Attention

What kind of attention do you want, as a writer?

Your first instinct, if you’re someone I hang around with, is to say you’d like any and all attention, just to get your writing some visibility. You are so confident in your work (hopefully) that you are anxious, eager, and bursting at the seams to get more eyeballs on your work.

You are willing to throw it all in for that attention. You’ve blogged exhaustively. You’ve been nice to people you don’t know and don’t so much care about all over the internet. Your Twitter life is overtaking your own, all for the sake of gaining fans, followers, readers.

You are reading every piece of shit and every mark of brilliance you can get your hands on so that you can raise your own bar for your work product. The book review process is painful for you, with little feedback or responses. You feel like you’ve built the only platform you can, but…

You admittedly whore yourself all over the blogosphere, commenting everywhere and trying tactfully to get your plug in wherever you can.

You hang on opportunities to get a  reading, or a mention on some notorious blog.

You study those stats, analyze the analytics, and query to death your traffic. You’re doing everything you can, in between your day  job, your kids, your mortgage, your in-laws, and the goddamned lawn that needs to be mowed. Fuck.

So here comes an opportunity, you think, to really blow yourself out of the water. To really shine. You need something because everyone around you is raising that bar, doing video book trailers and podcasts, and selling just a few more through the Amazon threads (or so they say), than you are.

And you are better. You know what will bring attention to you. You didn’t want to talk about politics, or religion, or baby-killers, whatever the hell it will take to bring attention to yourself, just to get more eyes on your work. But then all of a sudden, you think, maybe being shameless isn’t as shameless as it may seem. Everyone else is doing their thing, why are you keeping to the book and maintaining all of the integrity that you feel may be the one thing holding you back?

So you go ahead and make that post or you label yourself in such a way that, well, labels you. You lay it all out.

Have you LOST YOUR FUCKING MIND?

Not necessarily, but you’ve lost yourself. You lost your objective. What is your objective? You are an independent writer. You need to be proud of your work and the few readers who do appreciate your writing and art. Not that you shouldn’t aim higher because you always should. But just leave it at that, will you?

Indie writers are surrounded by exponentially-expanding ranks of competition for a diminishing group of readers. There are enormous opportunities, but you have to love what you’re doing because you love writing and talking about writing and reading about writing and arguing about writing to feel any glory. Or else you really have lost your integrity.

And so then what the fuck are you doing if you have no integrity?

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10 Comments

Filed under commentary, essay, Uncategorized

10 responses to “Attention

  1. yearzerowriters

    Great post – I’ll be hosting Monday’s #litchat on a very related topic – do all come and join me (my questions are at http://bit.ly/9SMEgq )
    It’s like dating, isn’t it? We want to be with someone we’ll want to spend our lives with. It’s tough. So we go out and take classes in anything and everything, like wallpaper design, even if we’re not interested (hmm, I like wallpaper design personally, but you get my point). Just to meet someone. And we do, we meet someone. Then we date. And we can’t put our finger on what’s wrong (but something is) until one morning we wake up and we figured exactly what it is – this person’s passion in life is wallpaper design, something we hate! Well, what did we expect?!

    It’s the same with what we do to get readers. To make a career we need fans, not readers. Loyal fans who love what we do. So what on earth’s the point of doing something that’ll attract the wrong people? Sure we may sell a few more of THIS book. So what? All we’ve ACTUALLY done in the long term is made our real potential readers see us as a sell-out.

    • Dan, thanks, as always you are more articulate especially in your use of metaphor than I am…

      But the dating thing is right. When we purport ourselves to be someone we’re not in the courting stage, when it comes to writing truth (ha, been there before…) there is a lot of disillusion.

      I guess that’s why I put it all out there and if someone is offended, fuck ’em.

      lovelenox.

  2. yearzerowriters

    Oh, sorry, I was logged in as YZW – I should say that’s me, Dan (you probably guessed!)

  3. I yearn for the old days when no one even knew what writers looked like – their books did all their talking for them. No longer.

    Can’t see any other alternative for all the reasons you cite: trying to become visible in an increasingly packed cyberspace and marketplace. You’re going to elbow and shove your way through the pack.

    I think there is still doing all this self-promotion malarkey with integrity. ie not getting your mates to review your book and post gushing things on Amazon, but it’s probably moot.

    I dunno, it is all very depressing, but you have to concede we’ve each met some damn fine creative minds and people online. There is a community of sorts.

    Oh well, I’m off to try and my nurse’s dress in advance of my next last reading…

    • Indeed, Marc, we have met some interesting minds in the course of our explorations.

      I indict myself just as much as I indict others in this post. The exception is that I eventually figured out to stop “dating” people who were just the wrong types for my work, and stopped being nice. That was about 3 weeks into my online writing persona…

      lovelenox.

  4. Lots of truth here. Lots. Except, for me, the people I’ve met on the internet, the people I’ve been nice to and vice versa are people I do care about. Yes, really.

    As Marc said, there are some damn fine people online.

    • There certainly are, Marisa, and you’re one of the finest. And I have to say all the lovely people I’ve met online that I’ve gone on to meet “for real” are just as lovely

  5. >>>I yearn for the old days when no one even knew what writers looked like – their books did all their talking for them. No longer.

    Who says no longer? Just because *everyone else* is doing that shit doesn’t mean *you* have to. I don’t — and won’t.

    • Yes, of course, and that’s why we’re all still talking to each other and have filtered out most of the noise. However, to Marc’s point, I can understand the difficulty and the struggle with keeping what we’re calling integrity (others may call it foolishness). It comes down to our definition of success, contentment, and happiness.

      Look, I wrote what I thought were some kick-ass stories, and either they got skewered by criticism or no one fucking read them (e.g., Ventimiglia). I was and still am so pleased that the stories came out the way they did that I genuinely don’t give a shit about what others think.

      So I’m a selfish writer. (Oh, wait, didn’t we already go over that subject a few months ago? Smug?) I can’t afford to drop everything and write for the masses. My objective is to please myself first, because that’s why I write. It’s just a major super-duper bonus when others enjoy my writing.

      If I was writing to get myself out of my dayjob, I would be writing vampire slut stories. Clearly, I am not.

      lovelenox.

  6. Not surprisingly I agree with all of this. And I think I walk the walk, for reasons that are both ideological and private.

    Most of what passes for a platform is celebrity of one kind or another, and I just don’t aspire to celebrity.

    If my work isn’t good enough *as work* then I’m going to have to be content with my gardening.

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