Last week I sat down to write a blog post titled "The Day In The Life Of A Self-Published E-Book Writer." The entire thing was going to be made up of time stamps and how through the day the writer checks his sales, posts links on Twitter and Facebook, participates in twenty different message boards, and so on and so forth until the day ends. A lot of promotion gets done, yes, but what's missing? Any actual writing. In the end I deleted it. Why? Not really sure. Maybe because I felt my time was better spent trolling message boards (kidding!). In a perfect world, a writer would, well, write. But this isn't a perfect world, and most writers oftentimes find themselves becoming door-to-door salesmen. We learn that no matter what we write and how good it is, ultimately we need readers. And how do we find those readers? Why, by going to them, of course!
There's a quid pro quo happening with e-books that I find very disturbing. Basically, Writer A has a new e-book. Writer B says oh cool, I'll buy your e-book ... with the understanding that you'll buy my e-book too. And hey, most self-published e-books are inexpensive, so what's the harm? So Writer B purchases Writer A's e-book, and vice versa. But then Writer C comes along and says hey, I have a new e-book too. Writers A and B say oh cool, we'll buy your e-book ...
Well, you get the idea.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Not if you acknowledge upfront that these aren't "true" sales -- "true" sales being from actual readers who have never heard of you before and are interested solely in reading a good book and not trying to get you to buy their book too. But the reality is that most writers write for other writers. Sure, there are some actual readers thrown into the mix, but unless you're hitting the New York Times bestseller list, your book is usually the one readers trip over to get to the new Nora Roberts.
What does this mean for today's modern writer? Even if you publish your book with a major publisher, there are expectations that you will help in the promotion of the book. Sure, your book will be sent to major review outlets, the publisher might put a few ads out online if you're lucky, but the day of the 6-city book tours are over for most of us. The mini Hint Fiction tour last November? Norton set those up for me, but the travel and other expenses came out of my pocket.
In the end, what should a writer's priority be? Again, in a perfect world it would be writing, but this isn't a perfect world, and if nobody is reading your stuff -- readers and writers alike -- then what is the point of writing in the first place? Yes, you can give me the usual BS about how you must write, how you need to write, how even if nobody ever read a word of your work again you would continue to write until the day you die, and that's all fine and good, but you have to be honest with yourself: being read by others is what we want. Yes, we write for ourselves (write what we like) but we also want others to like our work too. Does this mean we need to spend hours on message boards every day? Does this mean we need to constantly link to our latest e-book on Twitter and Facebook even though our friends and followers never change? Does this mean we should commit some violent crime and wear a tee-shirt with the cover of our e-book on it so when the police take us away and the press snaps our photo, people will see our tee-shirt with the cover of our e-book and think: Hmm, maybe I need to check out that e-book?
In the end, you need to do what works best for you. For some it's nagging at readers until they're worn down and buy whatever book comes out because they don't want to deal with it anymore. For others it might simply be a small announcement on Twitter or Facebook and nothing more. Maybe sales are great. Maybe they suck. Maybe they're so-so. This isn't a perfect world, no, but we should always be reminded of our priorities and that, as writers, our number one priority should always be to write. Nothing more, nothing less.