When I first started thinking about marketing a novel, not just writing one, I was shocked to learn that most of the publicity for my novel would likely fall smack dab on my shoulders, not my publisher's shoulders. It seemed grossly unfair. After all, I'm the person who has toiled away for years creating something that people will want to read. I'm the one sitting at my desk after school, after work, on the weekends, and early in the morning, while the rest of the world is enjoying their time off.
Shock morphed to righteous anger. This method of publishing and promoting was clearly a byproduct of lazy publishers looking to capitalize on my profits without having to spend a penny of their money to do so. Above and beyond publicising my own novel, I was going to have to hunt for an agent to sell my work, creating pitches and blurbs about my own novel so that first an agent then an editor could sit back on his or her haunches and thumb through offerings like bloated gods, randomly picking a lucky winner here or a catchy-titled novel there. It was all enormously unfair. I wanted to rant at the publishing industry. I wanted to rant at the general public to demand more access and more knowledge of more titles.
I did rant for a while. Then I did some research. I gradually wrapped my mind around the vast number of novels that exist already on the shelves of bookstores across the country, the rapid rotation of those titles, the steady stream of new novels from big-name and midlist authors squeezed into limited square footage. Anger gave way to despair. How was there any room left? And there was bitterness, too. These big-name, well-known authors were getting tons of marketing money thrown behind their novels. What about us little people, the authors just starting up? If I had the amount of money in a marketing campaign behind my debut novel as Dan Brown or Jayne Ann Krentz gets for one of their novels, I'd be a big-name success in no time, too.
I plodded on through research, receiving another slap in the face as the world of want-to-be-published authors crystallized and I realized that for every author already on the shelf, there are at least two more waiting, writing, perfecting their craft, querying, and planning to become published authors. The playing field was full, and I was standing in the stadium, one in a million of want-to-be players, yearning to push my way past the barricades for my time on the turf. The agents and editors were the muscle-bound gatekeepers, easily holding the throngs back, selecting only the most prime candidates to be allowed through.
Pity, large swaths of self-pity, lakes and oceans of self-pity. I wallowed. How, in this incredibly impacted market, was I supposed to compete? How was I supposed to get my novel that I thought was so great published? How was I supposed to raise awareness of my novel in a market deafened with the shouts of big-name authors and movie-tie-in novels?
I don't know what made the self-pity, the bitterness, the anger and the frustration and the despair abate. Perhaps it was the one truth that had remained throughout it all: I want to be an author. I want people to read my novels.
With that truth, was the realization that if I was the person who has to do the legwork to spread the word of my novel, I will. I will research how to market it. I will leave my safe, quiet world and make public appearances to promote myself. I will work the online angles to drive traffic to my website and to the online stores to buy my novel. I will continue to write and perfect my writing after each rejection, continue to write when I'm tired from working my other job, write when life wants to push it aside and tell me to give up.
I no longer think of the publishers as spoiled corporate giants, of agents and editors as ego-inflated gatekeepers. I understand the parts everyone plays in this vast industry. I understand my part, and I'm willing to do the work to my myself a success.
Because being a published author is one of the first things I wake up thinking about. It's one of the last things on my mind when I fall asleep. I want, with soul-deep clarity, to be a published author, and nothing's going to stop me.