fit on this blog:

I … agree that writers’ preoccupation with marketing has gotten tedious. It’s not just the problem of so many authors having to be so preoccupied with marketing (because publishers have discovered that they can drop that responsibility, like the good editing they used to provide, on the writers now and so we have to do it), but because it’s so easy to confuse writing in order to market, with writing about marketing, as if our readers really care.

But the more insidious effect of this preoccupation is on the mental lives of writers. As a psychologist and writer I can assure you that a writer’s mental real estate is finite. Time that should be spent reading literature (whether Tolstoy or Chandler or Nancy Drew mysteries) is devoted instead to reading our Tweets (and other writers’ blogs). Time we really really truly NEED to spend perfecting our craft (ten years at a minimum to be worth our first publication; ten years AFTER our first publication before we will probably write our lifetime’s best stuff) gets spend doing easily scannable blog posts, clever tweets, composing elevator speeches.

Nobody much reads the old shrinks like Eric Fromm anymore; they warned about this pressure in our culture to turn our personalities into marketing agencies. It may mean that we limit our abilities a lot as we strive to become really good jingle writers, instead of really good writers.

Not that marketing can be avoided, of course.   I think it’s really more a matter of striving for balance.  When I’ve run my therapy practices, I had to spend some time “marketing,” but it was really important to have spent far, far more time learning the craft of therapy, reading those hundreds of hours on therapy and psychology in general, and yes, being a patient myself so I’d know what it all felt like.  I have known a number of therapists who might be really good at presenting themselves publicly, at having the most inviting and charmingly reassuring websites, at recruiting lots of patients, but who were basically kind of undercooked in terms of their professional skills, their personal maturity, and most of all, in terms of that hard-to-define quality of “wisdom.”  People it’s easy to find in the book (because their marketing is so thorough), but whom you’d never refer your mom to if she needed a shrink.

Same goes for writers.  I want to read good writers, not good marketers.  If they’re good marketers too, that’s fine — how else will we find them, maybe?  But then again, maybe the master agents like Maas are right: the really great books mostly get promoted by word of mouth.  Somebody, somewhere, buys a copy.  Loves it.  It keeps her up all night.  And she tells two friends.  And so on.

I don’t know if it’s possible, of course, but when I dream, that’s the kind of books I dream of writing.  The kind that keep somebody up late at night so they hate me in the morning when they have to get up for work after two hours’ sleep… but all day they look for a chance to recommend the book to someone else.

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3 Comments

Filed under Writing, Writing profession

3 responses to “The effects of writers’ preoccupations with constant marketing

  1. God damn! I can’t agree more. Steve Chandler who used to be a song writer said that networking for success was a myth. He found that it’s the best songs that found their way into people’s hands. If you build it, he will come. Jimmy from 7thProvince.com

  2. Fantastic, I didn’t know about that till now. Thx!!

  3. Love this post, Dr. Korgeski. I think of this phenomenon as the “tyranny of relentless self-promotion.” If you think it is bad for writers, you should see the life coaching profession.

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