Writers, and artists of any kind can now get their shit out there to anyone, if they work hard enough. But it’s rough. Everyone is selling something, or offering a free sample or a free book as a gimmick to try and hook you. It’s frustrating because there are plenty of mediocre “get rich quick” vampires sucking consumers dry that they have trust issues.
I know I have been burned by too many self-published direct to kindle books. I have become super picky about what I read, listen to, watch, or even test out. It happens. That’s the business of a market flooded with material.
Focusing on the art in all this flying circus bullshit can be really rough, but if you love the hell out of what you do and you have enough heart to realize that “you publish some” “You scrap some”, then being an author isn’t so bad.
It’s actually kind of insanely awesome. Once one publisher believes in you, you want to get another contract, and another. Shit’s addictive. It makes you feel like you’re actually going somewhere. Some are.
It’s like all authors are an experiment in publishing. If you’ve ever been so hard up for money that you’ve lent your body to medical experiments (Aww hell, I’ve been there-welcome to a rough start at adulthood) you understand better than the people lucky enough to never have.
But experiments often have side effects, drawbacks. I once got real sick during a sleep study. Had to guzzle a crap load of water while emptying myself on a toilet for an hour. No bueno.
The experiment of publishing isn’t any safer. It may not cause immediate bodily harm, but you have to really focus yourself to stay safe. And I’m not just talking for the sake of your sanity.
“Okay, what the hell is she talking about?”
The wonderful world of millions of strangers being able to follow you on social media is a thrilling experience, but any artist who is putting themselves out there needs to take precautions. Regardless of how much we want to connect with out audiences, there are some sick fucks out there. People who will exploit you, harass you, stalk you and YOUR CHILDREN.
I’m talking about watching your back.
I talk to most everyone who messages me. Or at least I used to until recently. When you have thousands of followers on twitter, facebook, tumblr, instagram, g+, and so on, you can talk to your readers and make some amazing connections with the most talented individuals. I’m lucky enough that my favorite author will reply to me every so often (I really try not to bug the poor bastard-I really do haha)
The writing community has embraced me with open arms and encouraged me in ways that keeps me going when I feel like giving up. But unfortunately there are people who seem to believe that writers are all millionaires.
I have started receiving please to send money to poor people in this country and in Africa. And my bleeding heart aches every time. I never give money to people, I’ve had my own struggles and throwing money at it doesn’t help. I will direct anyone who needs help to a local food pantry or maybe send some kind of food or clothing item to do what I can, but even that puts my address on a package. My book trades with authors does it too.
There comes a point where an author needs a safe P.O. Box and I have reached that. I don’t wish to distance myself from my readers, if anything I need to do this so I can continue being as friendly with them as I have.
Responses to messages are having to be handled with more care as well. I’m pretty good at feeling people out. When they begin by talking about how much they love your writing it is usually genuine, but make sure you ask for specifics. “Which of my books is your favorite? What did you like most?”
Because some shifty crooks will use compliments as a segue for trying to get personal information. They already have your name and it’s not hard to find out what city you live in. (This is what pen names are for-but I fell into this career too fast to think about that) The scariest one was a guy who asked for pictures of my children. It didn’t even occur to me the kind of danger that meant until my sister pointed out how wrong that is.
We never want to alienate our readers, and thus we spend so much time trying to connect with everyone that an element of danger will arise. I refuse to live my life in fear, but for all of our sakes, an author, musician, artist of any kind MUST work to balance the art of reaching out to complete and total strangers, while also practicing caution for the protection of themselves and their families.
I think the tried and true “Always leave them wanting more” statement works here like it does in many other cases, don’t reveal too much of yourself.