I met a well-known novelist on Gather.com (if you can call a few written exchanges meeting someone). My first communication with a successful author, and he contacted me. So what if it was only a comment he left on one of my articles, he did contact me, and it left me feeling a little strange. I couldn’t figure out what I had done to draw his attention, and I couldn’t figure out why a writer such as he would have signed up for Gather where the newly published and the wannabes hang out.
His latest book is coming out in March, so perhaps that answers the question of what he’s doing there — publicity — but still, as the author of more than twenty published books, including a couple that have been made into movies, why would he need to do it on such a basic level?
Out of curiosity, I looked for his books in the library, and found only one, which had been published five years ago. What shocked me was that his name appeared below the title, and his picture was not on the back of the book jacket. (Big name and even not so big name authors are regularly featured above the title.) And the mystery of what he is doing on Gather became a little clearer.
No matter how successful writers are, if they aren’t among the elite who bring big bucks to the publishing houses, they have to grub for readers. It seems a sordid business, this grubbing, and I wonder how often it pays off. One author who is contstantly grubbing says her book, which has been out a year, is doing well. It sold between one hundred and one thousand copies.
For many years now, my dream has been to become a published author, but I’m no longer certain it makes any difference if I get there or not. Published authors have to spend a lot of time publicizing themselves and their books, and that time is subtracted from their writing time. And if they do reach the pinnacle, they become something completely different, not an author but a celebrity, which also takes them away from writing. (I am beginning to see why brand name authors often degenerate into mediocre writers: they do not have much time to write.)
In a perfect world, I would be a published author and make enough money to live on so I could devote my life to writing. But this is not a perfect world, and the publishing industry is not always the answer to a writer’s dream. I don’t think self-publishing is the answer either, at least not for me. It seems that self-publishing becomes a matter of eternal self-publicizing, and again, little time is left for actual writing.
I don’t know where my answer lies. I will, of course, continue pursuing publication, but more importantly, I will continue writing. That’s what I want to do — write — not spend my life trying to get my name known.