Blending in is an art form all to itself. Some of us do it so naturally that it makes a huge impact on our lives and who we are as individuals. To me, standing out sometimes seems like a punishment rather than an award. Even as a teenager it was better to be “the girl who writes poetry” quietly.
Now I find myself awash in a sea of self-promotion. I have no qualms with submitting my writing for the world to see, but making myself into an author “brand” seems overwhelming at best. For many authors which are also among the quiet and circumspect souls of the world, this process of self-promotion as a public figure is intimidating and less than appealing.
For me, learning the business element of marketing is both intimidating and appealing at the same time. The opportunity to delve into a new process, to become adept at something new draws me. In fact, this element is more attractive than any solitary act of self-promotion. Conversely, the idea of subjecting myself to public scrutiny before the eyes of anyone who stumbles upon my blog, my twitter feed, or even (hopefully) my books makes me want to pretend I’m an ostrich and bury my head in the sand.
I recently came across a new author, who had claimed the label John Doe. I felt a sinking feeling as I recalled that I too had craved the chances to hold on to my “secret identity.” I created a pen name when I began my writing career. I had a romanticized image that I could be a teacher/wife/mom publicly, and enjoy a lucrative writing career in private. I was sadly mistaken. As it turns out, readers want to know who wrote the book they read. If they enjoyed the book, they may be more likely to read others from the same author. If they hated the book (an ugly possibility) they know who to avoid in the future. In today’s swarm of self-publication this element is taken a step further. Author’s relationships and support of one another in the course of this common journey is what allows new authors to learn the business, and existing ones to maintain their validity. In many ways, the authors guild is like several thousand recovering addicts, they need support to make their habit productive rather than a destructive determent from participating in the real world (because it is much nicer to imagine your own). Needless to say, the pen name never made it to publication. I know of a few others who make pen names work for them, but I had to let mine go.
So here I am, a victim of public specter. I am standing on my stump and calling out to the world, here I am, see no secrets here. I am a real person, who responds and interacts and is an active part of the community, and oh by the way, I have a real book and one on the way, and I would love for you to read them. I’m forcing myself to be exposed. Now the tricky part is, after a life time of blending into the background, I now must learn to make myself heard. I have to exude confidence, not only in my writing, but in myself as an author. I am no longer a part of the private sector, I have endeavored to take on the role of public figure, and I must comport myself in that manner if I expect to gain the support of the public. This is true for all authors who seek to become successful (at least success that is not post humus).
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