I was executing a well-planned campaign of shameless self-promotion. I’d done everything according to articles, guides, forums, courses… whatever I could find. Considering I was promoting my second book, I was ahead of schedule in terms of sales and building my author brand.
Then the self-loathing began, and it wasn’t hard to locate the source of my discomfort: I was annoying the shit out of everyone every day by talking about myself. No one was more disgusted by this steady flow of narcissism than myself.
I was making deals, scratching backs, reviewing crap, RTing… anything to prostitute myself to the masses and endear myself to a network of peers. I almost bought into the notion that authors need to become artisans who at the very least must be adept marketers.
Thankfully I was saved by the ‘fuck this’ factor. People need to embrace this underutilised ability, especially if they’re a little obsessive-compulsive, lazy or stubborn. Those traits tend to glue our feet to the deck during storms when any sane individual would abandon ship.
I think a significant segment of our increasingly anxious species could be saved if people just walked out the door and never came back, whether it’s a horrible work environment, an unhappy home, an unrequited love, a misguided ambition. There’s always a way out. It may be true that I’ve never backed down, but I’ve lost a couple of battles and knew when I was beaten.
The person I’d become in order to promote my self-published novel wasn’t a person I liked. You can’t complain about this stuff openly because—and I know it’ll happen to me—you’ll be labelled jaded and jealous. But authors who are honest with themselves know how dirty, desperate and pathetic it’s become. The art is being eaten by the craft.
The penny dropped the day I saw a forum thread about writing one novel per month. How can you consistently write something beautiful of novel length in one month? It horrified me to see people getting excited about this notion of chucking 50,000 words on the conveyor belt every four weeks as though manuscripts were no different to a box of plastic straws, an auto part, or a cheap toy.
Don’t get me wrong; this is not objectively about good versus evil because writing formulaic crap and not caring much about the literary quality of your work is not evil. But subjectively? To me? Well I hate the thought of it. I suddenly saw 50-foot-high letters made of coloured bulbs, flashing against a backdrop of spectacular fireworks, and they said: fuck this.
So that’s why I’m not very visible at the moment. I’m looking for small print publishers and hitting the best short story markets with everything I’ve got (they’re usually hitting me back pretty quickly). I’d rather be rejected by editors I respect than enabled by people who don’t really matter to me. You might say it’s better to compromise and be a good earner, but it isn’t. Not for me.
This is that isolated crossroad (I’m laying it on thick here) where you accept that you may die drunk and poor. But I’m quite happy to look in each direction, shrug my shoulders and happily turn toward a rewarding life of comparative failure.
Most of my favourite authors died poor. Ever seen Lovecraft smiling in a photo? The guy usually looks like he just discovered a dead pet. I’m not writing as well as my heroes yet (I can’t even justify looking sad in photos), but I’ll tell you something (only because we’re alone and I’m completely confident you won’t reveal my secret to anyone else): I’m bloody determined to be great. I’m going to leave behind something fucking brilliant, even if it kills me.
I’m not going to exit this dimension as an excellent packager of ordinary fare. So regardless of your choice of publishing channels, if you’re out there being uncompromising and unique, I’m raising a glass to you. I’m not sure whether we’re the poison or the antidote, but regardless; whatever we’re dripping into the sea of words, let it always remain undiluted.
So there’s my first dose of advice for those of you who would like to follow me into oblivion: write whatever the hell you like, stop Tweeting every hour, screw the Amazon Kindle reports, and bugger all compromise. Those four changes should be enough to ruin us, unless of course, we actually find the time to become great writers.
Now, I better finish up and refill this glass or I’ll just die poor. Besides, I’ve got rejections to laugh at and novels to write.