For those of you who haven’t read a post or two from Joe Konrath, take a look at his blog. He’s a genre writer who last year abandoned his traditional publisher in favor of self publishing and marketing. He did this primarily because his share of the sales would jump from 27 to 70 percent, and because he had the reader following to do it.
Since then, he’s used his blog to proselytize the coming of the new age, when traditional publishers have been beaten and humiliated into positions of irrelevance. He’s probably right about that. Amazon has a huge lead over traditional publishers in selling books, and they know how to appeal to the masses.
The remainder of his blog appears to be self-promotion. He has to do that if he wants to sell books. Writers in general know self-promotion is a fact of life—traditional publishers barely publicize any but the best-selling authors these days. And the traditional publishing industry is so inaccessible to new writers—most agents won’t even consider writers unless they already have a “platform”—that the only alternative is to try to do their own PR. So we blog, Tweet, post incessantly on Facebook, and spend way too much time online doing subtle self-promotion in hopes more people will “follow” us, so that if/when a book comes out we will have a built-in audience and our publisher won’t have to spend much money or time promoting us.
But how can anyone be a good writer if so much time is spent posting and commenting on blogs, Tweeting, on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.?
According to Jonathan Franzen, s/he can’t. In an interview with The Guardian, he said: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” I agree. The tsunami of distractions and interruptions the web brings seriously impacts the focus a writer needs to craft a believable and meaningful story. As a book reviewer, I’ve read many new releases that are as fractured and distracted as a Twitter stream.
I’ve heard the response to statements like these: popularity (read: sales) means the fiction is good. But that’s bullshit, and I’ll bet even Konrath, in the heart of his literary heart, knows it. If that thinking is correct, then “Survivor” and “American Idol” are the best of what’s on television; “Harry Potter” and “Transformers” were the pinnacle of the movie industry’s art in 2011.
So what to do? As an individual writer, I have to play along with the PR game, at least somewhat. But I can make some adjustments. I will blog once a week, rarely more (and on Saturdays, when you have time to read it). I will devote only an hour a day to social media. I will disconnect from the web when I write.
I will focus, as much as possible, on the writing. We’ll see if an agent, a publisher, or anyone cares.
PS: By the way, you don’t have to tell me that this blog helps prove my writing has suffered because of my self-promotional efforts. Honestly, do I have a choice? At least I wrote it with my email program closed.