Notes on Failing as a Self-Published Writer

by
Daulton Dickey.

Selling books is a Sisyphean task. Without a budget, without a name anyone knows or cares about, or cares to know, you’re certain to fail. Bereft of a marketing department at a major publisher, bereft of a publisher altogether, in fact, puts you in an interesting position. How do you get your book out there? People won’t read it if they don’t know it exists, and people won’t read it if they don’t feel compelled, in some way, to read it. So this is the question you must ask yourself as a self-published writer: how do you create awareness for your book? And—this is a two-parter—how do you inspire people to want to read it?

Imagine you’re a writer in Indiana trying to get noticed. You’ve written and published several books. Few people have read them. You ask yourself why. Why haven’t they read them? Have they browsed them online without finding anything to pique their interest or do they not know your books exist?

The former remains aloof, always a possibility. Bracketing it for a moment, you try to gauge awareness of your books. How many people know they exist? It’s an alarming question, alarming because you don’t know any metrics by which to answer the question.

In your limited experience, you’ve discovered one thing, a dirty little piece of trivia: a self-published writer is full-time marketer, and those who don’t practice and perfect the art of marketing will not succeed as a writer. It’s a sad state of affairs when a writer must set aside his or her craft in favor of creating an image and a brand, but such is the pat20160601-230511.jpgh you chose.

To create awareness of oneself is to open the possibility of inviting readers into your world, to coaxing them, to luring them, to seducing them. —But how do you create awareness, you might ask? —How do you introduce yourself to the world? How do you persuade them to try what you’re offering?

As a self-published author, I have failed in my endeavors. For several reasons. I don’t have a brand, I don’t have a consistent online persona, I don’t have money—and I don’t have loyal followers and readers. I have failed to penetrate the online world in a meaningful way.

I’ve written essays no one will publish—and publishing essays on various websites in a good tactic for creating awareness.

I’ve failed at social media. As a person, I’m a fragment, an inconsistent jumble of bipolarity.

I’ve failed to write anything meaningful or coherent. To build an audience, a writer should produce a similar kind of writing with each book—e.g., write in a chosen genre. But I don’t have a genre. I don’t have a voice. To me, as a writer, every book must be different. No two books should feature the same voice. I reinvent myself, my style, my voice every time I set out to write something new.

This, of course, is a problem, perhaps insurmountable, but as a fragmented person, my works must necessarily remain fragmented: I am not an entertainer; as a person, and as a writer, my objective is to articulate or convey the experience of confusion, frustration, suffering. Each poem and story, novella and novel I write serves, I now realize, as a piece of a puzzle. Together, these pieces, which you might call my oeuvre, might serve to illustrate a mind grappling with experience of itself as a sentient meat machine thrust into a world in a universe without meaning.

Do what you will with this information. Call me pretentious if you like. But it’s a truth I can’t escape. I’ve spent my life avoiding it, trying to justify it, trying to cook up novels about monsters or adventurers, etc., but I can’t write those novels. They don’t interest me. At all. And, as a result, I have no means of cultivating a readership; I can’t seem to follow the rules when they depend on writing in a more or less uniform style within a more or less uniform subset of literature.

In short, I am a failure.

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