Friday, February 24, 2017

The Kindness of Strangers

As my upcoming novel gets closer and closer to publication, I find myself realizing something that's more than a little intimidating.

I've done a whole bunch of self-publishing, writing books for a small circle of people that know me, dumping them out into the shouting noise of the world.  I have this little blog that is, again, mostly read by friends and acquaintances.  I share what I'm doing, regularly, but I'm lousy at the relentless self-promotion that is necessary to succeed in the self-publishing business.  I'm too introverted, too aware of my own motives when I'm pitching something, too willing to subvert my own efforts.

There are people who have that skill, who have by some miraculous combination of luck and fortitude succeeded at self-publishing.  They are rare.  I am not one of those people, and that's OK.  I'd come to terms with my limitations.  They felt...manageable.  Within the boundaries of my control.

As I'm discovering, publishing with a traditional publisher will be different.  It has to be, because they need to stay in business.  To succeed in that milieu, my novel needs to have a reach that is significantly beyond my capacity.   Meaning, not selling in the hundreds of copies, which is pretty much what all my other efforts have managed.  Not selling in the low thousands of copies, which would be a factor of ten higher.  But selling twenty to thirty thousand copies, at a bare minimum threshold of success.

This is a fearsome thing.  Because, sure, I could relentlessly pitch myself, going full on monomanaical with my novel.  Hey!  I have a book!  Hey!  Buy it!  Hey!  Hey!

It wouldn't make a difference.

To get to both profitability and a modicum of success, it would require every person I know on social media to buy a copy, and then every single one of their friends on social media to buy a copy.  And then some.  I am not delusional enough to believe that's probable.

Success will not happen by my efforts.  It is outside of my capacity, in the same way that building my own rocket from scratch and attempting a journey to Trappist-1 would be beyond my own capacity.  It might make for an entertaining blooper reel, although that fiery explosion at launch probably would take the fun out of it.  I would not succeed.

The book will need the gifts and blessings of countless people...most still strangers to me...if it is going to fly.   It has needed the inputs of beta readers and gifted, insightful editors and sharp eyed copy editors.  It will need experienced marketers, thoughtful, literate salespeople and enthusiastic store owners.  It needs reviewers and bloggers and readers willing to share it with friends.

Countless strangers, a crowd of faces I do not know.

That requires trust, such a hard thing to muster in this jaded, cynical age.  But trust is the sister of faith, and faith?  Well.  I suppose I do know how to do that.