It’s conflicting to see the amount of hustle involved in modern publication, whether traditional or self-published, and to wonder if your love of writing is enough to counteract a natural dislike of publicity. There is an inherent hypocrisy in publishing your thoughts on a public platform and sharing the link everywhere you can, while claiming not to like publicity. I’m attempting to communicate, rather than publicise, but is that only because I have nothing to sell at the moment?
The only job I truly hated was the one day I spent hawking plastic trinkets around a Dublin village trying to convince the people working in various businesses to interrupt their day and buy cheap crap. I was astonishingly bad at it, because I knew it was rubbish that would break before I could get a safe distance away.
The difference with a writer is that they believe in what they sell. They have after all spent months or years working on their book. Once the final book is in their hands, they want to tell everyone about it. When the article finally drops, they want to share widely. But there can be an edge there, a slight desperation when the books have to be packed up again at the end of a talk instead of going home to new owners or the number of clicks have to be counted.
That summer’s day in Dublin we were given a bright peptalk by the kind of preppy guy who probably ended up selling once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunities or second-hand cars when he moved on from cheap torches. And with a heavy bag over our shoulders and samples in hand, we walked into travel agents and butchers and boutiques stumbling over the sales pitch as they shooed us out the door.
For writers there is a myriad list of what to do and not to do and a lot of preppy salesmen with advice for a range of prices. Once again, money goes a long way, if you have the cash and the time you can spend as much on publicity and blog tours and appearances as you wish. Those without the cash must hope for a generous publisher. Your platform should be built from early on in a fully authentic way. But in this busy world full of distractions, some things fall flat and it can be hard not to be disheartened.
And then there are those who think that anyone who publishes must be minted, so it’s ok to pirate their books. Many authors do not make their daily wages from writing, but from teaching classes, doing workshops, lecturing, selling articles, content writing, bartending, stocking shelves and a range of other things.
My trial day as a cheap crap salesperson was on a Friday when they provided a barrel of cans in ice in the evening. I drank enough nameless lager and cider to numb the humiliation of the day and never went back.