Why me? People ask the question all the time when they’re bemoaning their lot in life. Why did this have to happen to me? They ask the question and seldom get an answer. Of late, I’ve been asking a related but opposite question, without answer: Why NOT me?
Working for a large publishing company for ten years, I’ve earned the respect of the colleague whose job it is to recommend some of our more promising books up to the traditional publishers that now own our company. This man—I’ll call him “Alan” because his name is Alan—will send me manuscripts a few times a week. “Take a look at these,” the e-mail will instruct. “Is there anything there?” That’s his code phrase for “Do they have potential? That certain mystical something that sets them apart from the rest?”
Every time, I give him my honest opinion. I give every book a chance to impress me. This is not to suggest that, as Shakespeare so eloquently put it, I can “look into the seeds of time and say which ones will grow and which will not.” I’m good, but I’m not that good. What I do have is an eye for what’s written well, for what grabs my interest from the very first page and doesn’t let go. On rare occasions, I see something that doesn’t speak to me at all but still has the commercial appeal to succeed.
Good or bad, positive or negative, I share them with Alan, and he shares them with the Bigs. From time to time, I find out the results. Someone’s been picked up for a three-book deal; someone else will be distributed in twenty countries; someone has found representation, and a contract is in the works. Every time I hear the news, I’m happy for them. It’s their dream—the dream of every writer who dares to take the extra step to become an author. It’s my dream.
Inside me, every time I hear their good news, the words resurface: Why not me? I’ve written a series of six entertaining novels with a small, loyal fan base. Why can’t it be me getting the good news about a contract or a TV series? I answered my own question just now. It’s that word—small. No matter what the subject, every book that was offered up found a following while it was self-published. This has been the bane of my existence—how to get the word out about my books. I blog, I tweet—verbs I thought I’d never engage in—I have a website and an online bookstore. I offer up my books for free to online reviewers. And yet, week after week, month after month, I feel like the last puppy in the pound.
FREE TO GOOD HOME. MOSTLY HOUSEBROKEN.
Lest you think this is all about self-pity, there’s a lesson in there somewhere. It’s about putting as much energy into your self-promotion as you did into the writing of your book. Ironically, it’s what I tell authors almost every day. If only I were better at it myself! I don’t even have the excuse of not having the time now. It’s been more than six months since I’ve written one of my books. The time I once used for writing I could easily use for marketing.
So why don’t I? Do I believe in my books? Definitely. Do I believe in my abilities? Certainly. Am I afraid of success? I don’t think so; I could certainly adapt to a life of fame and fortune. (If anyone’s doing a study on the effects of these, let me know; I’ll gladly be your test subject.) Maybe it just boils down to a simple, frustrating reality: I’ve never been able to brag about myself. Sure, I can do so in a joking manner, but there’s always a hint of self-deprecation lurking underneath. But to stand up on a platform and say, “This is who I am, and this is what I did, and boy, is it great!”? I freeze up like a runny nose in winter. (I also have problems with my analogies sometimes.)
So there it is. Why not me? Question presented, question answered. Because the lawn won’t mow itself, Junior! It has to start with me. Can I man up enough to overpower my long-standing fear of rejection, set up a platform to present my work, and find ways to tell the world that I’m here and I’m good? Or do I resign myself to a life of having fifty really cool people know that my books are a lot of fun, and they wish I’d write some more? The choice is so easy, it barely deserves asking. And yet, the answer has the potential to change my life.
Penny in the air …
Joel Pierson is the author of the Messenger Series of paranormal suspense novels. Discover him and get a free download of his first book of the series at www.joelpierson.com.