Friday, May 27, 2011

The Large and the Small of it

            I’m a pipe smoker. (I know. Shame on me.) Since I drive a lot, I have a plastic cup in my car where I dump pipe ashes. Picture a pipe bowl filled with tobacco. When it’s smoked, the tobacco at the top and middle of the bowl is burned to ash, but the tobacco at the bottom is often not touched by the flame and retains its identity as tobacco. I noticed the other day that my ash cup needed emptying – and that there was no ash at the top of the cup, only tobacco. Curious, I slowly dumped the cup. The few larger pieces of identifiable tobacco were on top and the many smaller pieces of ash were on the bottom. The vibration of the car worked the smaller pieces to the bottom, leaving the larger pieces ‘floating’ on top. There’s a lesson there, maybe even a principle.
            I visited a website not long ago that helps writers publish their work. I think they’re up front and offer legitimate services to those who desire not to pursue traditional publishing, so this is not a criticism of the site. This is an observation that they had hundreds, maybe thousands of titles all shaken together at the bottom of that proverbial ash cup. Some of the titles may have been terrific reads, but there was nothing to point them out, nothing to make them ‘larger’ than the rest, nothing to make them or their writers ‘float’ to the top of the mountain of other titles.
            I want people to read my work. To accomplish that, I must make my books, and myself, larger than the hundreds of thousands of other books and writers in the world.
            How can I do that? This blog is one attempt. And I’m working on a way to offer chapters of my book free. If you like it, you’ll tell your friends. Word of mouth makes a book larger.
            And, I have to learn the publishing business. Even if I were the best writer on six continents, I could still be sent to the bottom by a mediocre writer who knows the business. Finding a publisher is the end of one journey and the beginning of another. A publisher rightly asks, ‘will people actually pay money to spend a few hours with this guy?’ The answer is ‘yes’, if I can persuade people that the investment is worth it. I have to learn how to advertize, to market and to promote. Yes, the publisher will promote me, but publishers have lots of writers and limited resources to spend on each one, so it falls to me to really make it work.
            If I want people to read what I write, I have to make myself larger than the competition, and it is a competition, so that I and my work won’t sink into anonymity at the bottom of the ash cup.
            Thanks for your time.

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