I am writing for myself, for today.
But in a way I am writing for my future self.
When I am 40 years old I will have written a dozen or more novels, numerous short stories and novellas, blogs—my byline will be plastered to the internet.
Today I have published one short novel and two short stories. I am 26.
This is the problem I have. A question: What is more important right now, marketing or writing?
I can spend hours today marketing one novel and two short stories, or I can wait, I can write, I can publish, and in five or six or more years have many more stories in circulation, many more opportunities to make sales.
The more stories I publish, the more effective marketing will be. It is in my better interest to publish than to sell.
Putting a product out there is the best thing I can do for myself, and every minute I spend marketing instead of writing is time wasted. That doesn't mean I won't be discussing my stories, or selling a few here and there, but it means that marketing isn't my priority.
It's impossible to market something when you don't have anything to sell in the first place, and if I don't write right now, I never will have anything to sell. I must spend years getting stuff out there. It's a slow process. I do not believe I'll sell many stories as a young man, or be able to spend my youth writing for a living. But I can spend my later years doing so if, and only if, I can spend my youth writing in spite of everything else.
There's also something else: I know where all the writers are. Most of the people I know on social network sites, who follow my blog, and who have bought my book, are writers.. Readers don't run in the same circles. Readers are the ones finding your books on Amazon, not the one you're talking to about plots and characters. Readers have no idea that there's a flourishing community on the internet...of writers.
It's a catch-22. I can market myself, but unless I can afford TV commercials and print ads for my books, I'll likely have to settle for selling to other writers, because they're the ones paying attention. They're paying attention because they want to sell their books. Though some writers buy books, most don't, and won't, but readers can and will. The only way I can get to readers is by trickling into their lives through word of mouth. One person at a time, one story at a time.
Relying on word of mouth is a leap of faith. It's assuming that a writer can write a story that will move the first person who reads it enough to tell a friend, who then will tell a friend, and so on until ten thousand people have read the same book.
Having a blog won't bring people to me. When I'm already rich and famous a blog will be perfect to let my fans know about my next book, but I don't have fans now. I'm on such a small scale that my readers are still my family and friends.
Social networking won't work because in order to get people to pay attention to me in the first place, I have to be friends with them, and being a friend has nothing to do with selling a book, and everything to do with being myself (which I am) and having an interest in what others are doing (which I do). In that situation it's embarrassing to plug my books to people I've come to appreciate and respect.
I don't have the money to pay for advertising, not that that would work anyway. I wouldn't dare get on the radio or television, not that I would have the chance. Even if I had a physical book, I would be too nervous to do a book signing, not that that would help me (most book signings are complete failures anyway, just busy work to cast the illusion of success).
At the end of a long day the only thing that will work is a well-written story. Ten, twenty, thirty well-written stories. Everything else is a gimmick, a ploy. I have no intention of tricking anyone, and I cannot hope that they'll remember me from an ad when so many other authors are vying for the same buck.
So here's to the next story, and the next one, and the one after that.
And no letting up. In twenty years I can look back at my young self and thank me, and keep writing.