Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Writers: Famous, Infamous, and Just Plain Nobodies

Who knew that being an author could be so difficult? As if it’s not hard enough to write a book—and kudos to all those who have or will in the future—being taken seriously as a writer is sometimes beyond your control, even if you write a good book.

Exactly what does that mean? Certainly, the best way for people to want to read your books is if they already know who you are. If you have a platform and you’re famous, even locally, you grab the attention of an agent who knows part of her work is already accomplished. A writer with built-in name recognition can parlay that into bookstore signings, panels at conferences, interviews, and reviews by the big review sites. Many TV personalities have developed a major revenue stream from their books, using their programs as prime advertisements. They’re lucky, because most of us plug away in the silence of our offices, knowing that writing the book is just the beginning.


Networking is an important part of name recognition. That means going to multiple conferences, getting to know other writers, giving them support in exchange for the support they give you. The problem is conferences cost money. Lots of money. There’s the price of the conference, travel expenses, hotel, and if you have a job, which many writers need in order to survive, time off from work. Maybe you can juggle vacation time to offset the loss. Good for you.

Are you famous yet? Probably not, but if you can manage the cost of all I just mentioned, you have one step up, no, a whole flight of stairs up on those of us who can’t.

So what’s a Nobody to do, especially one who self-publishes? Years back, that would be the kiss of death. It meant you weren’t good enough to get an agent and a publisher. Not so much now, though there’s still a question of legitimacy. Many writers prefer to self-publish. A writer has control of his/her work, reaps more of the financial rewards (if there are any), and can’t blame anyone else for her lack of success. Many make more money than traditionally published authors, though the latter have garnered that elusive legitimacy by being published traditionally in the first place.

Internet social media, Facebook and Twitter, are of major importance to those of us who can’t swing the expense of a publicist or conferences after we’ve paid for editing and cover design. We post information about reduced pricing, good reviews, make friends, and realize a million others are doing the same thing. It’s also tricky. If all you do is self-promote, it turns people off, so we have author pages on Facebook and intersperse book information on our personal pages, hoping it’s not overkill. We tweet, which I’ve stopped doing because I felt I was preaching to the choir, though a friend who has over 60k Twitter followers, swears by its success in promoting her books.

We blog, blog hop, spend a lot on how-to books, advertise, have sales, promote, write and write some more, and sometimes we wonder why we’re doing all this to remain anonymous. Yet we keep doing it because most of us will say we can’t NOT write. It’s a conundrum, but it also makes us writers.


Polly Iyer is the author of eight novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

20 comments :

  1. Even fame is not always enough. You'll find me ranked just behind Carly Fiorina among most famous MIT Sloan graduates, but that's for my work in software engineering. Doesn't do diddly to sell my nine novels, even when they win awards or are selected for inclusion in an MIT time capsule. Ah, the writer's life!

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    1. Hey, Larry, that's not nothing, but I know what you're saying. In your case it's apples and oranges, and never the twain shall meet. I'm not even on a list of famous grads from Massachusetts College of Art.

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  2. You're so right, Polly. We can't NOT write--and if we're writing, most of us want a broader audience beyond our family (they aren't always appreciative anyway). You're a great role model, and I thank you.

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    1. Thank you, Judy. I must admit it's getting harder and harder for me to write these days. And at least your family reads your books. Mine does not. :-(

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  3. I am thankful for the ability to self-publish. I did it the first time because I didn't think I'd live long enough to go the traditional route. Nor do I think it would be easy to get a publisher for my non-fiction as a non-famous person. While I am not getting rich money-wise, I have done fairly well for myself in terms of numbers. If the average book sells only 400 copies, I more than exceeded that number with very little marketing. I enjoyed the conferences I attended just for the opportunity to meet other writers. It is how I cobbled together my critique group. Well worth it if you can swing it.

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    1. We have to come to terms with our own measure of success. We can't use James Patterson or Janet Evanovich as our measures but maybe as a lesson in work ethic. So happy for you and your success, Diana.

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  4. You're so right, Polly, we have to write. After thirteen books, I'm now writing the tenth in my paranormal romance series and, as soon as that's finished, I'll start on a cozy mystery series that's been in my brain for a couple of years. My mind is populated with these people all clamoring for their stories to be told. Like your oh-so-compelling characters and stories, a writer has to write.

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    1. I've been testing the theory of "having" to write lately, but even on my worse day, I write "something." I wish I had a great idea in my head for the next book, but I don't. Oh wait, I have one I started ages ago and stopped because of the political situation. I think I've figured out how to revise it. Thanks, Michele, for making me think.

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  5. I love the post and your last response to Michele, Polly. It's great when we just start typing a response and then the idea pops into our head. That has happened to me a couple of time. Happy writing!

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    1. Thanks, Maryann. I hope I can revise that book because it has a great beginning. Right now, I need all the creative help I can get.

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  6. I don't believe in the "have to" justification for writing. It doesn't make sense to me. If writing were only about an uncontrollable urge to mold sentences and create plots, writers could live fulfilled without ever attending a conference, logging onto social media, or seeking publication. Writing may be the delivery vehicle, but I think most writers are motivated more by a deep-seated need to share story rather than the act of putting words on paper. This is why we worry about name recognition, branding, and promotion. Because a story without readers is a story untold.

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    1. I agree to a point, VR. I think you've taken the "must" of writing to the next level. In actuality, we write the book, and if we think it's a good book or a great book, we want recognition in some form by either the general public or by our peers. Whether it's ego or a normal extension of the writing process, it's human nature. There have been writers who have eschewed adoration and fame--J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee come to mind--but they're rare. Also, most of us will never write an iconic book that will allow us to rest our laurels on its publication.

      We need to do or not do what we're comfortable with. Personally, I wish I had more funds to go to the many conferences, if for no other reason than to meet the many virtual friends I've made since I started writing.

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  7. Very useful and to the point post. Thank you

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  8. What I most like about your post is the way you responded to every comment, creating a real dialogue. Refreshing!

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    1. I believe that's the job of every blogger. This is the only blog I participate in, so why have a Comments link if you don't intend to respond?

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  9. My first comment didn't publish, so this is a second try. My only claim to fame is my name, which frequently inspires the question, "Do you know Superman?" Since I'm not acquainted with the Man of Steel, that makes me a genuine "nobody," a nobody who is intimidated by social media and flunked Marketing 101. However, I have bartered with an experienced marketer who also excels in e-book layout. In addition, I'm planning to advertise in a hard-copy publication that goes out to my large target audience. We'll see how all this works.

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    1. Good for you, Linda. I think we must take chances and go for it. Let us know when the ad appears and where.

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  10. I'm still hoping to be "discovered" after having published five novels. My sixth with Henery Press is due out in October.I'm trying to do more social media, sigh.

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    1. Maybe this will be the one, Linda. It looks and sounds great. Best of luck with it.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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