Today is a lovely rainy day, the perfect time to hunker down with a cup of coffee next to me and couple of cats draped randomly about and work on my current novel. It takes a bit to get myself all set, nudging my felines into a keyboard-adjacent nap position instead of a paw on the ‘m’ key, adjusting the throw blanket and my footstool just so. I have to ignore all the other stuff around me that needs to get done but it doesn’t matter, I’m entering the imagination zone. My happy place.
But wait, I have a book going to out to editors soon and that means my social media has to be updated or there’s no point in even submitting it. Writing the great American novel is important, of course, but any working author knows that when editors decide what to publish, the actual book itself counts for about 15 percent of that decision. Your past sales performance counts the most, at least 60 percent, because if your other books sold well it’s much easier for them champion the book through the editorial board. The remaining 25 percent depends on the author’s social media platforms. How many people follow you on twitter apparently says as much about your book as the actual words/story/characters contained within it.
What that means is I have to spend more time trying to connect with people who may never read a book than writing a book worth reading. Pain. In. My. Ass.
I’ve never liked promoting myself, I hated it when I was acting, it always felt so false, so distant from real human connection. It has all the subtlety of screaming, ‘Mom! Mom! Look at me! Tell me how great I am!’ Or, in the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m a pretty big deal.” My feeling about that is pretty much the same as Veronica Corningstone’s response, “I’m very happy for you.” Accent on ‘you’. It’s all take and no give, which is not in my nature. I made a bad celebrity.
The whole concept of self promotion makes me feel so plastic I’m afraid my skin will squeak if I use a washcloth on it.
I love real human connection, as anyone who has met me or read my blog will be able to see. It was always awkward for me when people wanted to meet me because I had been on TV or in films. It puts an imaginary wall between two perfectly equal human beings and my immediate reaction was to knock that sucker down. It’s just weird. It made me uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, I never minded someone telling me they enjoyed my work. Everyone likes to hear that they are doing a good job, no matter what they do, but asking for that attention? Ewww.
Unfortunately, promotion through social media is the reality of book selling these days. Did you think a publishing house is going to run an ad in the New York Times starring YOU, or any other non-J. K. Rowling author? Ask them, and listen to the laughter echoing through the half-empty office hallways. So I sign in to sharishattuck.com and sure enough the website needs updating, big time. My site is the neglected middle child of my writing career, and I desperately need a sitter.
I know I should learn how to navigate the whole thing myself, teach myself to write code and become proficient in a language made up entirely of 1s and 0s, but I really don’t need another career. For heaven’s sake, coming up with something to tweet on a bi-daily basis feels forced to me. Pics of my cat? (Okay some of them are amusing.) Of me? Can’t be bothered with plastic surgery or makeup so buckle up ex-soap fans, this is no vanity production. Of beautiful places? Worthy, but only if I’m there, and I can’t always be sipping wine in Paris. Quotes from famous authors? Done to death. Malware? Gossip? I just don’t know what people want to see, or frankly, why they would care. I always try to make my social media about something. A book coming out, a beautiful scene from nature, an uplifting thought or moment. But let’s face it, nobody travels to Outer Mongolia or has spiritual revelations every day and I resent faking it.
But what I resent the most is the time it takes from crafting a story, the actual hours and hours of writing when I get so lost that I lose track of time. It’s an elevated state of mind, and even when I’m writing something tragic, it’s oddly fun. I can go through a box of Kleenex and walk away feeling lighter, and not just because I’ve blown a pound and a half of bodily fluids out my nose over the course of an afternoon.
So I ask around and find someone here to help me out with the stuff I don’t understand myself, and set them to the task. Small problem though, this is Santa Cruz and the guy I hire is a surfer, so when the waves are up, my site is down. I have a great deal of respect for making the choice to live in beauty when the moment is upon you, so I can’t really fault him. Meanwhile, back at the shari-dot-com ranch, no one can leave a comment, click on a link, or God forbid, preview a book and maybe, just maybe, buy one.
Posting on Facebook holds none of the creative writing joy for me, twitter even less. A blog post can be fun to write, but it’s still a distraction from the main event—finishing that novel.
I know I should bitch less and post more, or maybe, here’s a thought, I should post all my bitching! Lots of people do and it certainly seems to work for them. Problem is…that doesn’t solve my issue. Like an actor who is making a million bucks an episode, then goes to the studio execs and says, “Yeah, it’s okay working a few hours a days and having people succumb to my every insane whim, but what I really want to do is produce!”
Seriously? The execs should do is tell them to shut up and get back on the set. What they do instead is give them a Producer vanity credit. The reality of film and TV production is so much work, a mind-crushing, sleep depriving job that very few actors have the inclination or the stamina to do. They don’t even know what it is! Producing is fighting with unions over contracts, figuring out how many feet of extension cord you’ll need on location, dealing with city ordinances, outwitting lawyers, hiring moonlighting police officers to control traffic, arranging port-a-potties, clearing permits with city ordinances lost in wads of red tape, getting clearances from fire and health departments, paying off gardeners with lawn mowers and leaf blowers to shut the eff up, and painting a big ol’ target on your back for law suits. If that actor spent a week really ‘producing’ they would run back to their fancy trailers and bury their professionally made up faces in their fruit baskets crying and muttering, “Somebody get me a cappuccino and a gluten-free, vegan gourmet lunch.” And the real producers would make it so.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a team of unpaid production assistants. I’m an author now. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done besides actual writing.
Which brings me back to me, sitting at my computer, cats to one side, coffee ice cold, whining about the producing work of a writing career.
But I’ve produced films so I can do this, right? Fine, I’ll hire a new web designer, spend hours thinking of new ‘pages’ that almost no one will care about, and days creating content for tweets that will spin away and vanish into the I-cloud ether moments after I push ‘publish.’
I’ll come up with blog posts, take pictures on hikes, download old acting photos, and reply to comments about work I did so long ago that I forgot all about it. I’ll spend time doing the stuff I have to do, what I’m expected to do, I’ll take the compliments and the criticism, and I’ll waste precious creative time perusing what works for other people, what interests them, chasing that elusive, anonymous, prize, traffic and clicks.
But, except for those few genuine exchanges with amazing people I will never meet in the flesh, I won’t like it.
But there’s no use waiting for the best selling author patrol to come pick me up.
I have to be the producer of my own ‘show.’
I’ll take care of business.
I’ll promote myself.
Look at me!
But what I really want to do is write.
Shari. April 5th, 2019