An author’s lament
I enjoy the promotional aspect of writing, mostly. Whether it’s scheduling newsletters for my Substack, updating my website and blog or making little videos for Tiktok, I experiment boldly and gladly. I accept defeat philosophically, dust myself off and try something else.
Sometimes, though, the sheer unrelenting effort of getting folk to clap eyes on my stories gets me down.
Today is one of those days.
Many people who read this will be in that same crowded little boat. In online writers’ groups, whether on Medium, in Twitter’s writing community, on Substack or on Booktok, we’re mostly promoting our writing to a supportive but time-poor crew of fellow writers. Each with a long To Be Read list already.
Out there, somewhere, amorphous and shifting like fog on the horizon, is the Greater Reading Public. It seems a wide gulf between us.
Granted, I write fiction for the sheer fun of it. However, I also write with publication in mind. Perhaps this need to be read is an inevitable occupational disease of a professional author.
My aim by posting my stories online is to launch them on a voyage which will end, in due course, in a printed collection of novellas and short stories. My hope is to attract readers along the way who enjoy my style of storytelling, so that I have a core readership of a few hundred lovely folk who might buy and/or recommend my book(s).
To that end, I’ve posted stories on Medium off-and-on for two years, run a twice-weekly ‘storyletter’ on Substack for nearly a year, uploaded free ebooks to this website and promoted the living snot out of each of these endeavours on other social media. It has been a busy time … and fun, mostly.
Some of the stories have sunk without trace. Many more will arrive at their destination barely recognisable as the tale which started the voyage. One or two look set to finish the journey in essentially the same form they set out in.
The ‘end’ of that voyage is just going to be the start of another: that of promoting the bejesus out of the book to get it into readers’ hands.
Today, that seems like a lot of work, stretching endlessly and rather joylessly into the future. A bit like The Road, but without cannibals.
I remind myself that this is a hobby, not a job, and I’m doing it for fun.
Myself replies ‘Hmm’ and raises a sceptical eyebrow.
Steve, this is what you’re doing it for, not to feed an algorithm, achieve subscription targets or boost future sales of hypothetical books. If your writing touches only one other person’s life, however briefly, it has been worth your while.
And then I think back over all the kind and supportive comments I’ve received these last two years, and consider the fact that so many people have entrusted me with their contact details …
… and their time, precious and never to be recovered, surely the greatest gift any of us can give to another human being …
… and I know that I should be grateful for the readers I reach, not regretful of the ones I miss out on.
Thank you for reading. ❤️