The Introvert Salesman, Part 2
Last time, I discussed the slow and terrifying realization that, in this digital information age, being a writer did not excuse me from learning to be a salesman, despite my distaste and discomfort at doing so. Convinced that the small press publication of my first novel meant it was time for me to establish a web presence (And doesn’t that sound disembodied? Like I’m jacking into the Matrix or trying to race light cycles with Flynn and Tron?), the question of how to do so needed to be answered.
For ease of use and sheer economy (free! Boo-yah!) Facebook seemed the best place to start. I already had a personal Facebook page; how hard could it be to set up a professional one? My first followers were obviously friends and family, but I did manage to snag a few interested strangers who had read my novel (Doc Voodoo: Aces & Eights, Beating Windward Press, 2011). However, as easy and fun as the professional Facebook page was, I knew that I would ultimately need something above and beyond—a site that encompassed a blog and a news feed. What that would be and how I would accomplish it proved to be a more difficult decision than I anticipated.
In my everyday life, I’m freewheeling and lackadaisical about almost everything. Chores? They’ll get done when they get done. Work? Gotta be there between 7 and 4, but I don’t sweat about it once I walk out the door (and try as hard as I can not to break a sweat while there). Gym time? What’s gym time?
However, when my writing cap is on, I’m a different animal: fussy—perhaps even a tad neurotic. More than once, I’ve been paralyzed when a ‘best’ solution does not immediately present itself—What MacGuffin best serves the story I want to tell? Should I really include that section from so-and-so’s point of view or does it slow things down? Should I call the prologue a prologue, or should I simply call it Chapter One because publishers and agents have a terrible hatred for Prologues? Should I send the story to that particular magazine? The novel to that particular publisher? This blog entry was, in its own way, a pig in the python, because I was trying to write it in the midst of two weeks of staying home from work and playing frontline caregiver to my five month old son. Not only was finding the time and energy to write often impossible—I also found that when I finally got around to writing the blog, I couldn’t quite find the tone I wanted, nor could I address all the issues I wanted to address—but, egad, it’s so long! It can’t be that long! Who the hell is gonna read a 2300 word blog entry on the ups and downs of shoestring self-marketing?
Answer: maybe no one. But therein, also, lay a perfect illustration of this peculiarity of mine. Where my writing is concerned, I sometimes get so caught up in questioning myself that I can be frozen solid because I’d rather make no decision at all than a bad one (or abandon a troublesome work in progress rather than complete it if I’m not convinced that I can make it as totally awesome as I thought it could be). Complicating this tendency to freeze is a fairly high comfort threshold for research, meaning that I can usually convince myself that my issue is just a lack of understanding or expertise, thus freeing me to stop work in order to research the roadblock into oblivion. Of course, in everyday practice I have to mitigate those impulses (the outstanding historical novelist Steven Pressfield calls this sort of waffling ‘Resistance’, a personified force with a capitol ‘R’). In writing, marketing, and encounters with fire-breathing dragons, perfectionism can be crippling, paralysis fatal.
In the realm of establishing a web presence, analytical paralysis set in fairly early. There are a truly dizzying array of possibilities for building a web platform, most of them limited only by the time, money and effort I was willing to put into the endeavor. Both money and time were (and remain) at a premium for me, so a free, hosted blog site like WordPress, Text Pattern or Moveable Type seemed like the most sensible options.
And yet, my persnickety tendencies balked whenever I tried to get familiar with the blogging software or browse design themes. I’m a big believer in putting your best foot forward when undertaking something hand-made—operating under the assumption that I have to try twice as hard to appear professional when I don’t have the money, time, or fancy-schmancy design tools that someone who writes (or sells themselves) full-time might. True to my slow-starter form, I actually created my WordPress page a full year before I got around to posting an actual entry on the site. Seriously! I kept telling myself I would find some other approach; root up some money to put into a semi-pro page (you know, grab some hungry local web design student looking to build their portfolio); or, at the very least, put a little more money into finding a server host and purchasing a domain name and maybe going for the a la carte WordPress option that would make my page far more polished than the free options seemed. After a year waffling, I finally realized I needed to shit or get off the pot. Thus, on June 8, 2012, I posted my first blog—a tribute to the just-expired Ray Bradbury—realizing that I would just have to do what the grand old man himself had always suggested in regard to the faith act that writing is: I must leap off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.
I started with the goal of posting two to three times a week. Twice a week and I could say I met my goals; three times and I could be satisfied that I had exceeded them. Now, six weeks into the endeavor, I’m already finding that once is good, with two entries a week being my stretch goal. (And man—look how I dropped the ball these last few weeks. But will I let this minor failure paralyze or deter me? Nay, says I. I’ll just post this bad boy and keep truckin’!)
Just writing wouldn’t guarantee me an audience, though. I would have to spread the word.
But how? And to who…?