M.J. Rose said:
“They (writers) need to understand that they need to promote themselves, and that there’s a way to promote yourself without acting like a used-car salesman. The key to becoming a pro is the same way to get to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice.”
To say that I am a little tired of hearing about how I need to “generate a buzz” for my book if I want to make it in today’s publishing market is an understatement. I keep thinking, What happened to us? Is success as a writer now based only on how good you are at marketing and self promotion? Why can’t the story or the book speak for itself? Isn’t writing a book enough? Why can’t I write the damn thing and let others take care of the rest?
Self-publishing has become a remarkable phenomenon in this day and age. Whether it is articles or stories posted on blogs, or e-books, nowadays anyone can write about anything and everything and get “published” instantly. Often there are no boundaries and, best of all, no rejection letters. Specially when big contracts are being offered for previously self-published books.
The sad truth is that these days, there’s no excuse for being ignorant of the way the publishing industry works. When my daughter suggested the other day that I take a crash course in marketing I said I can’t. I wasn’t being arrogant. It’s just the kind of person I am. And I am not proud to say this but I cannot even stand up for my own rights. I am too shy or too concerned about others’ feelings that most of the time I sadly give in. To give just an example:
In December 10 2005, Robert Fisk was in Dubai for the signing of his book ‘The Great War For Civilization’ in the Jashanmal bookstore in Emirates Mall, the mall with the indoor ski slopes. The book signing was taking place before his talk.
“Ah Armenian!” he said hearing my name. I nodded.
“I have a chapter in my book about the Armenian genocide, the first holocaust of the century.”
“We are Armenians from Anjar, Lebanon,” my husband jumped in.
“Oh, Anjar, I was there ten days ago. I wrote an article about it last week for the Independent. I have also written about it in the chapter I told you about.”
I had brought my copy of ‘Pity The Nation’ which he autographed for me along with his new book. Then I gave him a copy of my first book The Lost I, not signed of course, for who was I to autograph a book to Robert Fisk? He was glad to receive it and he promised to read it on the plane the next day on his way back home to Beirut. I couldn’t ask how I could contact him afterwards. I was too shy to ask to take a picture with him, even.
A year later, in December 19 2006, at an event at McGill University, I met Robert Fisk again. A little before the start of the event I found him sitting alone at a desk inside the auditorium in Leacock, writing. I approached him and mentioned that we had met in Dubai a year ago at Emirates Mall. He told me how he’d been at the same place a month ago and that this time, the event had been more successful with twice the audience. When he looked down at his notes I left to take my seat. I came so close to asking him about the book that I had given him a year ago which he had promised to read, but I couldn’t. I didn’t even mention my name. Why? Why? Why?
“Too late! Is anything more painful than realizing you did not know the right questions to ask at the only time on earth you would have the opportunity?” Alice Walker