Tag Archives: marketing

The Writer In the Tower

A writer must be comfortable planting their own thoughts into the minds of others. That is what writing is. Putting your ideas, perceptions, feelings, fantasies out there as “attractive nuisances” that sit dangling from low hanging leaves and drop into the heads of passing Creatures Who Read. If you are good at it, your thoughts will propogate widely, because they will have a stickiness or hard-to-shake quality that lodges them firmly in the brains of readers.

And so you will change the world.

This suggests that one way a writer can fail to become successful is to lack either the ability, or the will, to have their thoughts take up residence in other people’s brains. The ability comes from all the zillions of books and lessons on writing, the examples of brilliance that have come before, the hours and years of practice that begin to accumulate the first time a four year old future writer prints the letter “A.”

That’s the easy part.

The hard part may be the hidden difficulty, the unconscious resistance to letting yourself communicate that freely and deliberately with readers.

Writers are often introverts, even closet social phobics, and the whole idea of writing for them may be organized around having some way to exist in the world without having to interface very intensively with other human beings. Writers are fond of “mountaintop retreats” and quiet rooms and being in but not of a coffee shop crowd. We want peace and quiet. We are sometimes afraid of making a peep. We may want to say “sorry” if someone notices that we have interfered with their idiotic monologue.

But this can become a psychological barrier. A kind of classical Freudian “neurosis” – a “fear of success” pattern that we aren’t even aware of having, but that limits our success as writers and engaged human beings. We can be too timid, too shy, to imagine that we can actually influence and change the thinking of others. “Who – me??” we may ask, as we skitter back to our garrets.

Like it or not, we are all nodes of the Network. Each of us is, on average, six degrees of first-name-basis separation from every human being on the planet. We may live on mountaintops hidden away from the prying eyes and loud voices and critical opinions, so also away from the caring glances and warm friendships and warm bodies of others, and we may feel more comfortable or safe or at peace, less jangled and impinged on, that way.

But I assert that we still need, as writers, to cultivate the ability to let our minds couple with those of others. To have something of ourselves take up permanent residence inside the thoughts and so the bodies (neurologically speaking, at least) of readers.

Not to allow this, to withdraw in permanent shy obscurity, is to risk entombing ourselves inside our own mental dungeons — like mad, forgotten prisoners long ago bricked up in castle towers, sliding sheets of foolscap through narrow window cracks, unaware, or worse, foolishly reassured, that our words of experience and cries for help lie rotting, unread, at the bottoms of silent moats.

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Filed under Phobias, Writing, Writing and society, Writing profession

Writers as “Institutions”

A lot of stuff is written about how to “Market Yourself” as a writer.  How to get your Big Platform, how to make your presence known, and all that.  It’s generally all put forth by people who maintain it’s the new key or new rule, that both readers and publishers expect you to be building your Big Platform constantly.  It’s implied with much certainty that you not only can, but must start with this construction project, almost before you’ve even written anything.  The key to survival as a writer is, essentially, to go into the advertising business.  You are not just a writer, but a marketer.

The problems with this approach are both practical and psychological.  The practical limitation is mostly time: it takes time to get your virtual MBA in marketing.  To learn everything you need to know about “building your brand,” which is a very complicated process.  (Consider how many high-paid consultants it takes to develop and maintain the “Sarah Palin Brand” or the “Conan O’Brien Brand.”  What?  You thought these people are just “being themselves?”)  There are even academic researchers on brand construction.

So if you’re a writer, you got time for all that?

And your publisher won’t provide the expertise you are needing.  For one thing, if you don’t have a “brand,” they all say, you won’t have that publisher.  For another, “experts” in this, like in all fields, are mostly young barely past amateur status people — if you actually are successful enough to be able to afford to pay for topnotch expertise in brand development and advertising, you don’t need it.

The bigger limitation is psychological.  Most serious, worthwhile writers are mainly immersed in their work.  They are introverts — how else does a person develop that interesting “inner life” that makes a writer, unless they spend most of their time immersed in that interior space?  Generally, writers are people who don’t enjoy jumping up on stage to attract the spotlights.  They don’t relish “markeing themselves.”  It seems phoney, even dishonest.  So their hearts won’t be in it, they won’t follow through… and the real danger: they’ll therefore conclude, based on all this “expert” nonsense, that maybe they “aren’t cut out to be a writer.”

In the field of fiction, good agents and others often debunk this stuff.  For instance, Maass, in his books on becoming a break-out writer, makes the point that what sells fiction isn’t all the marketing, but well-written fiction.  People pass the news of great books around to each other; if your book is interesting to enough people, your reputation will spread.  Over time, do more and more good stuff and people will catch on.

When I think of writers I admire and spend money to read, I don’t ever think of their “marketing.”  What happens is something more subtle and more profound.  Essentially, a good writer seems to me to be something like an “institution.”   Continue reading

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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.

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Filed under Writing, Writing profession