A friend of mine and I were having a conversation this week regarding the amount of time “celebrities” spend working. Even hour-long programs must spend so much more time behind the scenes to generate the program. It got me to think about the fantasies I had of the writer’s life when I was little. I dreamed that Stephen King, Marry Higgins Clark and the like had the best life ever. Heaven on earth. They wrote all morning and then read all afternoon by the poolside of their mansions. They had ample time to spend with family and hiking and enjoying life. I think what I really imagined was retirement but they wrote on the side. I remember thinking that the real work was in getting published. After that, it was sit back and watch my books soar to number one on the New York Times bestseller.
While my view showed my sixth grade understanding of the world, I think a lot of new authors believe a scenario close to this. At the most simplistic, I never thought I would have to market my own work, set up signings and…gasp…sell myself to strangers. However, I always imagined I currently work crazy hard because I carry a full time job as well. After my conversation, I began to wonder if I still carry a somewhat adaptive—but still unrealistic fantasy—vision of the “full-time” writer.
All authors have to promote, which means mingling where the targeted audience hangs out. For me, this is social websites. I have yet to master this art, but am learning every day. There are other things I don’t think I’ve considered. What about promoting a brand? I know Twilight and such sold T-shirts, but I wonder how many other authors participate in similar adventures. Pens, bags, bookmarks (of course), etc. Authors are a brand, as weird as that sounds. I wonder how many speaking events authors attend. Writer’s conferences are great ways to find readers, I think. I know my bookshelf is filled with books belonging to conference speakers and presenters. I actually don’t mind the possibility of presenting writing topics at conferences. I think it speaks to the teacher in me. Then there is the time to edit and, don’t forget writers have to actually produce a book. Some, like Jim Butcher, tend to do two in a year.
The website we were discussing is run by a woman with a cooking show on Food Network. Her blog was detailed recipes (along with pictures) posted once a week. Then she had a photo contest on her gallery, a spot to highlight clothing, children’s books along with recipe books, a Q and A section, and other avenues. I can see this in a writer’s website: writing contests to help promote the site or maybe challenges to send in the best pictures depicting scenes from a book. The possibilities are endless, and time consuming…. Am I horrible to say it is also enthralling and exciting? I can’t wait!