Writing and Well-Meaning Friends

A friend — another writer — sent me an email, which she said I could post here on my blog. She asked:

How do you resist the efforts of (I hope) well-meaning friends who want to manage your writing career for you?  As an example, a friend of mine happened to see a copy of my novel on the bookshelf while she was over.  Questions arose–How many copies had I sold?  Why wasn’t available locally in the bookshops?  How did I expect to sell millions of copies if it wasn’t marketed?

I tried to explain that writing was an end to itself, and I had no expectations beyond that.  I don’t expect to make any serious money writing, and I don’t want to be well-known, especially in my home town.

She looked at me like I was crazy and then launched into a bunch of suggestions about what I “should” do — like visit the local bookstores and sell my book to them, or have a local autograph/book launch party.

No, no, no.

I’m a private person.  I HATE speaking in front of people I don’t know, or otherwise putting on a show.

And these well-meaning lectures happen all the time.  Basically to the point where I don’t want to tell people what I do anymore.  But my kids or my husband usually chime in–because they are proud of what I have accomplished.  So I am, but I am happy with the level of success I have achieved.

Any thoughts?

My response:

That’s an interesting question. My publisher (Second Wind) is new,  so for now the authors are pretty much on their own for promotion. Many are haunting bookstores, (or trying to get their courage up to do so) trying to line up booksignings, and they can’t see beyond that. But . . . 85% of books in a bookstore sell less than two copies. Most people who go to bookstores buy what they went in for (though they may browse) and usually what they buy is one of the 15%. Most people who impulse buy, buy online. Which makes sense when you think of it. When do people have time to kill? At work. And so they browse the internet.

I totally understand about being a private person. I may have to do a booksigning/talk at the local library (the librarians have been very good about getting me the books I needed) but I have no desire to be a local celebrity. Or a laughingstock.

Nor am I interested in traveling around doing booksignings — you spend more than you can make.

The way I see it, our books are available on the internet. (Or mine will be when I’m finally out of copy-editing hell.) So that’s what any promotion should be geared for.

One of the benefits of being published by a small press is that most do not expect you to become a public person. Most (especially if they publish on demand) are even willing to keep the book on their lists indefinitely, which is good. It takes three years for a book to take hold.

But this does not really answer your question. It just explains why the questioners don’t know what they are talking about.

I don’t know how to answer pushy people. Never have. Maybe the best thing is to put a smile over gritted teeth and say, “I’ll let you know when I do.”

Odd, when you were published as an e-book, you weren’t a real writer. Now that you’re in print, you’re not a real writer because you haven’t sold a million copies. But you know that you are a real writer, a real published writer. And no one can take that away from you.

How would you respond to the author’s question?

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