The rise of the author-entrepreneur is a trend I’ve been following closely. Not only does it have an immediate bearing on the industry as a whole, but it has a bearing on Candlemark & Gleam and our authors as we seek to get ourselves established in the down-and-dirty world of getting read.
As that article mentions, it’s becoming more and more important for authors to have “a platform,” a “tribe,” to market themselves and not just write and pitch their books. Authors are expected to come into a publishing house with fans in their back pocket, a ready-made audience for their work, and sometimes even a marketing plan. Increasingly, it seems like publishing houses are outsourcing their PR and marketing directly to the author, and won’t even think of taking on someone who doesn’t have a blog, Twitter stream, FaceBook, and a thousand rabid fans…let alone a quiet, reclusive creative type or, heaven forfend, JD Salinger.
On the one hand, I think it’s a good idea for authors to take an active role in promoting not only their current book, but themselves. These days, with more and more books coming on the market (whether traditionally published, indie published, self published, or beamed telepathically from mind to mind), you need to get yourself out there in front of as many people as possible. You’ve got to get recognized and get attention.
Yes, you need it for this book, right now, but if you have any intention of forging a career out of writing, you also need to get attention for yourself, as a writer. You need to build a fanbase, a group of people who love your work and hunger for the next thing to come out of your brain. These are the folks who will be your bread and butter, and these are the folks you need to cultivate.
At the same time, I believe that the culture of author-entrepreneur is dangerous. There’s a very good chance that an author might spend so much time promoting themselves that they forget to write…or find that they can’t keep up with the writing when there’s all that blogging to do, and they get burned out. No good, seeing as the entire point of the blogging was to drum up interest for the creative output. Some people (*coughNeilGaimancough*) are incredibly prolific bloggers, Tweeters, and social networkers while still cranking out quality fiction by the metric ton.
Most of us aren’t that energetic. Nor do we have hair that grants us superpowers, but that’s another story entirely.
It all comes down to walking a fine line. You need to promote yourself and your book (which we’ll cover in Behind the Curtain, eventually), but you also need to make sure you’re not spending all your time and energy on promotion, rather than creation.
Sell yourself. Just make sure that you keep enough of yourself back to breathe, relax, and continue to create. That’s the really important bit.