The manuscript (and several more following it) is complete, the contract signed, editing done, book cover sorted, publisher’s launch over. You’d be forgiven for thinking that my work as an author is over, but you’d be wrong. Very wrong.
I was at the Australian Book Expo, at Olympic Park last weekend, to sign books and talk to people about my new release. The expo itself was a bit of a disappointment because numbers were pretty low, but it gave me a fabulous opportunity to chat with people. It was interesting watching my publisher in action, but even more interesting to wander around and chat with other authors either published traditionally or self-published, and in some cases, both.
Most authors who had been around for a little while understood the nature of the changing industry and described their journey to (and from) publication as a roller-coaster. I could certainly relate. But I came across one or two authors, at the Expo to give their titles a boost, who were a tad resentful that they were expected to have a hand in promoting their books. I listened as they described the days where, once they’d signed the contract, they were given an advance and then sat back waiting for the publisher to tell them where to go (to sign books, speak, etc) and what to do, and in the meantime they got on with writing the next manuscript. Ah… if only it were still like that. But it’s not.
It is only when the contract is signed, if you’re lucky enough to be published traditionally, that the real work begins. The in-your-face, rejection-inducing, self-esteem challenging, slap-in-the-face, get-knocked-down-get-up-again task of getting your book ‘out there,’ type of work. Unless you are published by one the ‘five,’ in an industry that is just beginning to settle enough to get a glimpse of what writing and publishing might look like into the future, one thing is clear — the role of the author now includes promoting the book. It’s become a necessary part of getting your work out there. Readers can’t read your books if they don’t know where to get them. But for most writers I know, it is this part of publishing that is the most challenging.
Writers are the kind of people (I am very much generalising here, and happy to be contradicted) that are content working alone, in front of the computer, sometimes for months at a time. I know myself, when I am writing, days, sometimes weeks, pass barely noticed. It’s our work that we want in the public domain, not ourselves. Self-promotion is uncomfortable, awkward, and often off-putting, and I for one, do not enjoy it one little bit. Luckily, in the age of technology, it doesn’t necessarily have to be done face-to-face. But it does have to be done. And that’s what social media is for. Developing an author platform on social media is critical if you want any chance whatsoever of getting your work read. There is no escaping it.
So what would I say to those authors who refuse to change their way of operating? Well, in polite terms I’d suggest that as an author in the 21st century, you need to embrace change as an inevitability and adapt accordingly. Or to put it a little more bluntly—build a bridge! If you don’t have the skills to build a bridge, get someone else to do it for you, or you will sink into publishing oblivion. The halcyon days of book publishing are gone. Deal with it.